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Inside The Online Dating Industry
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine

Reputation Management Systems, like "Don't Date Him Girl" Have Several Flaws to Work Out


One of the growing vertical markets of online dating is "reputation management systems." These are sites where you can post information on a guy or girl who has cheated on you. Most of them are aimed at women expressing displeasure to men. Sites like "Don't Date Him Girl" have garnished a lot of media attention, fueling their growth.

Unlike a court of law, sites like "Don't Date Him Girl" allow the accuser to post anonymously. But the person being accused (rightly or falsely) has their name, age, city, state, and photo posted. The defense is that "we gather the name and phone number of the person posting anonymously." Yet, the "Don't Date Him Girl" founder has admitted that she would go to jail before revealing such information in a court of law. So basically, they are making it easy for people to post false information or attempt to ruin the reputation of someone they don't like.

Here's a case and point:

One female posted on "Don't Date Him Girl" that her boyfriend had cheated on her and that he had also given her herpes. The accusation, along with his name and location was posted for the world to see. When the guy found out about the post, he wrote in saying that he did not have herpes and asked "Don't Date Him Girl" to remove the information. Yet in order for that to happen, they had three requirements the guy must do:

1) He had to go have an STD test done.

2) He had to fax the results to the site.

3) They had to call the STD clinic to confirm the results.

The guy did it and it was determined that he did not have herpes and that reference was removed.

"Don't Date Him Girl" has taken the concept of justice and turned it upside down. The basis of our justice system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. In the "Don't Date Him Girl" justice system, a person is guilty until proven innocent. And, many times, they must prove that innocence against an "anonymous" source.

"Don't Date Him Girl" is aimed at ruining the reputation of both guilty and innocent people. They allow one source to be anonymous and the other source to have as much identifying information posted about them as possible. I wouldn't be surprised if it was only a matter of time before innocent people who have been slandered, get together and file a class action lawsuit for libel or invasion of privacy against the site for promoting this type of behavior without checking out the facts first.

I have a problem with sites that allow anonymous accusations to be made against a person. It kind of reminds me of high school where someone would start a rumor about someone that would quickly spread and could ruin a person's reputation, even if they were completely innocent!

Now, I'm not totally against such services, as long as a man who has done nothing wrong truly has nothing to fear. It must be embarrassing for a guy to Google his name only to find all these allegations being thrown at him by an "anonymous" source. And that goes also for sites that allow men to post about women.

"Don't Date Him Girl" doesn't attempt to contact a guy who has had accusations made against him if they aren't provided with any contact information. So until a new guy's girlfriend, friend, family member, or boss accidentally stumbles across the information and confronts him, he is completely out of the loop and defenseless. It's like a court trial where the jury hears from the prosecution and the defense isn't present. Then the jury delivers its one-sided verdict.

There is too much "anonymity" online, in my humble opinion. A person should never be afraid to post their name to what they write. It helps ensure that what they write is more accurate. Many reputable sites require people to post their names along with the information they dispense. It's something a site like "Don't Date Him Girl" and "Don't Date Her Guy" (when developed) could learn from.

Now, with that said and aside, I have a simple message to both men and women that I'm very passionate about:

Never cheat on your significant other.

I can't understand why someone would want to put their marriage or relationship in jeopardy by cheating. Does it please them to bring pain to other people? Are they happy doing something that can and will destroy the lives of them and people around them? Do they take pride in not honoring their commitments?

I think a course that should be taught to everyone is one about a person's character and honor. We carry our character and honor with us throughout life. It is something we have full control over and can consistently nurture and develop. Our character and honor should be something we seek to improve. There's no greater compliment than to have someone say that you are a very honorable person.

Cheating destroys a person's honor and character. So then why do it? Don't! If you are ever tempted, just take time to think about the consequences first. What is the worse that could happen as a result of your infidelity? Know in advance, because that is likely to happen.

If you are dissatisfied in your relationship, cheating isn't the answer. Taking steps to change the problems or leaving the relationship is the answer. Destroying your honor to make the person want to leave you is destructive to everyone. You hurt them 100 times more than if you had simply broken up. No one wants to learn that they have been cheated on. Make sure your significant other doesn't learn that by never cheating.

Tip of the Week
For the last several weeks we've talked about tips for gaining more traffic to your Website and building your userbase. Now we're going to switch gears to customer service.

Tip #8: Put Customer Satisfaction First
The biggest problem with major online dating services is their disregard for a user once they have their money. Services automatically rebill (and this is not for the customer's convenience) and when that rebilling is disputed services do little to help the customer get their money back. That's because they want to keep it. And this practice has become a major source of complaints to the Better Business Bureau and state Attorney General offices. In fact, there is a ongoing lawsuit against and Jdate over breaking California Civil Code by not refunding money to customers who requested it within a specified time period.

Are we really to the point where customers have to file lawsuits in order to obtain satisfaction from online dating services?

Right now the industry is wondering why the growth rate for online dating is flat (I'll be addressing this in a future column). One of the main reasons is dissatisfaction. At most reputable stores, you are provided with a money-back guarantee if you are dissatisfied with a product or if it didn't meet your needs. You would be hard-pressed to find such a guarantee with most online dating services, who will also look for ways to rebill you for maximum profits. Just read the majority of our reader reviews and you'll see a recurring theme about how an online dating service did them wrong.

Changing this practice starts with you. By putting customer satisfaction first, you can start to establish a more loyal and appreciative userbase. Make your practice different from the big guys then publicize those differences (use charts, tours, etc.). Make sure that your reputation becomes a positive one instead of a negative one by honoring a commitment to truly put the consumer first. Profits will follow. People don't like to be taken advantage of and by being honorable in your approach to the consumer, you can help build trust back into the system.

So how do you do this?

1) If a consumer is dissatisfied with their results, refund their money.
Do so in a way where you send them a letter letting them know that their satisfaction is your priority and that you have refunded their money and would like to know from them how they can improve. People like to give opinions and be listened to. When you become a service that listens, you'll start to see more positive responses than negative ones.

2) Respond quickly to user inquiries.
One of the biggest complaints we hear is that someone emails a problem to an online dating service and never hears back from them. They call ont he phone and are given the run around. Then they run away from the service and post negative comments. Make sure the place they run to is your site and that you treat them with respect, honor, and integrity.

3) Don't put money before customer satisfaction.
Last week we received an email from a gentleman that one of the advertisers we linked to was publishing adult content, which breaks our advertiser agreement. Since we check all advertisers beforehand, we were puzzled. We immediately responded, asking the gentleman to let us know which one. He did and we checked it out. Sure enough, the site was now publishing nude photos and linking people to solicitation sites. We immediately removed them, sent them an inquiry, and refunded their remaining balance. We were later informed that they had sold the site and changed the focus. It didn't matter to us. Our readers expect that, when visiting Online Dating Magazine, they will not be linked to adult sites. And even though it cost us money to remove the advertiser, it was the right thing to do. Always put your customer first and stick to values and ethics in everything you do.

Joe Tracy is publisher of Online Dating Magazine and is often quoted by the media in relation to online dating topics. His Inside the Online Dating Industry column is published every Friday.

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