An Honest Q&A With A Girl Who Goes On Tinder Dates For Free Dinners


I have never been on Tinder. And I say this not because I’m too good for it — if I were single in 2016 I would most certainly be on it — but I’ve been in the same relationship since long before Tinder came out, so I never had the occasion. And if it’s any consolation, said relationship was started via OKCupid, so it’s not like we’re some sort of chic, internet-eschewing couple who has some meet cute about bumping into each other at the farmer’s market. We met online, too, just in a slightly more old-fashioned way.

But in any case, Tinder seems very cool/funny/depressing, and I love hearing all my friends talk about their various trials and tribulations on the app. In listening to them, I’ve also notably learned that not everyone uses Tinder in the same way. Some people are looking for true love (I just recently attended my first Tinder wedding, actually!), some people are looking to hook up, some people are looking to meet someone with central air conditioning for the summer, and some people are looking for free dinners. Yes, free dinners. And I have a good friend who has a, let’s say, dubious ethical relationship with the act of going on seemingly-real dates with guys in the interest of free steaks, cocktails, concerts, and other “going-out” perks. We’ve argued quite a bit about this habit of hers, but never come to a place of agreement.

So I did the next best thing to convincing her that she was being a little bit evil, which was getting her to agree to be interviewed (with a changed name) for TFD. Here is an edited version of the conversation we had about this…special habit of hers.

Chelsea: So tell us a little about what you do, and why you do it.

Heather: Umm, basically I go on dates with guys off Tinder that I’m not really interested in to have a night on the town. I live in DC, and it’s very expensive to go to any of the “cool” bars and restaurants here, and I admit that it’s something I’ve really missed since I broke up with my ex last year, who earned a good amount of money at his job. It had been about six-seven months that I essentially couldn’t ever afford to go out, and waiting to find a guy I was seriously interested in on Tinder was proving futile, so I took matters into my own hands.

C: Why can you not afford to go out by yourself?

H: Long story short, I work in a government-adjacent field that has excellent security and benefits, but really really shit pay. I’m just now breaking $30,000/year, which is nothing in DC, and I’m two years away from 30. Right now I don’t have the time to work a side job, and I don’t want to just completely abandon the hope of having a fun social life that doesn’t involve 25 cent buffalo wing specials. […] I only go out with these maybe 2-3 times a month, but those are the only times I get to go to a show I’ve been wanting to see, or try a new restaurant I’ve been reading about.

I also admit that I grew up pretty wealthy, but after the crash of 2008, my family lost most of what they had. This meant that I went from having champagne taste to a beer budget basically overnight, and I’ve still never gotten over this idea that I “deserve” the nicer things, or that they are an essential part of my life.

C: And so you go out with these guys to provide that, even though you have no intention to date them again?

H: I never go with someone I’m disgusted by, I just don’t wait for someone I’m really, truly into. I go out with people I feel “meh” about, because it’s a way to have the free experience. Sometimes it results in a second or third date, but most of the time it doesn’t, even though I’m always open to that. It’s usually just some night at a steakhouse or whatever and that’s the end of it.

C: Do you sleep with these guys?

H: It never goes past a little kiss, usually, unless we’ve been out on several dates and I really like them. I wouldn’t sleep with someone I didn’t like.

C: Do you see how someone could find this habit really offensive and, dare I say, unfeminist?

H: Oh, definitely. I’m not stupid, I know how it looks. It’s just that right now money is so tight, and everything is so stressful when it comes to just paying my bills and working the hours I need to work. It’s going to take a lot of time and intelligent maneuvering in my career to get to stability, financially, and the pressure of that combined with the day-to-day reality that I just have no money to do basically anything I want is enough to drive me crazy. The little joys I have now are these dates, because they’re the only time I don’t have to feel acutely stressed out about money for a little while.

C: Have you thought about expanding your arsenal of free activities?

H: I’ve been to every free activity at least ten times, and am signed up to every mailing list you could possibly think of for “free or cheap things to do this weekend in DC.” It’s just not fun after a while, especially when you’re doing something like going to see the cherry blossoms with a group of friends and then awkwardly having to leave when they want to go get lunch at a restaurant after. I have no money, and every social situation that involves it stresses me out. And trust me, I want to get a side job, but right now I’m working nearly seven days a week to finish a big project we sold. When that’s over in the fall, the first thing I’m going to do is start babysitting and dog walking again so I can have some breathing room.

C: And then will you stop the dates?

H: I wish I could say yes, but the truth is, I just don’t know yet.

