eHarmony — fraud, deception, lack of service, service interruptions
As an on and off member of Eharmony since 2004, I can tell you from personal experience - save your money. My personal opinion, which seems to be shared by many, is that the Eharmony service is mostly hype, preying on the emotions and hope of singles, utilizing deceptive business practices and outright fraud, skirting on the very edge of ethics. Customer service is horrible, and contrary to the commercials, you have far less control over your success than on other major dating sites, with arguably, less results. Anyone signing in within the past 3 months will have noticed the ballooning number of advertisements, turning the original dating service into a commercial ridden site with a secondary task of matching couples. One would think that the anticipated revenues from these advertisement would allow Eharmony to reinvest into infrastructure, but unfortunately, bandwidth hungry ads combined with "free weekends" have and continue to crush Eharmony's infrastructure, resulting in frequent outages during which paid and non paying customers alike aren’t able to access their accounts. Rather than attempt to fix the flaws and shortcomings of their service, Eharmony instead chooses to add more and more disclaimers, and make it harder and harder to express dissatisfaction. For those of you have had similar experiences, stick with me; this may still be helpful for you – you may still be able to get some benefit out of the service without expending any more money. For those who have not yet joined, or are reading this prior to making your decision, this may well save you time, money, and aggravation. I'll explain how the service is supposed to work, how it really works (and doesn't) and how to get your worth out of it. I've always been a firm believer that if you don't adjust your business model, your customers will adjust it for you. Fortunately, that seems to be the case - many users are beginning to leverage the shortcomings of the Eharmony service to their advantage.
For those who may not choose to read this entire editorial, let me quickly touch on their success rate. I have been told over and over by Eharmony customer service representatives that Eharmoy has "millions" of members, that several thousand people join each day, and on average, 95 people get married each day. In fact, they've even made that message part of the music on hold as you wait patiently to speak with an agent. I'm not a math major, but check out the statistics. If you were taking a test, with 5000 questions, and you got 95 of them right, your score would be 1%. If you dropped that number to 4000, your odds only go up to 2%. Either way, you would fail the exam. Graciously assuming a user base of 2 million subscribers, the success rate doesn't even register. Combine that with the common customer service statement that "this takes time", and this translates to you spending several hundred dollars, on the 1% (or less) chance that Eharmony will successfully match you. Add to that the frustration that Eharmony, not you, is in control of whom and how often you are matched, and you have just paid money to be conned, frustrated, cheated, and ultimately, ignored. I will say again what thousands of other unhappy customers have said. Stay away. Retain control by signing up with one of the other popular services where you are in control of your own matches. Although Eharmony can claim a success rate greater than 0%, I'm convinced you would have better luck playing the lottery.
Now let me help those unsatisfied customers from whom Eharmony has unfortunately already stolen money - here's how to reach them to complain. Presumably because of an exponentially increasing number of customer issues, Eharmony seems determined to make it more and more difficult for customers to voice their dissatisfaction. Previously, you were able to email, call, and write to Eharmony. Today, emailing is no longer an option unless you use their predefined form (you cannot send an actual email; it will bounce). Telephone support is swamped and limited to basic technical service issues. Anything else, and you’re advised to write to the corporate office, and then hung up on to clear the line for the next dissatisfied customer. Still, the place to start is via telephone, and to that end, here is the "current" customer service number: [protected]. I say "current" because the number has changed, and upon pointing that out to an agent, he confirmed that there were indeed (as of now) "about four numbers". As their web pages continually evolve, the phone number moves as well, and it's not easy to find.
If the phone number has again moved, and you've paid by credit card, call your credit card and ask for the phone number Eharmony has listed on record.) As I write this today, it's hidden behind a link listed as "email us". Not exactly intuitive, but during one of my most recent calls to customer service, I asked to be walked though the process to find the again "moved" number. If you're curious, click on "Help" at the bottom of the main page, then "technical issues" in the left frame of the resulting page. From the next page, find the link labeled as "email us", which one would first think was a hyperlink to a customer service email address. Not so. Click that link, and you’ll be taken to a page containing a form to email customer service, which just happens to list a phone number.
