There are lots of online dating sites out there to choose from. There are niches (geeks, jocks, rich), unlimited contact (match.com), pay per contact (lavalife) and then there is the worst possible choice you can make.
(please note, I am writing a book on the subject and have interviewed hundreds of people who have used every major service and/or modern method of meeting people. While I use my own personal experiences in this article, they reflect the majority view of those who I have interviewed over the course of the last five years)
Now, I don’t want to talk too much about the founder (Christian fundamentalist) or his views on gay/lesbian relationships (i.e. not accomodated for on the site) or even the site’s outright rejection of people based on your survey results* (generally believed to be due to indications of depression) but rather the other prevalent reasons why eharmony is almost guaranteed to leave you poorer, discouraged and heading elsewhere.
*Seriously, you can fill out your personality survey and be told that, in effect, they can’t match you and don’t want you as a client.
1. It’s expensive.
(Prices used will be different depending on your native currency)
At $60 a month (cheaper if you commit to multiple months) it is almost twice as expensive as match.com or lavalife (the two biggest options on the internet). That doesn’t include its ridiculous “ID Verification” service ($6 a month), Secure call ($6 a month) or Premium personality profile ($10)
I have yet to ever meet, talk to or interview anyone who ever felt they needed anonymous calling (since no reverse address lookup on cell phones exists, number blocking is available on landlines), or felt they needed to have the id of the person they were talking to verified (if you are that uncomfortable with somebody that the idea of going to a public place to meet for coffee is terrifying, a verified id isn’t going to help and that person probably isn’t the right one for you anyway) or found that the already deep profiles out there, weren’t enough.
So, you can spend $82 in your first month on the system. $82!!
2. It’s “matching” system is garbage.
“Our matching criteria, based on the 29 dimensions of compatibility, are extremely strict, and are what makes eHarmony a unique and powerful tool in finding your soul mate.”
Even though I went through eHarmony’s process once before (one month, where I had a single date that was top five worst of my life) and have interviewed dozens of former users of the site, I decided to go through it once more for this article.
At the end of my paid month… I was matched with 212 women. Now, think about that for a second. That’s more than 7 women a day who are, apparently, so compatible with me that we’d make a great pair.
210 of those matches were closed (by me or them) before uttering a single typed word between us. That’s a 99% failure rate before we’ve even said hello.
I exchanged a grand total of eight emails with my remaining two matches before both simply never responded to my last email.
So, for $60 I had two brief conversations, no phone calls, and no dates. If you add in my previous experience, that’s $120 to go on one miserable date.
Given that I have, personally, had success on other systems (i.e. I am not an un-date-able monster) and date relatively frequently, it quite simply boggles the mind to get results that abysmal.
If you randomly chose 212 women who were in my age range and lived within 10 miles of me, what are the odds that the success rate wouldn’t be better than eHarmony’s matching process? If I talked to 3 women from that random group, I’d be ahead.
In fact, it’s almost as if, in order to keep you paying monthly, the system purposely matches you with people you don’t want to date.
3. Match Characteristics
In order to fluff up their match numbers, eharmony’s smallest distance matching criteria is 30 miles or 50 kilometers. In other words, you can’t ask the system to match you with people within 10 miles.
Lavalife, for example, can match down to 10 miles.
This results in about 30% of my matches being closed outright over distances. Can you imagine living in the center of New York or Boston and dating somebody who lived 30 miles away? Where I live, that’s a different city.
eHarmony puts height as a “like to have” and then utterly ignores anything resembling common sense. I routinely get matches 2-3 inches taller than I am.
Women overwhelmingly prefer men who are older/taller. A woman 3 inches taller is going to be 5-6 inches taller in heels.
Every other dating site allows you to put in a height preference and actually listens to you!
Again, more fluffing of matches. eHarmony forces a six year age range for matching and also warns you against not including your own age in the range.
I do not necessarily disagree with the notion of a six year age range, but why not give users the choice?
4. Conspicuous lack of info
Want to know whether any of your matches are active or not? eHarmony isn’t going to tell you! Every other site either states it openly on each profile or sorts results by activity (i.e. the most recently active person at the top of the list).
eHarmony hides this information to provide the illusion of more matches. They don’t respond because they signed up, logged off and never logged on again.*
*Admittedly all the dating sites keep these profiles online because it allows them to state X million members in advertising. However, unlike eHarmony, you’ll never see them on other sites because they would be so far down your search results that you’d never get that far.
