Kathryn's Blog

Who DOES eHarmony Work For Anyway?

A simply fascinating comment got posted this morning on one of my blog entries about eHarmony. Scroll down and see the comment from bdb777athotmail. This guy is ticked off at eHarmony for sure! It’s not clear from the posting that the writer is a guy, but I emailed him and got an answer back that clarified that the writer is a man.

Even more interesting, as an evangelical Christian (his words) he fits the demographics that I think describe who eHarmony might actually work for that I wrote about in the piece he comments on: “So if you are male, heterosexual, with fairly traditional, conservative values, looking for the same in a woman, and you don’t mind someone else doing the picking for you or not seeing what the lady looks like until you have communicated for awhile, eHarmony would be a good place to sign up. If that doesn’t describe you, go somewhere else.”

If this kind of guy can feel so poorly serviced by eHarmony, then who does eHarmony actually work FOR? Despite the happy couples pictured in the ads (Oh, I do hope that the couples are real, eHarmony!), I have yet to hear of a good experience with eHarmony from one of my clients or readers.

P. S. bdb777: You might want to take a look at one of my most recent postings about scamming dating sites. Even eHarmony deserves to be paid for what they deliver. What does it say about you if you try to get around paying, even if you are mad?

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord



I guess clarification is in order.
(1) I’m peeved at eharmony’s business practices (see previous post) but not eharmony’s philosophy/target audience/etc etc.
(2) Eharmony has its merits. I am very good friends with a girl that I did meet on eharmony. perhaps this is yet more “ammo” that eharmony doesn’t work, but in fact she and I mutually agreed that we’re not compatible as a dating couple. nonetheless I do very much enjoy her friendship and we are rather close. had it not been for eharmony, I would be missing out on a friendship that enriches my life.
moreover, a college bud who lives in the town near me is also on eharmony and has had more “sucess” than me; hes gone on many dates with many girls he’d met fr. eharmony. again, sort of a backhanded compliment, because he’s not yet “settled down” w/ any of them, but it appears he and the girls he has gone on dates w/ went into it clear-eyed, and decided to just go out to see if the chemistry was there… so, again, in that sense eharmony worked; he’s met lots of girls he wouldn’t have otherwise, and whether or not they worked out, eharmony afforded him that opportunity.

as for scamming dating sites… if eharmony had a rule prohibiting the posting of potentially identifying /extra-cirricular contact info, I wouldn’t put it up there. as you correctly noted, yahoo and many places allow one to be a free member, and browse, but you cannot contact any matches unless you’re a paid member.
again, given your own comments about eharmony, and their lack of browsing (i.e. you wait for them to make all of your matches)I don’t have a moral qualm about it, because what you pay eharmony for is to go thru the carefully guided steps to open communication. 29 dimensions or not, if you don’t have a “browse” feature; once you’re connected/"introduced" to a match, at that point eharmony is like all other dating sites. its up to the two people to do their thing. moreover, eharmony DOES have a “fast track” option, allowing one to forego their guided communication and simply move right away to direct emailing, much like other dating sites. by posting an alternate means to communicate with me, this is in effect the fast track option.

However, Eharmony’s much ballyhooed specialty that its NOT like other sites, because they DON’T just introduce the two and step back. Rather it is that guided communication process; rather than just allowing you to browse, or even rather than just introducing you to a potential and backing off, they tout their 4 step guided communication.
moreover, only paying members can see the photographs of other paid members. Your commemt is not wholly accurate [”...you don’t mind...not seeing what the lady looks like until you have communicated for a while"]. on the contrary, it is up to each individual person as to when they can reveal their photograph. many/several of my matches (when I was a paid member) had photos available from the start, or else were available only after the very first level of communication.

so, again, by posting a means of contacting me outside of eharmony, I’m not ripping off something eharmony deserves to be paid for: I don’t get to see pix of the member, and I don’t get to go thru their guided communication.. THOSE are what you pay for.
finally, it is wholly the choice of my match to even do anything about it. much like other dating sites, I am less empowered than if I were a paid member-- I’m matched, and must wait passively for the match to decide if they even want to contact me.

