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The cost of finding love -- Page 2

There are chains and franchises like Great Expectations and Together Dating Service. Typical fees average $3,000 and up and they cater to singles who want background checks and a more personal approach.

Great Expectations offers video screening of its 100,000-plus members. Together Dating Service fees top $4,000 and boast, "We're responsible for a marriage a day and a match every 17 minutes."

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Let's do lunch
Lunch Couples Company, whose motto is "better dates with better people," offers a kind of hybrid service, with personal style matchmaking and monthly events where singles can meet and greet.

Serving Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, this 21-year-old company conducts telephone surveys and one-on-one interviews with prospective clients. They promise to match you with a date within a month.

A year of unlimited dates normally will set you back about $725 with a guaranteed minimum of 20 pairings, while a six-month membership with a 10-date guarantee costs $575. Three months with a 5-date minimum runs $475.

Who says you have to pay?
Despite all the services and all the revenue that's been generated, it's still possible to meet a mate online without any cost. Just ask MJ Giambi and Roie Lattimer.

MJ Giambi, a social worker from Buffalo, N.Y., tried the chat rooms she found for free on AOL.

"I was divorced and re-entering the dating market," she says. "I was surprised at the quality of people I met, people of my age and of equal education."

It took awhile to meet Mr. Right. "There were a lot of hits and misses before I got to this one," says MJ, who is celebrating seven years of togetherness with a man she met online.

But if you didn't match up, it was just like not matching up with someone you'd met offline, says MJ, who traveled to Seattle and San Antonio testing the waters with other men she met over time.

Then she was contacted by a man who came into Buffalo regularly for business and was looking to meet new people. He contacted her after he read in her profile that she lived in the area.

In the end, her biggest expense turned out to be her telephone bill that ran a couple of hundred dollars a month until she found the right long-distance carrier.

Roie Lattimer remembers complaining to friends, "All I want is a date," sometime after her divorce.

Roie was on the Internet and "got an instant message (IM) from a guy hoping to speak to a nurse practitioner about a new alternative therapy."

He picked up her profile on AOL and it didn't cost him a thing either. After about six months of IM's (instant messages) and telephone calls, he asked her if she'd be in New York City the following weekend.

"I met him and liked him well enough and we started dating," she says. "It lasted five years and we're still friends."

Remember this...
Before signing up for a fee-based or free dating service, it pays to follow a few simple common-sense rules for safety's sake.'s Trish McDermott offers these guidelines.

  • Pick the right site: Find an online community with standards similar to your own. Examples may be G-rated or PG-rated sites.
  • Use anonymity: Pick a site that allows you not to use your real name or address.
  • Exercise your opportunity to say no. If you are contacted by people who are not right for you, you have the right and the obligation to say no.
  • You make your own rules: After exchanging three e-mails, it doesn't mean you have to go to the next level.
  • When you decide to meet face to face, meet in the daylight in a public place. Meet for coffee and bring a cell phone with you.
  • Follow your intuition and your gut.
  • Use the same common-sense safety procedures you would use in the offline world.

Whether you search for your special someone online or off, one truth remains -- to be successful, you need to be patient and persistent.

Happy hunting.

Ellen Goodstein is a freelance writer based in Boca Raton, Fla.

-- Posted: Feb. 12, 2004




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