Singles Are Boycotting a Popular Dating App Because of Age Discrimination
Age is just a number, or so says the old proverb. But one popular dating service is tracking users' age to charge older singles more for their quest to find love—or even a short-term hookup. In an attempt to monetize its wildly popular matchmaking mobile app, Tinder has rolled out Tinder Plus, a feature that allows users new perks—like taking a second look at the one who might've gotten away with a hasty, accidental swipe.
The upgrade doesn't come cheap for Tinder users over 30, who will pay about $20 a month, compared with $10 a month for younger users. The increased fee for users above a certain age is inciting an online debate about age discrimination from singles who don't think they should have to pony up more money for the same perks.
Writer Marci Robin declared she was quitting Tinder because of what she called "blatant ageism" in an essay published Tuesday on xojane.com, of which she is senior contributing editor. "I'm pissed off because it's just flagrantly discriminatory," she wrote.
Robin's not alone in her outrage. The dating blogger who writes about her love life under the alias Soon2BeCatLady wrote that she was "a bit surprised" to find out that Tinder Plus was being offered to her for $19.99 per month, while the same feature was being advertised to younger daters at a 50 percent discount.
The logic Tinder executives supplied for the age-related pricing? It benefits their bottom line. "During our testing we've learned, not surprisingly, that younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price to pull the trigger," Tinder's vice president of corporate communications, Rosette Pambakian, told TakePart in an email.
"We've priced Tinder Plus based on a combination of factors, including what we've learned through our testing, and we've found that these price points were adopted very well by certain age demographics," Pambakian wrote, adding that Tinder's price tier is comparable to the student discounts offered by the music-streaming service Spotify for its premium upgrade.
The tech industry is known for rewarding youth. Among 32 of the most successful companies in the technology industry, only six had a median employee age greater than 35, according to data acquired by PayScale and reported in The New York Times in 2013. At eight of those companies, the median employee age was 30 or younger. By comparison, the median age of American workers is 42.3, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tinder cofounders Justin Mateen and Sean Rad were just 26 when their months-old mobile app began to take off in 2013, garnering a steady stream of major press and more than 20,000 downloads per day during its first four months on the market. The app made its first matches on college campuses like Mateen and Rad's alma mater, the University of Southern California, when it was first financed in early 2013 by IAC, the media company that owns Match.com and OkCupid. The average age of a Tinder user peaked at 27, the company told the Times in February 2013.
That all shifted quickly. By the following year, Tinder's percentage of users between the ages of 18 and 24 fell from 90 percent to 51 percent, Mateen told The Guardian in February 2014. He estimated that about 32 percent of the app's users were between 25 and 32 and about 6.5 percent were between 35 and 44. That doesn't mean older people aren't interested in dating. People 55 and older visit American dating sites more than any other age group, the Times reported in 2011.
Mateen has since resigned from the company following a high-profile lawsuit in which former Tinder V.P. of marketing (and Mateen's ex-girlfriend) Whitney Wolfe accused the company of "atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination" against her. Filed on June 30, 2014, the lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum in September—but it damaged Tinder's reputation as an app that empowered women.
Tinder Plus' age-specific fees could similarly alienate yet another facet of the app's demographic. The hashtag #boycottTinder appeared on Twitter following Wolfe's accusations, and it resurfaced again this week thanks to Tinder Plus' new pricing. It remains to be seen how that boycott will affect Tinder's bottom line, but it likely won't do much to improve the app's image.