Unfortunately, that phone number won't do you a lot of good if you're trying to get any real satisfaction. Over the last 6 months, I've noticed and been told (by the agents themselves) that the agents are busier than ever. It seems that the number of complaints has grown significantly faster than the number of agents able to address them. Every instance I've called, whether early morning, afternoon, or late evening, I've been greeted with a pre-recorded message indicating "we're too busy, please call back later". If you do have the patience (or determination) to remain on hold long enough to get a live person (sometimes more than 45 minutes), you'll probably be disappointed. The reps at the other end of the phone are there primarily to answer "how to"; they will NOT help you with a service complaint. (In very rare instances, they may offer to extend your service by a few days or maybe a week.) They will instead, advise you to write to Eharmony corporate, detailing your complaint, and then wait for a response, all the while, watching the time on your subscription tick away as they waddle through the piles of complaints they receive.
So – for those of you who haven't signed up yet, a word of warning to those considering "free weekends". Although it is true EH will allow you to take a personality profile for "free", as well as set your matching preferences, and be presented with an initial group of matches, you are NOT allowed to view their pictures (if they even have any), or communicate with them until you've BOTH paid. The exceptions to this are the "free communication weekends" – you're allowed to engage in limited, but not full, communication with matches, yet still, not see their photos. It’s been said nothing is free, and this con is no exception. Discussions with customer service confirm; Eharmony is betting that they'll hook you, and that your deep desire to find the love of your life will override your good judgment – manipulating you into turning over your credit or debit card number. In reality, many people get irritated when they find out that the "free" weekend isn't all they thought it would be, and then abandon their profile. Stop and think about that for a minute. Just as you, as a potential subscriber, are signing up for free, so are thousands of others. What does that mean? As a subscriber, each time a free weekend comes around, you get matched with a new group of matches with whom you can't communicate, and the influx of those matches causes the Eharmony system to overload, repeatedly preventing you from logging in. As a non-subscriber, it means that the people you've been matched with and may become excited about meeting, can't communicate with you either, even if you hand over your payment, and the influx of users prevent you from getting full use of that "free" period. So you've spent the weekend trying to log in, or, maybe you're lucky enough to be able to communicate with someone. Now you're hooked – you think you've found the one, but come Monday, you can no longer communicate. What do you do? Pay – only to find out that the apple of your eye isn't what you expected, and you can't get your money back.
Here's how the process is supposed to work:
You, as a potential subscriber, start by taking a lengthy survey, called a "personality profile". The current survey is considerably shorter than that which was in place in 2004 (which took a little over two hours to complete). Eharmony markets this profile as the method by which they will find "your match", though, it appears more that these are questions designed to analyze you, a big part of which is to determine whether or not you're happy, and what percentage of the time you "are" happy (the competitor site "chemistry" parodies this assumption in their own commercials). It's at this point where Eharmony informs you whether you meet their requirements to join, or aren't happy enough often enough, and refuse to allow you to join the service. Think about that. Some people who turn to this site to help search for their other half are turned down, because they're not happy about being alone.
Presuming you "pass" the "entrance exam", the next step is to set your search parameters. In comparison to other services, Eharmony offers you far fewer search options; instead, boasting that, using the results of your personality profile, you'll be matched only with people who have been determined by their system to be "highly compatible". You’re given a recommended age range, (which you can override), then allowed to choose the religion(s), race(s), smoking and drinking preferences, a distance radius, and whether or not your matches should have kids. Unfortunately, Eharmony doesn't respect those settings – and within the past year, they've implemented something called "flexible matching", which any google search will confirm, the majority of customers think is just a way to present you with "something" when in fact, they have "nothing". In this way, they are able to say they have delivered matches and are fulfilling the contract. Flexible matching in itself is a misnomer – the whole marketing of the Eharmony system is that you're matched with other people based on their 29 dimensions of compatibility. A flexible match is someone outside of those 29 dimensions or outside of the parameters you've established. The result? In extremely rare instances, you MAY decide that you’re interested. Keep in mind, usually, you're not. And it's still a two way street – the attraction must be mutual. As an example, Eharmony may match you with someone hundreds of miles away, even though you've stated that you wish to look within a 50 mile radius. Or – maybe you're matched with someone who has three children, even though you've stated you don't want to be matched with someone who already has children.
Once you've been presented with an initial set of matches (who may or may NOT be subscribers), "paying" members are allowed to initiate a 4 step communication process, in which, (if you are both paid members) either of you may choose to communicate or not and reveal photos or not. Once in the process, either of you may choose at any time to cease communication by "closing" a match. In the first step, you each pick and answer 5 multiple choice questions from a pre-defined list. Next, you and your match exchange your "must haves" and "can't stands" – again, from a predefined list. Next come three essay questions. Assuming you both make it this far, you're presented with a "safety message", and then allowed to enter into the last step; "open communication" - a primitive email system. Again, many of the profiles you may be matched with belong to people who have signed up, but not paid. An important note – EH DOES NOT make a public distinction between active and inactive profiles, another common complaint cited in internet reviews. You (whether a paid subscriber or not) have no way of knowing whether that match is an active subscriber or not (meaning, able to communicate with you or not) – a practice that Yahoo Personals was called on in the subject of a class action suit, subsequently settled.
This communication process continues for as long as your subscription is valid, or until you become aggravated with the service and quit. Here's another common complaint and misconception regarding matches. One would think, that the Eharmony system would reach into the millions of members, determine whom you're compatible with, and present those matches to you, all at once – to look through and deliver to you. Not so. Matches are sent to you- but not all at once. And again, those matches aren't all current members. In my personal experience, (confirmed by other members) if I get 7 matches, 3 of them will state in their profile, "no longer a member". Worse, I've been matched (as have others) with people who have been members for months or years, before being paired with me. When confronted with this information, Eharmony vehemently denied this could have happened, insisting that matches are made as users join the service. After pointing out three instances where this was not the case, the customer reps offered the possibility that the match may have chosen to "retake" their personality profile. Further discussions with those matches revealed no such retakes, and Eharmony chose to avoid the questions.
From a business perspective, financially, it isn't in Eharmony's interest to provide you with all of your matches at the same time – they don't get paid if or when you find your soulmate (in other words, for RESULTS); they only generate revenue from your monthly subscription fee. Similarly, it doesn't make sense for them to let you know who is or is not an active subscriber. They match you with inactive (and active) members, hoping that one or both of you will be interested enough to hand over a monthly fee. (Unfortunately, to communicate, BOTH need to pay - so you may, but your match may NOT.) The more people that sign up, the more active they can make the matching process appear. They needed to find a way to generate more revenue, to supplement or make up for subscription fees. The solution? Advertising. By failing to distinguish between active and inactive members, they’re able to artificially inflate the "subscriber" count – and then – using those artificially high numbers, sell advertising. It's similar to a newspaper – not everyone necessarily reads the paper, but the newspaper is able to say "we deliver to x subscribers" and are able to sell advertising based on that volume. As of late, and previously touched on, Eharmony's web pages are overloaded with advertisements. If you watch carefully, you'll see that some of the pages are coded such that the advertisements appear even before the match information (which you’ve PAID for) – further clogging the infrastructure and slowing the system.