Image via Pexels

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  • AN

    I see nothing wrong with this behavior. The guys aren’t being “tricked”. If they have lofty expectations for a long future with a girl they had a brief convo with on fucking Tinder, that’s their own issue. They are autonomous players in this game. I would have a huge fucking issue expecting ANYONE who pays for a night out if they think someone “owes” them sex or even a second date.

    I say this as a lesbian with zero experience in the heterosexual dating world, but this doesn’t seem much different than how online dating usually goes with heterosexual couples. The intentions may be different, but it seems pretty standard. Two people meet, they go out, the guy pays because of gendered expectations, it goes well and they go out again, or it doesn’t go well and they don’t. Not feminist positive, but not necessarily feminist negative either.

    • Maya

      Agree with all of this. I found the tone of this piece to be pretty judgmental towards the respondent in question and I don’t necessarily see this as an awful thing to be doing.

    • Maz

      ” If they have lofty expectations for a long future with a girl they had a brief convo with on fucking Tinder, that’s their own issue. They are autonomous players in this game. I would have a huge fucking issue with ANYONE who pays for a night out thinking they’re “owed” sex or even a second date after.”

      Firstly, they are being tricked when she isn’t even interested in actually dating the men she is using. She is using them for literally a free meal/drinks because she misses being able to afford it. Tinder is a dating app, having an expectation that you are going out with a person who is interested in dating you is not “lofty”, its completely fair.

      I find it incredibly suspect that you have a “huge fucking issue” with someone who thinks they are owed sex after a date, when literally this woman feels like she deserves a free meal as if she’s doing these men a favor just by going out with them. How is this not hypocritical??? What this woman is doing is literally the reason why MRA exists, and why a lot of men talk about how women use them for dates.

      • AN

        Women letting men pay for their meals being the inspiration behind MRAs sounds like the most perfect summary of that movement.

        She said she would be open to going out with them more if it worked out, and she clarified she wasn’t “repulsed” by any of them. It doesn’t seem misleading at all. And feeling entitled to sex is absolutely a completely different issue than counting on men to pay for your meal due to the gendered expectations of het courtship. Come on.

        • Maz

          She said she would be open, but if she isn’t interested that doesn’t stop her from going on a second or third date – thats the part that gets to me. It’s incredibly misleading. If she wanted a sugar daddy she should use a website dedicated to that where all parties can consent to that arrangement – because what she’s doing right now is not dating.

          ETA: the reason I brought up MRA is because this is a thing they complain about. Women using them as a free male on “dates”. This woman explicitly stated her motivation behind being on Tinder – she misses her ex who used to pay for everything, she now can’t afford the lifestyle she wants, so she chooses to go on “dates” with men with the primary intention of getting to eat/drink at an expensive place. If this isn’t using a person then I don’t know what is.

    • Tubes

      “I’m a shoe with no experience as a hat but the way hats are getting in the faces of their users and causing accidents is totally okay. I mean they are on the head, the head should expect this”.

      As a heterosexual man in the heterosexual dating world, going into dates expecting ANYTHING is bad practice on either party. People who do that are shitty, regardless of whether they’re a man or a woman. It’s not even about expecting sex. It’s about expecting a basic level of interest. If a woman goes out with me, I would hope that they’re at least into me. If not, then they’re just wasting my time, which is disrespectful. I could be out meeting other people who are interested in me, but instead I’m stuck hanging out with someone who’s only using me for a meal that I’m probably not even going to pay for because I split the bill anyways. What she’s doing is pretty scummy, because she’s straight up lying to people with the expectation that “oh they’ll pay for me anyways”. Honestly if I found out she was doing this, I’d leave right there and leave her with the bill.

  • Bri

    I say take advantage of it- a lot of guys (at least the ones I know) only use tinder for sex anyways- so I think it’s fine if people have differing motivations, even if it seems kinda shitty at first. But she’s also providing her dates with something which is someone to go out with, & giving these guys the chance to get to know them better- that’s pretty hard to do over the internet.

  • victoria g

    i guess it’s because i just read the article about bad money-moves on dates but i’m so curious: have you ever gone out with a guy who expected you two to split the bill, or do they always offer to pay for the whole date? i would be so afraid we’d go to a place i couldn’t afford and then when the check came have to awkwardly say i couldn’t pay for my half. but maybe i’m just paranoid.

    • jdub

      That right there is a big part of why I hated dating so much– I was always dirt broke when I was single, so if I couldn’t cover my half of a date… I didn’t go out. I just felt too guilty assuming these guys would pay for me and had no means to cover my own ass if they couldn’t.

      I also have never felt comfortable letting dudes buy me drinks at the bar either. If I go out with a strict budget, don’t they? That’s taking away from your valuable beer money!

    • Maya

      I online dated for about a year and went on probably over 20-25 first dates and I only had one experience where I paid at all. And it was because the guy’s card got declined, which he was extremely embarrassed about. He actually Venmo-d me the full cost of the dinner later. The way I like to think of it, I’m fine with the guy picking up the first date, but if I see him again, I’ll insist on picking up the second date or going dutch.

      But yeah, in general I think a rule of thumb is not to go somewhere you absolutely can’t afford! I always went on dates with the mentality that I should be able to cover my half regardless, but I rarely ever did.

    • Anon

      Interesting. I feel like I wound up splitting the bill more often than not on dates. I remember feeling surprised when people did pick up the bill for me. But that was also why I often had dates in coffee shops.

  • Maya

    I don’t know, I don’t really see this as a super controversial behavior. If someone buys you dinner, they bought dinner, they don’t automatically buy you, or the privilege of more dates, or sex, or anything with you. I think it’s nice to offer to split the check, but 99% of the time in my experience with heterosexual dating, guys will absolutely insist on picking up the bill on date no. 1. So if they want to do that…let them? If they think that entitles them to sex or a second date, that’s also pretty gross behavior imo.

    • Laira

      There’s a difference between dating for the sake of dating and enjoying the benefits of free meals here and there that come with being a heterosexual woman (I think a lot of us are guilty of that) and going on dates with the sole intention of getting a free meal. While the behaviors may appear the same to an outsider or the man on the date himself, it is the difference in intention that makes the latter significantly less ethical. That said, tinder men go on dates with expectations of things far beyond a comped cheeseburger, so this can really end up being a lesser of two evils debate.

    • Summer

      Same. I don’t really see an issue with it. The first date is ALWAYS hit-or-miss, regardless of how ~into~ someone you feel like you might be initially. Somebody can look hot in their photo and have an interesting profile, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to click with them as soon as you sit down to dinner. This chick said that she won’t go out with anyone she’s repulsed by and that she’s open to exploring things beyond just one date, so it kinda sounds to me just like regular dating. The only difference here is that she’s openly admitting to enjoying the perks of gendered expectations wherein there’s a solid chance that the man will offer to pay, and I think it’s probably fair to say that most of us also appreciate a free meal here and there.

      I’ve always reckoned that first dates are best suited for coffee, dessert, or a drink. Something low-key that won’t cost a ton for either party, and is easily concluded if there’s no connection. But if some dude is willing to take her to a nice restaurant or a swanky bar on a first date and pick up the check, so be it!

    • Bob Sheridan

      If you have no interest in the guy from the gate, why take a free dinner? Not only a dinner, but an expensive dinner. I think that is callous on the part of the woman. Nobody should waste anybody’s time.

  • Rosabella Alvarez-Calderon

    “…and then awkwardly having to leave when they want to go get lunch at a restaurant after”. That is the problem when money is such a taboo subject! Do the author’s friends know she has very little money? Aren’t they good enough friends that she cannot tell them something like “you know guys that I am broke, how about we do a picnic?” (or something)….How can you be friends with someone if you are so worried about keeping up with appearances?

  • Anon

    The other way of framing this is that she’s being open to possibilities when dating, even with long shots, and they happen to buy her dinner. It sounds like she’s willing to see if it goes somewhere, so it’s not like it’s really false pretenses. Other people go on dates hoping for sex or to expand their social circle or to talk themselves into getting over an ex. I mean, I went on some dates with guys I wasn’t sure about on paper….and now three years later I’m marrying one of them who turned out to be unexpectedly awesome in person.

    Also, it’s totally on them if they decide to do a first date somewhere swanky knowing it might not go anywhere. Most of mine were just in coffee shops.

    • Christian Gonzales

      Justifying the behavior by saying “other people go on dates hoping for sex” doesn’t make this behavior okay, she explicitly states, in an interview, that she does this because she misses the lifestyle her ex provided her. It’s not an issue of framing the story, it’s an interview where it’s explicitly stated.

  • Caitlin

    I have a male friend who lives on a strict budget specifically so that he can take women out on dates. He genuinely wants a long term relationship, but ends up spending a ton of money on dates that go nowhere. It bums me out to think of my friend taking someone like this out on a date, when I know that he’s scrimping in all other areas specifically so that he can afford dating.

