Events and Adventures Lunch is OK but what if you want to go skydiving or horseback railing?

Professional matchmaker or do-it-yourself, there are slew of options

ConsumerAffairs’ founder and former editor, Jim Bondage mask formerly headed Associated Press Broadcast News, directing coverage of major news events worldwide. He also served as Senior Vice President of United Press International and was the founder and editor of Zapnews, a newswire service for radio and television. Read Utter Bio&rarr,

Meeting people should be effortless. After all, the world is utter of them and they’re fairly evenly divided in terms of gender, height and so forward. But as a review of literature opening up back to cave drawings will tell you, meeting — and suspending onto — the right person isn’t all that effortless.

This is where dating services come in. They’re not ideal but they’re better than ordering brides by mail or submitting to your mother’s idea of who your flawless match is.

Just like other means of meeting candidates for romance, dating sites are fraught with peril. You could meet people you don’t like, people who don’t like you, people who are boring or even downright dangerous. But the same is true of just about any other method of meeting people. Ever ridden the subway?

What it comes down to is that there are risks in everything so as long as you take the visible precautions — don’t meet strangers in dark places, don’t send money to someone you’ve never met and don’t expose all your private information in a single gush — online dating is most likely less dangerous than crossing a busy street or attempting to clean out your gutters on a windy day.

One thing’s for sure — there’s no shortage of dating sites. No one indeed knows how many there are but the reaction is somewhere in the thousands. Like people, they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are free, others are pricey. Some take everybody, some are selective. Many cater to individual tastes — there are sites for gays, Jews, Christians, equestrians, millionaires, Hispanics and old white people. There are even dating sites for virgins.

Here’s a sampling to get you began. We’re not telling these are the best sites for you — that’s something you need to determine for yourself — but like examining puppies or seaside condos, looking can be half the joy. Might as well get embarked.

Successful Singles

Reminisce how we said there were sites that cater to every demographic slice imaginable? Well, here’s one that specializes in Fresh England, a locale that can be a little forbidding and frosty to the uninitiated.

Fittingly for a site in a region that cherishes its history and traditions, Successful Singles has been around since 1984, which is not fairly the Colonial Era but actually predates the Internet as we know it.

Successful Singles even goes so far as to announce that it is not an online dating site, instead proclaiming itself to the ",the premier social introduction service in Boston.",

Rather than using algorithms to match clients, Successful Singles uses a more individual treatment, embarking with a 10-minute phone consultation followed by a 50-minute face-to-face meeting, after which it promises introductions within Ten days.

The treatment seems to work with the upscale client base it’s targeting. At ConsumerAffairs, we don’t hear much about Successful Singles but what we do hear is pretty positive.

",I spent months online with no success. Joined Successful Singles and met women that were interested in having a long-term committed relationship. I don’t have lots of time to spend on the computer, so having my own private matchmaker was an ideal situation for me,", said John of Norwood, Mass.

If the prospect of spending a Fresh England winter by yourself is a chilling prospect, Successful Singles may be the reaction. More information here.

It’s Just Lunch!

It’s Just Lunch uses an treatment similar to Successful Singles, suggesting to pair up compatible couples for lunch or a drink after work. Describing itself as a ",dating service for professionals,", It’s Just Lunch also uses a private counselor treatment, hoping to find just the right chemistry in each situation. With offices in major cities, it’s not restricted to a single geographic area.

The reviews we’re received at ConsumerAffairs the last few years have been largely positive, like this one from Michael of North Carolina: ",By and large I have been pleased with the practices gained from the group. The dates have all been delightful, professional women. I have liked my practices, and have made a connection with one of the women.",

There’s no free lunch and IJL is not exception. Prices vary but be ready to spend $1,000 or more. That may sound like a lot and while it may be true that money can’t buy happiness, it may at least make the down payment.

No matter how much or little you spend, being too rigid in your expectations or specifications can lead to frustration. One negative review we read said the client desired to meet no one older than 32 and became angry when one date turned out to be 34. The world is a big place but perhaps not fairly big enough to be so inflexible in our choices.

