Grouper, the Blind Online Dating Service You Do With Your Friends: A Story in GIFs
Grouper This is what Grouper thinks Groupers look like. I'd just like to point out that the guy on the right is drinking something blue.
I've written a few things about online dating and encouraged numerous friends to try it, but, having been in a series of relationships since college, I had never done so myself until I tried Grouper a few weeks ago.
I had also never been on a blind date, and certainly not on a blind group date. Grouper pairs two trios of friends (eg three straight girls and three straight boys; three lesbians with three lesbians etc.) for drinks based on their Facebook profiles, but pairings within the group are not predetermined. CEO Michael Waxman started the company in New York City in early 2011, received some funding and advice from inimitable start-up accelerator Y Combinator last winter and expanded to Los Angeles (and nine other cities) a few weeks ago. Each date costs $20 per person, but Grouper pays for your first round of drinks.
Waxman says he started Grouper "because it was something I wanted. I wanted a way to meet new people that wasn't as lame slash sketchy as online dating or a networking event." Of course, he met his current girlfriend on a Grouper.
Recently I've been in that post-relationship bliss where you want to give silence a hug and you're all
But my friends Stella and Jamie want to try this thing, so I agreed to check it out. What was the worst that could happen? Would we end up fighting over the only cute guy? Would we end up on a date with this fellow?
Groupers mostly take place on low-pressure weeknights like Wednesday and Thursday, and you don't find out where exactly you'll be meeting your dates until the day before, heightening the anticipation. The company is run by a small group of millenials, meaning the employees are pretty similar to their desired market, which might explain why the matchers often aim for witty text message banter with the matchees, many of which are chronicled on their recently-started Texts From Last Night-style blog:
Challen Hodson is Grouper's Director of Member Experience. Rachel is presumably texting while on a Grouper.
Everyone who works at Grouper goes on Groupers, Waxman says. They don't even call it a dating service; they call it a "social club...membership by application only."
Waxman tells me the system that matches us with our dates is "half human, half machine," and I picture some kind of fabulous 21st century Yentandroid...
...who reads the wrinkles in your hand to tell you how many kids you are genetically programmed to have and finds you that special someone who ALSO earnestly quoted Radiohead somewhere on his Facebook profile!
Really, it's that an algorithm narrows the pool and then Grouper employees comb through Facebook profiles. What are they looking for?
"[If] this person's a huge hipster and this other group is really really preppy, like, meh, I don't know if that would totally work," Waxman says.
Yeah, I guess this...
Never felt as right as this...
But I do think Zach needed those ten episodes with Tori, if only to better appreciate and understand Kelly, amiright? Sometimes opposites attract.
Anyway, I hadn't been thinking much about my Grouper, until the night of, when the prospect of this Date with a capital D gets me all bent out of shape. I do all those things I wouldn't normally do after work on a weeknight. Eyeliner! Floss! Heels!
I strut down my steps to the car, psyching myself up like I'm about to run The Amazing Race, and cruise down to what Lexi Aiassa, the perky community manager at Grouper who sends us personalized texts and e-mails about the details of our date, called the "Downtown Art District."
Okay, I don't really want to be a dick about her dropped "s," but she did go to USC, even if she is currently based in New York... But yea, okay, I think most people who live West of La Brea wouldn't notice that mistake anyway, so I shrug it off. It does make me wonder, however, about how awkward errors like that could be in the 11 additional cities Grouper plans to expand to soon (for a total of 23), considering all of their employees are in NY (except for a designer in L.A. and a sales guy in San Francisco) and they don't plan to hire anyone new to help tailor their service to local scenes. I also wonder about how $20 per person for one drink will play in Milwaukee or Charlotte.
I get to the bar, and Stella and Jamie are already there. They've been talking about how relieved they are that the three creepy looking characters at the bar aren't our dates.
And then those exact three boys approached us.
I'm not going to describe what they looked like, because, yeah.
Do I really need to explain not being attracted to someone? No. You make these instant assessments all the time, and at your basest core you can't help being like...
So essentially we'd gotten all gussied up and paid twenty bucks for four-dollar beers on a weekday night to arrive and decide:
What a waste! Maybe no one lame enough to sign up for Grouper is even compatible with me.
Up next: Grouper's response