An idea spawned casually over drinks at Pure nightclub in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2005 is paying off big-time. Seeing a cocktail waitress in the club who explained to guests she was saving money for breast implants and the willingness of many men in the group she was serving to immediately pledge anywhere from $5 to $50 to her cause – raising $750 before the night was over – prompted enterprising entrepreneurs Jay Moore and Jason Grunstra to return to California and try the same process online, launching www.MyFreeImplants.com
Cyber-solicited cosmetic surgery has apparently come of age.
Acceptance of the idea, though, started slowly, with only four women in 2005 raising enough money for their implants. Today, 425 women have reached their fundraising goals of $5,000 to $7,000, exchanging messages, photos and videos for cash donations. The site’s founders expect $2.6 million in voluntary donations this year; that’s down from the $2.8 million raised in 2008- the recession is apparently hitting everyone.
Women who want breast implants join the site for free. At a minimum, men must buy “message credits to email with the women- $1.20 per message, $1 of which goes to the woman being messaged. Men who want more from the site must pay $9.95 a month in membership fees, which busy the so-called “benefactors” a few free message credits, and, more important, access to every woman on the site: her photos, blog entries and else she makes make available. These benefactors can make direct donations to women they like, or negotiate an exchange for their donations.
It’s strictly forbidden to exchange actual addresses, e-mail or otherwise. And giving your real name is cautioned against.
About 2,000 men are paying the monthly fee; men who are, in effect, paying money to give to women they’re told they will never meet.
The average donation is $30, though some have donated the full cost of a surgery.
Surgeons can pay for ads to appear on the site or pay $295 annually to be listed among recommended doctors, provided they’re board certified.
Women on the site never actually get the money they raise. Instead, it’s held in trust, with interest accruing, until they meet their surgery goal. Then, when the surgery is complete, the organizers pay the doctor directly. On average, women take from six to seven months to meet their goal, though it can take years for many. The trust holds about $2 million now.
Some surgeons have refused to accept the Web sites patients, denouncing the process as degrading, shocking and appalling, relating it to an offshore lottery on a person’s health. But many surgeons are going along with the idea.
The hard part of it all for many of the women is persuading strangers to give them money online. The “trick” is that women have to spend hours online developing relationships with benefactors, enticing them to send more message, buy photos and make donations. The large investment in time it takes to be successful is why 140,000 women have created profiles on the site, but only 3,500 are active.
When the surgery is done, women are also contractually obligated to provide “after” pictures, so the people who made the donations can see what they paid for. (The post-surgery photos available online are all of clothed women.) The contract also requires women to stay on the site, talking to their benefactors, for an additional six months.