As a busy entrepreneur, 29-year-old Pablo goes online to meet women. But instead of using the Internet to search for a date, the Los Angeles native buys one.
“My type is down to earth, adventurous, sweet, kind, dog-lover, someone who is going to push my buttons, no drama,” Pablo told ABC News’ “20/20.”
Pablo uses WhatsYourPrice.com, an eBay-like dating auction site where men pay for a night out with attractive women.
The men browse pictures and profiles and then make a monetary bid for the women, who then can chose to accept or make a counter-offer. The average price for a date is $80.
The website, which has 500,000 members in the U.S., is the brainchild of founder Brandon Wade.
"At the end of the day, it’s all about economics, demand and supply,” Wade told “20/20.”
Many of the men on site are shy businessmen or technology moguls, just like Wade himself, who started the site because, as a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the pretty girls never gave him a chance.
“My mother told me to study hard and someday when you grow up and you’re successful, you can use, use your generosity to turn the dating game around,” Wade said. “Now on What’s Your Price? a guy who’s willing to shell out some cash could now have a shot with a beautiful woman."
Though some criticize the site as being prostitution for today’s digital age, Wade said he’s not an “e-pimp.”
“I believe I'm matching people for meaningful romantic relationships,” Wade said. “That makes me an e-Cupid and not an e-pimp.”
With just a few clicks, Pablo recently made a $250 bid for a date with a bikini model and nursing student named Cyndi, who listed herself as available on the site.
“It’s like a business arrangement. Sometimes I’ll be at home. It’s sad, but I can just go on here and get a girl, have a good time. I’m helping them out, and they are helping me out. It’s a win-win situation,” Pablo said.
But Pablo’s family and friends aren't so sure about the site.
“My guy friends think I’m a fool,” he said. “My mom doesn't think it’s a cool thing, she is old school and this is the new way of doing things.”
While on their date, Pablo and Cyndi quickly discovered that they had a lot in common, including having the same type of dog. The two took a salsa lesson, and by the end of the night, it was clear that a possible love connection was made between the two of them.
However, the evening ended not with a kiss, but rather cash. As agreed upon, Pablo gave her $250.
“I feel good. She was amazing,” Pablo said.
“I will probably go out on a second date with him, no money involved,” Cyndi told “20/20.”
Across the country in New York, 19-year-old Selena has turned the website into a part-time job. Selena told “20/20” she’s been on more than 100 dates through WhatsYourPrice.com and can earn up to $1,000 a week going on dates, which she uses for tuition and to help her mother with bills.
“Everyone does different things for money,” Selena said. “I’m really good-looking, and I feel like I should take advantage of it.”
In addition to cash, Selena said her online suitors give her clothes, internships, and even a free trip to Africa. She insists she’s never had sex with any of the men who've bid on her.
“I don’t even kiss!” she exclaimed. “This is like a regular first date, just like a normal guy I met on the street.”
The most Selena said she has ever earned from one date is $300, and she doesn't take less than $70.
“I don’t look for love. I let love happen on its own,” she said. “But I like money.”
But one of the concerns Selena’s best friend Leah has is Selena’s safety.
“She is always worried that I’m going to be killed one day,” Selena said. “She doesn't like these dates because it’s kind of sketchy.”
“Because she leaves me messages like, ‘He’s going to drive by the woods,’” Leah told “20/20.”
Selena said she takes precautions by searching the guy she is going on a date with on Google and letting Leah know where she is at all times.
WhatsYourPrice.com has a policy banning escorts and even says it vets all new profiles and rejects about 500 of them each month for suspicion of prostitution.
Even so, Dave, a divorced dad from California, said he’s been offered sex for money from women he met through the site more than a dozen times.
“I contacted [one woman on the site], and she came back asking for $400,” Dave told “20/20.” “I've gone out with [another] gal. She owns her own bikini company. She came back to me asking for $1,000 to sleep with me.”
Dave said he has never accepted sex for money.
“Some men do expect sex, and we tell them that that’s not what they should expect,” Wade said. “So if somebody were to proposition another person for sex, they will get reported, and we will kick them off website.”
Wade said on average he kicks off about 50 members of a month for solicitation, but users have to report them and some like Dave, don’t.
Generous men should be cautious too, according to Dave. He said a date from the website once robbed him of $5,000.
“We decided to go to my room. She said, ‘I’d like to give you a back massage.’ She gave me a back massage; I fell asleep. When I wake, woke up in the morning, all my money was gone,” Dave said.
Dave’s date, Alissa Anderson, had apparently done the same to others. She was arrested, and last month, she pleaded guilty to grand larceny.
For Selena, no amount of money can make up for bad first impressions. When one of her dates was one hour late, she walked out on him after he arrived.
“It’s upsetting because I could have planned a date with someone else, who was more reliable, but you move on,” Selena said. “I feel like the site should compensate you if someone doesn't show up. They get paid, and I should get paid too.”