Free dating sites like OKCupid can seem like a no-lose proposition. After all, what do you have to lose in trying out a free dating site?
This is exactly what the folks at OKCupid are banking on. Since its founding in 2003, the dating site has grown to a relatively small but enthusiastic 1.8 million members--a small fraction of the memberships on sites like eHarmony or Match.com and a tiny drop in the bucket compared to PlentyOfFish, which boasts upward of 80 million members.
Regardless of the number of members, the real question is whether or not signing up for OKCupid is a smart decision for you as a consumer...and price is not the only factor. When it comes to online dating, you need to be ready to contend with not only scammers and sleazy people, but also shady companies.
To help you make an informed decision, here are ten things you absolutely need to know about dating site OKCupid before you sign up.
All of the top online dating services offer free subscriptions, sometimes for a limited time and sometimes forever but with limited access. OKCupid is no different. In fact, their free subscription is one of the best among the top dating sites. For free, you can search and view complete profiles and communicate with other members, which is hard to find among free online dating subscriptions.
If you're looking to get more attention on OKCupid, however, paid subscriptions are available. For anywhere from $4.96 to $9.95 per month, you can significantly increase the quality of your OKCupid experience, as the PCMag editors explain in their review of the site:
"Members who sign up for the... A-List premium service enjoy an ad-free experience, photo albums, read receipts for sent messages, additional filtering options (for example, you can only choose to see four- or five-star-rated people in your results), the ability to see who's rated you highly, higher placements within search results, and more."
One unique feature about OKCupid is that any member, paying or not, can pay to get more eyeballs on their profile temporarily. PCMag explains:
"OkCupid lets users boost their profiles' visibility by shelling out some extra coin. Boosts are available in single boost ($2), five boost ($1.90), and ten boost ($1.70) packages. In fact, OkCupid claims that you'll see a whole day's worth of activity within a few minutes. A boost puts you ahead of the non-boosting pack in results for a total of 15 minutes."
This is something that most of the top online dating service provide but not usually to free members. But does it really work in terms of getting you more attention?
After trying the feature, one editor at PCMag admits:
"Out of the 2,601 times I was placed in front of someone, five people actually clicked through to my profile. I'm not sure if that's great for two bucks, or horrible for thousands of impressions."
A significant number of complaints found on review sites like bestcompany.com or Consumer Affairs make it clear that, for these members at least, the matches are less than magical. Said Melissa, one former OKCupid member, on her bestcompany.com review:
"I tried several dating sites while I was single for about two years, and I thought there was definitely room for improvement on OKCupid. Even though I filled out my profile thoroughly and created detailed settings, the site seemed to match me with a lot of people who didn't share similar interests or values."
Based on her experience, Melissa ended up giving OKCupid a lackluster 5.0 out of 10 rating. PCMag's editors seemed to back up Melissa's review in their assessment of the site's matching feature:
"There's little difference when comparing users who were a 65 percent match and those who were an 85 percent match. Additionally, 90 percent matches were few and far between."
Despite whatever shortcomings OKCupid might have, it's worth noting that large numbers of customers, even some of the unhappy ones, have used their services for years. Many have found dates. This should indicate that plenty of members are able to find a meaningful experience there.
Of course, for a good deal of customers, things do go wrong, and when they do...
If you check out OKCupid's page on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website (which is always a good idea when checking out any company's credibility), you'll find that OKCupid has been slapped with a big, nasty 'F'. The reason why? Out of 96 complaints filed by members against them, OKCupid completely ignored the BBB's request to resolve the complaints 57 times. Only 14 complaints have ever been resolved. This should be a huge red flag to you, dear consumer, that OKCupid's customer service is not their strong suit.
Their customer service is so poor that many of their members' complaints and reviews describe it as "nonexistent." One OKCupid member, Kyler from London, Ontario, writes on Consumer Affairs:
"Emails have been sent to them weekly, there is no reply. I basically got told over the phone that they don't even check them. They told me over the phone, in a very singsong voice, that OKC has no phone support of any kind, and so I asked if there was any way to reach them, I was told no."
In other words, if you choose to sign up with OKCupid and something goes wrong, don't expect any help from their customer service team.
The vast majority of OKCupid reviews and complaints tell of members-some new and some long-time members, some free and some paying-trying to log into their profiles, only to receive what seems like a typical "our-site-is-currently-down" message, as described in this complaint:
"When I attempt to log in to my account, I get a message stating that 'we are having technical difficulties, please try back later,' which from what I understand from reading complaint forums regarding their site, is their way of saying 'your account has been deleted.'"
