Rick is rejected by eHarmony — TWICE.

You may have seen the commercial: Smiling guy looks through a magazine that resembles Playboy. Closes it, shrugs, and says, “Nope. Still gay.”

A red “brand” slams down:

REJECTED BY eHarmony.

Then, a voiceover:

“Who knows why eHarmony has rejected over a million people looking for love? But at Chemistry.com, you can come as you are . . .”

So goes the assault on eHarmony.com, a popular online “matching” site, by its newest competitor.

The ad shades the truth a hair: If you’re gay or lesbian, eHarmony won’t consider you long enough to reject you; the site doesn’t do same-sex matching. Chemistry.com does.

If you’re straight – which you must specify upfront – eHarmony then allows you to answer more than 250 questions about yourself.

But not everyone who completes eHarmony’s questionnaire gets to use its services.

* * *

A few months ago, after friends related their experiences with dates set up through eHarmony, I decided to give it a try.

After an hour of rating myself on hundreds of criteria, I was dying for the ordeal to end. Still, I carefully considered the questions and statements, answering them honestly.

Finally, I reached the penultimate page and hit “save and continue.” Bring on the ladies.

The next page read:

Unable to Match You at This Time

What? After all that? You guys have several million women in your database, and you can’t find a single one to match with me?

The eHarmony rejection page tried to let me down easy. The notice, in summary, says that for the service to work, applicants must “fall within several defined profiles.” Unfortunately, “our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched.”

My friends accused me of lying about being rejected. They said there’s no reason a commercial website would not provide services to a potential customer. But that’s exactly what happened, and not just to me. I got on Google and found numerous stories of other rejections.

Apparently, eHarmony would rather walk away from your money – it charges $49.95 for a one-month subscription, $99.95 for three months – than let a loser into the party.eHarmony.com Love Banner

Next, my friends accused me of fouling up the survey on purpose. But I had answered honestly. That may have been the problem.

The site’s founder is Dr. Neil Clark Warren, an evangelical Christian. It is focused on matching “soulmates, ” with marriage as the goal.

I made it clear from my answers that I’m not much of a churchgoer. When eHarmony asked if I’m interested in “religious community” and “religious faith, ” I replied truthfully: Not at all.

Did that answer get me banned from eHarmony’s online church social? I didn’t know. So I decided to take the questionnaire again, answer it honestly again.

And see if I’d get rejected. Again.

* * *

The first section provides 19 statements. You choose how closely each describes you, on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). Later sections are similar.

The first statement the eHarmony computer used to define me:

I do things according to plan.

My honest answer: 2. (Ask anybody.)

I often leave a mess in my room.

Answer: 5. (To be fair, the rest of the place is just as bad.)

I waste my time.

Answer: 6. (Even as I write these words, I’m two days past my deadline for this story.)

I gave myself a 7 for I take time out for others and 8 for I usually stand up for myself. Then again, I had to give myself a 5 for I anger easily.

Another section went well: I gave myself a 6 for warm and a 7 for clever.

(Disagree? Remember, I anger easily.)

Then it got tough. I went with 6 for quarrelsome because, well, I often am. Does that make me unmatchable? I mean, most women I’ve dated would get an 9.

I awarded myself three straight 7s for affectionate, intelligent and compassionate.

Eat that, Computer of Love.

* * *

One section told me to rank 21 more self-descriptive terms. Long story short:

I’m a fairly opinionated, restless, romantic, aggressive, open, charming, irritable, stubborn guy. Oh, and I’m not exactly always calm or rational.

Rejected by eHarmonyAnother section, sample statements:

I have a high desire for sexual activity.
My emotions are generally stable.
I view myself as well adjusted.

Hmm. This might have been a trouble spot last time.

Does a 7 for “sexual activity” rate me as sketchy? Is it okay to give myself a 3 for the stability of my emotions – I’m not always super-cool and collected – but a 6 for considering myself well-adjusted?

I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, though I’m guessing eHarmony does. I go with ’em anyway.

A subsequent section wants to know what I consider important qualities in my partner. Do you want a partner who’s attractive, whose company you enjoy, whose personality you like? (Nah, let’s go with unappealing, intolerable and insufferable.) All my answers land between 5 and 7.

* * *

A closing section is a breeze: general information such as my age and how important my match’s age is to me (not very).

Am I a parent? (No.) Want to be? (Sometime.) Willing to accept a match who has a kid? (Sure.)

There’s a list of “what ethnicities (I) would be willing to accept as matches.” I check them all, and wonder why there is no “check all” button.

A few more expected questions follow, and now eHarmony’s ready to hook me up with the women of my dreams.

I click save and continue. Bring ’em on.

* * *

Unable to Match You at This Time

Ouch.

Okay, fine. Enough auditions for this computerized Cupid. I call eHarmony for an explanation, but I don’t get a phone interview. Instead, I’m asked to e-mail some questions over.

Responses arrive quickly but shed little light. Most simply repeat, virtually verbatim, information from the Web site.

One exception: I ask whether the process is weighted toward applicants who appear to consider Christianity, or at least faith, important.

The response: “Absolutely not. eHarmony . . . is not, nor has it ever been, a religious organization. Since its founding eHarmony has served and employed people of all (and or no) religious beliefs.”

None of the other responses clarify anything.

So I guess I’ll never know for sure why eHarmony can’t help me find my soulmate. But in case I missed anything, I read the “Dear John” letter more closely, seeking hidden meanings:

We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches that we sometimes choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match.

