Economics Run Amok: What’s Your Price?

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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]

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  1. carlosmx37 says:

    is it real,or an urban myth?,..that the very rich guy from Omaha,Warren Buffet ….sells for charity a lunch for wanna be potential partners?..it is just conversation!,..I do not see anything bad in buying “time” and opportunity.

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  2. LG says:

    I think this is a great idea – It’s just lowering the search costs for both parties. Vapid gold diggers have been whoring themselves out to ugly, overweight repugnant millionaires for thousands of years, but it was often a time consuming and inefficient process. They also weren’t necessarily optimally matched – Because the search costs were high, gold diggers would settle for a less wealthy patron (and thus fail to realise maximum value for their attractiveness) because they couldn’t get the right introductions or whatever.

    Having said that, straight prostitution would seem to be a much “neater” economic transaction. Pay-per-sex-act is efficient as it gets, but there may be negative externalities in there (social stigma being the only one I could think of – I imagine stereotypical ones like increase in STI’s etc are false – It would seem logical that professionals would be more likely to practice safe sex than the amateurs on this site)

    It would seem from the site that the cashed up dateless oligarchs are willing to pay a fairly substantial premium over going rates for prostitutes for this kind of arrangement, so you’ve got to ask yourself: What externalities, positive or negative, aren’t being priced (at least explicitly) in each transaction?

    Also to Mr Dubner and Levitt – I would happily read a book on nothing but the economics of sex. (hint, hint)

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  3. Duncan says:

    A old saying my dad once told me,

    “All men pay for it, it’s just a matter of how and when”

    My price is a cup of tea and the bus fare home, still no takers though.

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  4. G.Richarte. says:

    I think this kind of sites reduce costs of transaction. eg. from the moment you meet a girl/guy you like, until the moment she/he agrees to go out with you, you have spent certain ammount of resources; resources you can save by using this sites and going out with a girl/guy whose picture and profile you like. Profiles also save you the resources you spent in getting to know him/her. But, of course, when you sell something like this (which is an unregulated good/service), you might even lie about the benefits of the product; but, well, there will always be risks to be taken.

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  5. cassidy says:

    I tried this site out. was offered 200.00 for a first date, i first looked at his profile to see what his “First date expectations” were because they clearly state what they want, this particular gentlemen wanted typical lunch date. i counter offered with “$400.00 and he agreed, we met at a local Coffee house on a nice day, he handed me a pink envelope with a card inside along with the 400.00 . we talked for about and hour about his life, job, family etc.. and then decided to walk accross the street to get a Hot dog at a famous hot dog stand, we talked some more,Laughed then he walked me back to my car, gave me a hug and asked if he could see he again. I guess it depends on what their expectations are, i did ask him,” why he decided to use the site, and he told me,” he has never been good at meeting women and he doesn’t have time to date alot because of his job, so he thought that maybe this would be easier for him. it was a nice typical first date, he didn’t talk about anything wierd or sexual or anything like that, i think you just have to be sure to check out their profile to see what their “First Date expectations” are. Their are men who let you know in their profile that they want a ” dinner/movie date, with a night cap at their place. you just have to make sure that you date who you want, and to check profiles first.

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