UK shop cuts out cash for Bitcoin for next three days

Second-hand shop CeX has traded in cash for Bitcoin as one branch ditches pounds for a couple of days to celebrate online currencies and Scottish independence.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Store manager Lou MacKenzie and first Bitcoin customer Andrew Blake at CeX in Glasgow David Cheskin

A Scottish shop has traded in cash for Bitcoin. A branch of second-hand shop CeX has done away with British pounds entirely for the next three days in an experiment with the online currency.

CeX buys your unwanted movies, games and gadgets, for cash or a voucher to spend in store. For the next few days, one branch is just offering Bitcoin.

The shop in question is the CeX branch in Sauchiehall in Glasgow. As well as gauging interest in the online currency, the trial is linked to the current debate over Scottish independence by temporarily doing away with pounds, the currency of the United Kingdom, from which Scots may decide to break away this year. A referendum to decide whether Scotland should be an independent country takes place on 18 September 2014.

Could a cyptocurrency be a genuine alternative to the sassenach pound? If Hull can have its own virtual currency for use in the real world, maybe Scotland can too.

You won't get as much for your pre-owned items at CeX as you would selling them on eBay or Amazon, but it's handy for quick cash. The voucher is usually worth slightly more than the cash option, in order to keep customers coming back. You can see why CeX might want to shuffle out the cash option to push people to take the voucher; CNET readers and other tech-savvy folk might plump for a Bitcoin option, but your average person in the street is more likely to opt for a voucher -- thus keeping them spending in store.

As a PR stunt for a pawn shop, this particular wheeze covers a lot of ground. Scottish independence and Bitcoin? If CeX could somehow shoehorn 3D printing and the World Cup in there too it'd be a Twitter hashtag full house.

'Too good to be ignored'

Bitcoin boosters welcome this latest high-profile high street outing for virtual moolah. "Cryptocurrencies do for money what email has done for the postal service," says David Gilson of Coinbuzz. "UK bank transfers take two hours but Bitcoin takes 10 minutes or less -- and you don't need to involve a bank. Bitcoin transaction fees are so low that credit card fees and PayPal now look like daylight robbery. The efficiency gains of using cryptocurrencies are too good to be ignored.

"The 'point of sale' seems to be the biggest hurdle for retailers. But services like BitPay, CoinBase and CoinKite all offer solutions for that, so the technology is there; we're just waiting for the awareness to follow."

The Sauchiehall store also hosts the first Bitcoin cash machine in Scotland. One advantage of shops offering Bitcoin is that it provides an opportunity for those with reservations about cryptocurrency to actually go somewhere and get the online currency, instead of having to venture into unfamiliar virtual territory. "The fact that CeX is offering Bitcoin payouts provides a nice shortcut for non-techy people to start building up a Bitcoin balance," says David Gilson.