Adventures in Online Dating: Coffee Meets Bagel

Ah, it’s been awhile since we’ve had one of these, hasn’t it?


Back in February, six days before my ex-boyfriend dumped me, I went out to dinner with one of my good friends from my CARA group. Though I wasn’t single at the time, the topic of dating came up, and she told me about this guy she had gone out on a couple of dates with, though things didn’t seem to be going anywhere, especially considering that he had left the country for three weeks. I asked her how she met him, and with great shame, she said, “It’s embarrassing, but I met him online.”

Pfft. Like I, the queen of online dating, would ever judge someone for meeting a romantic interest online.

I then asked her where specifically she met him, and she told me Coffee Meets Bagel. I had vaguely heard of Coffee Meets Bagel in the past, but didn’t know much about it. Since I was in a relationship anyway, I filed that information away in the back of my head and carried on with my life.

Well, six days later, I was no longer in a relationship. I didn’t want to jump right back into the online dating scene the day I got dumped, but a few weeks later after a totally horrific Project Fixup date, I remembered that my friend had mentioned this Coffee Meets Bagel app, and decided to download it for myself.

I would describe Coffee Meets Bagel as a stepping stone between OkCupid and Tinder, or perhaps the online dating skeptic’s Tinder. Coffee Meets Bagel is entirely app-based and requires you to have an active Facebook profile to use it. After downloading the app, it requests permission to access your Facebook profile (but doesn’t post to Facebook or indicate on Facebook that you’re using the app) and then creates a very basic profile for you using your age, religion, high school, college, and photos from Facebook. You’re free to fill in additional profile questions beyond that, but you’re not required to (Coffee Meets Bagel does recommend that you do this, however, and since there are only three questions – come on, people. Put at least an iota of effort into this.).

Every day at noon, you receive one new “bagel,” which is to say, a person who, in theory, should interest you. After checking out your bagel, you can like or pass him/her and explain why you did what you did using a variety of qualities that pop up after you’ve made your decision (“cute,” “smart”, “common interests,” “age,” “too far away,” “not my type,” etc.). If your bagel likes you as well, you’ll have access to a private messaging space where you can communicate within the app (much like Tinder). There are two big caveats here:

#1: You only have 24 hours to like or pass on your bagel. If you don’t check Coffee Meets Bagel within that 24 hour period, you’ll lose your bagel, no matter how much you think you may have liked him/her.
#2: If you both like each other and get your messaging space, that messaging space only remains open for seven days. No languishing away sending messages back and forth here: if you don’t exchange contact info within seven days, you’re outta luck if you want to keep communicating with your bagel.

Doing various activities on Coffee Meets Bagel–creating a profile, referring friends (or having your Facebook friends join, with or without your knowledge), passing or liking your daily bagel, etc.–earns you beans. These beans can be used for a variety of in-app “purchases,” including getting personalized insights on your profile (reasons people have given for liking or passing you, tips on how to improve your profile, etc.) and “taking” additional bagels in one day. Remember, you only get one person for free per 24-hour period (for the most part – occasionally you get “bonus bagels” and receive two people in one day). If you want to see someone else, you can pony up some of your hard-earned beans, and Coffee Meets Bagel will present you with another person to like or pass.

Because you used your Facebook profile to access Coffee Meets Bagel, the app has access to your friend list. If you and your bagel have mutual friends, it’ll tell you, but you’ll have to pay a small bean fee in order to see who your mutual friends are (if you can’t figure it out based on his/her high school, college, or other profile clues). If you have second or third-degree connections with someone on the app, it’ll tell you that as well, and for that information you don’t have to pay. So, for example, if your daily bagel is John, and John is friends with Susie, and Susie is friends with Billy, and YOU’RE friends with Billy, Billy will show up on John’s profile as a second-degree connection. If you’re friends with Susie, however, she’ll show up as a first degree connection, but only after you’ve paid Coffee Meets Bagel to tell you that John also knows Susie. I don’t know this for sure, but I have a theory that Coffee Meets Bagel only shows first, second, and/or third degree connections you have with people if YOUR Facebook friend uses the app as well. The app doesn’t say that that’s the case, but since the mutual friends who showed up for me were always the same people, I began to wonder if it was more than a coincidence (though to be fair, the girl who almost always showed up as second- or third-degree connection for me does have nearly 2,000 friends on Facebook, which would make her second- and third-degree networks enormous).

