So I have been on an adventure in trying to buy groceries at my local grocery store using bitcoins. It has not been easy task mainly due to my not speaking German well enough to explain or argue with cashiers about some fancy technology. But I go through these things so that you, dear reader, don’t have to.
As I showed in Part 1 I was able to buy my groceries online for about the same price as the grocery store but it is not the most convenient way of getting food (although I still vouch for the St Louis style ribs). This process was more convenient but still not what we all want as far as walking into our local grocery store with our cell phone, scanning a QR code (or swiping our implanted chip) to pay for your food. But it’s close.
Using cardfy.com I was able to find a gift card for Real grocery store here in Germany. This is one of the major grocery stores that offer everything. It’s like a Super Walmart though smaller. And of course, through cardfy.com I can pay for the gift card with bitcoins at a discount of 3%.
I started with a test card of 10 euros to see if it would work. The purchase was simple like any other online bitcoin purchase. Within a few minutes I received an e-mail with the gift card. This is where the fun begins. The e-mail has a link to download your card which is a pdf file but when you download it the name of the file is www.cardfy.com. This is the first hurdle because trying to open the file it tries to run a .com executable. So I had to open a DOS shell and change the filename to .pdf. Opening the pdf it had instructions on printing out the page and cutting off the bottom portion for your card.
Instead of printing the page I exported it to an image file and cropped out the card portion. I then sent that portion to my phone so I can pull it up at the store.
Saturday I went to test this out at the big store in the next town. I bought about 30 euros worth of food, took it up to the counter and pulled out my card on my cell phone. I went to a cashier who was just opening her aisle and I don’t think she was really ready to start yet so she seemed rushed. I said “you take this?” in as good of a german accent that I could. She scanned the barcode and it didn’t work so she increased the size on the barcode and scanned again and it didn’t work. She shook her head so I just paid in cash.
Sunday the grocery stores are all closed in germany, something about hating freedom or something.
Monday I ended up printing out the card just in case the problem was with not being able to read the cell phone image. I went to the Real close to my job after work. It was very busy and I got in line with an older cashier. I bought about 15 euro worth of food and when it came time to pay I showed her the printout and she appeared understandably confused. She looked at the page and I tried to say I bought it on the Internet in my broken german. She refused it, talking about how I needed the “original”. With a large line behind me and nothing I can say that she would understand, I just paid in cash again. I also found out that day that I didn’t actually go to a Real on Saturday. I went to a Rewe super store. I have no idea why I thought it was Real. Maybe because it was the biggest one I’ve seen.
Tuesday I went to the same Real again but just grabbed a bag of chips because I have plenty of food for the week by now. I made sure to go to one of the young cashiers because I’ve noticed that all of the young people in europe speak some english. After scanning the bag of chips I showed her the cell phone picture. She looked at it and grew confused. She reached for the telephone trying to call someone for answers. I just motioned for her to scan the barcode telling her I bought it on the Internet. She looked at it closer and seeing the 10 euro she started telling me something in german. All I could make out was 10 and 15 with a whole lot of other stuff. I asked if she could tell me in english, she shook her head. I was confused. I paid in cash. The lady standing behind me said that I had to make a purchase over 10 euros to use that gift card. This made no sense but again, I was in no position to argue. And yet again, a long line of people.
Today is Wednesday and I was finally successful. I went to a different Real in the town next to mine. This one was even bigger but very busy. My strategy this time was to just go to customer service and ask them how I can use this gift card. Most customer service places I’ve been to they speak english. So I walked up to an older lady at customer service and waited while she was checking out a customer. After the guy was done she turned to the line of people behind another cashier at customer service and called for the next person in line. So apparently I have to wait in line with everyone buying their food in order to ask a question. Ok, so I stood in line as people bought their food. Finally it was my turn and I immediately asked if she spoke english. “NEIN” was her response almost as if she was offended as she waved forward the next person. Fortunately there was a man standing there that looked like he worked there. I asked in english if he worked there. He said he spoke a little bit of english. I showed him my phone and asked if they accepted that card here. He looked at it for a moment, I told him I bought it on the Internet. He looked at it again, then asked the old woman something, she responded. He told me I could use it but to come check out at customer service.
I felt happy to finally get this to work. I wanted to buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate but I just knew that they would bring up something like I can’t buy alcohol with a gift card (which is not likely in germany but still). So I bought some meat and bread and walked up to the customer service counter. Unfortunately when I got up there there was a shift change and the older woman was on the phone with a customer. So nobody was there that was there when I talked to that guy. Fortunately I showed the lady the card on my phone and she scanned it. It didn’t work the first time so I pulled out my printout. She shook her head and scanned my phone again. It didn’t work again. She gave the scanner a few wacks and scanned again. This time it went through. My groceries were paid for finally.
So there you have it. Now that I know it is possible I can look up the phrase “I’ve done this before, I know it works” or something like that. But it is possible to use your bitcoins here in germany to buy food at the local grocery store. It is certainly not the most efficient method but we are still in the early stages and I will e-mail cardfy.com to see if they can e-mail something a bit more useful. I’d love to be able to sit in my car before going into the store and order my card and be able to pull up the attachment by the time I get to the cash register. I might still be able to do that with the right apps on my phone. I will likely do most of my food shopping this way. I do like their flavored chicken wings. But I will also still buy some food online once in a while.
In the US you can do the exact same thing with the Whole Foods gift card and Target gift cards at egifter.com and gyft.com as I reviewed in my gift cards post. But it is actually more convenient because there is an app for it. My friend has used it in the US and says it is quite easy (and the cashiers actually know what to do).
Overall I am very glad to find cardfy.com and I highly recommend it. They have a lot more gift card for other stores in germany but I don’t shop at most of those stores as I can buy most things on Amazon that I can get at those stores, cheaper. I do wish they had some restaurant gift cards though germany is mainly made up of small restaurants with very few franchises. And it would be nice if they had an app so I could just redeem the card on my phone to use in the store without manipulating the pdf.
And I know that most of my readers are not from germany, but I hope I help people realize that with a little bit of ingenuity and thought you can figure out how to pay for things in your daily life from your stash of bitcoins. The fact that I can pay my rent with bitcoins (all of my utilities are included in my rent) and I can buy food with my bitcoins and anything on Amazon, I can certainly live on just bitcoins. My last step is paying for gas for my car with bitcoins but that is something for another day.
Thank you for reading and please share this blog post with others if you think it was interesting or could be helpful to other Bitcoin users.
Update: I went again today to buy groceries. This time I just bought my gift card and downloaded it on the phone while outside of the store. It was delivered within 1 or 2 minutes and I was able to open it on my phone. I zoomed to the gift card and was able to view it just as easily as when I photoshopped it. The lady at the counter started looking at it suspiciously and I told her that I’ve done this before and motioned for her to scan it. She scanned it and she appeared pleasantly surprised when she saw that it worked. Fortunately people tend to work the same shifts so I can just go back to her every Saturday and no longer have any problems getting my groceries.