The next most common complaints regarding matches seem to be the quantity, quality, and frequency of matches – mostly because subscribers expect more based on the "29 dimensions". Many people (and I can personally attest to this) claim that during your subscription, the frequency and quantity of matches is minimal. As your subscription nears expiration though, Eharmony sends you a burst of matches – hoping that at least one of them sparks an interest enticing you to extend your subscription. Unfortunately, as already stated, those matches may not be active, but worse, Eharmony doesn't guarantee the information contained in profiles, and now, posts an even broader disclaimer. The result? Personal experiences (confirmed by internet reviews) – inactive matches, matches claiming to be local, but really from Russia, or matches claiming to have no children, but every third word of their profile talking about their 4 small children that mean the world to them, with 5 photographs of the match and their children. Others have even reported matches really being married, or from Nigeria scamming for money. Now – aside from the obvious, why would this be frustrating? Mostly, because you've paid for a service – marketed to be – matching you with someone who specifically MATCHES you on 29 dimensions, to find out you've been "matched" with a fraud. And if you paid - in order to communicate with one of these frauds - you're out your fee. Eharmony markets "removing" the guesswork and matching you with "highly compatible" candidates. When I confronted the customer service reps with this information, I was told that we're only matched with "active users" – but they have “so many” members joining each day that they're unable to check the profiles. This didn’t make sense, so I asked for a definition of "active user". It turns out that determination is made by how often the user logs in, not necessarily whether they are a paid subscriber. (Remember this; it will come up later).
Many people join Eharmony thinking that the 29 dimensions of compatibility are some magical formula guaranteeing that Eharmony will find their soulmate by scanning through the millions of subscribers. Realistically, the only difference between Eharmony and other sites is that other sites allow you to see ALL profiles on their system at that time, and then pick from those profiles. Granted, those profiles may also be non-members – but at least with those sites, you are in control – you write to or wink at whomever you are interested in, and then the two of you go from there; ignoring the advance, politely declining, or entering into communication. With Eharmony, THEY are in control, matching you with a fraction of those whom they've determined you're compatible with, active or not, at a time of their choosing. And as we all know, in life and relationships - timing is everything.
So – how do you get your value out of this service if you've already been taken advantage of? How do you fight back from being matched with non-members or fraudulent members? Sadly, complaining doesn’t seem to be working. Rather than come to the table, Eharmony responds to complaints by rationalizing their behavior in the FAQ section, and posting more and more disclaimers on the web site. It appears as though users will need to force Eharmony to change their business model, to validate profiles, remove inactive members, and deliver quality matches to you. How do users do that? Cut off the funding. If you expect to have any chance of success though, be honest with the other members, while maintaining your safety until you're ready to divulge that information to a match. Read on.
First, establish an anonymous email account. Do not use an email address with a cute meaning, or worse yet, your name. Sign up with one of the major free mail providers and create a new address containing a mix of letters and numbers that have NO meaning, setting the "from" address as "[first name] from [your city] on Eharmony". This will allow you to maintain your anonymity but still allow you to be recognized by other Eharmony users as they associate your profile and email. Do NOT use this email address for anything else.
Now – recall that Eharmony has admitted that they don't have the "time or resources" to check through "millions of profiles" for accuracy or content. Members have caught on and have used that flaw to their advantage, by placing – in their profile, statements to the effect of "I'm not a subscriber, but you can reach me at this email address". (Unfortunately, some of those people publish email addresses that reveal personal information or can be googled; something that Eharmony tries to restrict – for your own safety. If you choose to follow this route, use the anonymous email address.)
Next, recall that Eharmony will continue to use YOUR profile AFTER your subscription has expired, presenting it as an ACTIVE profile, to con new or existing users into thinking you are a CURRENT subscriber. This means, as long as you continue sign in to your account, (whether paid or not) they will consider you active, and match you with OTHER active and inactive members, though YOU, as an unpaid member, will not be able to see your match's pictures (if they have any). Many users have begun to use this flaw in the system to their advantage as well, using their profile embedded email addresses to communicate with matches, sometimes going direct to open communication, some using the format of the 4 step process. Using the listed email address, members remain anonymous until they're ready to share information, while retaining control of being able to respond to or decline requests to communicate.
So –what if you're totally fed up with the system and have no desire to use it – or be used – any longer? You have several options – sign in and instruct Eharmony to remove your profile, or – remove all your photos and text, other than "NO LONGER A MEMBER - expired in MM/DD/YY". However, internet complaints reveal that members continue to be matched and receive matches from Eharmony even after they've requested to be removed. Whichever you decide, to be fair and or helpful to the other subscribers, you should let people know how dissatisfied you are by removing your profile or stating your dissatisfaction in your current profile.