Tom Mandel: I Did Grouper Last Night… Fuck That Noise
“I went on a Grouper and now I feel misunderstood.”
I first heard about Grouper from my friend Dan. He started talking about the variety of his matches, the social dynamics involved, the attractiveness of the girls, and it took me five minutes of his talking before I realized I had no idea what he was talking about.
Grouper is a group online dating service. Here’s the basic idea: three-on-three blind dates, you and two buddies up against three girls (or, if you’re a girl, you and two galpals up against three guys. I can’t remember if there was a gay option). Grouper sets up the matches for you, and in return for a not-so-modest fee of $20/person, they’ll get you a reservation at a trendy lounge, and comp you the first round of drinks.
For whatever reason, this has set itself apart from other online dating services in two ways: one, it doesn’t feel like online dating. And two, it feels OK to talk about. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s the type of thing that people want to write blog posts about.
I got curious, I signed up. When you sign up, you give Grouper access to your Facebook so they can scan it for your attractiveness, your education, job, interests, activities, etc. Then they email you about different timeslots and eventually you pick one and get set up with somebody who ostensibly has a lot in common with you, then you get two friends, they get two friends, and you all meet up at the lounge.
My friends and I “pregamed” at our apartment before we left for the Meatpacking District. When I say pregamed, I don’t mean we got really drunk. I mean we discussed a game plan. Do we buy a second round of drinks? What do we do if one of the girls is awesome and the other two aren’t? Do we stay for the sake of that one girl? Who gets to take lead? Is there a code word for us to use if we want to leave? It got pretty complicated pretty fast.
We arrived first and were led to a private booth in the back. The waitress asked if we knew what we wanted to order, but we thought it would be more courteous to wait for the girls. Then they showed up: immediate disappointment. No physical chemistry. Dammit.
Since the first round of drinks was complimentary, we skipped our usual routine of “order the cheapest beer on the menu”. Maker’s on the rocks. Fuck yeah, we’re sophisticated.
As the ice cubes melted and the conversation carried on, it became clear that these girls were very nice, and that we had nothing at all in common. We finished the drinks, and the conversation seemed to have played itself out. After one friend and I went to the bathroom (gotta go in groups, duh), we didn’t sit back down. We said we had a nice time, and that we considered our first Grouper to be a success, and that we had to go. We hugged and left.
Why was it so underwhelming? Well, really, we should have seen this coming. It’s an incredibly flawed system. Let me tell you why.
There’s the issue of the fact that you’re only matching two people, and end up with a group of six. There is no way to account for the two friends that each person brings. Sure, my friends are fairly similar to me, but it seems probable that the friends will have even less in common than the original two people.
Also, is who I am on Facebook really who I am? Obviously not. My Facebook page is full of snarky “About Me” lines and inside jokes. I, like most sane people, am hesitant to bare my soul to the Internet.
And the only person who knows whether I’m going to have physical chemistry with a woman is me. Of course I’d be thrilled if Kate Upton showed up to my Grouper, and so would all of my friends. We definitely would’ve paid for a second round of drinks. But keeping our expectations on this planet, it seems tough for a stranger to pick out a normal person and assume that I’d be attracted to her.
Finally, how do I even know that any thought was put into the match at all? On a normal dating site, you get to watch the algorithms in action, see what percentage match you are, check out the pictures for yourself, and then message a few times to establish a basic connection. Sure, it’s more work and it eliminates the thrill of a blind date, but there must be a reason it’s such a booming industry.
Maybe the folks at Grouper are just setting up random people and hoping that a decent match materializes in the probability of adding two more people to each side of the equation. Maybe they don’t even have to worry about this, since if you crunch the numbers on how much drinks cost and how much they charge us, they’re printing money at the Grouper headquarters.
In conclusion: check that one off the list. Grouper’s not the answer. Save your money.
About Tom Mandel: Tom Mandel lives above a bar, loves that he lives above a bar, and never goes.