The Right Moves
Old-fashioned matchmaking services win back customers fed up with cyber-dating
By Francine Breuetti - BUSINESS WRITER3m>
THE ROMEO'S head shot was appealing. And Gloria liked the profile he'd posted on AmericanSingles.com, an online dating service. After several e-mails back and forth, the Los Gatos technology consultant met the man in the flesh. Flesh maybe the operative word here. She was stunned to see he weighed easily 350 pounds or more avoir dupois the head shot did not reveal.
This and other frustrating experiences looking for a partner through Internet dating have soured Gloria and numbers of other lonely people on electronic dating services to such a degree that more traditional matchmakers, the human kind, are experiencing an influx of clients fed up with online dating, a kind of lovelorn backlash.
Carole Shattil, principal of CheckMates introduction service with offices in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Mountain View and San Jose, said almost all of her latest clients (she has served 1,800) express frustration with online dating.
Julie Paiva, founder of the introduction service called Table for Six, said her company's membership had dipped last year, "because people were excited about the Internet. About four months ago, we noticed our membership growing." She attributed this increase to growing disaffection with people's lack of honesty online.
Shattil of CheckMates said, "People are afraid to date these days because they have such bad experiences on the Internet."
Her client Raphe Hurwitz, a San Franciscan, said. "I just had too many reservations about the Internet", to look for a match online. With good reason. Who can forget the pain created when U.S. Army Col. Kassem Saleh romanced 50 women online until several abused fiancees exposed his deceptions earlier this year?
Looking for a mate online is not like buying a toaster from Amazon.com. With the appliance, there are limited variables and generally what you see is what you get. You don't have to kiss a lot of toasters to find the right one. And generally, the toaster doesn't lie to you.
But with online match making services, the lonely are finding out what employers have known for a long time; There are a huge pile of resumes online, and they don't all tell the truth.
Freedom from having to show the goods in the flesh emboldens some to mask their age, weight, height and health and even marital status.
Deb, a company executive in San Mateo County, has become a CheckMates member because she was fed up with men who lied about their age in the online profiles. "I have met so many people 15 to 30 years older than the person I saw online," she said.
One prospect she met actually referred to his "Internet age" ersus his real age.
Shattil of CheckMates takes photos of new applicants herself. She insists applicants show driver's licenses and list their employers. Before accepting them to the service, she searches the name online to see what material corroborates that on the application.
"I 'Google' them to make sure who they are," she said, turning the tables on the use of the Internet in finding matches. She calls the human resource department of the employer they listed to check if they are employed and in what position. (One woman believed she was dating an executive, only to find out the Lothario worked in the mail room, said Shattil of a client.) She's gone so far as to check court records if she has any doubts about the applicant's marital situation.
A year ago, media and industry observers quoted "research" that claimed 30 percent of people looking for matches online are already married, though the source of that research was not provided. But the startling figure highlights an obvious concern.
Christy Zeri, who has since signed up with CheckMates started dating someone she found on Match.com. One morning Zeri got a phone call from the man's fiancee who had found her beloved's profile online with her image cut out of the picture. The ease of being dishonest is not the only unsatisfactory aspect of Internet matchmaking, people are finding.
Gloria, the technologist who found the man who was more man she'd bargained for, complained that searching online is time-consuming. "You can go through piles of people," she said. Which is why she paid CheckMates to do the screening for her.
And men are not the only abusers of Match.com. Great Expectations or Lavalife, Paiva of Table for Six said men also complain that pictures of Sylvia or Brunhilde don't correlate to reality either.
"Men don't have the safety and security issues that women do," she said.
But since the dating sites are "65 percent men, they'll send 100 e-mails and get few responses." Conversely, women receive a lot of responses, so they spend much of their time trying to discern who's worth following up rather than investing that time in getting to know the one right guy.
Said Shattil: "The Internet has created a playground, an environment were people can hide, don't have to be real, where they can go from one woman or man to the next and don't have to tell the truth."
San Mateo County Times - Monday Nov 10, 2003 Francine Brevetti can be reached at (510) 208-6416 and firstname.lastname@example.org