Going Grocery Shopping as a First Date?

That was Dan Ariely’s suggestion to someone who wrote in for dating advice. Here is the original letter to Dan:

I have been using the dating app Tinder for a while. When I’m swiping right and left it’s fun, and exchanging texts with potential dates is enjoyable, but when we meet face to face, it’s often immediately clear that things aren’t going to go anywhere. Then I just try to count the minutes until I can politely say goodbye. What can I do to end a first date quickly but politely? And when a date does look promising, how can I be sure that we are really going to be compatible? —Andrea

And here is Dan’s response:

The answer to both questions is the same: Combine the date with an errand! Arrange to meet your date at a coffee shop near a supermarket. After 10 minutes of having coffee together, suggest that you continue your date while shopping and take out your shopping list. That way, if the date is going nowhere, at least you are multitasking and making better use of your time. And if the date is going well, research shows that doing an activity together tells you more about compatibility than just interviewing one another in a coffee shop.

I’m the furthest thing from being an expert on dating, but suggesting going to a grocery store to continue a date after 10 minutes seems like a terrible idea. It doesn’t seem like Dan is suggesting that the grocery store idea is something that you would tell the other person ahead of time, but rather spring on your date within 10 minutes of meeting them. It also seems like Dan is suggesting doing such a thing whether the date is going well or if it is going badly.

To me, there are two scenarios possible ten minutes into a date:

  • Scenario A: both people are enjoying the date
  • Scenario B: neither or just one person is enjoying the date

In Scenario A, if I was on a date and 10 minutes into the date the other person suggested we go grocery shopping, I would be taken aback, especially if I thought the date was going well. I would think the person may be looking for a way to end the date right then and there. And if I was the person with the shopping list, and I thought the date was going well, then it seems like the best thing is to keep doing what seems to be working well, i.e., stay at the coffee shop.

In Scenario B, it seems like suggesting going to a grocery store to continue a date that is not going well would be painful. Who knows how long that grocery store trip could take? Wouldn’t you want the date to end as soon as possible? If so, it seems like just staying at the coffee shop would be the quickest way to end the date. It seems like you are just delaying the inevitable, and possibly sending mixed signals.

I think a better idea is to simply set a time limit prior to the coffee date; something relatively short like 20 minutes. If it turns out to be a Scenario A date, then either you could just stay a bit longer at the coffee shop, or make plans for the next date. If it is a Scenario B, then knowing it will only last 20 minutes seems bearable.

As I said, I’m far from an expert on dating, and my suggestion may be terrible. But at least I wouldn’t end up showing somebody what a wimp I am by whining about how cold it is in a grocery store.

*photo from HuffPost

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