For awhile, I was quite picky with who I would like or pass on Coffee Meets Bagel, but then I found myself going for weeks on end without a single match. That was discouraging, to say the least, so by the end of my time on Coffee Meets Bagel, I was liking literally every single bagel I got, unless there was some ENORMOUS problem with him (all his photos showed him in various states of drunkenness, we didn’t have the same religious beliefs, or something else equally dramatic/dealbreak-y). You can tell Coffee Meets Bagel what you want in terms of distance, age and religion, so for the most part, the guys I received as bagels were what I was looking for. But as anyone who has ever in any way had romantic feelings knows, just because you like someone doesn’t mean they’ll like you back!

I don’t have an active Coffee Meets Bagel profile at the moment, so I can’t say for sure how many connections I made through the app. I know for sure that in the five months I used the app, I went out with two different guys I met on Coffee Meets Bagel (I, uh, may or may not have liked one of them exclusively because our one mutual friend was my ex-boyfriend, and I wanted to see what would happen. Imagine my surprise when that guy liked me back, asked me out almost immediately, and then turned out to be great! What a conundrum. We only ended up going out twice because of other circumstances, but I’m glad I never had to explain to him that the main reason I liked him was in hopes that it would somehow make my ex jealous *hides in shame*). I exchanged a few messages with maybe a handful of other guys I connected with on the app, but those never led to anything. I’d estimate that MAYBE 10% of the guys I liked liked me back, so for the most part, I didn’t connect with people, anyway.

I think Coffee Meets Bagel is a particularly gentle introduction to online dating. It’s easy to use, FAR less overwhelming than OkCupid or Tinder, and lends itself to arranging in-person dates as quickly as possible. It can be discouraging to go day after day after day without making a connection, but given how many rejections you face on other online dating sites, I’d say the rate of rejection is pretty similar overall. If someone came to me who hadn’t ever done online dating and wanted a way to dip his or her toes into the waters, I’d send them to Coffee Meets Bagel first.

10 thoughts on “Adventures in Online Dating: Coffee Meets Bagel

  1. I think I used Coffee Meets Bagel for like 3 days and then decided I didn’t like it…maybe I should give it another shot. But totally agree on the whole “people liking you back thing” …once I finally find someone suitable on these apps, then it’s never reciprocated. And if it is…the messaging usually ends up leading nowhere, so I’d say there are very few people I’ve actually met through any of the apps, but a handful.

    • It definitely requires a lot of patience – a lot more so than something where you can see as many people as you want in one shot. I feel like dating is a lot like job hunting: if you’re really persistent, you’ll find something where you match up nicely, but it does take a LOT of work and willingness to put up with a lot of rejection!

  2. One of my friends uses coffee meets bagel and he described it very similar to the way you did- kind of like tinder, but also like ok cupid. It’s a cool concept to go through apps though!

  3. Interesting post. I saw the founders of this app on “Shark Tank” looking for investors. I was wondering how they made money with it, but I guess they make enough “Bean Fees” to keep afloat!

    • No way! I’ve never watched Shark Tank, but that’s cool that they were on the show. I’m curious as to how, long term, they make money, too – I never paid anything to get extra beans, though maybe other people do? I feel like it’s got to be hard to convince people to pay for something that’s free, even if you get upgraded things by paying (extra bagels, etc.). But maybe if you’re really invested in it, you’re willing to put down some money to see if that makes a difference in your success rate.

  4. Ah, I saw this on Shark Tank and one of my good friends met her bf using the app… so now I kind of wish I was single so I could investigate it! Sadly my online dating days were over before Tinder or Coffee Meets Bagel came about. Wah wah.

    • No way! That’s great for your friend! Funnily enough, the friend I mentioned in this post actually met her eventual boyfriend on Coffee Meets Bagel, too (though I don’t think it’s the same guy she mentioned in February…I’m not sure.). It’s always nice to hear of success stories from these things 🙂

  5. Very interesting! I’ve heard some folks talk about Coffee Meets Bagel but I didn’t have any idea how much thought went into the system design. The analytics on friend connections and reasons for not liking could get kind of scary, right?

    • Ha, I’ll admit, I was a little ambivalent about the insights stuff, but I decided to view it as an opportunity to use other people’s impressions of me for self-improvement, rather than taking it personally. I never got much feedback, though, other than “needs better pictures” (though I really didn’t have any better quality photos of myself, so unfortunately that person would be forever disappointed haha).

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