while “everyone else is doing it” is hardly a moral justification, it should be noted that several of my matches make similar comments “my subscription expires but if you’d like to contact me you can do so at blahblah.” what should be noted is that AFAIK, me and everyone else who posted such info was a paying member. that is, no one is de novo scamming eharmony from the get go. all are paid members, and as their subscription runs out, decide to stick with it to some degree. moreover, if their business practices are as I describe them above-- i.e. stringing people along far more longer than necessary/doling out matches, then my +$100 payment to them has fulfilled my financial obligation to them.

I’d be interested to know further details of this other person’s “scamming” of yahoo, etc etc. w/o knowing the details, I think its a bit unfair to be lumped into the same category. does he write them and somehow weasel a free membership, by complaining of technical details? does he post an utterly misrepresentative pix/profile of himself? These, IMHO are “scamming” of a dating site.... If I were receiving exactly the same benefits as a paying member of eharmony, I would say I scammed eharmony. Since I don’t receive those benefits, I’m not.

Phew!  bdb777, you can type faster than I can!  Anyway, thanks for all your thoughts and comments.  As far as my scamming commments are concerned, I was particularly referring to how that looks to someone else: Whenever I see something like “You can contact me at XXX” I think “Cheap” or “Cheat.” Do you want that contaminating your presentation?  I wouldn’t.

Frankly, I think that everyone should have to pay to post.  Giving away memberships for free, even with certain restrictions, like not being able to email unless you pay up, is to the site’s advantage.  They get more profiles, and some of the posters convert to paying customers.  However, except on Yahoo! Premier (the only site I’m aware of that identifies paying members with a seal), you don’t know if someone has paid or not.  In fact, usually a higher percentage are unpaid than paid.  So hopeful singles find a profile attractive, email them, and then wait. 

If the receiver of the email had not paid up, then he/she has to decide if the emailer is worth a month’s membership fee to email.  It’s a pretty powerful incentive NOT to pay up and contact, if they have not paid up already.  And the original emailer has no idea why the silence. 

At the very least, it’s rude.  It’s also hurtful, and seems dishonest to me.  To post implies availability.  To not answer when someone has hopefully contacted you, put themselve out there, seems deceptive and cruel.  Is that the message you want to convey?

I disagree. my philosophy on yahoo and other such sites (where I am a nonpaying member) is different. if I see someone I’m interested in, I will send a wink. (AFAIK, both yahoo and match offer free winks) to receive a wink is also free, so at that point both people can be non-paying members. if the recipient of my wink is reciprocally interested, but a non member, she can at least wink back. if I receive such a “winkback” I will gladly pay to further the communication along; and similarly if she’s still a nonmember but now is notified that she’s rec’d an email; well, hopefully if she was interested enough to wink back, she’s also interested enough in paying to continue talking to me.

unfortunately, the times I’ve not instigated a wink, but rather received one, I looked at their profile and decided I wasn’t interested in pursuing the match, so I didn’t wink back.

The reason I don’t pay at such sites is I feel like I’m paying for a long shot. being an “evangelical christian” on secular sites such as yahoo is the needle in the haystack. as mentioned in my email to you, I find it extremely frustrating that on match and yahoo, people will put “christian” on religion, when in fact it would be far more accurate to have a radio button that says “christian, in the sense that I believe in god, and that I’m not buddhist, muslim or satanist”. please, all, dont get caught in a side rant about religion here… all I’m saying is that I don’t feel that yahoo and match et al’s target audience is evangelical christians, and it seems to be borne out in the paucity of profiles which openly profess christianity (i.e. something in their own words about being a christian, not just clicking a radio button). therefore, I don’t want to spend 20/month @ 2 different sites on the slim chance of meeting a fellow christian. (in THAT respect I do like eharmony, and why I stay w/ them to some extent or another.)

thats why I am happy w/ most dating sites’ business model that allows you to browse for free, and you pay for the privelige of communication.

