Dating is an interesting business. People become products. Peoples’ vulnerability and need for love become collateral. Dating involves sex … which means often the industry gets blurred with the adult industry. Companies who own dating sites also own ‘adult sites’ where people pay for sex.
It’s a tricky business, and one which is for the most part unregulated. These are just some of the reasons why the Online Dating Association was created in the UK last year, and why I, as a single girl, was inspired to create the UK Dating Awards. Every day there are new apps appearing. New dating sites created. New dating events and experts announced. Who can you trust?
I live and breathe the dating industry. I wake up to Google alerts and tweets from all around the world, related to dating. And I go to bed reading blogs, and magazines. I’ve seen it all … the good, the bad and the ugly. And to be honest it makes me really sad to see the unethical end of the spectrum, because it’s these bad experiences which tarnish a whole industry. You only have to run a search for ‘online dating’ to see how much negative press the industry gets. A person getting date-raped on a Tinder date sells far more newspapers than stories of the hundreds of thousands of weddings which have resulted from the industry.
But it makes me particularly sad when it’s people inside the industry doing the bad stuff. I like to think that everyone should be in it together. Making sure that ‘dating’ has a good name, and helping each other out, rather than working against each other.
And so I was really disappointed on a couple of occasions recently.
Date in a Dash
As far as speed dating companies go, Date in a Dash is a behemoth in London. Despite being run by just 2 guys, the company has a huge reach. They run speed dating nights all over the city, and have events almost every night of the week – some at some really cool locations. Whilst speed dating isn’t my thing, the speed dating event I went to run by DiaD was well-organised and put-together. Unfortunately no dating events company can control the type of people attending too carefully, and I remember that was my only real complaint about the night.
Date in a Dash were rewarded for their speed dating success at the UK Dating Awards last year, winning the award for best speed dating event.
However I was really disappointed recently, when I checked out their website and blog, and discovered they’d launched a new product called ‘Play Date‘. The company claim it’s ‘the first and only London based company to ever offer anything like Play Date’. Frankly that’s a lie.
For a start, there is a London singles company called ‘Play Date London‘. A far smaller company than Date in a Dash, but one that has run several events already. Date in a Dash have not only used the company’s event name, but also the premise of the events. Secondly, the premise is not brand new. PR-hungry events company DoingSomething grabbed headlines last year by hosting Twister games at the top of the Shard.
What makes me sad, is that Date in a Dash are a huge company, who have (either completely coincidentally, or really unethically) ripped off a small company. And even now they’ve been made publicly aware of the ‘coincidence’, they haven’t taken down their claims of being the first to offer the event, or even changed the name of their events.
This new London-based app have been very carefully trying to network their way around the London-dating scene recently, by meeting up with bloggers, journalists and experts to chat about their new app. Next week the app will also be hosting a launch event for bloggers and journalists, in hopes of gaining more coverage. Whilst it’s great to have a company reach out to bloggers, and want to schmooze them a bit, even if just with lunch or a nice party, some of the reports of the ‘lunch meetings’ have been rather dubious … suggesting the company are trying to learn about the industry by getting free advice from those who already know it well.
I’ll talk more about this tactic in a second, because the reason Hitch have really disappointed me this week, was that I discovered one of the glowing testimonials on the front page of their website is by a staff member … except they had given her a different name. To be honest it’s just quite lazy. I get that start-ups have to start somewhere … but I really think it’s underhand to use staff for ‘user experience quotes’, and particularly bad to give them fake names! When I emailed Hitch to query the issue, they blamed a ‘glitch’ on their website, and renamed the photo within fifteen minutes.
Again, it’s just not cricket! If you don’t have any user testimonials, don’t post them. Or get the people you alpha-test your app on to give you quotes. If your staff are meeting journalists, they’re likely to spot the likeness sooner or later?!
Finally, this new dating club (one part for men, one for women) is set up by Apprentice ‘star’ Sarah Dales (the one who told her team of girls to wear short skirts and full faces of make-up to win a task).
About a month ago, they approached me, and asked if I wanted to be interviewed by Sarah. I’ve always loved the Apprentice, and thought she seemed quite a comic character, so I initially agreed – thinking I might get some PR for 30 Dates out of the appearance. And then I was given more details of the ‘interview’.
The film crew organising the interview wanted me to come in first thing the next day, on a weekday, for an 8 hour session … 6 hours of which would apparently be filming! The questions I was to prepare to answer covered almost every aspect of the London dating industry. This wasn’t just a sound-bite, or a ‘guest appearance’. This was industry research. Free industry research. For someone else’s company.
The reason this last point makes me sad – and potentially Hitch is doing the same thing, though I can’t confirm that, as I’ve declined their lunch offers – is that this is an industry like any other. And in the same way, if you opened a restaurant, you would never get a head chef from another restaurant into your kitchen, to show you recipes for free, if you’re new to the dating industry, you shouldn’t trick those who are already knowledgeable about that industry into doing your legwork for you.
Those of us who call ourselves ‘experts’ don’t all do so lightly! In the past 3 years, I’ve written more about dating than any other topic in my life – including those I studied for my degree! I’ve been to more singles events than you can imagine, been on more first dates than most people go on in their whole life, and I’ve done everything I could to learn about an industry which interested me. I didn’t fall into my job at Time Out – they asked me to do it, because they could see the hard work I’d put in. I’ve done my time. I’ve done my research. And so have all the other good dating bloggers and experienced dating experts out there. We know our subject. And as experts in a subject, we should be paid for our expertise.
One of the reasons I had so much respect for Time Out, from the very start, was because they brought me in as a consultant. They didn’t try to squeeze anything free out of me. They treated me like an industry expert from day one. And that’s how it should be for anyone who is giving advice or sharing expertise.
If you’re starting a new company and you want help, then unless the people helping you are benefitting in some way reciprocally, you need to be honest about your motives, and reward them for their time. Find a consultant. Don’t trick people into working for you, by disguising it as ‘social chats’ or video opportunities.
Funnily enough, when I asked why the interview would last 8 hours, and whether it would be used as market research, no one ever got back to me …
I love the dating industry. And there are so many good companies and individuals out there doing really good things. We need to work together to promote good ethics, and to treat each other fairly … because we should all be in it together 🙂 It’s an industry built on relationships, after all!
Sermon over! 😉
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx