Vicemo Shows Who's Paying for Drugs, Booze, and Sex

Email a Friend

There is one reliably good joke on Venmo, and it's not about Lucas anymore. Venmo is a payment sharing app that allows users to easily and directly pay their friends for anything from cabs to food to rent, but there is one catch: users are required to explain what each transaction is for. In fact, a Venmo payment can't go through without some kind explanation. This requirement results in plenty of false, funny entries. There are few low-hanging jokes more consistently amusing than claiming that pizza you split with your roommate was a vial of crack or the oral consummation of your love.

Vicemo, created by Mike Lacher and Chris Baker, is a site that tracks payments on Venmo about drugs, alcohol, and sex. "We both use Venmo, and think it's interesting how there's a social aspect to it where people state publicly why they're paying someone else," the creators told TLDR via email. "We thought it would be funny to see who's saying they're paying for drugs/sex/booze." The way it works is simple: Vicemo searches publicly available Venmo posts for terms related to drinking, drugging, and boning. It also check for certain key emoji, like the pill and the syringe. Anything PG-13 or harder shows up on the site's feed, which illustrates just how frequently supposedly illicit transactions occur -- basically once a minute, at least in the middle of a random Monday. 

Vicemo is fallible -- when I first visited the site, one entry read "Bowl, coat rack, blow dryer," which isn't very salacious unless there's some kind of new, wet cocaine I don't know about -- but it's also impressively sly. It captures marijuana references like "leaves in a bowl" and the herb emoji, euphemistic phrases like "the good stuff," and street names like "China White." Still, Lacher and Baker admit they were surprised by "how many people were paying for 'kale salad with mushroom' and calling 'jack in the box' 'jack in the crack.'"

For all it's craftiness, Vicemo doesn't eliminate the need for a narcotics squads quite yet. Entries that describe criminal activities don't have to be listed as such -- police might be better served taking a hard look at payments that read "none of your business" or "Uh, school supplies? Like pencils and junk. Don't worry about it." And the ones that do seem incriminating might not be real or even mistakes, but funny-haha-jokes.

"When you're paying someone back for groceries or utilities, it's generally more fun to write 'black tar heroin,'" the creators agree. But the fact that some of these apparent admissions of guilt are really friends kidding around doesn't make publicly stating that you're sending Jimmy $20 for "meth supplies" any less compelling. The creators aren't after some larger message --"We just think it's funny," they say, and they're right, it is funny -- but reading the often clearly facetious feed does get at a human fascination: that the same mechanism that you're using to procure a sandwich (you know, exchanging money) can also be used to obtain much more tawdry, even illegal, goods and/or services. It's all just money. And finding out how other people claim to spend theirs is always interesting.