re: your last two paragraphs.
maybe I’m the only one that thinks differently, I hope others will comment and correct me if thats the case.
but as I outlined above, there seem to be mechanisms in place where two people can indicate an interest in each other w/o paying a dime. both need to pay to further the communication, but a hurtful silence need not ensue. well, a hurtful silence in the form of no reciprocal wink may happen (and I’m guilty of that) but when I don’t get a reciprocal wink, I’m not hurt by the silence-- I know that they saw my wink, they likely checked out my profile and decided “thanks but no thanks” (and in fact w/ yahoo you can politely decline their icebreaker w/ a canned statement that says as such). such is life; but in this case I’ve not paid 20 to send an email and have it similarly rejected.
“to post implies availability”
I am available. another key is that, for instance, american singles.com allows everyone (including free members) the ability to see who has looked at them. I check this site frequently. if l suddenly get an email/wink in my mailbox (which I can’t readbecause I’m not a paid member) I can look at who’s seen my profile. this allows me to make a reasonably good guess as to who might have sent the email, and decide if I want to pony up to pay and read.
[a side rant- both yahoo and american singles ARE bad about overseas people posting/spamming and yet in their profile they say they’re from a nearby town. that burns me up.. ]

the bottom line for me is that most dating sites I don’t pay to be a member when there are viable options of at least indicating interest and seeing if reciprocity ensues before paying. all the more so for me, when my potential match constitutes but a tiny fraction of the clientele.

your modus operandi of a dating web site would be somewhat analogous of charging people a cover fee to merely walk into starbucks or barnes and noble...both are places to potentially meet someone [again, plz skip the side rant that could ensue; I personally am not the type to strike up a convo w/ someone there, nor do I go to such places for the express purpose of hitting on women, I merely use this as illustrative purposes] but if the chances are slim, why would I want to pay to come in at all. as it is, starbucks still has a chance of getting some money out of me if I find someone interesting-- I’d buy a coffee and talk to them, etc… but if I’m charged to even come in the door, well then I’d walk on by.
similarly, dating sites that let me browse for free have a chance to get my money, but if I have to pay to merely come in the door, it ain’t happening.

and I should preface this (ha! preface at the end) by saying I AM serious (semi-serious) about meeting someone… that is, I’m not trawling all kinds of dating sites for one night stands, or flings. on the other hand, I’m just living my life and making myself available, and open to the option of meeting/dating someone… but its not my sole goal in life. yeah, if I was just hell-bent on finding my perfect mate, I’d spend all kinds of money and be on all kinds of sites, but frankly not so sure my chances would improve all that much.
but thats for another post, and a chance for you to pitch your services :-P but is more or less outside the realm of this discussion.--
But for people who are open to meeting someone, and would become invested if the opportunity comes up, the current business plan of many webdating sites is perfectly appropriate.

Yeowee!  My goodness, bdb777, you have lightening fingers.  I cannot address all this, but your analogy of Starbucks and Barnes and Noble is a poor one.  Starbucks stays in business by selling coffee and B & N sells books. At least at Starbucks, I doubt you could hang out for long without buying at least a cup.  Dating sites survive by selling access to other singles, and by not paying up, you are riding on the coattails of those that do pay. That sounds like freeloading to me.

I’m sure we can go ‘round and ‘round on this; but I agree on your clarification of the analogy. my point is simply starbucks, B&N, and currently, most dating sites, all let people mill around w/o buying. I can go into starbucks, smell the aroma, see someone else get a mocha latte, and decide I want one for myself. all w/o paying. similarly, I want to be able to go on a dating site, see what there is to offer [again not trying to trivialize that meeting people = buying coffee-- shopping for people etc] but not have to pay until I’m interested in purchasing. starbucks doesn’t get mad if I don’t buy something every time I go in, on the contrary the more I hang out the more likely I’m gonna buy something. they lose no money allowing someone to browse their store, and stand a better chance of getting money from me. And btw that IS the case at starbucks and B&Ns around in my town- they don’t watch you like a hawk when you come in and expect you to buy anything. you can spend literally hours there w/o buying. and the analogy somewhat breaks down, becuase, yes, starbucks needs people to buy coffee, and potentially could lose money if tons of people mill around to the point that a paying customer can’t reach the counter to buy because all the slackers in the room. however, I don’t think dating sites suffer in that way; servers are set up to handle massive traffic, and so it does them no harm if non-payers are “milling around”; the paying customers can still have access to the product, w/ no interference from non-paying people.]

