Robocoin ATM User Experience

The following details my experiences with some of the first Bitcoin ATM’s in America. Though still in their infancy many Bitcoin ATM manufacturers claim to be building the future of the Bitcoin infrastructure. However like many others I was faced with intrusive questions and asked to provide my palm prints and personal contact information which under most circumstances seem unnecessary in my opinion.

Unfortunately both of the ATM’s I visited while in Austin Texas were incredibly disappointing. I will detail exactly what it is that I believe to be a hindrance to the accessibility of Bitcoin for the lay person in addition to what expectations might have caused this let down. First though, If you want to explore what information I found available on the internet about Bitcoin ATM’s to further support why I was so excited and subsequently let down take a look at my article here Bitcoin ATMs Overview and Analysis

Robocoin ATM at Handlebar - Austin TX

i.imgur.com_20j3oot.jpg The first ATM I visited was the ATM housed at a bar called Handlebar in downtown Austin. After speaking with a couple of the bar employees we were able to find the ATM tucked away in a corned of the bar where no activity was taking place. Though I was surprised by the lack of activity I chalked it up to me being a crazy enthusiast and went over to test the machine out.

To my surprise as I walked up with cash in hand to buy Bitcoin, the screen displayed an error which read “Robocoin is in update mode.” and all functions were completely frozen. When I spoke with a couple of bartenders about the machine I didn’t get much of an answer at all. I was told they weren’t sure what was going on or if it was working at all.

I was let down by the lack of knowledge from the staff as well as the accessibility of this machine. Needless to say I left disappointed that I wasn’t able to give the Robocoin machine at Handlebar a try. I fear that with a machine of this type of notoriety being left without proper maintenencing people will be turned away from Bitcoin indefinitely.

From the perspective of a Bitcoin enthusiast, when I bought my first Bitcoin early 2013 I had to jump through some pretty crazy loops to get my hands on the digital cash. The difference for me was that I was passionate about doing so, I felt that it was not only an investment opportunity but a way of braking down barriers in the financial industry which I was passionate about. I would have gone through any length to figure out how to get my hands on some.

Unlike me, those who do not label themselves as Bitcoin enthusiast probably don’t want to go through any trouble at all. The ATM should be a tool for the Bitcoin curious to buy some Bitcoin and experience the utility it has to offer. Unfortuantely that was not the case, at Handlebar it proved to be another barrier to entry and I hope they fix the issue ASAP so that no one else who could be interested loses that interest because the owner’s have not properly maintenanced the machine.

Robocoin ATM at Central Texas Gunworks - Austin Texas

i.imgur.com_h9vbsvq.jpg Thankfully Austin Texas has two ATM’s both of which are Robocoin machines. The second Robocoin ATM is housed as Central Texas Gunworks, a business which has done a much better job of advocating for Bitcoin and a Digital Currency economy. To add perspective, prior to visiting Austin I was only aware of the Robocoin Machine being housed at Central Texas Gunworks, which apparently was the second of the two to be installed in Austin.

Once I arrived I was very pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a “we accept Bitcoin” sticker being displayed loud and proud while the ATM was front and center as soon as I walked in. Central Texas Gunworks has done an excellent job of making it known that they not only house the ATM here but that they accept Bitcoin for the goods and services they offer. i.imgur.com_lqendx9.jpg The machine was kept very clean and was in working order, I was ready to purchase Bitcoin from an ATM for the first time. Following the instructions on screen, the process began with giving away a significant amount of personal information in order to “apply” to buy Bitcoin. I am not sure what qualities would make the machine decline your application nor do I see any reason why this is necessary. Personally the KYC and AHC compliance rules shouldn’t medal in Bitcoin, but I’ll refrain from elaborating as the Bitcoin enthusiast in me will provide only a bias opinion.

The machine first asks for your name and a phone number to send you a verification text. Once the user has verified his/her phone number the machine asks that you specify a pin number for future robocoin use. After, you scan your palm print four times (5 times for me, one scan went awry) while the machine records the scans for future verification. After also submitting a government issued ID for scanning, the personal information requests finally end. From a strictly consumer standpoint this would definitely prove to be a much more intrusive version of the familiar ATM we have grown accustomed to. I fear that these request for personal information will absolutely hinder wide adoption considering people sometimes convert to Bitcoin for privacy reasons.

Once the personal information was in and the “application” had been submitted I was told to wait for the application to process. This was a very time consuming aspect of the transaction as I was waiting solely for my personal information to be run for compliance reasons which only felt longer considering I did not necessarily want to give up the information. The text message I received said that the application would be completed in 5 minutes. I ended up waiting for the application to process for about 15 minutes and was about to give up and leave to get started on other errands before finally receiving the OK from the compliance checks.

Now that my application has been approved I again I scanned my palm and verified my phone number and was directed to a screen where I could make a purchase. When I took a look at the ask/bid spread I was nothing less than shocked. At the time Bitcoin had been trading on the major exchanged like Coinbase around $440 I believe. The machine sell price for Bitcoin was $471.77, a spread of approximately $30. That is outrageous, whether it’s the exchange that the machine buys coins from or the fee added by the machine owner, someone is gaining far too much from this machine to consider it reasonable. i.imgur.com_vkriwbr.jpg After submitting a significantly overpriced buy order the machine sent me a few more text messages and told me that I would wait up to 24 hours to receive the Bitcoin I purchased. I can’t help but complain about the wait time on the Bitcoin. There should be no reason why a Bitcoin transaction ever takes 24 hours in my opinion, and to let the ATM producers continue building with these inconveniences will in the long term turn people away I believe. If consumers don’t understand the nature of Bitcoin, and their first experience is with one of these machines, imagine the perception when they have to wait 24 hours to receive Bitcoin. This shatters the perception of ease-of-use for Bitcoin, and it’s sad to see that these supposedly top of the line machines have so many drawbacks.

I do understand that compliance is key for any business, however Bitcoin was made to be disruptive, it was made to make radical change to the financial system and I believe that we can either allow that change or tailor Bitcoin to live within the system. Personally I prefer the former, but time will tell how the ATM producers approach compliance in the future.

For the time being, my overall opinion of these machines are not good ones. It’s sad that almost no one I talked to knew about the ATM at Handlebar, and even more sad to think that Central Texas Gunworks might be manipulating the fees to introduce insane ask/bid spreads for the customers who come in to buy Bitcoin. The wait times seem incredibly unreasonable and the compliance features are a clear invasion of privacy. The machines do look great, and the Central Texas Gunworks machine did work and eventually sent my Bitcoin about an hour later. Aside from being a novelty of sorts I don’t see where the hype is behind these machines anymore. I can say confidently that I won’t be using these ATM’s at all again in the future.

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