5. Dual pay
So, you spend 45 minutes going through the survey, you fill in your profile, you’ve mortgaged your house for a month’s membership, go through your matches (closing 90% because they are clearly unsuitable), and finally see a couple of people who you might actually want to have a chat with.
Well, they gotta pay too.
Every other major system allows for one member to pay to contact the other and, then, free contact between you. On lavalife, for example, men buy the vast (vast) majority of contact credits.
However, on eHarmony, your already small number of matches are guaranteed to get even smaller when you realize that most of the people you’d like to respond to, can’t because they haven’t paid themselves.
6. Daily matching
I can’t confirm this, but I believe that eHarmony’s matching process is somehow staggered.
In both personal experience and through my interviews, pretty much everybody reported a lot of “pursuing another relationship”‘s as a reason for receiving a closed match. Now, that might make sense on your 1st day (when, in theory, you’d be matched against everyone in the database) but why would it happen on your 6th day? On your 6th day you should be matched with only those people who joined in the last 24 hours, so nobody should be anything other than a brand new member.
As well, I have reports of people (myself included) receiving a lot of matches 2-3 days before their paid membership expires (as an inducement to get you to sign up again).
7. Matches on their time, not yours!
Let’s say you get up early, load up your profile, go through your matches and then head off to work. After a long day at work, you head out for a beer with your friends, you finally get home and decide to log in again and see what new matches you might have.
On every other site, you’d be able to search for people that joined that evening. On eHarmony they are going to match you when they are good and ready.
You see, they process their matches once a day (sometime after midnight). Period.
Now, I don’t think it’s healthy to obsessively log in to dating sites, I don’t think you should be running a dozen searches a day. However, why is it eHarmony’s job to decide that you can’t do that?
If every other site can process a new profile in all of twelve seconds (although, in fairness, your profile description may take a day to be approved, but often photos and basic info can be up inside ten minutes) then why can’t eHarmony?
Matching once daily (and only once daily) is just another example of eHarmony deciding what’s best for you.
8. Insulting your intelligence / stringing you along.
One of their banner ads states “Get up to 20% more matches by expanding your distance setting to 120 miles or more”.
Perhaps this isn’t an insult to your intelligence, but it’s absurd nonetheless. 120 miles is a 2-4 hour round trip (2 hrs is 120 mph). That’s a tremendous distance to go for a coffee with somebody.
You could undoubtedly get more matches by including the entire world but it’s not practical (or wise). Relationships in 2009 are hard enough without having to buy a tank of gas and plan for hours of driving every time you want to get together.
Which leads us to eHarmony’s “have patience” doctrine. Hmmm, a website that bills monthly extolling the virtues of being patient. I wonder whose interest that serves?
As far as I am concerned, if you plan on spending six months on a single dating site, you’ve picked the wrong strategy.
Leaving eHarmony is like dumping a needy girlfriend, it’s messy and goes on far longer than it should.
Canceling your profile requires going through at least four cancellation pages, providing reasons (and on and on) as to why you’d ever consider leaving.
Look, people move on, and a site should let you do so with a minimum of fuss (as every other site I have ever researched does).
So… you’ve got a website that will exclude you based on sexual preference (if you are not heterosexual) or depression… that’s the most expensive on the internet… that ignores your matching requirements or prevents you from narrowing by things like distance… and generally does things in a way that ensures you will talk to less people than on any other service over a given time period (which means fewer dates and less likelihood of ever meeting anybody great).
If you like unlimited contact, head to match.com… if you want pay per use, go to lavalife.com… and if you want free, go to plentyoffish.com… none of them are perfect, but all a damn sight better than eHarmony.
Every day, I’d log in to the system to get my “matches” and then close pretty much all of them and log out. Except that I began to notice something really strange. I was getting the same number of matches every day.
If you designed a system with strict standards, as eHarmony says, why on earth would you get the exact same number of matches on a daily basis?
In my last 30 days on the system here is my match data:
5 matches or less – 0
6 matches – 1 (3%)
7 matches – 26 (87%)
8 matches – 3 (10%)
9 matches or more – 0
So, every 9 out of 10 days there are exactly 7 super compatible women for me?
There are two explanations.
1. There are 7 super compatible women for me every day (given that my month on the system featured two email conversations and no dates, that would seem to be… doubtful)
2. eHarmony’s algorithm just tosses 6-8 people your way every day to keep you paying your monthly fee.