I’ve been looking forward to trying out Bitcoinstore.com since they announced their beta late last year. So when my four year old laptop began to experience some problems last week I decided to give it a shot. Here’s my experience with one of Bitcoin’s most ambitious retailers.
BitcoinStore is one of a number of online retailers attempting a Bitcoin only business model. The concept is that by eliminating the fees associated with other payment methods they can offer lower prices for the same products. Credit Card companies and services such as PayPal charge fees which ultimately get passed onto the consumer. By accepting only Bitcoin these retailers eliminate those fees resulting in lower prices.
BitcoinStore is operated by the same people that run MemoryDealers.com, so they have a bit of experience in the sector. The BitcoinStore beta was launched in late 2012 around the same time as the announcement from WordPress that they’d be accepting Bitcoin. Thus BitcoinStore predates the latest round of press attention and speculation that Bitcoin received.
Searching for a new laptop turned out to be a bit of a process. It involved some research at Amazon, Newegg, and even a visit to BestBuy before I made my selection at BitcoinStore. Initially I turned to Newegg.com, as that’s where I usually do my electronic’s shopping. However, I quickly remembered that BitcoinStore had recently expanded their selection so I decided to take a look at what they were offering.
The only laptops that I didn’t find on BitcoinStore but were available elsewhere were Apple’s line of MacBooks and a few models from MSI. Other than that BitcoinStore had just about every other option I could find. Their selection proved to be better than any of the local retailers I visited as none of them carried the Lenovo Thinkpad that I ended up purchasing.
Price And Savings
After I settled on a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E530 I started my search for the best price. In addition to BitcoinStore this same laptop was available through Newegg and Amazon. At the time the price for the same model at Newegg was $761. Amazon carried the same model for as low as $744 (Though there is now an offering at $699). At BitcoinStore the model cost just $705, well below the prices offered by both Newegg and Amazon.
The higher prices offered by Amazon and Newegg account for around a 5.5% increase, roughly what a payment processor would cost. While the cheaper price wasn’t a huge deal for me, it could have a pretty big impact on bulk orders. To a small business replacing a dozen or so aging laptops, that price difference represents a considerable bit of savings. Even if you were to account for the 1% fee associated with buying Bitcoin from a service like Coinbase or the 0.65% from MtGox, orders would be seeing a 4%-5% savings just by using Bitcoin.
What’s more is that BitcoinStore’s product selection is not limited to laptops and personal computers. Rather they offer a full range of tech solutions, including everything from servers to high end graphics cards. For larger businesses the 4-5% savings offered by BitcoinStore could quickly add up resulting in considerable savings.
BitcoinStore has a somewhat minimalist user interface. It was clean, simple, and devoid of the flashy advertising commonly seen on other sites. Still I could see how some consumers may now be used to being ‘guided’ and would be turned off by the simplicity. For me it made for a easier browsing experience as I could search for what I wanted without the distractions.
There are a few areas that I feel their user interface could improve upon. Adding a database with things like processor type, hard drive size, amount and type of ram, would have made searching for a laptop a bit easier. At the moment the sidebar only offers search by category, price and brand though there is a search bar on the top right.
BitcoinStore only accepts Bitcoin as payment for it’s wide selection of products. At the time of purchase the value of Bitcoin on the BitcoinStore site was roughly $117, more or less inline with the price on MtGox. Checkout is a pretty straightforward process as you login or setup an account, enter shipping information and proceed to payment. BitcoinStore uses BitPay to process their Bitcoin payments. BitPay is one of several Bitcoin services that allow merchants to accept Bitcoin and have it converted to USD. They’re also the same service that used earlier in the week when registering domains with NameCheap.
Once I arrived at the payment section I was redirected to BitPay where a Bitcoin address popped up along with an amount to send and a 15 minute timer. I entered the amount in my Bitcoin wallet and pressed send. Nearly instantly BitPay indicated that the funds had been received and the order was being processed.
For some reason they do not accept payments from Coinbase as they have a disclaimer in the Payments section:
Please do NOT use Coinbase if you wish to receive your order.
The only option I was given for shipping was simple Continental USA. After placing my order I went ahead and contacted them to see if I could upgrade to expedited shipping as I was hoping to get the laptop by the end of the week. Their sales rep responded to my email within an hour letting me know that they didn’t offer expedited shipping but that the order would be processed and shipped that day. They expected it to arrive easily by the end of the week.
I placed my order around 10AM on Monday and received it just two days later on Wednesday at around 3PM. I can’t recall having received a package faster. Generally processing the order takes a day and then the 3-5 day shipping time ensues. I was pretty happy when my package showed up much earlier than I had anticipated.
The package arrived in good condition and had been shipped through Fedex. The laptop was in it’s originally packaging with unbroken seals and the exterior box sufficiently protected the product.
All in all I’m very happy with my purchase from BitcoinStore. They had a great selection, including the item I wanted to purchase. They were very responsive with my shipping request. The price was better than the other places I had checked and so far I’ve had no issues with the laptop (I’m writing this article on it at the moment).
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