eHarmony falls flat

My best friend Sophie had a very Sex and the City-worthy week of dating in New York. She got broken up with on a text message, took home a bu sboy from work in a broken hearted shameful moment, and then drunk-dialed her ex-boyfriend from college. The next morning she calls me swearing off men again. So I suggest an alternative. “How about crossing your sex wires with some Internet wires and give the whole Internet dating a chance?” I suggest.

So we browse some of the well-advertised sites and decide on eHarmony. The hype and advertising finally gets to her. Who doesn’t want to believe a message that preaches that it’s time to experience the joy of falling in love with someone who sees you, loves you, and accepts you for who you are?

eHarmony says this kind of happiness only comes from true compatibility – something they claim to have mastered. They invite Sophie on a no-risk trial to find her soul mate.

Marketing themselves as the #1 trusted relationship site to go beyond traditional online dating, eHarmony claims 90 members get married every single day. They match you based on 29 dimensions of compatibility. “Compatibility necessary for a lifetime of joy,” they explain.

So Sophie fills out the 436-question survey and clicks “FIND NEW MATCHES.” 26 new matches. Sophie begins to click through each one, slowly scanning down each profile and ultimately clicking “NO MATCH.” More than half of the users don’t have photos even though the “JOIN NOW TO SEE PHOTOS” was what finally tempted her to type in her credit card numbers, charging $110.85 ($36.95/month) for a 3-month trial.

But Sophie keeps clicking with an open mind. The matches just aren’t. In the extensive questionnaire, she honestly states that she is a moderate Jew who drinks and smokes several times a week. More than half of her matches are moderate Christians who never smoke or drink and prefer matches who don’t.

A week passes by and Sophie gets a few more bad matches. Another week – even more bad matches. Finally a week and a half goes by with zero matches. Apparently when you first sign up (7-day return policy) is when they run the initial compatibility query on the 20 million existing members of eHarmony. Once they serve up the majority of the matches, the rest of the time, it’s a slow drippy faucet.

Sophie logs on each day seeking her 29-point compatible soul mate. Each day – nada. Where art thou eHarmony matchmakers? Are they not all sitting hunched over scientific raw data drawing compatibility charts or mind mapping Sophie’s 436-question survey?

After a month of the dripping matchless matches, Sophie decides this isn’t worth the price of a massage. Beyond an occasional chuckle or small-talk email exchange, the matches were worthless. The one man Sophie finally thinks is a potential offline communicator ends up emailing her from his hotel room in Las Vegas expressing his loneliness.

Unmatched men loiter Sophie’s “MY MATCHES” tab on eHarmony. Sophie wants her money back, but she’s fair; she wants the portion of the membership that remains unused – 2 more months.

Since the product involved in this e-commerce transaction is the love of your life, you’d expect a customer service contact phone number or an email address. Sophie entails my help in contacting eHarmony; certainly there was some sort of error with the matching system.

Together we go on a treasure hunt for this buried contact phone number. In fact, this is the path we had to follow in order to get to a contact number:

• On the front page of eHarmony, there is a tiny text link at the bottom that says “About”
• Read through and click on “Click here for a list of Frequently Asked Questions”
• Scroll down to the 40th question on the list: “How do I contact Customer Care?”
• Another link comes up that says, “Click here for FAQ’s relating to eHarmony’s Singles Matching Service.” Here you see a list of “Most Popular Answers.” Ignore these.
• On the left there is a list of topics. Ignore those too.
• Activate the psychic part of your Internet browser.
• Click on “Subscriptions” in the left hand tool bar.
• On this page, there were 5 answers. One of them is a link to “How do I close the account?”
• Now a link pops up that says, “If you need assistance re-opening your account, please Click Here”
• On this page, there is a tiny text link on the bottom right that gives a phone number.
Eureka!

So Sophie calls this buried phone number. They were experiencing high call volume, appreciated our interest and thanked us for using eHarmony to find the love of our life. While on hold, ethereal music comes on and like a scene out of Defending Your Life, we start to hear a message that could be on a welcome-to-heaven soundtrack. The cult-like hypnotic message repeats itself over and over when Charlotte finally answers.

