Designated Bitcoiners: Day 2 in El Salvador

Photo of buildings, trees, and hills in San Salvador, El Salvador

I went my entire second day in El Salvador without making any Lightning payments. Most of the restaurants and businesses I visited did not accept Bitcoin.

Street Art
In lieu of bitcoin transactions, enjoy some Salvadoran street art


One interesting exception to that is a supermarket I visited to buy some supplies. After the attendant finished ringing up all of my items, I asked “Yo quiero pagar con bitcoin, por favor”. She had to consult another nearby cashier when I asked this.

The other cashier expressed in Ingl├ęs that I would need to go to the far end of the store to perform this transaction (she gestured towards the farthest cash register away, or perhaps she was pointing to the manager’s office; I’m not sure).

Fearing that I would be asking them to ring up all of my items again, I declined and completed the transaction with a credit card.

Designated Bitcoiners

One trend I am beginning to notice is that some businesses who accept Bitcoin treat it as a special edge case. This manifests itself as a designated person who has a smartphone and is trained to take the BTC payment, or perhaps a dedicated POS terminal separate from the other POS terminals. I call this the “designated bitcoiner” approach.

Perhaps the businesses find it difficult to integrate with their existing POS systems? That seems most likely to me.

Another hypothesis: if a business owner feels opposed to the Bitcoin law, they may choose to accept bitcoin in a minimum viable way to achieve legal compliance; hence, the lone Bitcoin-equipped-smartphone sitting in the corner.

Similarly, if they have had a bad experience with Bitcoin (failed payments or slow payment speeds), they may wish to dissuade customers from paying in bitcoin.

Note: these are not criticisms of these businesses; these are not my businesses and this is not my country. I’m simply trying to figure out how these businesses feel about the tech.

Practical Advice

If you would like to pay with bitcoin in El Salvador, announce your intention at the beginning of the transaction, before the cashier has started punching in your purchase at the POS. If the business uses the “designated bitcoiner” approach, you will save time and hassle by announcing your intentions upfront.

Paxful Sign
Paxful sign about investing in Bitcoin, spotted in San Salvador