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Dating in hard times - Metro US

Dating in hard times

We’re all looking to get the best “bang for our buck” these days, but when it comes to online dating, the phrase takes on an even more literal (if slightly crass) meaning.

Single folks, it seems, are flocking to online dating sites and services. Match.com says business is up 40 per cent, www.plentyoffish.com has seen a 77 per cent increase in traffic, www.speeddate.com traffic is up 60 per cent, the list goes on.

The reasons for the spike make sense: Unemployed people have more time on their hands, online dating is relatively inexpensive (a $30 membership to meet a bunch of duds, rather than wasting a $100 dinner on one dud), during hard times we focus on what really matters in life and we seek the comfort of relationships to get us through the depressing and scary bits.

But, just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you’re always getting the best value. Jill Ryan runs Romantic Recruiter, a service that helps people get the most out of their online dating experience. Yes, it’ll cost you (go to www.romanticrecruiter.com for fees) but today Ryan is doling out some free advice:

J: How can you get the most value for your online dating buck?

RR: Going with whichever site jammed your inbox with the most junk mail can hurt more than help.

Remember that everyone’s dating experience is unique. Just because one site works for your friend or co-worker doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Investigate sites before signing up and handing over your credit card information. Check the site’s refund and payment policy (some have auto-renewal and you won’t know it until it happens unless you read carefully!) as well as online reviews for success and horror stories.

J: Do free sites work?

RR: Not likely. Free accounts on dating web sites usually allow you to see your matches but won’t allow you to contact them without paying. Paid member can contact non-paying members but many free sites will automatically delete personal information like email addresses or telephone numbers to prevent customers from making a “match” outside the site.

J: Any other words of caution?

RR: No site can offer 100 per cent protection — it’s ultimately up to you to keep yourself safe. But find out whether site has a “complaints” department, just in case.

Common sense goes a long way. Never send money to anyone who solicits through emails. Never exchange personal information you would not feel comfortable discussing with a colleague. That freedom comes much later in the communication process after you exchange personal email addresses.

– Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit www.joseyvogels.com.

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