How one college’s students are hacking Tinder to get free food


A screenshot from Apple’s app store.

Where most college students see an easy hook-up, one enterprising American University junior sees something else: The opportunity to score a free meal.

That’s the idea, at least, behind Swipe for Swipes, a blog for AU students that popped up on Tumblr Monday. It’s a catchy hashtag with an even catchier premise: If you have extra meal swipes in AU’s dining halls, add the line “I have spare meal swipes” to your bio on Tinder, the mobile dating app. If you’re short on dining credits, add the line “I need a meal swipe.” Then set your search distance to one mile and wait for meals (or meal dates!) to roll in.

“Now everything in your life is better,” writes Swipe for Swipes’ creator, Julia Reinstein. “That’s symbiosis, folks.”

That is indeed symbiosis, and also a rather brilliant idea — but for better or worse, it doesn’t seem to have caught on. Molly Greenberg, a writer for In the Capital and an AU alum, found the process “not only tedious but also quite time-consuming.” I tried it out myself, with similar results: After swiping through at least three dozen Tinder profiles, I encountered not a single meal offer or request. (Admittedly, there are 10,000 students at AU, and my search dragged in a lot of Georgetown, George Washington and Howard students, too — so who knows how it might work for someone physically on campus.)

Reinstein, the AU junior who created the Tumblr, says she has personally seen the message in plenty of students’ bios. Even better, a freshman who really, really liked the idea also asked Reinstein out. (“I guess that’s what happens when you found an Internet movement,” she wrote in an email to the Post.)

All that said, this little hack is a great example of the power, and promise, of the sharing economy — particularly when coupled with the geolocation services on mobile phones. Students could theoretically use Tinder to find, or offer, just about any product or service. Think Tinder for tutors! Tinder for prime library study spaces! Tinder for used books, even!

It’s not very sexy, maybe … but it’s definitely useful.

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Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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