When it comes to online dating success, it's hard to argue with 438 marriages daily.
This is the claim of eHarmony.com: they've "helped 600,000 couples tie the knot and counting," and it certainly highlights their focus on lifelong relationships instead of quick hookups. Started in 2000, eHarmony's whole approach to online dating has focused on matching people with the right points of compatibility for a long-term relationship-in other words, helping online daters find The One.
However, before you jump into a relationship with eHarmony and the commitment that comes with it, you need to do your due diligence and make sure it's what you're looking for. For starters, here are ten things you should absolutely know about eHarmony before you sign up.
If there is one message you'll hear again and again in eHarmony's commercials and online ads, it's that their method for matching compatible people is "scientifically proven" to increase potential for dating and marriage. The founders of eHarmony say they've created a formula that identifies members' best possible matches based on what they've dubbed the "29 Dimensions of Compatibility," which are a host of attributes from emotional temperament to physicality to values and beliefs. Based on this magical formula, eHarmony claims:
"[It] matches singles based on a deeper level of compatibility, not likes and dislikes, but true compatibility. Do you and your potential mate resolve conflict in a similar fashion? Are you both romantics at heart?"
Keep in mind that everything about this formula, and the way that eHarmony is set up, is designed to help people find that one person that they could spend the rest of their life with. If you aren't ready to settle down with one person, if you just want to play around and keep your love life casual, eHarmony is not the dating site for you.
You should also know that although eHarmony claims that their formula is scientifically proven, a fair number of critics have questioned this claim. One of these critics, Benjamin Radford at Discovery News, said in his article "Is eHarmony scientific?":
"Does their 'science' greatly improve the quality or odds of a match? How good is their tests' construct validity? After all, many matches are made without a hint (or claim) of scientific basis for the pairing. Though the company and its founder, Neil Clark Warren, insist that the tests are useful, they have yet to be scientifically validated."
Yes, eHarmony offers a free membership package, but as is customary with most dating sites, if you want to do any serious communicating with other members on eHarmony, you're going to have to shell out for a paid subscription. These don't come cheap, as reflected in their three subscription options below:
This places eHarmony as the most expensive of the top online dating services, more expensive than both Match.com and Zoosk. For those members who can't pay their subscription up front, they also offer installment payment plans.
These higher subscription costs have the double effect of chasing away less-than-serious daters and, as a result, keeping membership on eHarmony relatively low-15.5 million compared to the 21.5 million members on Match.com or the 25 million on Zoosk.
One of the most common complaints on other dating sites is dishonest and even fraudulent profiles, and nearly all other dating services decline to screen their members for this kind of nonsense. One of the standout features of eHarmony then is the requirement for members to verify their identities.
This forces every member to show that they really are who they say they are. eHarmony also proactively flags and closes accounts where profile information doesn't match the dater's actual identity. For instance, eHarmony has been known to close accounts if they discover any of the following conditions:
Unfortunately, this feature can't catch all the creeps out there. eHarmony members occasionally complain of people who seem nice when they first pop up as a match, only to be revealed as monsters later. But eHarmony still leads the pack when it comes to attempting to keep out sketchy members.
Another common complaint on other dating sites is the inability to keep unwanted members out of your profile. eHarmony tackles this problem with their "blocking" feature, which lets members permanently remove a match from their list of matches, stop all communications between the member and the blocked match, and keep the blocked match from seeing the member's communication with them.
Also, if members want to keep someone from seeing their profile or harassing them there, they can report that someone directly to eHarmony.
You never want to have to take a problem to customer service. This is especially true about most online dating services, where customer service ranges from non-existent to downright hostile. eHarmony stands out in this regard.
In our survey of all the billing related concerns that were filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in the last year against eHarmony, their customer service team showed uncommon care and patience with customer billing concerns, even when the problem was due to the member's negligence. This was the case with one complaint where the member was demanding a refund because they didn't want to continue with the subscription that they'd already committed to. eHarmony's customer service team replied:
"Though the consumer is ineligible for a refund per our Terms and Conditions, as a one-time courtesy, we have issued a refund of $79.80."
If you've looked at enough complaints about online dating sites and the customer service responses to those complaints, you know that this kind of patience and generosity is uncommon. And it definitely distinguishes eHarmony from the rest of the online dating world.
As with many popular online social networks, eHarmony records and keeps all the information you share on their site. Even long after you've closed your account with them, they still hold on to that comment you said to that one guy/girl and that photo you uploaded that you wish you hadn't. And it's all part of what you agree to in their terms and conditions when you sign up.
In their defense, eHarmony claims to use this information to improve their services or to contribute to studies or similar companies. They don't typically use this information on an individual basis but gather data from a huge number of online daters to look for trends and patterns. So it's highly unlikely that the eHarmony team is looking at that one embarrassing photo you uploaded, but it remains a point of frustration for current and former eHarmony members.