Simply from a business perspective, I don’t see how it can be MORE profitable to charge an entrance fee vs. letting people window shop until they’re interested. now, I can somewhat see your point that people who are signed up can be frustrated when they browse goods that arent for sale (i.e. people who aren’t members) but as I’ve indicated, I am/would be “for sale” (ha)if someone browsed me- I’d pay membership if it looked like a potential match...so, , I don’t understand/agree with “and by not paying up, you are riding on the coattails of those that do pay. That sounds like freeloading to me. “-- how does my not paying in any way affect paying members? especially how is that riding on coattails? whose am I riding? if a member emails me, I can’t answer it. emotionally, as I discussed, it might be hurtful for them to not get a reply, but two things: 1) I really don’t think people on web dating sites are all that torn up to a non answer. heck, I’d be downright suicidal if I let the lack of responses to winks , etc, bother me.. 2)practically speaking, as I addressed earlier, at least w/ yahoo and with american singles, mechanisms exist where I can potentially identify the emailer and w/o paying , and still indicate some kind of interest or something; so again its not really riding coattails. to me riding coattails would be if someone who is paying contacts someone who does NOT pay, and yet a match still happens. .. I’m not aware of how that can happen, because non members cannot read emails that members send, and winks are “canned” and are not up for personalization (i.e. a way to put in a means of communication outside of the dating site)... so no coattail riding going on that I can see....

maybe I’m a product of my generation, but “try before you buy” is all I’m getting at- why should I fork over money blindly simply for the privilege of browsing profiles, when there is absolutely no guarantee that any of them will respond to me? I’d rather test the waters, send a wink, and if I get some kind of response, then plunge in and buy.

Okay, one more round. 

There are three separate issues here: The one that I started in this post was that by including a way to get in touch with you without paying the site fee looks bad for you.  I still stand by that.  I think people who avoid paying the site fee look at the very least cheap, and not “cheap” in a good way.  And I would think that when you are looking for a mate, you’d want to present yourself in the best way possible, unless you think “Cheap” is best.

Then second, there is the “riding on the coattails” issue:  If I am paying for a service and you are not, but are still receiving the benefits, how are you not benefiting by my paying the fee?  Even the Starbucks analogy holds up here.  If I buy coffee and you do not, then I am supporting the comfortable, attractive atmosphere that you are enjoying, too, yet you are getting it for free.  Yes, the company allows it, because you might actually buy a cup at some point, but the price of that space is built into the cost of the cup of coffee.  And I am paying more so that you can sit there for free.

Dating sites are selling space to advertise availability, and you are getting that space for nothing, financed by the other singles who are paying.  As I stated before, it is in the dating site’s best interest to allow that, but not to the advantage of the paying singles.  If the dating site somehow indicated who paid and who did not, then my problem with this would be solved.  But they do not, so everyone is presented in the same way, and no one knows the difference.

The third issue is the “uneven playing ground.” Some pay and have full privileges, and some do not pay and have limited privileges, but there is no indication via the site on who is who.  Every single one of my clients ask “Why don’t they answer my emails?” And every single one have not been aware of the high percentage of non-payers that contributes hugely to the non-response rate.  I don’t know how old you are, but most of my clients are over 40.  They may have been out of the dating world for a long time, been injured in love before, and have some fragility in making themselves vulnerable again by opening themselves to dating and rejection.  In fact, “How do I handle rejection?” is the second most asked question I get.  And a non-answered wink or email has impact. I’ve not had a client get suicidal over it, but it certainly is a negative current that is pretty constantly present.