    I wonder about the details around how she chooses the dudes that she goes out with. Are they at all aware that they’re basically a meal ticket? Do they think that there’s actual potential, or do they know that they’re just “meh”? (I also have zero experience with online dating, so I guess I don’t know how normal this type of behavior is and am kind of fascinated by it.)

    • Bob Sheridan

      Your friend is an idiot. Plain and simple. He could be using that money to invest.

  • NL

    I can’t imagine this and it’s not coming from a feminist standpoint or anything like that…it just sounds truly exhausting. I online dated for a bit but only went out with 3-5 guys (I honestly can’t remember) and it was like having a 3rd job- I already have 2. To have to weed through your inbox (nice tits! sex?? nudes?), spend time vetting ppl to make sure you’re at least a little bit compatible/they aren’t going to skin you, and then finally agreeing on a date/time/locale with the person sounds a lot like work. This doesn’t include getting to the actual date and realizing you don’t have that much to talk about and having to awkwardly force conversation for a few hours, only to have to tell them the next day that you’re not interested. I can’t fathom doing that just for a meal, but I’ve also been in a relationship for 4 years. To each their own.

  • rebecca_lt

    I don’t think this is terrible for the reason that it’s being presented as. She’s actually doing what I have been trying to get my friends to do for a long time when online dating – giving guys a chance without requiring them to reach unattainable standards. She goes out with guys that she would be open to dating again if it worked out – the fact that it doesn’t in most cases mirrors almost everyone’s experiences with online dating. When I dated online I realized that if I ONLY went on dates with guys that I thought were incredible according to their profile, I was missing out on a lot of good guys that translate better in person. I also went on a second date maybe twice in every ten dates – it’s just hard to find good chemistry with someone.

    Even if the incentive for her to do this is $$ rather than finding a soulmate, I still think that this puts her in a better position to potentially find someone she really likes than if she were being super picky.

    The unsavory part of it is just that she expects the guy to pay every single time. but it also sounds like that’s what happened with her ex, and it’s not clear that she would actually pay if she has the income (she would just be in the position to sincerely offer). She’s just the kind of girl that expects the guy to pay in relationships – if any of the guys she goes out with doesn’t like it, then that’s probably a deal breaker anyway.

    • disqus_bh1TKa64AF

      “giving guys a chance”

      You’re setting everyone up for failure with this mentality. It creates a power dynamic. If you think you’re better than the guy you are not going to be successful. Let’s say the guy is good. But he learns you view it as him “getting a chance” that will make him resent you.

      How would you feel if a guy said “fine I’ll give you a chance and go out with you”? That wouldn’t make you feel very good now would it?

      • rebecca_lt

        Actually I think that would be fine if I went out with a guy and his initial attitude prior to the date was sure, “I’ll give her a chance.” I think you’d find that most women say, “I’ll give him a chance” but what men say is “Sure, why not” – but the meaning is exactly the same. In terms of power dynamics, I think my phrasing ‘giving guys a chance’ is a correct one – because I’m talking about women who are too picky because they are too good for a lot of guys. So in their opinion (whether correct or not), they have the advantage over these guys that they won’t date.

  • Sophia

    I know guys that do the same thing. Sometimes they’ll get the girl to pay for the whole meal or end up ordering something really small and sharing the dinner so they can split the cost of a more filling meal.

  • Bob Sheridan

    It’s so easy to spot these broke funky ass bitches. This is why I don’t feel sorry for a guy that gets his pockets raped. First dates are always something simple. Any time a self entitled broad asks to go to an expensive restaurant, block her from contacting you.

    Recently I was talking with a broad about going to Starbucks or Frozen yogurt on to meet up for a first time. She wanted to go to some expensive steakhouse. I immediately BLOCKED HER from contacting me.

  • disqus_bh1TKa64AF

    I hope some guy throws sulfuric acid in her face and disfigures her horribly for life.

    Make her outer appearance reflect her inner appearance.

    • Bob Sheridan

      Wow. Going way too far man. How about just curse the broad out when you know she is trying to play you?

  • Saul Villarruel

    this is shitty.

  • Thorn

    what a vile degenerate gold digger. Relationships and things like this are so unbalanced and a joke these days. You can see why she liked her ex.. It isn’t even about love for these people. I think, or alt least me personally, that relationships should be that you are with someone because you get along with them well and want to actually be round them on a friend level and not just as some kind of trophy or to use for money. That’s where people are going wrong. Don’t look at what someone can do for you, rather look at who they are as a person, which is alot more important. But people are shallow as anything these days