| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

Bitcoin Accepted in Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Everywhere in El Salvador

The citizens of El Salvador have been getting to know their new legal tender cryptocurrency bitcoin (BTC) – and have begun buying everything from Big Macs to freshly brewed coffee using the Lightning Network.

The state-issued Chivo crypto wallet overcame some initial teething issues on app stores and marketplaces to rocket to the top of the Apple store’s finance app download list – a fact that was immediately feted by the Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.

From inside El Salvador, Mario Aguiluz, the Vice President of Sales at the Guatemalan brokerage IBEX Mercado shared a video of his purchase of a Starbucks coffee for BTC, with a transaction that took just moments to approve using his and a barista’s mobile phones.

He remarked that “El Salvador today feels like a scavenger hunt, discovering who else is accepting bitcoin.”

Add to that list Pizza Hut. Bart Mol, the Founder and Host of the Satoshi Radio Podcast, tweeted some of his adventures on “Bitcoin Day” in El Salvador, including a “fully non-custodial” transaction at the restaurant “using our own node back in the Netherlands” for a cost of “26 sats.”

“This is so dope,” he wrote.

Other international reporters also noted that they had enjoyed success with their bitcoin-spending efforts.

Notable BTC supporters voiced their support, with Michael Saylor, the CEO of the BTC-keen MicroStrategy, calling bitcoin on the Lightning Network “indestructible money moving at the speed of light.”

Edward Snowden, who like Saylor also shared videos of major brands accepting BTC payments in San Salvador, chimed in, remarking :

“[There is] now pressure on competing nations to acquire bitcoin – even if only as a reserve asset – as its design massively incentivizes early adoption. Latecomers may regret hesitating.”

A triumphant Jack Mallers, the CEO of Strike, the company that has partnered with Bukele on his Lightning journey, also provided video evidence of a “friend” converting BTC to cash in a “fee-free” transaction using one of the government’s new BTC ATMs.

Meanwhile, domestic companies were also active, hoping to ensure they were not crowded out of the crypto-commerce parties by big-name global brands like Starbucks and Pizza Hut.

A plethora of local businesses took to social media channels to explain that they were also accepting BTC pay – from organic “gourmet cafes” and recording studios to women’s fashion brands and telecoms providers.
Even dry-cleaners and dentists were getting in on the act.

But there was also no shortage of pushback. El Diario de Hoy reported that “hundreds” of Salvadorans had taken to the streets in a “massive” protest against the new law, which made BTC legal tender as of midnight yesterday.

The same media outlet highlighted possible privacy concerns with the state-issued software. It noted that the Chivo app requests that users grant it microphone, camera, and storage access, as well as access to their contacts.

The newspaper quoted a computer scientist as stating:

“There are other digital wallets that do not request or need that kind of information. It’s unnecessary.”

A local software programmer said that this was an example of “very bad practice in terms of privacy and data protection”.