According to multiple reports, the nation’s largest student lender is employing debt collectors with Tinder profiles posing as young singles looking for dates. When they finally meet their targets in person, the employee demands the debtor pay up.
“I matched with Jessica last week. She was cute. Like girlfriend cute. Her car selfies were really… real,” says Taylor Jameson, a Tinder user and indebted graduate. “So we got to chatting. And then I asked her out for a drink. When I met her, she looked just like her pictures. So I thought something might be up.
“I opened a tab, she asked the bartender for my credit card, and the next thing I knew I was paying off my student debt! That was by far the most expensive Tinder date I’ve ever been on. And I’ve matched with a prostitute before.”
Sallie Mae has been hiring “above a six” employees in hopes of directly confronting these deadbeat graduates. The employee simply makes a “believable” Tinder profile and then starts swiping. Chances are at least 60 percent of their matches are in student debt.
Although the approach may seem extreme to some, companies have used Tinder for advertising. TV shows like The Mindy Project employed the dating app to lure potential viewers with profiles of the show’s fictional characters. Sallie Mae, for its part, is known for its aggressive collection practices.
Although the company’s new approach isn’t that far fetched, it is labor intensive. Instead of an automatic message, the Tinder collectors must carry out “engaging conversation” with matches until the match agrees to meet for a date.
So far, Sallie Mae’s strategy has been working. “Yes, matches are disappointed, but meeting debt holders face to face has proven to be more efficient than phone calls and Facebook messages. People are less likely to lie to your face than over the phone,” says Jamie Thompson, a Sallie Mae project manager.
“I think it’s incredibly offensive,” said Ashley Roberts, a Tinder user in Los Angeles. “Here I was thinking finally I found my Tinder unicorn, Luke. He was tall, built, and had a car (a rarity in L.A.). We had a great date, but when I was leaving his apartment the next morning, I noticed my credit card was gone. Next thing I knew my student debt was almost paid off!
“Now I can’t afford my weekly blowouts at Dry Bar! Not only that, but Luke won’t call me back,” Roberts sulked while downing a venti pumpkin-spiced latte.
“I’ll be honest, I feel bad for the girls that match with my employees,” said Thompson.
“But I don’t feel bad for the men. On average a male on Tinder spends $60 on a date. If he could pay that much a week to Sallie Mae, he could pay off his debt in about five years. And girls, who are paid .75 to every dollar a man makes in about seven years,” explained Thompson.
Sallie Mae is excited about the success of its Tinder venture, but realizes soon former students will catch on.
“I’m not worried,” said Thompson. “Every day there’s a new app, and a new way to lure dumb Americans into giving you their money. Like Kickstarter.”
This year a guy raised $50,000 for “making potato salad.”
So if your Tinder match seems too good to be true, remember that they may be a debt collector.