BY: MEGAN HOFILENA
The way to a girl’s heart is through a man’s wallet—or at least by CarrotDating.com’s standards, anyway.
Launched in October 2013, the app and online site is the first of its kind, in which singles can use bribery to score first dates. Whether it be a bouquet of flowers or a dinner date, the bribe posted by men, typically, is used to entice women to go out with them.
Founder Brandon Wade, a graduate of MIT, left his Fortune 500 job at Booz Allen to pursue the venture to develop the app, all in the name of love. Inspired by his mother’s suggestion to finding true romance by gift-giving, Wade developed CarrotDating with the intention of using incentives to gain dates.
Being a recipient of free gifts sounds well and grand as a heterosexual female. However, I don’t necessarily think that’s the right way of gaining someone’s affection. At least not my affection, anyways.
I totally get the concept behind gift-giving. Wade’s mother, who advised him of this pivotal technique, is of Chinese descent. From an interpersonal level to international business perspective in the Asian culture, gift-giving is a widely accepted practice.
According to a 2011 Asian Journal of Communications article, “In contrast to some Western societies, the structure of social relations in China rests largely on fluid, person-centered social networks instead of fixed social institutions . . . Gift-giving therefore plays a significant role in maintaining, reproducing, and modifying interpersonal relations.”
As an Asian-American, I can definitely identify with the practice and understand the context behind the gesture. However, applying this particular cultural gesture to American society only justifies existing prevalent “values” such as instant gratification and gives further meaning to the stereotype of a “gold digger—” As if Americans don’t have enough of everything already.
Users of the app could be in it for completely self-serving purposes—quite the opposite of Wade’s intentions to help find hopeful singles their match. However, is gift-giving and receiving really a great way to start?
America’s divorce rate rose for the third consecutive year in 2012 to about 2.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Is receiving gifts—as awesome as it sounds on the surface—really a fundamental start to a long and successful marriage? I highly doubt that.
Unless the app is targeting a younger audience that is less committed to the concept of matrimony, I don’t think users above the age of 30 are looking for anything serious. If that’s the case, Wade’s app totally missed the mark as far as target audience goes.
By using Carrot Dating, it’s almost if I mean to say, “It’s totally cool, its not like I have any personal standards—like someone who’s funny or kind, or likes to spend time with their animals. I don’t care about any of that. I just care about scoring on some free jewelry!
Furthermore, this branding position totally excludes the LGBTQ community. The site’s direct use of “her” when referring to recipients obviously only encourages women to go on dates in exchange for gifts. Every company has a right to decide their target audience, but I can’t help but feel that the marketing of this app leaves out this particular demographic while being completely accepting of hetero-normative society and directed exclusively to heterosexual relationships.
At first I thought that I should give this app the benefit of the doubt, as it couldn’t possibly be encouraging gold digging as an incentive for dating.
However, Wade is also the founder of SeekingArrangement.com, which prides itself as the leading sugar daddy dating website; SeekingMillionaire.com, a millionaire matchmaking website; and WhatsYourPrice.com, where singles bid for first dates. The businessman obviously sees an opportunity here.
Although gift-giving can be a very kind gesture, I would rather go on ItsJustLunch.com and settle for being treated to lunch, rather than being bribed by a “dangling” hope that someone will find me a worthy mate.