Meet the barbershop that got the cryptocurrency community buzzing…
Cryptocurrency evangelists have been sending messages of goodwill to barber Ergys Mekshi all Thursday afternoon.
The 29-year-old dad of two had posted in r/Cryptocurrency about accepting Bitcoin, DASH, XRP, Ethereum, Monero and Litecoin at his shop in Ewell, Epsom, 14 miles south west of London. His tablet has been blowing up ever since.
“The majority have been very good, very positive,” he tells CryptoNewsReview.
“Obviously a lot of people commenting want me to use certain cryptos. I’ve put up there the ones I feel people will be aware of. I mean, I’m not getting 25 people a day, I may only get one person a week wanting to pay in crypto.”
An image Ergys posted on Reddit has adoption fans frothing at the mouth.
It’s a shot of his barber chair with a sticker on the glass that reads ‘Bitcoin Accepted Here’, ‘Ethereum accepted here’, ‘Litecoin accepted here’, ‘Monero Accepted Here.’ You get the idea.
“I’ve been accepting crypto for months, but the sign only came today,” he laughs. “I also take Tron and Kin but there’s literally not enough space on my mirror for the stickers!”
Before this, the most famous thing about Russell’s barbershop was the giant seven foot Homer Simpson statue on the street outside that got the local council in a tizz. This one, in fact…
Which is the most popular crypto that people pay in?
“Weirdly so far it’s Ethereum, even though it’s not meant to be a currency. That just seems to be the one they’re holding. Bitcoin is actually the [least used]. I’d like to start using Bitcoin Cash as well but literally no-one has ever asked me about it.
“In the past year I’ve taken maybe £3,000-4,000 in cryptocurrency. It’s a nice amount. It may also be the same customers paying again and again but it shows you what you can do.”
This is what cryptocurrency supporters want to see on every high street in the UK. But It’s a tough old road, both for crypto-friendly business owners, and for the shoppers who want to pay for things in cryptocurrency. So maybe Ewell is just ahead of the curve? How many of his neighbouring businesses also accept crypto? There aren’t any.
“It’s literally just me,” says Ergys. “Given how long cryptocurrency has been around, this is a surprise in some ways, but the way I see it being portrayed in the media is as a scam or a bubble.“
He’s also doing it all himself, taking crypto payments using his iPad and BitPay.
“It’s not like I’m paying for a card machine. I would love it if there was a special card machine for crypto,” he says. “There’s a lot of people watching it but they aren’t tempted to use it. Most people will have an idea of what it is, but they think it’s like Monopoly money. Unless a big chain, like Amazon starts to use it, we won’t really see adoption.”
So how did he get into cryptocurrency?
“It was actually from my customer about four years ago, he was really excited, telling me about Bitcoin, you know, look into this, invest in this. It was only about two and a half to three years ago that I put some money into it, not a lot, just little bits here and there, and I started to see all these kinds of gains and profits.”
What Ergys has made since 2016 has bought him his house and his first business, something he’s very proud of.
“I do feel lucky, yes and no, I got in early but I do think there’s a lot more to come.”
Despite the efforts of a few pioneers, the enthusiasm for crypto adoption has not gone particularly well, in England anyway. In an in-house investigation in August 2018, our journalists ran a straw poll of the UK’s largest retail associations to try to find out how common cryptocurrency payments are on the high street.
The Federation for Small Business, which represents 150,000 sole traders and micro-companies, was not able to offer a single example of a member who accepts cryptocurrency.
The British Retail Consortium suggested that the number of cryptocurrency payments made to its members was zero. The online retailers assocation IMRG, whose members include Boots, John Lewis, Screwfix and TK Maxx, told us at the time that “our recent study of 40 of the top online retailer checkouts found that none offer [cryptocurrency payments].”
So adoption is left to the individual crypto-friendly businesses. It’s been something of a two steps forward, three steps back kind of process in the UK.
It’s not even out of the realms of possibility that cryptocurrency use as a payment method is now less widely used than three or four years ago. Chainanlysis research published in the summer would suggest this is the case.
This is despite the fact that it’s much simpler for the man on the street to buy crypto these days, with the likes of Coinbase now accepting GBP with an easy to use interface.
While some UK MPs are crypto-friendly and there is the odd question asked in Parliament about rationalising laws around its use, we are still in the very early stages. The first official advice came out from the UK’s tax collector HMRC on 20 December, just a decade after Bitcoin first appeared.
Are the crypto community their own worst enemy? Some responses to his Reddit post lambast the barber for not accepting Nano, for example, rather than celebrating him for trying to bring about real-world adoption.
“There’s a side to the crypto community – they want to kill fiat,” says Ergys.
“I think you have to give people a choice. Why can’t we have both, you know? This is a very big thing to change. This is money. You can’t just in the space of a couple of years totally change everything.
So what plans does he have for the future? Soon Ergys will have a website for some of the products he usually sells in his shop.
“I want to have people paying strictly in crypto, so it becomes normal,” he says. “That’s the way we get adoption. You can’t force people, you have to just make them see how easy it is to use.”
One Reddit commenter wraps up the story in the best way, writing: “Hey listen. I’m sorry about the rabid. “Why not x coin” people. I’m just glad you accept some kind of crypto. That brings crypto to the main stream. Thank you.”