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Paying for dinner is something we do, often, and not just in the loo once we get home. My family eats out a lot, because we regularly entertain a little life dream of growing up to become food critics. Okay, that’s a lie – I’m just lazy and we like pizza.

If you’ll permit me showing my age, my first memories of going out for dinner include when Mike’s Kitchen was still your best choice for a family meal, and Spur still had a salad valley. The cute coffee café culture hadn’t hit our shores yet, and I have significant memories of my dad whipping out his cheque book and signing away the bill.

As an adult, I’ve card-swiped my way through many evening meals and, nowadays, I’m more likely to whip out my cell phone and scan the QR code to pay via Zapper.

It begs the question though – when will I be able to ask:

“Do you take Crypto?”

Sure, early adopters will tell you that being able to pay for your hamburger using BTC isn’t so far away, but the consumer uptake of a new payment mechanism (when it becomes common-place for your layperson to pay for their purchase using cryptocurrency) is still quite a way off. And yes, I hear you – I know Pornhub now accepts cryptocurrency as payment for its subscription services – but let’s get back to shopping that’s not done online, so to speak.

This is both unfortunate and unfulfilling to contemplate, but let’s consider just how many people pay via mobile payment mechanisms in South Africa nowadays.

Put aside your preconceived ideas over how easy it should be (and actually often is) to do this nowadays and think a little more about the last time you ordered (and paid for) a hamburger. Did you:

  1. Order your food online, using a website or app, or go into a store?
  2. Scan a paper-based menu, choose from an online menu, or use an app to find what you wanted to eat?
  3. Pay for it by swiping a card, handing over cash, or using a cellphone-enabled payment mechanism?

If you went into a store, selected your meal from a paper-based menu, and paid for it in cash, you’re a late adopter in using electronic means to pay for your meals and – in all likelihood – the place you visited to get fed, is still eons behind in adopting technology to better operate their restaurant.

Here’s the thing: cash is still king for many people, and the simple act of card swipes isn’t the number one way to pay your bill – yet. Notably too, scanning your receipt and paying your bill using a cellphone isn’t number one either.

Let’s look at it from the vendor’s point of view too. Sure, their Point of Sale (POS) systems will evolve over time to accommodate different types of payments, and we can expect that – one day soon – cryptocurrency will be one of them. Offering customers a new way to pay, however, costs the vendor money too – in setup fees, staff training, hardware, and more. We’re not going to walk into our local pizza joint and pay for our pepperoni on a pumpkin base using crypto just yet.

I’ll go back to the example of Zapper again, just to illustrate consumer uptake. Launched in 2014, Zapper is my favourite example of e-commerce entering the real world of everyday face-to-face transactions. Yes, you can integrate it into your website too, but let’s remember that online shopping is still not (yet) dominating the retail realm in SA just yet. Don’t believe me? Visit your local supermarket on a Saturday morning. On payday weekend.

Zapper has made its debut in countries across the globe, and has made payments easy for countless customers, and many small (and big) businesses. But the litmus test lies in shopping for my weekly groceries, and I still can’t quite pay for my fruit and vegetables using just my phone. Although, to be fair, I can now pay for my medication and toiletries at Dischem using Zapper. If I could pay for my groceries using Zapper, I would’ve been able to absolutely avoid the embarrassment of filling up my trolley two weeks ago, and finding myself red-faced at the till, having forgotten my wallet at home. Perhaps I just need to shop elsewhere, but for now, if I want to buy the week’s allocation of bread and milk, I’ll need to go to SPAR…around the corner from my sister’s house in London, which is a pretty long way to go for groceries, when I live in Durban, South Africa.

It’s exciting to note that there are potential payment facilities rolling out, but you won’t be buying bread with BTC for a while yet. Electroneum’s patent pending has been secured for its instant payment mechanism, and we’re facing new opportunities for payment facilities head-on, soon. We’re still going to have to wait a while. Of course, the arrival of so-called “Bitcoin ATMs” has every Bob and his Two Coins excited, but we’re not about to pay for our pizza using BTC just yet.

If Zapper, which is by far the easiest to adopt in terms of enabling somewhat savvy South African customers to pay merchants using just their cellphones, isn’t quite yet mainstream…when will crypto be?

That answer remains to be seen, as the world grapples with the opportunities beyond fiat currencies, volatile exchange rates, and regulatory environments.

For now, though, I’m sure you’ll join me in practicing a new way of asking for the bill:

“Do you take Crypto?”  

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Feature Image by rawpixel on Unsplash

Cath Jenkin is a freelance writer, editor, and communications consultant, who doesn't take lightly to fools or dishonesty. As a renowned WordWoman in South African circles, Cath creates results-driven communication strategies, while providing copywriting, proofreading, editorial, and other online content generation services too. When she's not pounding the keyboard, you'll find her in search of the perfect cup of tea.