Whatever happened to computer dating services? A few years ago they were the butt of all jokes, given an episode in every situation comedy, and eschewed by nearly everyone (“I would never stoop so low!”)
The stigma attached to computer dating placed its patrons in a category along with the people who advertise for mates in the “personals” section of the classified ads. (“I’m young, rich, terrifically handsome. 6’2”. smart, and witty . . . but I’m looking for the‘right’ girl”) and with those of us who always insisted on being “set up.” (“Really, Harold, you’ll love Martha.”)
Victims of popular opinion ourselves, we tried out a computer dating service sure that we’d get a wierdo-flakey type, with Poindexter looks, a Quasimoto physique, and Jack-the-Ripper motives.
We found four dating services covering San Diego County. Actually, only two of these services. Computability and Matchomatic, use a computer.
Computability, located in Beverly Hills but also serving San Diego County, sends you a “matching kit” complete with the history of Computability and computer matching; a dating guide with helpful hints for a healthy evening; a prepaid return envelope; and, of course, the questionnaire.
Like most of the questionnaires we ran across, most of the questions were concerned with education, occupation, personality, disposition, political opinions, race, age, height, marital status, religion, smoking habits, and financial status.
Claiming thousands of members. Computability will eternally send you the names of compatible matches for $16, until you write and tell them you’ve met “the one.”
For a slightly higher fee you can have only your name and phone number, omitting your address, sent to compatible matches. Or you can go completely undercover and have your name replaced with your membership number. (“Hey, Steve, you aren’t gonna believe this. A friend of mine went to a computer dating service just for kicks and guess who they matched him to? MARY ELLEN ROGERS! You know, the homecoming queen in ’67.”) Sometimes it’s better not to reveal your name until you know who you are revealing it to.
The Introduction Agency was founded in 1973 and is located in San Diego. Their motto is “Dates for every SINGLE one.” Their brochure guarantees that you will get exactly what you ask for, or they will replace your date.
Their questionnaire is shorter than the previous one: there are only 30 questions. But it asks basically the same things about you and what you want in a date.
The Introduction Agency does not use a computer. They use what they call an “entirely new method.” We could not find out what this method was. The charge is $19.95 per year for receiving one to three compatible matches per month.
You receive an extra month of service free for every friend you talk into enrolling.
Intro-Mate, also located in San Diego, does not use a computer. The trained counselors do all of the “tedious hand matches” for their membership of over 400. The membership is made up of men and women from 17 to 77. We asked about the large membership. “People get tired of the singles bar circuit,” we were told.
We did not find out the fee for men, but we do know that the agency has a shortage of women between the ages of 18-25 and that they recently offered a special rate to women of this age group. There is also a special servicemen’s rate. The owner of the agency told us that “there is simply an overload of nice young men.” Intro-Mate accepts MasterCharge and BankAmericard.
The agency has you fill out a questionnaire and then gives you an interview with a counselor. For a year they send you approximately four matches per month printed on 3x5 cards stating your match’s name, phone number, height, and weight.
Intro-Mate claims a higher number of successful marriages originally matched by the agency.
“We don’t have wierdo-flakeys here,” a spokesman for Intro-Mate said.
Matchomatic, in Tucson but serving all of the Southwest, was the agency we decided to try, mainly because of our overdrawn checking accounts and Matchomatic’s $7 fee for a year’s membership.
Matchomatic is a lot like Computability, except that its membership is much smaller.
The questionnaire is typical. For the $7 fee the computer matches you with about four people per month.
For our part, we invented a girl named Ellen Gardiner, who was a combination of both of our looks, personalities, interest, political opinions, religions, and smoking habits (Yes, she was a bit “wierdo-flakey”).
Approximately two weeks after “Ellen” sent in her questionnaire, we received her first match who we will henceforth call “Willie.” “Ellen” set up a date to meet him in front of the Spreckles Theater the following Friday.
If he was surprised to see two “Ellen Gardiners," he didn't show it. We were the surprised ones. This guy looked like Omar Sharif's kid brother.
“Who’s she?” he said to one of us while pointing at the other.
‘‘She’s my sister. We go together.”
We all sat down on one of those benches they have in Horton Plaza. After talking for awhile, both “Ellens” became rather fond of Willie. He was really a smart, humorous-type guy.
Willie got up to buy some cigarettes.
“Listen,” one Ellen said to the other. “I feel raunchy about lying to this guy. He’s so damn nice."
“Me too. Let’s tell him the truth and then take him out to dinner.”
“Willie,we've got something to say. We didn't want a date. We’re just reporters doing a story on computer dating. You are our guinea pig...” Surprisingly, old Willie took it pretty well. He didn’t look crestfallen or angry — just amused.
“. . .so we're taking you for a steak dinner at Lubach's and picking up the tab.”
At Lubach's, we continued talking and laughing, and as Willie swallowed the last crumb of meringue, we felt sad.
“Look, Willie, we’re really sorry for conning you. But maybe next week Matchomatic will send you the girl of your dreams.”
“Naw, who cares?” he shrugged. “I didn't join Matchomatic for a date. Actually, I'm getting married this summer. I just needed some information on computer dating for my term project in Sociology 127B.”