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Walmart filed patent for “Digital Currency via Blockchain” (cointelegraph.com)
34 points by momentmaker 80 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments



So this is what the new scrip for the company store looks like? Facebook is having a hard time getting Libra started, but it will be trivial for Walmart. All they have to do is give employees a bonus to get paid in Walbucks over USD/Euro/Other, and maybe a slight discount when using it. Walmart already employs thousands or even millions that are economically vulnerable, in part because Walmart destroyed their local retail economy. This would only lock those people in further.

How long before Amazon announces their coin? Free Prime delivery if using A-Coin!


I would go further than that even.

I'm from the kind of family where the vast majority of my relatives are nearly exclusively Walmart shoppers. Every now and again, if they want to splurge, they use Target. And there are a couple who can afford, once in a very rare blue moon, to use Amazon or the Apple store.

Here's the thing though, even when they are using Target, or Amazon, or the Apple store, that segment of the population is probably doing it not with bank cards, but with prepaid Walmart connected cards. So Walmart, if they wanted, could create something that would be actually more valuable than dollars to people from my family's socioeconomic background. If they could pay their rent and electric in Wally Bucks, they would literally have no use for dollars at all.

And that class of people is very large, and growing. (At least it is out here in Wisconsin. And I'd imagine most of fly over country is similar.)


IIRC Amazon has a perks program for their high performing employees called Swag bucks which can be used to purchase prime and shop at Amazon :).


>which can be used to purchase prime and shop at Amazon :).

I wish.

At least at the Amazon FC where I work, they can purchase cheap branded stuff like water bottles, lanyards and t-shirts, gift cards and coupons for the commissary, but not Prime or general purchases.


Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can comment but I believe the US would not allow that after they blocked them from their payment-by-atm-card scheme.


It is not legal in the US to pay employees using scrip:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/29/531.34


> "Scrip, tokens, credit cards, “dope checks,” coupons, and similar devices are not proper mediums of payment under the Act. They are neither cash nor “other facilities” within the meaning of section 3(m). However, the use of such devices for the purpose of conveniently and accurately measuring wages earned or facilities furnished during a single pay period {{ is not prohibited. }} Piecework earnings, for example, may be calculated by issuing tokens (representing a fixed amount of work performed) to the employee, which are redeemed at the end of the pay period for cash. The tokens do not discharge the obligation of the employer to pay wages, but they may enable him to determine the amount of cash which is due to the employee. Similarly, board, lodging, or other facilities may be furnished during the pay period in exchange for scrip or coupons issued prior to the end of the pay period."

Gig economy my friend. Back the currency in some nominal amount of USD and pay the independent contractor at the door 1 walbuck per customer greeted.


So long as the employer provides a free token-USD exchange that pays out to employees the cash amount equal to their wage I don't see an issue; people can do what they want with their earnings.


> The old Truck enactments were very numerous and date from about the year 1464. The particular evil intended to be remedied was the truck system, or payment by masters of their men's wages wholly or in part with goods – a system open to various abuse – when workmen were forced to take goods at their master's valuation. The statutes were applied first to one branch of manufacture, and then in succession to others, as experience and the progress of manufactures dictated, until they embraced the whole or nearly the whole of the manufactures of England. They established the obligation, and produced, or at least fortified the custom, of uniformly paying the whole wages of artificers in the current coin of the realm.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck_Acts


Walmart already has something like this in the form of direct-deposit prepaid checking cards with baked-in walmart discounts:

https://www.walmartmoneycard.com/about-our-products

this is taking it one step further, and it seems like using cryptocurrency technology to basically eliminate/compete with visa as a payment network (and therefore recoup txn fees locally and earn them outside of their own stores)


I think a lot of technologists and cryptocurrency advocates conflate a few different concepts - A "digital currency", a "decentralized ledger" (blockchain), and "trustless consensus". Technologies like Bitcoin combine all 3, but you don't necessarily need to combine them.

I see WalmartCoin and Libra as "digital corporate currencies" which will compete with digital FIAT currencies. This already exists to an extent, for example people spend and trade Amazon gift cards because they are fungible and redeemable anywhere. Or people buying Steam wallet funds with their USD. Or people buying pre-loaded Amex gift cards?

Can we just think about Libra et al. as alternatives to fiat currencies? Or as a "digital wallet" / "gift card" you can spend anywhere?

What is the difference between me having a Libra wallet with $100 that I can spend at participating merchants, vs. me having a $100 prepaid Amex giftcard that I can spend at participating merchants? The only real difference is now I can actually transfer "my" money to others.


Nothing they are al just trying to become the next MasterCard or visa to reap the benefits of being the clearing house and make some sweet $$


At what point should the federal government make a serious attempt at becoming a digital processor for USD transactions. If a payment mechanism existed for free transactions of any amount, paid for by normal American taxes, that would revolutionize digital payments. Let the banks compete on fees for managing accounts and support and fraud, and the government can handle the processing infrastructure and uptime guarantees.


