I understand what you're saying.The "$2 coffee date" is about the only leverage a man has on the personals. I haven't taken this avenue seriously in almost ten years, but back when I was invested, the coffee date was the most practical. For starters, if we have a few dates lined up, this is an inexpensive way to see if there's at least mutual chemistry.
I can't speak for other men, but if the woman doesn't appear glib, smug and has at least offered her phone number to speak (prior to the date) I'll suggest meeting for drinks and/or a bite to eat. Otherwise, she's regulated to meeting for coffee. But again, I'm not claiming that this is how men in your life have conducted things.
Perhaps its the realisation that she is just one of many $2 coffee dates he's got lined up, that she just throws her hands up last minute...."I'm out, I don't have a good vibe"
And they don't even bother to courteously cancel properly. Flake means a no -show at a predetermined time without any communication before that time to cancel, right?
In my past dates it was almost 100% split costs or 'dutch' for the dates.
The exception was the high school boyfriend who I lost by not complying to have children.
He was the one that did traditional, night-on-the-town type dates but we would always go at the less busy(cheaper) times of the week and I remember him using That's Entertainment coupons from a coupon book.
By the sounds of it here on sosuave, a lot of girls are coincidentally doing the same thing (flaking)with the last minute refusal to 'just be a coffee date'.
I know you brought up the word leverage but sometimes we have to change up strategy. To keep repeating the same pattern but expecting different results is madness.
What I was hoping to communicate was that if there was a paradigm shift, an attitude shift, the results may just make a girl feel special, giving her something to look forward to for the date and glow about after the date. In my first idea, she has a souvenir in the trinket he spent time getting and wrapping for her.
I'll think of another idea besides a giftwrapped trinket to stop them from flaking, I need more time.