As with all the services featured here, read the contract cautiously, be sure you understand it and keep a copy. Contracts mean what they say. If a dating service says it will introduce you to two people a month, it’s not realistic to expect it to produce more than that. More info here.

Lifemates

Maybe it’s just that folks truly are friendly (or at least very cold) in Canada and unusually grateful for human warmth but for whatever reason, Lifemates Canada seems to have a stellar record of forging fresh alliances.

",I submitted a review a number of months ago and I just desired to say that Marcel and I have now been married for a number of months and are very glad,", said Sheree of Kitchener, On., in a ConsumerAffairs review, one of several from Lifemates clients who tied the knot with dates they met through the service.

Like Successful Singles and It’s Just Lunch, Lifemates uses a individual inteview and match-up process and targets upscale clients.

",The Lifemates Canada Dating program cautiously evaluates each and every member so that we can introduce you to an individual that shares your interests and background,", the company says. ",Lifemates introduces you to members whom, because of common values, goals, professional backgrounds and other similarities, provide the highest likelihood that you will budge your date into a true relationship.",

Lifemates Canada has been in business for more than 20 years and has Ten offices around the country. More info here.

Events and Adventures

Lunch is OK but what if you want to go skydiving or horseback railing? That’s where Events and Adventures comes in. Operating in nine cities, Events and Adventures organizes a series of events each month for its invitation-only clients.

",In a group, there&rsquo,s no pressure, everyone relaxes, and you can be yourself. Each month is packed with 30-50 excellent event choices: foodie, night out, active venture, casual hangout,", the company says. ",We are an invitation-only club of people like you spending social time having joy with like-minded people.",

It gets high marks from ConsumerAffairs reviewers like Bob of Phoenix, who wrote: ",Since I joined Events and Adventures I&rsquo,ve attended very likely close to a hundred events like pottery painting. so many different events. I had a superb time at the Extreme Escapade Course up in Flagstaff. There have been a lot of nice people. I&rsquo,ve made a lot of friends and found a significant other through Events and Adventures.",

The monthly events range from a plain wine-tasting to outdoor sports and expeditions to foreign grounds. To join, applicants must be successfully interviewed and must certify that they are single.

Perhaps a big point in E&,A’s favor is that it’s not just a dating service but also a way to meet fresh friends — something that’s often a problem for stressed-out professionals.

",What interested me most about the club was meeting fresh people. With Events &, Adventures, I have made fresh friends,", said Nick of Minneapolis in a ConsumerAffairs review. ",I have attended two trips or events a month. I went bowling, I went to both singles mixers, both party buses, movies. But my beloved was the Halloween haunted house party bus.",

Like other higher-end services, E&,A doesn’t list its prices on its website so be sure you understand the pricing and have read the contract cautiously before signing anything. Learn more here.

Match.com

The dating services we’ve looked at so far have all been, to one degree or another, what the MBA types call niche plays — designed to appeal to a certain slice of society, and generally a higher socio-economic slice at that. They all have a individual ",facetime", element as well — you have to meet, or at least talk to, a human being to be accepted.

Match.com is the exact opposite. It’s what we might all a ",unspoiled Internet play", — everything’s done online, almost anyone can register and what happens after that is up to you.

It’s perhaps the difference inbetween using a private shopper at Nordstrom and just going online and buying something that looks about right on eBay. As you would expect, this creates a lot more room for error. On the other palm, it’s a lot cheaper — almost free, in fact. Membership runs about $30 a month, depending on which plan you choose.

Like any do-it-yourself project, usine a site like Match.com means you need to be a very careful shopper. Take Poonsie of Gaithersburg, Md., who narrowly escaped misfortune.

",Three boys scammed me in this site by using Caucasian pictures instead of their own pictures. I recognized Nigerian accent in phone and told them I was going to report them. They cancelled their accounts and now I can’t find them in Match.com,", she said in a ConsumerAffairs review.

