Strictly, dating apps were invented so people could idly pass the time scrolling through the faces of strangers they might want to have sex with. But there are plenty of other uses 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 know what Grindr is like. Hustling unsuspecting strangers out of material gifts would not be my first rodeo.
I tried the app at university and met up with a guy who'd clearly used pictures from a decade earlier to lure me in. We met outside his flat and he asked me if I liked snakes, before divulging that one of his corn snakes was going through "a difficult shed" and that he'd had to peel her earlier that day.
Was this an innuendo? I never had the opportunity to find out.
Upon entering his house, I saw he had an A3 poster of himself manically grimacing on the wall, hands clasped like a pervert Bond villain. It was at this point he told me he was a magician. After 45 minutes of awkward conversation and shit wine I made my excuses, told him I didn't kiss on the first date (a total lie) and left.
With this Grindr experience under my belt, I felt ready to wreak revenge on the app for the very temporary inconvenience it had caused me. But before I embarked on the challenge I called my mum, who was quick to dole out some helpful and not-at-all creepy advice.
"You've got to go for the old ones," she said, coming across somewhere between Kris Jenner and a Bulgarian sex trafficker. "Create a profile that says something like, 'Baby bear seeks big bear for honey and other treats.'"
Sage wisdom locked in, I was ready to test the waters. My plan was to start as impersonal as possible, before inching closer to meeting someone IRL. So, to dip a toe, I tried to convince people I'd never met to have stuff delivered to me that costs actual, real money.
Initially, I tried to cast the net wide, as stupidity doesn't discriminate. But after several hours all I was getting was impatient messages from horny morons who were allegedly "working from home". A vision flashed before my eyes: me being tea bagged by a long line of overweight data inputters for nothing more than a Starbucks Frappuccino and a lemon and poppy seed muffin.
Where were the big spenders, the chivalrous imbeciles? Who knew the gays of Manchester could be so tight fisted?
Just as I was about to throw in the towel, something amazing happened: I found a human being who was actually willing to have a pizza delivered to my office. The lonely fat girl inside of me squealed: "Could this be the one?"
In terms of the blagging expensive shit for free thing, it could be argued that I panic ordered. A margherita is hardly the most extravagant of pizzas. I could have gone for a vegerama, or even a meat feast, but I didn't want to scare my feeder away.
When the pizza arrived, I finally had my first taste of success, and it was sweet, if not a little bland.
The day went on and the pizza guy seemed like a one off – not a great haul, really. I'd watched documentaries and read about people living a life of luxury thanks to a faceless stranger online, but they were a lot harder to snag than I'd been led to believe.
Mind you, most of the generous benefactors I'd heard about were lonely men going through a midlife crisis, desperate to feel wanted by a petite glamour model with freckles who – on one occasion, at least – could completely cover herself in baked beans on demand.
I, on the other hand, was a short, brown homo with no freckles and no budget for baked beans.
So, begrudgingly, I began to take my mother's advice and target the vulnerable, the aged, like a seedy PPI salesman who only calls during the day. I thought this would be an easy win. I was wrong. Mature Grindr users, it turns out, are not that easily used.
As night dawned, a glimmer of hope appeared: I was asked out on a date. After playing the whole "I'm impoverished" card, I swiftly dodged the invitation for a couple of drinks at his and challenged him to surprise me.
'A trip to Disneyland Paris?' I wondered, optimistically. 'Or, more realistically, maybe some go-carting or a run on the dry ski slope?' Nope. It was to be Almost Famous, the burger joint. His suggestion.
As my free lunch was now a distant memory, I accepted. But the pizza had been cute; no mess, no fuss, no face to face. This would be out and out deception.
I was met by a kind-faced web developer with a hair flick a la Simon from The Inbetweeners. This was it: crunch time, my big shot at going all out on this blagging thing. So I went for the most extravagant things on the menu: the kind of stomach churning alcoholic milkshake and a burger – garlic butter brioche, double beef patty, bacon, chorizo, BBQ onions, parmesan and chilli – that would have made even Adam Richman recoil.
Conversation flowed easily and the guy wasn't a dick, which obviously made me feel like an awful, horrible dick. He soon suggested a drink round at his place. That idea was quickly rebuffed; I told him it wasn't going to be that kind of date. He was cool about it and suggested we get another round of drinks. After two strawberry beers we said our goodbyes. There was an awkward cheek kiss moment and that was it.
As I walked away, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach – not the boozy milkshake taking it out on me, but guilt. The entire concept – and, actually, execution – of straight up using strangers for my own ends had left me feeling pretty uneasy.
It was hardly The Real Hustle, but a weekend of free fast food from a couple of fast men is enough to feel bad about. I'm well aware that a decent chunk of the Grindr experience is based solely on splodging and dodging, but at least both parties get something out of that; in this case, it was just me, internalising my shame and blocking my arteries with someone else's cash.
On that happy note, look forward to the next instalment: a girl trying to blag as much free shit as she can using Tinder.
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