A match made in cyberspace: profiling dating agencies

Audrey Gilliam

If sitting alone in your dorm room, eating chocolates and singing “One is the loneliest number” is not your idea of Valentine’s Day fun, and you have a little (or a lot) of extra cash to burn, then perhaps a dating agency could help spice up your love life. Although many believe that dating agencies exist only for desperate people, (as one subscriber to Match.com says: “I guess the fact that I am using this medium to meet people speaks volumes about me. No! You are not mistaken; the fragrance you smell IS La Desperate by Calvin Klein. One look at all these ads makes me believe it is becoming a very popular scent), dating agencies have helped thousands across the country to find lasting love.

Match.com, a popular internet dating service, offers “a fun and secure environment to meet other quality singles, says Senior VP of Romance Trish McDermott. It’s also a great place to build loving and trusting friendships that can lead to lasting, offline relationships.” Match.com initially asks visitors to its website to specify their gender, and the gender, age and location of the person that they are seeking. After entering this information, the visitor is bombarded with hundreds of profiles that fulfill these qualifications. Profiles include pictures, physical descriptions and information about the subscriber’s religious background, education, occupation, income and of course, astrological sign. In addition, all subscribers choose a screen name in order to protect their privacy and also write a profile that reveals more about their interests and the person whom they are seeking. In order to contact these eligible bachelors and bachelorettes however, it is necessary to be a member of Match.com, a subscription that costs $24.95 per month. Therefore, for 83 cents per day, you would be able to contact people like subscriber jeweler24k who says, “I am a jeweler. I own a retail store in the center of Philly … I am very passionate and romantic and I have a lot of chemistry. I am told all the time that I should become a comedian because I am very funny.” Or, you could contact subscriber vanillacreme323 who describes herself as “a tall, sexy, Creole mommi who likes to have fun, travel and meet people.”

Although the profiles on Match.com provide a fairly comprehensive glimpse of each subscriber’s personality and physical appearance, Match.com members must remember that it is very easy for people to misrepresent themselves over the Internet: “Whether you decide to correspond online or meet members offline, please use sound judgment and be responsible for your conduct,” McDermott cautions. “In both the virtual and real worlds, common sense is your best safety tool.”

Great Expectations, “the world’s oldest and largest dating agency,” also allows its members access to hundreds of member profiles of quality singles. Great Expectations has 52 centers nationwide, averages two marriages per day and boasts a divorce rate of only 4 percent, while the national divorce rate hovers around 68 percent. This agency, however, requires screening and a personal consultation to verify information and ensure safety. All prospective members of Great Expectations meet with sales representatives who assess their needs and explain the various memberships that the company offers. Members of Great Expectations have access to member profiles and videos that are located in the library, and are also able to create their own profile which includes professional pictures. These memberships, which range from a yearlong to a lifetime commitment, are more expensive than their Internet competitors and range from $1,200 to $5,900. This investment, however, guarantees members that their dates are definitely single, mentally stable and that they have no criminal convictions or drug addictions.

The latest craze in the dating agency scene, however, is the speed-dating phenomenon that is popping up all over the country. Featured in popular pulications such as USA Today and televisions shows such as “Sex in the City,” companies like 8-Minute Dating, Facilidate and Hurry Date encourage singles to participate in a round-robin, musical-chairs style dating scenario in which they talk with members of the opposite sex for just a few minutes.

After these short conversations, they rate their dates and decide who they would like to see again. If both parties wish to meet again, they can exchange e-mail addresses and arrange another meeting.

Although these speed-dating functions may appear to be about as nerve-wracking as sorority rush, many singles truly enjoy the experience and are able to find lasting relationships. 8 Minute Dating reports that 99 percent of its participants said that they enjoyed the experience and that over 62 percent were able to find a mutual match. The prices of these dating events vary; however they are usually less than $100 per evening.

So, instead of wasting your evening mourning your single status, get on the Internet or the telephone and give one of these agencies a try — you never know, the love of your life could already be there waiting for you . . .