Economics Run Amok: What's Your Price?
Freakonomics is no stranger to studying prostitution, as discussed in Superfreakonomics. We are slightly less familiar, however, with a gray area of prostitution — “dating websites” that connect rich customers with attractive poor customers. Though these are by no means a new phenomena, a website has recently come to our attention that uses a dating website platform to ask what we all wonder about in one context or another: what’s your price?
Whatsyourprice.com auctions off dates and claims to be inspired by the charity dating model. It is divided into two halves: “Date Generous People” and “Date Attractive People” — apparently you’re either looking for one or the other. Upon a cursory read, the generous users seem to be overwhelmingly male, and the attractive users overwhelmingly female (and pictured in bathing suits). Each profile includes an “About Me” section and a “First Date Expectations” section. Several “attractive” members, it should be noted, specify that they will not fly Economy Class.
The homepage states:
Stop wasting time. Successful and generous people will pay for the chance to impress you on a first date. Traditional online dating can cost you both time and money. Here, you‘ll enjoy meeting people who will fight to show you they are worth your time.
Join Now, it’s 100% Free
Founded by Brandon Wade, the site purports to simply be upholding the tenets of capitalism. Wade describes himself as a graduate of MIT and the founder of websites seekingarrangement.com and seekingmillionaire.com. Are you noticing a theme here? In his own words:
When capitalism is mixed in with dating, all of a sudden people start concluding “it must be prostitution.” But does paying money for a cup of coffee every morning mean Starbucks is engaging in prostitution? Does paying for gas every time you fill up at the gas station mean that Mobil or BP is pimping? Does donating money to the Church every Sunday morning equate religion to prostitution? Obviously not, and obviously buying a First Date isn’t either.
The original homepage included a man surrounded by five women holding price tags; it has since been changed to something more demure. The site has three easy steps: uploading a profile, negotiating a price, and setting up a date. It also includes some helpful dating etiquette reminiscent of craigslist warnings:
* Do Not pay or ask anyone for payment prior to meeting for a date
* If someone asks you to send money by Western Union, report them immediately
* Generous members are expected to pay for the date (there’s no going dutch here)
* Our advice: Pay 50% of the date at the start of the date, and 50% at the end
* Do Not accept personal checks or cashier’s checks – there’s just too much fraud
One wonders, though, what services are being provided in a date. Conversation? Company? Something more? The “First Date Expectations” section on individual profiles doesn’t clarify much, either. In his blog posts, Wade often quantifies aspects of dating in terms of age, gender, income, etc. He gives insights into what kind of money is involved in these dates and writes:
Results of our study: Men seeking casual or no-strings-attached relationships paid an average of $121 for a first date, whereas single men looking for serious long-term relationships paid an average of $194 for the opportunity of finding love. However, men who seek only casual or no-strings attached relationships tend to be serial daters and more prolific, paying for first dates over 2.1 times more, than commitment-minded men.
Whatsyourprice.com has been featured on several media outlets, including HuffPo, the San Francisco Chronicle and Fox Business News.
So we must ask, dear reader, what’s your price?
[HT: Lewis Robinson]