Of all complaints that former eHarmony members have, this one is by far the most common. It all comes from this one eHarmony policy:
"In order to ensure uninterrupted service, all eHarmony subscriptions will be automatically renewed 24 hours before they expire."
By default, member accounts are set to renew at the end of their subscriptions, but users can turn off this feature right in their account settings whenever they want. To avoid auto-renewal, this must be done 24 hours before expiration at the latest. And this is where things get dicey.
In many BBB complaints, members claimed that they tried to disable the auto-renewal feature but were unable to. Sometimes they blamed technical issues. Other times, they blamed a lack of communication between them and customer service. And still other times, they had indeed turned off the auto-renewal feature but eHarmony had charged them anyway for another subscription.
Another sticking point in this area is eHarmony's installment-based payment plan. If you choose to use this plan instead of paying for it all up front, you will not be able to turn off the auto-renewal feature until you've made all your payments.
If you are thinking of signing up for a paid subscription with eHarmony, we would strongly recommend two things. One, keep an eye on your subscription's expiration date. Two, decide well in advance whether you are going to renew or not. Those people who forget when their subscription expires or try to disable the auto-renewal feature at the last minute usually end up having to jump through all kinds of hoops to get their money back.
eHarmony is so sure about their matching formula that they insist on letting you view only those people they consider a possible match for you. You tell them your personality traits, and then they generate matches for you based on your input. Trina of Salt Lake City, Utah, complained about this feature via ConsumerAffairs.com:
"You can't go in and search on your own. They recommend that you lower your expectations in a match and settle for what they want to send your way."
If you are looking for a service where dating prospects come to you and have a better-than-average chance of matching you, then eHarmony could be the right fit for you. If you want to search for potential dates the way you would shop for a new sweater on Amazon, with full control over search criteria and the ability to filter search results, you probably want something like Zoosk, Match, or OKCupid.
Sometimes there just isn't a good match for your personality and preferences on eHarmony. This could be because you are especially unique. It could also be because you live an area with fewer eHarmony members. Justin of Lakeport, California, had this to say on ConsumerAffairs.com about his shortage of viable matches:
"The vast majority of 'highly compatible' matches lived much too far away to be a reasonable dating prospect. And among those who lived within a 'reasonable' distance, the majority had been inactive for more than a month."
Geographic distances can be a big challenge for online daters anywhere, but especially for those who live in rural areas or places where Internet usage is low. If you live in one of these areas, you should take this factor into consideration before you sign on with eHarmony or any other online dating service.
If you live in a highly populated area with average or better Internet usage and you still get slim pickings in the match department, you will likely be one of those unfortunate eHarmony members who are forced to play with their personality and preferences inputs in hopes of getting more matches. Honestly speaking, this seems like the opposite of what eHarmony promises. These members essentially change who they are, instead of being matched with someone who fits them as they are.
eHarmony makes a big deal about its matching formula. It's in all their commercials and pretty much every page on their site. But sometimes that formula fails.
Many eHarmony members have complained about getting served matches that range anywhere from "Really?" to "I wish I could un-see that!" Carolyn of Franklin, Tennessee, writes in ConsumerAffairs.com:
"I have been surprisingly disappointed in this service's matching capabilities... The matches I found... either lacked a completed profile or seemed ill-matched personalities. Almost every week I could count about a dozen matches that lacked pictures, which indicated laziness or indifference. Others managed to show their faces but filled out less than half the questions. What good is that? As for the rest, who had the sense to do the work, I saw little compatibility or matching interests on our profiles. Even when I (as a halfway attractive woman) reached out and contacted more promising matches, I was lucky to hear back from half."
Vickie of Hamilton, Ohio, speaks of similar mismatches, also on ConsumerAffairs.com:
"I set the parameters for age, etc. I am 58 and set the age range no younger than 50. They send matches as young as 40. Many in other states, men with no shirt on, and some with dirty clothes on. It was apparent there are no standards set for matches."
Other members, especially female members, share similar horror stories of slovenliness and members oversharing in the worst ways. Although eHarmony provides a filter to keep out some of the worst types of online daters, you can expect that their match formula might not always produce perfect results.
So is this the right online dating service for your needs? If you are looking to find a serious, hopefully long-term relationship, if you're okay being served matches rather than doing your own searches, if you can stay on top of your subscription expiration dates and renewals, and if you're okay with the occasional bad apple, then the answer is 'yes'.
But if you want lower commitment, more control over your search, and don't want to pay too much, then you might want to try one of the many other dating sites out there.
To see how dating sites stack up against one another, visit the bestcompany.com Online Dating page.
Have you had a bad experience on a dating site? Maybe you found your soulmate? Make your voice heard and leave your own consumer review today about your dating site!