If you mean the Federal Reserve System it would cut out the middleman from finance which maybe results eventually in a more even distribution of wealth.


So the same organization that runs the DMV should become the worlds largest payment processor? I will stick with a bank and Bitcoin.

edit: I know the DMV is not the federal government I was just making a exaggerated point


The federal government does not operate "the DMV". Each state does.


Maybe the fact that these companies are coming up with their own currency shows that they are just too big.


In this case I think it's more simple than that: someone I know has done design consultancy work with Walmart, and told me that every new product they've pursued was something that had been in the news a few days before they brought it up.


Walmart used to be the innovator / leader. Now it just seems they are chasing trends. There doesn’t seem to be a coherent digital / tech strategy (at least on the consumer facing side).

Walmarts core is poor, rural/suburban America. How can wal-mart use tech to make their lives better? Same day home delivery is an obvious one, say every $X you spend in store you get a free same day home delivery credit. That would be nice / appreciated by folks struggling to get by.

Target, at least, seems to be doing its own thing vs constantly copying amazon/tech X, and I respect them for that.


>> Walmarts core is poor, rural/suburban America.

Maybe in 'Merica but not in Canada. It's the go-to for the huge array of products between Costco & the grocery store for a wide set socioeconomic segments. If it's a supercentre they get lots of the grocery dollars too.

They give you free shipping on everything, including big, bulky items like diapers. I think this is more important for lower income folks than same day delivery.


Banks in Scotland do it and aren’t all that big.


Quick question for other people on HN: What is the difference between a USD backed "digital currency" and a bank account?

As far as I can tell they are one and the same. In both cases you have an account balance that can be digitally transferred and the value of that balance completely depends on a trusted entity (a bank or the entity "backing" the digital currency).


A couple:

- FDIC Insurance. (some banks don't have it though especially if you are talking international banks).

- Regulation. Banks are regulated. They can freeze your money (randomly but not that randomly) but they are bound by laws. Most of the time they need to report their sheets and get audited by a central authority.


Well if it’s on a publicly available blockchain, the difference is that the information on how much money is in circulation, how much is being created, is all open to the public and verifiable. The information on how much banks are holding onto in fractional reserves should therefore be available and make cooking the books more difficult and allowing audits to be more accurate and hopefully regulations could exist to keep banks better in check.


> Well if it’s on a publicly available blockchain, the difference is that the information on how much money is in circulation, how much is being created, is all open to the public and verifiable.

This information is available to the public about the USD supply as well: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/categories/24

> The information on how much banks are holding onto in fractional reserves should therefore be available and make cooking the books more difficult and allowing audits to be more accurate and hopefully regulations could exist to keep banks better in check.

You should look into just how much regulation there is in banking, and the history of banking itself. All publicly traded banks are audited yearly, and yes I am aware of Enron/Arthur Andersen and the GFC of 07/08, among others.

No system is infallible, but investors trust US audited company statements 100x more than chinese audited companies, for instance.


Why is it so hard to audit those bitcoin exchanges then?


A public blockchain is straightforward to audit. It is the documentation internal to an exchange which can be opaque.

If trading is done off-chain, or transactions are made between currencies, those are not a part of the blockchain. For bitcoin-only transactions between wallets, no exchange is required.


I guess the more global your operations are, the more complicated it becomes to send money from one account to another.

It may also have to do with transfer taxes: it’s easier to say the payment was sent to an uninhabited island when the threshold is now IslandWithInternet instead of IslandsWithBankingSystems


Pretty much just the FDIC guarantee if you are feeling cynical.


This is a pretty straightforward antitrust case, right? They're leveraging their position as one of the largest employers in the US to gain a unfair competitive advantage for their digital currency if they pay their employees with it.


This is just going to lead to company scrip. Once again history will repeat itself.


I’m not sure we want Facebook to have access to large amounts of verified consumer purchasing information.


No body wants shop tokens. It's like all these guys have discovered arcade tokens.


I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of people who’ll happily take ship tokens if they give a 10-20% discount on purchases.


Especially if those people only shop at Walmart in any case.

I bet Walmart wouldn't even have to offer a discount.


So, Walmart would pay 10-20% to people to use its shit tokens, but what would it gain?


A net loss of 6.5%-16.5% and the corresponding tax writeoff, considering their net profit margin is 3-4%


A huge loss. Walmart can’t afford to pay even 5% of their revenue.


Revenue.


Selling a dollar for 80 cents, i'll have unlimited revenue this year :)


So this is just a play to avoid the Credit Card processing fees right?


>patent

Not convinced they quite grasp the point of a digital currency...


I think JP Morgan and Bank of America both tried to patent a bunch of blockchain tech.


So is this the 2019 version of the store credit card?


These cryptos are becoming the new company binded cc.




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