I've sent and received bitcoins before. I know it takes several confirmations before funds appear in someone's wallet after being sent. In fact, this is why both Coinbase and eGifter worried me for the next 15 hours after starting down the path.
Let me start from the beginning, around 7 pm after I got home from work. It took me about an hour to research, read reviews, etc. on the products I wanted. When I finally ready to purchase, it was already 8 pm.
The items I wanted cost around $325 (around $345 after taxes) at Amazon. Yes, Amazon now charge taxes, but was still cheaper than a brick and mortar store. While there are now businesses that accept bitcoins (I can't wait until my next computer build so I can buy from Newegg), Amazon doesn't accept bitcoins at all.
So, how to get around this? Well, I remember reading somewhere (or heard on a podcast) there are services that let you purchase gift cards with bitcoins. This way, you can use your bitcoins with merchants that doesn't accept bitcoins at all! Brilliant!
I read reviews on two such places - eGifter and Gyft. At a Reddit thread, someone highlighted that eGifter allows for more granular gift card values than Gyft. Other than that, most gave equal amounts of pros and cons for both. Even so, the overall consensus was both companies were on the up and up.
With that in mind, I decided to with with eGifter. I found that I needed to pick up a $250 and $100 gift card for a total of $350 to cover my eventual purchase. When I checked out, I was presented with several options for payment, including PayPal and Bitcoins. Clicking on Bitcoins, I was dismayed when eGifter informed me that it only takes Bitcoin payments through Coinbase. I normally just send out bitcoins using my own bitcoin wallet. That's very straight forward. Not only did I went through a process to create an account with eGifter, they are forcing me to create an account with Coinbase!
No one likes to fill out forms and open yet another account (another login credential to remember). I came this far, so I did a quick research to see if Coinbase was legit. After all, well established Exchanges have crumbled before. It was mostly good things. Also, from what I've read, it should take anywhere between 3 to 6 confirmations for your funds to appear in the Coinbase wallet.
After getting my Coinbase account set up, I transferred the bitcoins to my Coinbase wallet and waited. And waited. And waited. It takes about 10 minutes per confirmation, so it was hell just sitting there for so long. After all, it's been about an hour after I had everything put into the shopping cart. Between the account set up with eGifter and Coinbase, and the waiting for the funds to appear in my Coinbase wallet, it's enough time to give anyone second thoughts about their purchase. Do I really need a pressure washer right now?
After constantly refreshing the blockchain page, Coinbase's page, and even my own wallet, I finally hit 3 confirmations. Coinbase still says the funds are pending. Okay... 6 confirmations passed. Still says pending. 10 confirmations passed. Pending.
I finally sent a help ticket with Coinbase to find out what's going on. I received an automated email, but no other help. After 13 confirmations (about 2 hours after the initial transfer, might I add), Coinbase finally felt it was good enough to make my funds available to use!
Ok, great. Now back to eGifter...let’s get my gift cards! It's about 10:30 pm now. After the payment, I was given an order number and a message that said an email confirmation was sent. I did not get any email. At 11 pm, I actually found a customer support number and gave them a call. I was expecting to hear a recording that said they were closed, but instead I hear hold music. Five minutes later, an actual live person came on the line! And no accent. In fact, we got a chatting and I found out he was from Portland, OR. Nice guy too. He did say it can take up to 24 hours for me to get the gift cards, but I should have received an email confirmation immediately. Unfortunately he couldn't help me further and asked me to put in a help ticket with the bitcoin transaction details. And so I did.
After opening up a ticket with eGifter, I kept refreshing the "My Wallet" page where the gift cards were supposed to appear. I also kept refreshing my mailbox to see if I received any confirmations. I perked up when I saw the confirmation for opening up my ticket, but it was an automated reply to confirm they received my ticket, but no confirmation of the order itself. At 11 pm, I retired to bed.
At 9 am in the morning, I woke up to find a response from eGifter about my ticket. It was the same line their live customer service person gave me - give it 24 hours. I responded back with something along the lines of "I was told this by your customer support over the phone, but he also said it was weird I did not get an email confirmation for the order immediately".
As I was waiting for their response to my reply, at 11 am I finally received the order confirmation email! I quickly went to my computer (I was checking emails on my phone), logged into my eGifter account, and YES! There they were!
From there, it only took minutes to redeem the gift cards and finish up the purchase on Amazon. In that ordeal, I've also noticed that Amazon loves to adjust their prices by pennies every couple hours or so. I ended up paying 20 cents more than when I originally placed the items in the cart (15 hours ago).
When I pulled the trigger on the gift cards, a single Bitcoin was worth around $1280. The morning I pulled the trigger on the Amazon purchase, the same Bitcoin was worth around $1245. Not a huge difference (especially when dealing with about 0.275 BTC), but it was a minor and temporary fist pump moment. Who knows how much more a bitcoin would go for later in the day or even week!
So the lesson I learned: If you want to buy with bitcoins with a merchant who does not take bitcoins directly, prepare yourself for the wait. You don't get instant gratification.
And for your reference, the links to eGifter, Gyft, and Coinbase: