I Tried a Site That Makes You Pay for Dates. It Didn't Go as Planned.
All dating apps and websites have their intricacies and quirks, but they boil down to a singular concept: liking or not liking someone based on a short bio and handful of pictures. It's pretty much as close to judging a book by its cover as you can get. And that always works out, right?
But what if the ante was upped; and instead of operating on a hot-or-not basis, there was a bidding war?
Paid dating has arrived. And I'm not talking escort services! Well, yeah, I guess I kind of am. The premise is simple: if someone wants to go on a date with you, they pay money to show how serious they are. Ohlala is an app that's hugely popular in Germany and just landed in New York with $1.7 million in seed-round funding. Then there’s WhatsYourPrice, a date-auction website that I just had to try out for myself.
I asked WhatsYourPrice's spokesperson, Ethan, how this whole thing differs from an escort service. He reminded me that women spend an inordinate amount of time, money, and effort to prepare for a date -- and that when you factor in the cost of the makeup, outfit, and haircut (and time spent), it’s only fair that a woman be reimbursed a little bit for her efforts. Interesting points, Ethan!
But beyond that, the real beauty of paid dating is that it narrows the field. Any random, good-looking jerk on Tinder can line up a dozen dates in a heartbeat. Paid dating ensures the users that this is something more important while eliminating the sea of deadbeats and flakers out there.
I started out confident and opened up an Attractive profile. I filled out all the necessary fields and attached a nice (shirtless, of course) picture of myself. Then I waited. And waited. And kept waiting. After about two weeks without a single request, I realized a few things. For starters, 55% of WhatsYourPrice's users are from the US (it's currently available in 135 countries) and only 6% are in Canada (where I'm located). Furthermore, the number of Generous female users makes up a tiny fraction of the site's profiles. I quickly realized this was definitely a system tailored toward attractive females. The odds were not in my favor.
So, I swallowed my pride and switched my account to Generous. The hunted had now become the hunter. I don't consider myself cheap by any means, but I also didn’t feel like spending $150 just to get someone to agree on a first date. I wanted to keep my bids as low as possible. The first offer I got was from a nice lady named Brooke who wanted $250 for our first date. While she did look attractive, I opted to make a strong counter offer of $5. Brooke did not respond, although I'm sure she saw it. I sent another $5 offer to a nice-looking woman named Bea who lived near me. She did not respond either. So I amped my price up to $20 and sent offers to a dozen women. They all countered with offers of $200+. Ouch.
I spent weeks negotiating, but not one woman was so inclined to go on a first date for my lowball offer. I gave up, dateless. Lesson learned: you need to be serious if you want to win someone over. It was almost refreshing to see women value themselves so highly and not just jump at the first dude with a profile. Sure, I felt a little wrong when I was offering money in exchange for human companionship; but I realized that it was less about the money and more about being able to see my intentions. In this way, the system works. All those women were able to tell instantly that I wasn't exactly in it to win it.
The lesson? Money can't buy you love, but it can buy you a date with a disproportionately attractive woman, if you're willing to part with enough of it.
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Tyler Lemco is a writer from Montreal, Canada. To ask him on a date, contact him via any social media platform: @tlemco.