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Sidenote: Online Dating Services: How they Work, by Carla R. Herrera

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Online dating services have exploded over the past decade with more than 800 sites offering matchmaking services. According to Online Publishers Association, U.S. residents spent more than $500 million in 2005 on online dating services and personals ads.
Dominating the online dating market are commercial sites, such as E-Harmony and Match.com. Both offer matchmaking, but approach the concept in different ways. While E-Harmony focuses on long-term relationships, Match.com is nearly indiscriminate in their offerings. If you pay for the service, you can look for whatever you want.
E-Harmony is one of the largest and popular online dating services available. Currently, the registered membership is at 5 million members (and growing) and according to Harris Interactive, an online polling service, between August 2004 and August 2005, more than 33,000 couples were matched.
E-Harmony specializes in long-term commitments more than any other online dating service. In fact, the questionnaire does not offer alternatives in relationships while other matchmaking services are not as discriminating, allowing nearly anyone from those who are looking for one-night stands to marriage to register at the part of the base membership.
After you register with E-Harmony, you are guided through a ‘Relationship Questionnaire’ that is part of their ‘29 points of interest’ that are used to match you with others.
The questionnaire determines education, income level, family situation (children at home), ethnicity, physical appearance, religious beliefs and personality. Each area is followed by a scale asking you to determine how important that aspect of matching is to you.
When finished with the questionnaire, which takes more than an hour to complete, you are then asked for billing information for your subscription. One month is $59.95.
Once you join the E-Harmony base, you can run a search for matches. If you do receive matches, (some don’t) you are then prompted to select five multiple choice questions to send to people you would like to communicate with.
Some matches may respond, while other members may be inactive on the site, but have not yet expired. In that case, you’ll receive no response and can ‘Close the match’ or ‘Put on hold’ indefinitely.
Critics and former users complain that E-Harmony does not offer a preview of profiles before subscribing, so that users are subscribing blindly, based solely upon the reputation of the company.
One woman at Consumeraffairs.com complained that she had unsubscribed from the service, but E-Harmony continued to keep her profile online, so that other users believed she was available.
Others have stated that even after they have unsubscribed from the company, they continue to be billed and it’s often confusing and time-consuming to get customer service to respond.
Despite complaints, E-Harmony is still one of the top matchmaking sites online and has a high success rate. Match.com, though different in many areas from E-Harmony, has similar features. The process of registration is basically the same, though the profile questionnaire is not nearly as extensive.
Members who are not subscribers (those who haven’t paid for the service) are allowed to browse through profiles and send initial ‘winks’ to those they are interested in, but they can’t access email responses or contact other members.
Though one may receive a response with an initial ‘Ice-Breaker’ another response can’t be made until you subscribe to the service. When you do subscribe to the service you can send emails via the website and exchange personal information.
The problem with Match.com: “They don’t have accurate matches,” said Jessica Conway, a former user. “I subscribed for three months and they kept matching me with people who weren’t really matches.”
Conway described people who she was matched with as having nothing in common with her or with profiles so vague, “Nothing can really be determined about who they are.”
A Match.com subscription is $19.95 a month and the service offer a seven-day free trial, but a credit card is necessary to subscribe or to take advantage of the trial period.

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