It all began when senior Morgan Applebee and another coworker were interested in a pair of regulars at the local Costa Mesa coffee shop where she works. Wanting to ask them out, but unsure if they were single, Applebee concocted a plan to tell the guys about a fake “dating game” she created to see if they were interested in joining. After finding out they were, in fact, single, Applebee realized this “dating game” concept had actual potential, and thus began “Love is Blind: A Dating Game.”
Applebee a barista at Coffee Nature, a popular stop for Vanguard students, has developed personal relationships with many of her frequent customers in her years as a barista and says that many customers use her as a therapist.
“They come in every morning, we ask them how they’re doing, they spill their guts to us about their problems at work, their problems in their love lives, and their problems with their families,” she said.
Applebee began to notice a pattern of singleness with many of her regulars in her four years working there. Instead of letting potential matches pass each other by every day unaware, Applebee took the opportunity to become a matchmaker, creating a blind dating game for her Coffee Nature customers.
“I was so confused how they had been single for so long, some of these people have been single a significantly long amount of time,” Applebee said. “I started to realize every single day, all of these incredible people that I’ve formed relationships with are passing each other going out the door, but they’re never going to meet.”
Seeing this as an opportunity to play matchmaker with her regular customers, she created called “Love is Blind: A Dating Game.”
It began with simple questions and note-taking on her phone of a couple people’s ages and interests, and now with such a large pool, she has created a legitimate application form with a logo and a name.
Asking customers blatantly about their love life could come across abrasive, but Applebee has had the opportunity to naturally bring it up in conversation with her regulars and has developed a strategy for broaching the conversation.
“Okay, ‘insert name here,’ you’ve told me that you’re busy at work so you’ve kind of set your love life aside for a little while, but I just think that you’re so incredible, I want you to find a great relationship, and I’ve started matchmaking customers by setting them up on blind dates with other customers, there’s X amount of people in the pool right now and I would like you to join this blind dating game, are you down?,” Applebee said, reciting her go-to conversation starter.
She finds that almost every single person is all for it. There are 43 customers currently playing the game, and only one offer to join has been declined.
Applebee has created a few ground rules to avoid the awkward tension or desperation that often accompanies the prospect of “blind dating.” First of all, she matches a couple for their first blind date and the number one rule is they are not allowed to exchange any contact info, social media handles or even last names.
“If they walk away from the date, and one person is really invested and the other person wasn’t really feeling it, I don’t want the person who wasn’t feeling it to then have to deal with that awkward tension, or denying the other person,” she said.
After the initial date, Applebee receives feedback from each individual on what they liked and disliked and uses this information to either set up a second date or move on to a new match. If both parties are mutually interested, they are set up on a second date and then allowed to go from there on their own.
Another way Applebee combats the stigma of “dating games” or “online dating,” is by only asking customers with whom she has a personal relationship. Instead of random strangers signing up for a dating website, which is often viewed as desperate or a last resort, Applebee approaches individuals with the mindset of finding them if not love, at least just a fun Friday night. By choosing the players, instead of the players choosing the site, Applebee creates a casual and trustworthy environment.
“Then people feel honored instead of like signing up for a dating site,” Applebee said.
Her game has expanded beyond Coffee Nature, to other individuals in Applebee’s life including a few Vanguard students, but she attempted to disassociate from Vanguard to avoid awkward student encounters.
“So if you’re from Vanguard and you apply to play this game, I probably won’t set you up with a Vanguard person unless it just screams ‘perfect match,’” Applebee said.
Applebee has seen tremendous growth in the short month or so she’s been orchestrating this game but does not see it becoming an official business or paid program in the near future.
“Right now I love doing it as a little hobby and also because I’m doing this for free, people’s expectations aren’t super high. So if my life gets crazy with homework or work, or whatever, and I don’t have time to set you up on a blind date for a few weeks, it’s not like we have some sort of contract, or you’re paying me or anything like that.”
With over 40 people a part of the game at this stage, Applebee has begun designing a website and business card with a friend to eliminate the conflict between personal and vocational interests during her shifts at Coffee Nature and the threat of unprofessionalism.
“If I have a business card, then I can just tell these people ‘I run this blind dating game, go fill out your form on here’ instead of me stopping what I’m doing at work to go to my purse, to get out a form, and hand it to them across the counter,” Applebee said.
While it’s still in the beginning stages, the game continues to grow, and Applebee is pleased with the fun and thoughtful twist this has given to the scary thought of blind dates.