My constant themes are fairness, openness, kindness, and politeness.  Not paying on dating sites (and the dating site allowing it or indicating who has and who has not paid) violates all those values.

I just HAD to post a reaction to this discussion...when I see two obviously intelligent people volleying brilliantly articulated arguments, I just can’t resist!

First of all...my qualifications to have an opinion: I am a LONG-TIME Internet dater...I started doing it back when people still said, “what if he’s an axe murderer??” I.e., at least 10 years ago. Many, many friendships...more than one romance...and one (failed!) marriage later...I have to come down on the side of bdb777.

We live in a market-driven society. We all understand that eHarmony, Yahoo and other such sites are in the business of online dating to make money. They would stop allowing “free” memberships if they were NOT making money. This is just the society we live in...you pay when you perceive that doing so will give you a premier experience. In the United States we abhor exclusionary practices...and we, as a society, demand opportunity for all...with the inherent understanding that some people will ALWAYS be “riding the coattails” of those who HAVE (or in this case are willing to SPEND) more money. [We call that...er...um...TAXES]

I don’t mind at all if other people are “riding my coattails” when I pay a fee (and I personally always do). I don’t pay the fee out of some sense of moral obligation to financially support the service; rather, I pay because I’m WAY too busy (ok...AND impatient) to wait for a wink-back or an email. I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to spend money on a dating site to avoid looking “cheap.” I weed out the cheap ones when I ask how much they tip…

Furthermore, if I wink at or email someone and DO NOT get a response, the understanding is that they simply weren’t interested, were too busy, whatever. To suggest that there are actually people out there who might be HURT by this is unbelievable! If someone is emotionally damaged by my failure to wink-back or email, then that person is not psychologically healthy enough to pursue a relationship anyway!

Finally, while this is NOT the discussion for it (I don’t think this issue is related to the issue of payment for services) ...I agree 100% with bdb777 regarding the whole idea of the “Christian” button on dating sites. People like bdb777 are looking for people who practice Christian faith as a core component of their worldview. I think that on topics of religion...for those who CARE...there should be room for a one-sentence description of what that means TO THAT PERSON. Even so-called Christian sites are filled with people who don’t agree on the core values of what it means to be a member of that faith. That button is rather meaningless...and to someone whose life is defined by their religious faith...that’s a BIG PROBLEM.

Kathryn, while I disagree with a lot of your comments, they are very much appreciated, and I CAN embrace the ethics behind them. Bdb777 — I don’t think you’re cheap or cheating...and here’s my opinion whether you want it or not...I DO think...given the apparent breadth and depth of your online dating experience with no luck on the “romance” side...maybe you should stick with “Christian” dating sites given the “needle in a haystack” situation you feel with other sites :)

That said, it is refreshing to see two intelligent people disagree yet maintain a high degree of decorum and integrity!

Woweee!  Do we have a discussion going here or what?  And thanks for the compliments, Jennifer. I suspect that bdb777 thanks you too.

I repeat my main point:  I would have no trouble with this practice if the dating sites distinguished between those who have paid and those who have not.  Then consumers, paying or not, would know when they contact someone what the other’s status is.  That is “informed.” Right now, most consumers are NOT informed. 

Yahoo! Premier is a step in the right direction, and you can believe that I am steering my clients in that direction.  I used to always push Match.com, where I met my Sweetie, but Yahoo! Premier is doing a better job, and the number show it. 

You Jennifer (at 10 years, you’ve got me beat—I started 8 years ago) are a very experienced Internet dater, as I suspect bdb777 is too.  The folks who contact me are either very newly online or are pretty far from getting on at all. They are not sick or unhealthy, they are tender and vulnerable.  They either been married for years or out of the dating world all together. 

So you who have been out there for awhile and gotten toughened and do not see a non-response as a hurtful rejection, keep in mind that not everyone is at the same place you are—or maybe you once were.  Be kind, polite, and help these newbies along, even if you aren’t attracted to them personally. 

And Jennifer, it looks like you have a blog?  Email me the url—I’d like to pay a visit.

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