April 11, 2011 -- Maybe money can't buy you love but, if you name the right price, it can get you a first date.
At least that's how it works on WhatsYourPrice.com, a new dating site that's trying to bring Adam Smith's rules of capitalism to Cupid's world of romance.
On the site, which went live a week ago, members who label themselves "generous" flash dollar signs to bid for the chance to take "attractive" members out on a date.
The buying and selling of beautiful singles may sound an awful lot like prostitution, but the site's founder, Brandon Wade, insists that WhatsYourPrice is about paying for first dates, not paying for sex.
"If you look at the way charity events are held, you have these firemen and beautiful prom kings and queens [up for bid]," he said. "People are already doing this around the world, obviously for charity, but a similar concept would apply here."
Wade also runs the "sugar daddies" dating site SeekingArrangement.com (which just gave Charlie Sheen its very first Lifetime Achievement Award last month) and said he knows attractive women who already charge men potentially one to two hundred dollars to just meet for a cup of coffee.
"That sort of guarantees her that the one to two hours she spends having coffee isn't wasting time," he said.
Date Offers Range From $20 to $100
But this site isn't just for people seeking so-called "mutually beneficial relationships" (although that is an option members can check on their profiles). Wade said it's for anyone looking for relationships.
For "attractive" singles (both men and women, although the "attractive members" section of the site is chock full of scantily-clad females), he said the site provides a more efficient way of reaching only the most serious, most desirable candidates.
For "generous" singles (also both men and women, though the site's homepage features male millionaires), WhatsYourPrice.com says it guarantees they date only the people who meet their high standards.
Offers typically range from $20 to $100 a date, although Wade said he knows one member who tried to offer $1,000 for a date. As the members go through the negotiation process, all they can see are each others' pictures and profiles (which include their net worth and income).
When two members agree on the price of a date, the site takes a small percentage of the cost and then "unlocks" the conversation between the two parties.
To make sure members stick to first-date innocence, the site suggests date ideas, like sky-diving, building sand castles at the beach and visiting the local animal shelter. On their dating profiles, members are also explicitly asked to leave out R-rated content and references to sex.
But users get around that.
Although Wade said the site deletes profiles that violate the terms of service, a quick tour of the site shows that there are plenty of barely-dressed female members and bawdy men looking for "erotic meetings" and "intimate fun."
Wade said "there's no sex involved" in the framing of the site, but said that as with any dating the potential (and hope) for love and sex is obviously still there.
"We're not denying that," he said.
Paying for Dating Is More Efficient, Not Materialistic, Founder Says
But what about the notion of true love? Doesn't paying for a date get a couple off to a superficial start?
Not so, according to Wade. Paying for dating is simply more efficient, not more materialistic, he said.
Citing statistics showing that many couples break up because of finances, he said that getting the touchy -- yet practical -- topic of money out of the way early actually gets people off on a better foot.
"If you take money as something people ought to be talking about upfront, then you might see that a lot of relationship issues might be solved," he said.
Free market principles infuse all other facets of society, he said. It's about time for capitalism to couple up with finding love.
"It's about really buying the chance to have two hours of a person's time to get them to know you a little more," he said. "So now you might have a shot to win their hearts."