June 18, 2011

What's Your Price: Prostitution or a good deal?

How much do I usually spend on a first date with a woman I’ve met online? And how often is it a total waste when she turns out to be either unattractive or uninterested? These are the questions I was asking myself after hearing about a new online dating site called What’s Your Price. It’s a new model where the suitors bid on what they'll pay to go on a date with the object of their affection.

My first thought: Is this a site for prostitutes or golddiggers... or both? But then I started thinking, maybe it’s not such a bad idea when you consider all the money I’ve wasted on bad dates. The average price of a What's Your Price date in my area (Los Angeles) is about $170 (not including the cost of the actual date), and the available women seem to be attractive, and let’s just say, “looking for a good time.”

It shouldn’t be to difficult to run a few numbers. But first, another question: How is this even legal? Isn’t this prostitution? The website denies that sex is guaranteed on the first date, but isn’t that the same line escort services use to skirt the letter of the law? Most people implicitly understand that escorts are synonymous with hookers. In fact, What’s Your Price validates this assumption by feeling the need to make this denial:
Despite what the press or media may claim, remember, this is not a website for Escorts.
But in it's disclaimer that you should expect sex on the first date, the blog reveals a little too much:
Tip: Remember to look closely at a user's profile. If a member does not state that s/he is interested in a "Casual / Intimate Encounter" or "Discreet Affair", it is safe to assume you will not get laid on the first date! Even if a member does state s/he is interested in a "Casual / Intimate Encounter" or "Discreet Affair", it is still a bad idea to assume you will get laid even if there is chemistry.
The first part implies that the opposite is also true, i.e., these are code words for sex. As in that’s what you’re buying. The second line is clearly just CYA legalese.

For reference, I found this for the legal definition of prostitution:
The term "prostitution" generally means the commission by a person of any natural or unnatural sexual act, deviate sexual intercourse, or sexual contact for monetary consideration or other thing of value.
Hmmm, sounds like most marriages, but I digress. On the other hand:
An escort service is any business, agency or person who, for a fee, commission, hire, reward or profit, furnishes or offers to furnish names of persons, or who introduces, furnishes or arranges for persons, who may accompany other persons to or about social affairs, entertainments or places of amusement, or who may consort with others about any place of public resort or within any private quarters. Escort services are generally legal, but if they are a cover for prostitution, they are not.
Sounds like a good description of What's Your Price. So maybe this site will run afoul of the law eventually, but it appears they’ve at least got a legal case to argue. Let’s assume they’ll be around for a while and get back to the first question I raised. Is this a good deal?

Combing through some phone and credit card statements, I came up with the following stats for my online dating escapades in the past 3 months. According to my records, I’ve been on 12 dates and spent a total of $388, for an average of about $32 per date. With zero “results” to show for it. Interpret that however you like... and you probably won't be wrong (save your insults, I’m not including non-online dates I’ve been on, which have been much more successful).

Now let’s compare that to the alternative that might have been possible with What’s Your Price. I assume a date with one of the golddiggers fine young ladies on that site would be a little more expensive. I’d say I could arrange a pretty classy date for about $150, so adding the bribe price of admission, the total cost of the date would be $320. That’s less than the money I've wasted on my other dates, but it’s only 1 date versus 12. Lower volume, but more likely success. There are no guarantees with the What's Your Price date, and it's hard to say what might happen if I had 12 more shots using traditional online dating.

Based on this analysis, I’d say there’s no clear winner. I could make an argument either way, but the What’s Your Price option is definitely something to consider. Maybe I’ll give it a shot over the next 3 months.