(We learned our lesson from that Alec Baldwin-Kim Basinger thing.)

Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched.

(Though we’re leaning toward serial killers.)

This occurs for about 20 percent of our potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply will not benefit from our service.

(We know you couldn’t have figured that basic math yourself, reject.)

We hope you understand, and we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time.

(Never darken our door again.)

[By Rick Gershman. Originally published June 16, 2007 in the St. Petersburg Times, which holds the copyright.]

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6 Responses

  1. I was NOT rejected by eharmony but then again I joined on a free communication weekend in September 2009. I just feel like I need to comment on this blog as I am in the last 20 days of my paid eharmony membership. 2.5 months on eharmony. 0 dates. 4 communications. I will be honest it is a damn full time job weeding through the prospects and some people just make no effort in their profiles. But this has to be the most borderline average looking and mildy interesting bunch of guys on a site. And eharmony sucks because I can’t even look at my competition. I like to know who I am up against. Now do I think it was a complete waste? No because I gave it a chance and no one can say I didn’t make the effort. At least now I know I have to try harder when I am out and about or start showing more cleavage and legs. Either way I have 20 days left and plan on cancelling my subscription with eharmony.

    • Showing more cleavage and legs has reaped great success for me, Sassy, so I’m confident you’ll do 10 times better. 🙂

  2. It’s because you anger easily. EHarmony doesn’t want to set women up with potentially abusive men. Being an athiest has nothing to do with it.

    • Hi, Jessica. Thanks for your feedback. As you’ve noticed, all comments on this blog are moderated. Although I’m sure that (unfortunately) limits the number of comments, the intention is simply to protect against spam and trolling.

      When I first read your comment, I must admit I pondered for a fleeting moment whether to post it. Then I immediately felt embarrassed about even considering that. It’s not spam, and it’s not trolling. You’re welcome to your opinion, and you do make an interesting point. The best decision clearly was to post it, and then to respond to it.

      It honestly never occurred to me that answering 5 on a scale of 1-10 for “I anger easily” would be interpreted as, well, angering easily. To my mind, that was the midpoint — actually, slightly less than the midpoint, mathematically — on the scale. There’s no additional context to the question, and different people will interpret it in different ways.

      I figured that if 100 people were asked the question, I’d fall right into the average. I’d promised to answer the entire questionnaire honestly, and given that I tend to be up for a feisty debate or given to speaking up when I encounter a situation I consider unfair, 5 seemed like a proper answer.

      You’ve helped me see that an answer along those lines possibly could be interpreted differently by eHarmony algorithm, though I’m admittedly skeptical whether someone who truly embodied the type of anger that was given to violence would answer the question honestly. I imagine most people, regardless of their true temperament, answer that question (and similar ones) with the grade they believe eHarmony wants to hear.

      With all that said, I can’t agree there’s necessarily an equivalency to providing the mathematically average answer to “I anger easily” and the notion of being potentially abusive. Like all decent people, I consider domestic violence abhorrent and utterly inexcusable. In fact, for some time I did volunteer work for, and later was employed by, the largest domestic violence shelter/service provider in the state of Florida.

      Of course, none of that information is available to the eHarmony algorithm, and you might be entirely right: Answering anything above, let’s say, a 1 or 2 on that question might get the tester banned right there. I have no idea.

      As I noted in the column, I don’t know whether being an atheist was a factor in my rejection. Unless you work at eHarmony, I don’t see how you could be certain that it wasn’t. The company doesn’t explain these things, and of course it doesn’t have to.

      In any event, thanks again for your comment. It’s certainly food for thought.

  3. Thank you for posting my comment. EHarmony has predetermined norms. If an applicant appears angry, superficial, stubborn, unable to compromise, etc., EHarmony considers that person less likely to form and maintain a healthy long term relationship. This article is a few years old, and I’m sure you’re happily married with a couple of little one by now, but EHarmony is only interested in averages. You are not average by the company’s standards. I commend you for answering the questions honestly. If that simply means you found a compatible life partner on your own, then so be it. That’s how it was done for centuries before computers told us who to love and if we were loveable.

  4. I originally read this article last year. I found it through a Google search for “Rejected by eHarmony.” I too was rejected by said site. Unlike Rick, I do not anger easily. Seriously, I’d rate myself a negative one. I’m also awesome to have as a girlfriend. I’m funny, loyal, smart, good in bed (I had to throw that in there.) But, I’m not average. Joe the plumber and Bob the soccer dad are not going to do it for me. I’m not Christian, and though it’s hard to believe, this single 36-year-old female is not interested in a march down the aisle. That confuses poor eHarmony, who can only handle average Americans that fit easily into a predetermined little box. I think a lot of people who approach the intimidating questionnaire are trying for the best answer or what they perceive to be the right answer. They see a statement like, “I anger easily,” and they think anger is bad, so they rate that low. I don’t think anger is bad. I don’t think any emotions are bad. I love emotional, passionate people. If you get angry 50 times a day, but you handle it constructively, I don’t have a problem with it. If you love me, so you want to kill me, well then you shouldn’t be on a dating site and you need serious help. But, you being a psycho does not make love a bad emotion, and anger isn’t either. As humans, we all have faults and quirks and things that make us different. I think those things are what make people truly beautiful and unique and special. That said, I think eHarmony is a great thing. The company has created an entire database of men I shouldn’t date, and that is sure to save me a lot of time and energy.

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