This post originally appeared in VICE UK
Dating apps were invented so people could idly pass time scrolling through the faces of strangers they might want to have sex with. But there are plenty of other uses for these apps that aren't being exploited. For example, making someone believe you actually like them, getting them to buy you stuff, then disappearing forever.
We thought we'd trial that potential usage by asking three writers—a straight girl on Luxy, a gay guy on Grindr, and a straight guy on Tinder—to use their respective app to blag as much free stuff as they could, armed only with a 3G phone and a concerning lack of guilt.
I like champagne, expensive cheese, and silk sheets. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong career path. I mostly subsist on frozen pizzas and can't afford so much as an overnight in a Southampton Travelodge.
So thank fuck for Luxy. Billed as a kind of "Tinder minus the poor people," it offers to "income verify" its members to ensure that only the highest caliber young ballers British society has to offer are able to bang each other. According to the app, its "successful and attractive" members include CEOs, pro athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, and celebrities. To break into this exclusive dating pool, I just had to sign up and convince my dates that I was one of them.
The initial signs were promising. In the space of a couple of days and a few flirty messages, I had been promised flights across the world, opera tickets, and stays in swanky hotels.
But I wanted to see how much I could score in the space of one evening—in exchange for nothing more than my own dazzling conversation. I used Friday night and the following morning to set up dates for Saturday night. I told all three Luxy guys to meet me in Sloane Square, Chelsea, to maximize the monetary value of my potential score, and arrived dressed in my most demure jewelry and an ugly pair of kitten heels.
My first date was with a guy we'll call Piers.* We had arranged to meet at the Botanist, a swanky cocktail bar in the corner of the square, at 5 PM. Piers was 20 minutes late, but I lacked the gall to be too outraged, considering I was about to catfish him.
Piers didn't apologize for his tardiness. I grabbed a menu, eager to get some free booze. But he closed it for me with a smile that seemed to say, "Darling, there's no need for that tonight. Piersy will look after you."
He went off and brought back something called a Lavender Bloom—his "usual," and the most expensive. It tasted like mothballs and potpourri. No matter, I thought. I had got my first drink and things were well on the way. All I had to do was talk to him. He did something in corporate law, which sounded very boring. All that listening paid off, though, because he offered to take me to Paris the following weekend.
I kept my story as close to my own as possible, to avoid slipping up over lies. I was Hannah Ramazanov, half German, half Russian, but brought up in London. Born in Battersea, I'd inherited a media company and spent my days swanning around Harrods and investing in property. OK, so maybe it wasn't that close to home. I guess I got carried away at some point.
"You look really familiar," he said. I didn't know him from anywhere. I don't move in circles where men expose their chest rugs and have names like Piers, so I hoped that he was just mistaking me for another bleached-blond Chelsea girl. "Let me think about it while I get us another drink," he said.
This time, he came back with a Botanist champagne cocktail. This one was equally unpleasant, but hey-ho, it was booze, so down my throat it went. He'd also ordered some oysters, which I can only assume was his idea of a suave move. Mollusk in hand, he told me many people believe they're an aphrodisiac. Obviously, along with the rest of the Western world, I already knew this. Piers was becoming a little tiring.
But I didn't have to stick with him for long. Five oysters deep, he had a lightbulb moment. "I know where you're from. You look like this girl in an article I read the other day." I laughed the shrill nasal squawk of a rich, older woman. "Impossible," I snorted, waving him away. He got out his phone to try to show me. I said something about powdering my nose and just walked out of the restaurant.
Unlike Piers, my second date, Henri, was on time to meet me at the station. He told me he didn't want to go for a drink around Sloane Square as it was too pretentious. We got to a bar and he immediately opened up a tab with his credit card.
Two more champagne cocktails down, and we were getting on swimmingly. He talked to me about how he worked at a well-known music corporation. After the incident with Piers, I did feel slightly nervous. It was a little too close to home. When he started bringing up record labels and music journalism, I thought the game was up once more. But we nattered about Metallica and J-pop until I managed to change the subject.
Because Henri was less boorish, I was being asked a lot of questions between sips of champagne. And questions meant answers. Where did I live? Which media company did I own? Where did I own property? He pushed for details, and while I tried to remain elusive, I was losing track of my convoluted lies. This must be what it's like to work in PR, I thought.
My vague answers just seemed to spur him on. He showed me the app from his side of the game. "Look, all these girls, they're gold diggers," he smirked, before inviting me to see Lady Gaga with his VIP tickets. By the time Henri adamantly told me that he was going to buy me dinner, I began to suspect that he was testing me. I wasn't going to find out either way, because I had dinner plans elsewhere.
After making my excuses, I met date number three at 8 PM at a restaurant called Colbert in Chelsea. On entering, the maître d' asked whose name the table was booked under. I was pretty pissed at this point and had to check Luxy for the name. "Tarquin," I told her. She said there were two Tarquins eating at 8 PM and offered me two surnames. I had no idea. Luckily, a man was already waving me over excitedly. "I hope you don't mind," he said, "but I took the liberty of ordering some champagne."
By this point I was the kind of ravenous you only get when you're wasted in your kitchen at 4 AM. There was a bucket of fancy bread on the table. I dunked it in butter and shoved it in my mouth like I was at a pie-eating contest. Tarquin seemed to take pleasure in this. "I like a girl with an appetite," he chuckled appreciatively. "Sorry," I said. "I haven't had a bite since brunch."
When the waiter came over, Tarquin asked me if I would like to pick the booze. I chose red wine and let my date pick one of the priciest. I wanted something I couldn't afford for the meal. I was initially going to go for halibut, but didn't want to look trashy. So I ordered the second-most expensive fish dish and two sides of fries in case it was those tiny portions you get in fancy restaurants.
We chatted about his numerous trips to the Proms, Chopin, hunting, and our mutual interest: gourmet dining. There were no sexual undertones whatsoever. It was like going for dinner with your wealthy, Tory uncle. I had a ridiculously priced ice cream and conveniently excused myself to use the ladies' room while he got the bill.
Walking back to the station, Tarquin made plans for the following week. "I'll book dinner at the Savoy first thing," he said. After a pause and very unsubtle side-eye, he quietly added: "And a stay, perhaps? The timeless suites, I think, would be particularly suitable."
That was my cue to leave. But I could have blagged on. Henri was demanding I meet afterwards for champagne and more. Piers was under the illusion our date didn't go horribly and already wanted me to meet him in the bar at Claridge's the following day. Another guy that had canceled that morning was incessantly messaging me and then somehow managed to find me on Facebook.
That was the problem with these Luxy men. They saw something they liked and didn't want to wait. After each of them bought me something, I felt like I had entered into a financial contract. Nice things for me, a sleepover for them. It was like Pretty Woman ,only I wasn't prepared to hang around long enough with any of these guys to find out if there was a happy ending, just long enough to eat and drink my way through half a month's rent.
*Names have been changed.