Sophie starts out calmly explaining that she wants a refund because she is displeased with the service. “You promised me COMPATIBLE matches, but these matches are starting no fire,” Sophie explains to a sympathetic-sounding Charlotte.

Charlotte continues to answer Sophie in a very script-like way. She is sorry that Sophie is not happy with the service, but unfortunately the refund policy clearly states that she cannot get a refund after 7 days.

“We have 242 weddings every day,” Charlotte brags. (What happened to the 90 they advertise on the Website?) Sophie starts back, “Well thank you for that information, but I have not received a match in a week in a half.”

So Charlotte looks at Sophie’s profile on the computer and has a clear A-ha moment as only a telephone customer service representative can have. “Oh I see,” she realizes “You have limited your matches because you indicated that you would only accept matches from a 30-mile radius.”

Sophie lives in New York City, where the last US Census clocked in over 8 million residents. “Clearly in a city with over 8 million people on a site with over 20 million users, there are more than 26 matches for me,” Sophie reasons. Charlotte seems stumped.

She rewinds to the part in the script where she starts explaining their matching techniques and tells Sophie about the 68 PhDs who work on-staff to constantly improve the questionnaire.

So Sophie tries for one last time to explain to her that she feels that their matching system is flawed; it’s broken maybe. Charlotte explains that something on Sophie’s questionnaire deemed them worthy of a match. At this point Sophie isn’t thinking very highly of herself.

Vulnerable and frustrated, Sophie asks for the supervisor. After 15 minutes of hold music, Alan comes on the line. “Let me take a look at your account here, ma’am” he says boldly with this Texan drawl.

Sophie repeats much of the same arguments to Alan. “I’m not happy with the service,” she pleads. “I have not gotten regular matches since the initial batch in the first week and the ones I do get are entirely mismatched. You promised compatibility but are delivering shy of mediocrity.” Alan is upholding his end of the conversation but inserting the obligatory “right, right” in between her complaints.

“We are America’s #1 trusted relationship service, ma’am,” he says.

“Yes I know your tagline,” Sophie answers. “But you promised me a service and eHarmony is not holding up to their end of the relationship. I want to break up.”

Alan refuses a refund and instead encourages Sophie to stay with the service for the entire 3 months. “It only takes one person to be the love of your life, ma’am. Only one of the matches needs to be Mr. Right.”

“But I’m not even getting Mr. Maybe Right’s.”

Alan explains that in the compatibility questionnaire, you get to choose which types of things are important to you and how important they are – very, somewhat or not at all. “Maybe you chose too many things as important to you,” Alan suggests. Perhaps you should go back through your profile and change what’s important to you. But be careful,” he forewarns. “You could get upwards of 300 or 400 matches!”

“Great news,” Sophie says, optimistically. “So basically in order to find more matches for me out of your 20 million users, you’re suggesting that I go back and change what’s important to me?”

“I can do it on my end,” Alan says excitedly. “We can regenerate your matches.”

“No thanks, Sophie snaps. “I can change my settings by myself.”

“Thank you for calling eHarmony. Have a great day!” Alan, the matchmaker, cheerfully says.

Alan at eHarmony, helping people find their soul mates one call (to the secrete customer contact number) at a time.

So Sophie tries to change what’s important to her. She goes into her profile and clicks “not important at all” on every one of eHarmony’s categories. She clicks “FIND NEW MATCHES.”

5 new matches.

Essentially Sophie gave up everything that was important to her on eHarmony’s selection criteria to yield 5 new matches. Fiddler on the Roof’s Yenta the Matchmaker would not be proud.

Sophie begins the click through process for the new five. Three of the matches are Hindu since the religion element is no longer important. One of the men is a Christian high school math teacher who stresses that he never drinks or smokes; party girls should look elsewhere.

So Party Girl Sophie clicks open one last match – John.

John’s profile doesn’t have a photo. In his profile, he lists his occupation as “ggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg,” his passion is “ddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd” and most influential in his life is “kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk.” He does make it a point to fill one thing out – his life skills. The first skill he lists is “using humor to make his friends laugh.”

So Sophie laughs just long enough to Control + Alt + Delete, restarting her computer and her dating approach.

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