It’s a good thing Poonsie came to her senses but lots of others don’t. Last month, our Jennifer Abel wrote about a woman who almost sent $40,000 to an online suitor who had concocted some sort of story about needing money to get to the U.S. so the two could begin their blissful relationship.

This is the kind of thing that can happen on low-cost, mostly unmoderated sites so it’s essential to be on your guard at all times. Even in the best circles, things are often not what they seem and online, they can be truly dreadful, even dangerous.

You might meet up with someone like George of Farmington Hills, Mich.:

I am an admitted violent offender with a police record. I keep getting emails from match.com to join. I have called &, emailed them to stop attempting to get me to subscribe but even after knowing my situation they proceed to attempt and make money off me. . I just got in bar fights hammering on tipsy masculines but what about child &, other lovemaking offenders?

We haven’t verified George’s claims but if you scroll through the 1,175 consumer reviews on our site, it becomes quickly apparent that, while there may be indeed excellent people stashing on Match, there are fairly a few others who very likely would not make good luncheon companions, let alone paramours.

On the other palm, it’s also true that there are lots of superb opportunities just waiting to unfold on Match.com and the other relatively wide-open sites. It’s effortless to leave behind this, since it’s generally the people who are disappointed who are most likely to go public, while those whose search is successful aren’t as inclined to tell the world about it.

At a family dinner recently, I mentioned that I was working on a story about dating sites and was informed of Match.com’s role in several pairings, including the latest marriage of a very close relative and the longterm relationship of another. A close friend, I was told, is in a serious relationship that grew out of Tinder, a site that operates much like Match but on a somewhat smaller scale.

My instantaneous response was that nobody ever tells me anything. My daughter assured me that in her circle of friends in Los Angeles, everyone just assumes when fresh relationships spring up that the people met online.

",Nobody has time to meet anybody. Everybody’s too busy working and going to auditions,", she said. (Everyone knows this is why LA traffic is so bad — the populace is permanently shuttling inbetween auditions and parttime gigs). More info here.

Nothing fresh, indeed

To hear people talk about dating services, you’d think they were an titillating and mind-bending innovation or a newly-arrived plague but the truth is they’ve been around forever in slightly different formats.

If you get right down to it, Successful Singles, It’s Just Lunch, et al aren’t much different from the way people have always hooked up — through the recommendations of friends and acquaintances. OK, you’re paying somebody to do it, but it’s the same principle.

Events &, Adventures simply makes it lighter to do what enterprising singles have always done — joined social, sports, venture and education groups to have joy and meet fresh people.

Back in my misspent youth as a reporter for large news agencies, I tended to stir every year or two. Valuing my liver, I didn’t want to drape out with other journalists, so I prowled what we then called alternative weekies — Fresh Times, the Village Voice, etc. — looking for likely sounding companions. I also attempted mountaineering clubs, sailing lessons and sports car racing. (Actually, there weren’t many women racing sports cars but at least we lonely guys got to drive prompt without getting in trouble).

I met several significant others this way, not to mention fairly a few insignificant others. It was more joy than sitting in church basements or working for political candidates (which would be even worse than stringing up out with journalists).

The alternative weeklies have pretty much faded away but they’ve been substituted by dating sites for every imaginable taste and budget. The more risk-averse among us are very likely better off spending a little money for the kind of professional help suggested by the more sensational sites, while the more adventurous may be able to succesfully navigate the tricky shoals of the free-for-all sites.

An effortless way to get commenced is to read the reviews on our site and others. Do this before you sign anything. You would not believe how often we hear, ",If only I had read your site before I . ",

When you find a service that seems right for you, explore as much as you can, review all of the material, examine the pricing in excellent detail, read the contract several times and be sure you understand it. Only then should you provide your credit card number or fork over any cash.

Eventually, as in all things, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Things may work out excellent in the end but you will most likely need to make course corrections along the way. Everyone has setbacks but all’s well that completes well and, as they say, it’s not over til it’s over.

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