For those people looking to find the man or woman of their dreams, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that complaints against matchmaking and online dating services are on the rise and many consumers across the U.S. have gone looking for love but only found a headache.
The stigma that using dating sites was geeky or sad has fallen away as more people have found happiness by meeting people on the Internet. As new companies and service become more popular over time, growing pains become more apparent as well.
Consumer complaints filed with BBB on dating services increased 73 percent in 2006 over the previous year, reaching 2,525 complaints altogether. While final complaint numbers for 2007 are still forthcoming, early analysis shows that the number of complaints in 2007 are expected to again reach record-breaking levels for the industry.
"Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on online dating sites alone every year and as the popularity of the industry increases so does the number of complaints BBB receives," said Kathleen Calligan, President and CEO of the BBB serving Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky." Whether you're willing to pay thousands for a matchmaker or 50 dollars a month for a Web site membership, it's important to know exactly what you're getting into and exactly how to get out of it."
The demographics and caliber of available singles promised make up 35 percent of the complaints. Many complainants said they were matched with singles that did not meet their specified criteria – including whether the singles they were interested in smoked, were educated, not religious, lived too far away, and, in some cases, whether they were still married.
Poor or rude customer service makes up 17 percent of the complaints while high pressure sales tactics comprises 13.7 percent. Many complainants reported being intimidated or outright duped by sales associates into signing up for matchmaking services. Dissatisfaction with the number of arranged dates makes up 15.1 percent of the complaints.
Matchmaking services often say they have a database of thousands of singles in the area and promise a minimum number of dates. Complaints show that matchmaking services often failed to deliver on the quota of promised dates.
The BBB recommends the following tips when considering a matchmaking site:
- Think with your head, not with your heart.If you've just signed up for a matchmaking site and you suddenly have three people contacting you before you've even put up a profile or picture, reconsider joining.Ask yourself if you've been on for a reasonable amount of time to actually have real people see your profile and decide to contact you.
- Don't give in to high-pressure sales tactics.Watch out for sales techniques where a site claims that a price is "good for this day only" or associates may pressure consumers into sign a contract.Take the time to read over any contracts you agree to in order to make sure you know what you're getting into.
- Watch out for automatic renewal programs.Many subscription-based sites on the Internet offer automatic renewal to make it easier for consumers to remain members without having to constantly renew their membership.However, many matchmaking services sign you up for automatic renewal by default.If you don't want to be renewed automatically at the end of your subscription, make sure you figure out how to turn off that feature early in your membership.
- Don't fall in love with the advertising.Beware of claims such as "an exclusive network of people," "for sincere daters only," and "beautiful singles just like you."Online Web sites don't discriminate against who joins their site outside of members who pay.
- Do your homework.Go to www.bbb.org to get a free reliability report on the matchmaking site you're considering.The Better Business Bureau's reliability reports provide valuable information on companies.
The BBB of Nashville was founded in 1961 as a non-profit Tennessee organization serving 38 counties in Middle Tennessee and 7 counties in Southern Kentucky. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada.
Serving as the 'ethical gatepost' of our communities, BBB fosters and promotes ethical business practices and self-regulation standards that build consumer trust in the marketplace. BBB services include business reliability information, complaint resolution services and consumer and business educational information. In 2007 BBB Nashville handled over 3.2 million services requests via our web site www.Nashville.BBB.org .