No matter how many times the member comes back, their profile is just gone for good. Then, when they try to contact their "nonexistent" customer service, frustration ensues. The same customer says:
"Attempts to reach them via their customer contact form have all gone unanswered, like always."
Out of the dozens of reviews and complaints I read, I would estimate 80 percent of them mirrored this same scenario, but none of them hinted as to why. Many former members speculate that this is all part of a plot by InterActiveCorp, which owns both OKCupid and Match.com, to drive more members to Match, which costs much more. Nothing has been proven, of course.
Every dating site has this problem. When members get a paid subscription with OKCupid, they are also, in the fine print, signing up to have their subscription automatically renewed at the end of the subscription period and have money taken out of their bank account or credit card.
For example, if you signed up for a three-month subscription with OKCupid, at the end of that three months you would see a charge on your bank account for another three-month subscription. Because this is in the fine print, many members overlook it and are shocked when the second withdrawal happens.
The best way to avoid this is to first read the fine print before you sign up. Once you click 'submit' or 'sign me up', you are contractually obligated to abide by their terms and conditions, whether you read them or not. Second, keep an eye on your renewal dates. Create a reminder on your smartphone. Finally, when you see the date coming up and you don't want to renew, go into your settings and cancel your A-List plan. If you wait until the last minute, you could find that OKCupid's system takes too long to process your request and your subscription is renewed against your wishes.
OKCupid staff and members have created hundreds of tests. This means there are plenty to choose from and it gives members more creative things to do on the site. Unfortunately, this also means that some tests created by members go way over the awkward line, deep into creepy territory.
And there's more at stake here than tests that make you feel like you need to disinfect yourself afterwards. Online dating expert Julia Spira cautions OKCupid members about tests that are too political or sexual in nature because your responses are accessible to anyone on the Internet:
"You need to think every time you push the send button... only pick the questions you would tell your mother [the answer to]."
If you have a test answer that you want someone to see, but not the whole world, you have the option to answer it privately. Even then, err on the side of caution.
According to member complaints, OKCupid suffers from a large number of scammers, the kind who pretend to be eligible but in-need bachelors or bachelorettes in order to get members to send them money or personal information. This is the dark side of the site's free features; anyone can get into the site and gain access to thousands of people without paying a dime. Former member Diedre of Los Angeles complains on Consumer Affairs:
"OkCupid has scammers and very few legit people. After going to the FBI dating scam site and learning about what these Nigerian or Russian scammers do and say, I recognized about 95% of the men contacting me were frauds. I even checked out a site where they posted scammers' fake photos and many of the men from OkCupid were there. OkCupid doesn't even get rid of these guys from the site!"
In other words, if you're going to venture into OKCupid, make sure you brush up on the tell-tale signs of online dating scammers and how to protect yourself from them.
Unfortunately, scammers aren't the only people you'll want to avoid on OKCupid. Maria of Oakland, California, a former OKCupid member, puts it succinctly:
"The free aspect of the site actually works against it."
It's also worth noting here that OKCupid has very few features by way of keeping out unsavory people. When anyone can use the site without thinking about the investment they're putting into it, and the sites provides no filter, the quality is naturally going to be lower than what you might find on a site like eHarmony or Match.com. Maria goes on to list the types of people she encountered on the site:
"People who will never read a single word of your profile but will message you anyway regardless of the fact that your profile makes it very clear they are not what you are seeking. Profiles with no photos and/or information. Repulsive scumbags with no realistic sense of what losers they are... Fragile narcissists who will take time out of their useless lives to write you and inform you of their opinions about what they do not like about your profile... Married men cheating on their partners. After a while it just felt like digging through a very large pile of manure trying to find a pony."
In their defense, OKCupid does provide features to "hide" other members that you don't want to associate with. Their help page reads:
"If you keep seeing a profile you don't want to see anymore, you can hide it. That member will no longer appear in your sidebar matches, Welcome matches, Match Search results, your Visitors list, or anywhere else on the site. Hiding profiles works both ways, meaning that hiding a user will also hide your profile from them."
It's unclear if the members who complained tried this trick or not. It's also unclear if this feature actually works as described by OKCupid.
For many online daters, "free" goes a long way. They will put up with bad customer service and very negative experiences when they don't have to pay a subscription fee. That seems to be the case with OKCupid. The question you, online dater, must answer is if you are one of those people. If you are looking for a safer, more positive experience, and a site that will actually respond to your customer service issues, and you don't mind paying upwards of $20 per month, you can probably do better with Match, eHarmony, or Zoosk.
Have you had a bad experience with an online dating service? Maybe you found the love of your life? Make your voice heard and leave your review today on bestcompany.com's online dating page!