It's no wonder that Aziz Ansari's character on Master of None completely nailed the perfect opening line to use on dating apps: Ansari wrote a heavily-researched book about online dating, and part of his standup routine involves reading real couples' online dating messages. Oh, and he's charming as hell.
In the second season of Master of None, newly single Dev (played by Ansari) goes on a lot of dates with people he meets on a fictional dating app that involves swiping and matching. Dev's best friend, Arnold, is convinced that the best way to open a conversation on the dating app is to send a "wave-and-kiss" gif with a simple, "Hi cutie." Arnold says this works because they're "definitely all cuties." Dev has a more nuanced approach, which lands him tons of dates — even when he uses it over and over again.
So what was this phenomenal message? "Going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?" At first glance, this line seems obscure, if not accidental, but the Whole Foods question ends up attracting a variety of women — from someone who works at a dog hotel, to an actress who Dev used to work with. The reason why it works isn't just a testament to Whole Foods' broad appeal; it's actually kind of brilliant.
Unlike a generic greeting, this question requires a response or, at the very least, a "haha." It's also assertive and skips over the small talk, so you can get right to the part where you make plans together, says Samantha Burns, LMHC, a relationship counsellor and dating consultant. The casual nature of this message reads like something you'd text a long-term partner, so it's "unexpected and silly," Burns says.
Even though it's a little sarcastic, it also implies that you are thinking about the person's needs and would like to see the person — as soon as you get back from Whole Foods, that is. "[This line] also opens up the door for a variety of interactions," Burns says. Someone could reply, "A tasty dinner you can whip up for two," or they could tell you to get something vegan, which gives you more info about their eating habits, she says. In fact, according to a spokesperson from the dating app Hinge, women are 40% more likely to respond to openers about food. So, in theory, asking a woman a question about Whole Foods isn't a bad place to start.
It implies that he is thinking of the other person, wants to be of help, and wants to see her.
Erin Sumner, PhD
According to other experts, another reason this works is because Whole Foods is so specific. "It's funny and got people's attention because it's almost the quintessential millennial hipster line," says Erin Sumner, PhD, an assistant professor at Trinity University who studies online dating. The Whole Foods part of this implies that the person is "trendy, health-conscious, and financially able to afford an expensive store," Dr. Sumner says. And the "want me to pick you up anything" part implies immediacy, Dr. Sumner says. "It signals an openness to engage in further positive interaction," she says. "It implies that he is thinking of the other person, wants to be of help, and wants to see her."
Statistically, the most successful opening lines on OkCupid, for example, tend to be specific and targeted for their audience, says Dale Markowitz, a data scientist at OkCupid. People that use "I noticed that" or "you mentioned that" in their messages tend to be successful, Markowitz says. And if you mention a shared interest, then it works even better. "Vegetarian," "grad school," or even the word "zombie" have a higher response rate than the average message, she says. If you want to use this Whole Foods line, Dr. Sumner suggests personalising it, like, "Saw this ice cream at Whole Foods and remembered that it was your favourite. Want me to pick you up some?"
Chatting a match for the first time can be stressful, so it's refreshing the way this lighthearted message cuts through any potential awkwardness. We often put so much effort into making a good first impression, so when you can make someone laugh with a pick-up line, it really works and everyone wins. Of course, some people might be scared off by the implied familiarity, and not understand that you're kidding, Dr. Sumner says. So it's hit or miss.
Although Dev got away with reusing this line over and over again, you have to be careful about that. Some people can just pick up on the fact that you have a go-to line, Markowitz says. It might be okay to recycle a line if you know that, eventually, you're going to have to respond on a more personal level, according to Dr. Sumner. "If your goal is to form a relationship, you aren't going to be able to do so by re-using lines and not actually engaging with the other person on a personal level," she says.
It's probably best to just use Dev's message as a source of inspiration, rather than straight-up copying it (especially since a good chunk of app daters were likely binge-watching season two over the weekend). At the end of the day, if what you say in that first message leads to an offline interaction, you're doing great, Burns says. And Dev, ahem: We noticed you really love homemade tortellini. Would you mind picking up all the fixin's to make it — please, cutie?