A few weeks ago when I wasn’t home, the Hamodia ran an article suggesting that the shidduch crisis exists because shadchanim aren’t motivated enough. And why aren’t shadchanim motivated? Because they only get paid if they achieve a marriage. The chances of that are so unlikely that it simply isn’t worth their time. Rather, said the article (or anyway, this is what my family had got out of it by the time I got home), shadchanim should be paid for smaller milestones, like a first date. This would make them more gung-ho about matching people up, and would lead to more avid matchmaking in the greater community. My father thought it was a grand idea to offer small cash incentives for a first date.
Maybe I can accuse the Hamodia staff of sleeping through the second half of their economics class, but I know my father was awake. Still, a mostly-free-marketer like myself has serious misgivings about messing with the system.
First of all, you get what you pay for. Pay for first dates and you’ll get first dates. Heaven knows too many people sound great on paper but turn out to be 100% wrong by about 10 minutes into the first date. Why should you pay for that?
Additionally, paying for a first date will encourage shadchanim to hide hindering information so that at least they can collect for the first date, and it’s hard enough to get accurate information as it is. It’ll also encourage them to be pushier. Considering how difficult people find it to say “no” even three times (see Milgram’s obedience experiments), this could lead to a lot of time wasting. (Then again, maybe people will find it easier to say “no” when there’s money on the line. This may require clinical research. Anyone volunteering to be a subject?)
Plus, with money on the line, pre-date research will get crazier than ever, as parents try to avoid squandering cash on pointless first dates. If you’re going to offer money, make it for the second date at least. Though this is likely to increase the number of dating streaks that end well before they can rightfully be called a streak. Then again, if we make the cutoff the fourth date, we may be artificially advancing the critical decision-making point. Hey, look at the ripple effect when the Fed raises interest rates half a point. This is what happens when you fiddle with economics. People are weird about money; they’d rather spend it on themselves than give it away to other people.
As things now stand, the people trying to make shidduchim are the ones who think they can make a marriage result from it, which I think is quite a good way to do things. Dabblers may have luck, but first-date speculators are really not a breed we want to encourage.