The Truth About... Dating Services

Bob Leggitt | Friday, 3 February 2012 |

Matchmaking is one of the many things in life which can, at face value, look like a great idea. But dig deeper, and you find that the whole concept is flawed. Seriously flawed. If ever you've thought it might be fun, or in any way productive to sign up with a dating service, this is the article you absolutely must read...

The fundamental problem with all dating services is that they’re only an extension of real life. When you sign up, you don’t enter some kind of alternative world which only exists within the confines of the membership. People who sign up with dating services have exactly the same outlook, wants and needs as the people you meet in the regular course of your life. So if you can’t get the dates you want in ‘real life’, then you’re no more likely to get them using a service. Put simply, whatever it is that prevents you from getting the right dates in the ‘outside world’, does not evaporate merely because you’ve paid a few hundred quid to a dating agency.

A lot of people see the concept of using a dating agency almost as buying a relationship. There are two stark contradictions to that. The first, is that you can't buy a relationship. The second, is that even if you could buy a relationship, you're not actually giving the money to the person you potentially want to date - you're giving it to the business. So there's no motivation whatsoever for any of the service's members to date you, over and above what you, as a person, have to offer - which is of course exactly the same as you've been offering in everyday life. So if you've been unsuccessful in attracting the right person during everyday life, it's almost certain that a dating service will fail too. The only people for whom dating services will genuinely work, are the people who don't need them.

The secondary problem with ‘matchmaking companies’ is that in order for them to have the greatest commercial impact, they need to overwhelm their potential clients with an irresistibly strong appeal. Why’s that a problem? Well, if these businesses try to pitch to everyone, their marketing message can get very confused and lose its power. So it’s common for dating services to aim for one particular stereotype, and really home in on what that person is looking for. This allows them to create a marketing message powerful enough to attract the target client. But unfortunately, when it comes to dating, the stereotypes divide pretty sharply into two main categories: women, and men. The two sexes, stereotypically, will have different motivations for dating. So if the service aims to attract men, it’ll face a shortage of women, and if it aims to attract women, it’ll face a shortage of men.

Dating services aimed at men will often focus their promos heavily around the theme of sex – sometimes even to the exclusion of all else. The service accordingly attracts an army of male clients, but hardly any women, because women are typically looking for a broader relationship. A woman’s dating keywords might include: love, romance, marriage, relationship, bonding, and soul-mate. A lot of men would not subscribe to a dating service using those keywords. Meanwhile, a man’s dating ‘keywords’ would perhaps be restricted to: sex, hot, fast, and no-strings. Needless to say, a ‘dating service’ with a focus like that is not going to find itself over-subscribed with women.

I’m generalising, I know, and there are lots of men and women who don’t conform to the above criteria. But marketing is about stereotypes, and therefore dating services will generalise when forming their gameplan. The result is a range of services targeted primarily at women, with a shortage of male clients, and a range of services targeted primarily at men, with a shortage of female clients. It’s mathematically impossible for every client’s needs to be fufilled. The only people really benefitting, are the service providers.

But if so many matchmaking services are stacked one way or the other, with an over-abundance of either women or men, how come they always look so evenly balanced?… That's easy – they lie. Almost every time I open up my email utility I see an ad for a dating service. Not an actual email – just within the interface as one of the native adverts. I’ve never used a dating service in my life, but the software knows I’m male, so it serves me with clickable profiles of ‘avaliable women’. Always the same, drop dead gorgeous women, all of whom are professionals earning very good salaries, and have been ‘on the market’ for as long as I can remember. Does that add up? No. Of course it doesn’t add up. Drop dead gorgeous women with good jobs do not sign up with dating services, get their profiles relentlessly publicised across millions of email accounts, and still fail to find a man! The notion is ridiculous. But evidently (based on the fact that the ad continues to run) some people take it seriously. In fact, one of the biggest reasons these dating services survive is that, frankly, people are just too blinded by optimism to reality-check them.

But consider the reality, and you arrive at a simple conclusion… The service providers use pictures of models, dream up professions, dream up salaries (which always seem to be a nice, round figure like $40,000, and not, say, $38,850, like a real person), and present fake profiles. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it doesn’t just happen on the web either. Even on UK television, I’ve seen numerous instances of known models (not big names, obviously, but certainly professionals) appearing as dates in profiles. And if these dating services can so brazenly make up fake profiles – even on media which is supposedly well regulated to prevent false advertising – then what else are they making up? The bottom line is that you can’t believe a word they say, and as far as I’m concerned, you should never give any of them money.

Even if you feel you’ve found a dating service with integrity (if that’s not a contradiction in terms), you should look first at why you’re not getting the dates you want in real life, and address that. In the end, a dating service can’t do anything but potentially introduce you to people. It can’t force anyone to be attracted to you any more than people are during the course of your everyday activities. You don’t need to pay money to be introduced to people. You probably introduce yourself to tens, hundreds or even thousands of people in the course of a week without even realising it. If that’s not leading to dates, or at least giving you hints that it might do, then there’s an underlying reason for that, which has to be resolved, by you. However sophisticated its marketing, a dating agency does not have a magic wand. If no one will have sex with you (or propose marriage to you, or whatever it is you want) in everyday life, then why would they suddenly start doing so because you paid a sub to a dating service? The answer is, of course, that they wouldn’t.