Crypto Winter Leaves Bitcoin ATMs Without Customers: ‘Three People Walk Through the Door, It’s a Good Day’

Cryptocurrency ATMs have proliferated in Madrid over the past two years. Some look like vending machines, like subway ticket dispensers. Others, genuine bank tellers to withdraw cash. Most of the businesses related to this sector opened their doors or installed ATMs in 2021. At that time, the value of cryptocurrencies multiplied and exceeded 55,000 euros. This week it was about 19,000, and optimism among workers is increasingly scarce.

“Business is bad. Fatal things are there,” explains the owner of an ATM on Calle Torija, halfway between Callao and Plaza de España, without giving the matter too much thought. Despite full working hours, the door is half closed. “When I opened it four years ago, there was a constant flow of people coming in and out, people wondering how the ATMs worked and buying coins on their own,” the businessman recalled. “But after February 2022, things went down a lot. Cryptocurrency price, customers… if three people walk through the door, it’s a good day,” he laments.

The decline of the sector is especially reflected in this business: the place is dark and does not inspire confidence. An ATM is in the corner, with a certain air of an old slot machine. Its function is to buy and in some cases sell cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether and all other digital currencies are hard to pronounce with names and acronyms. It’s as easy as choosing the cryptocurrency you want to buy, inserting your payments – only cash is allowed – and withdrawing money to your virtual wallet (better known as a wallet).

Employees of this business admit that the business is suffering due to the not-so-recent distrust of cryptocurrencies, especially when it comes to attracting new customers. An employee of a store in the Chueca district claims that everything has changed in a few months: “A year ago it was normal to activate five wallets a day. People who have never traded cryptocurrency before and who come to us to help them with their operations.” Unlike other stores, there are no ATMs in Chuetsa. “We realized that customers prefer to get advice. They prefer personal treatment rather than having everything done by machine,” he explains.

However, in recent months, the only clients coming through the door are “crypto investment veterans,” the employee says. “They know how the business is going and when the price is low, it’s time to buy.” Those who have never bought before are scared when they learn how the market works,” he adds.

The employees of these stores, who spend the working day behind the computer, get up only to open the door for customers, which is almost always closed. They claim that their job is only to mediate. “We limited ourselves to exchange. We do not provide tax or investment advice. We only help them decide what type of wallet to use if they don’t have one yet, and if they’re buying for the first time, I show them a video from an expert and advise them to proceed with caution,” confirms the employee. Shop in Glorietta de Bilbao.

They opened two months ago and are struggling to get started, but they believe things will change once Bitcoin “takes off again”. “What happens is that 95% of people go the other way. When it’s time to sell, they buy. And when it’s time to buy, because the price is low, like now, they sell,” he explains, although he admits that right now he decided to “buy nothing.”

At the Eurobit store, 200 meters from Gran Via, José González shares the same prudence. “My job is primarily to make sure people understand that this is a risky business. If they earn 1,000 euros per month, they should not invest more than 200 euros, because the risk of loss is high,” he assures us.

This employee estimates that sales are down about 60% compared to last year, when this ATM opened in downtown Madrid. On a typical day, no more than seven come through the door, so much so that Gonzalez uses his free time to learn Chinese through online lessons. “Yes, there are many tourists, but they come to sell more than to buy.” The exchange between the currency they bought in their home countries and the euro is favorable for them, especially for Latinos. With what they earn, they pay for a vacation in Spain,” he concludes.

“This is a very delicate and unstable world. You have to be very savvy to invest,” says Betty, who has been working at the BitBase store on Princess Street for a few weeks. This franchise has 10 ATMs in Madrid and three physical stores: “The most reasonable thing is to invest the money that we are ready to lose, which will not affect our economy. And above all, you have to be patient, you will not become rich overnight.”

He himself admits to investing in Bitcoin, although he recently stopped buying more. “I bought when the price was in the middle, it wasn’t as high, but it wasn’t as low as it is now. And now I’m waiting,” he adds a little insecurely.

Despite all the “warnings” that workers in these stores give to advise customers, the slogans and advertisements that adorn their walls contradict this discourse. Spoiler alert: no friend of a friend ever made money saving in the bank. Buy and sell cryptocurrencies: easy, fast and safe,” announces the one and a half meter screen in the BitBase store on Bravo Murillo Street in a not-so-subtle way.

Most of these places have one thing in common: a modern decor with neon lights and a promotional item shop that proudly advertises “Bitcoin University” (for example, t-shirts, mugs and hats with the Bitcoin symbol B). They also sell blockchain manuals and biographies of crypto billionaires with get rich “hacks” or strategies to become a successful crypto investor.

“Fast yes, but they really have nothing to do with it,” says Marcos Jimenez after leaving one of these shops. This 33-year-old computer scientist admits that he lost 5,000 euros, which he invested in cryptocurrencies a few months ago. He prefers not to give more details about the type of operation, but admits that there was a period when he went to these ATMs every week: “I went too far, it was too risky on my part. Now I limit myself to investing once a month and much smaller amounts. I couldn’t lose that again.”

Source: El Diario





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