My experience with matchmaking service in HK: a horror story

February 11, 2019 10:36
File photo of a couple taking a selfie on Valentine's Day in Jinan, capital of eastern China's Shandong Province. People say a perfect match is made in heaven, but we will always strive to find it on earth. Photo: Xinhua

Dating in Hong Kong sucks. I’m sure many ladies who are still in the dating scene will agree with me.

I recently subscribed for an upscale personalized matchmaking service. Drawn by the company's high-profile advertisements, I decided to give it a try.

On my first visit, staff ushered me into a room with pictures of blissful mixed-race couples hanging on the wall. My dating consultant was a chatty lady with jungle red lipstick. She shared some "success" stories of former clients – young professionals like me who had trouble meeting people within their social circles and had had bad experiences with free dating apps where people may not be who they say they are.

She said they chose her company because the service is discreet. She said I was fortunate to seek help at the right time as women above 34 are charged a different rate and do not get unlimited matches. She also assured me that single girls my age would not be paired with divorced men or men with kids because, based on their experience, it rarely works out.

She explained that unlike other dating services, they serve elite clients and they have a much higher matching success rate of 50 percent. She asked about my requirements to which I replied taller than me (I am 5 foot 8), around the same salary, either English speaking or with some overseas studying or working experience and preferably sporty. She sympathized with the fact that it was hard for tall girls to find tall guys in Hong Kong, but she said they would contact me again to show some of the matches that might interest me.

At the next meeting, I was pleasantly surprised with the matches they showed me. Relatively good-looking guys with decent jobs and hobbies. She slid me the fees for six months as well as a year and told me confidently that for me, the six-month package would definitely suffice. With hindsight, I should have known that they show a different price list to different people, but without knowing any better, I left their office hopeful to embark on this new dating experience and HK$20,000 poorer.

I filled in their extensive online profile but also realized that they did not ask for supporting documents to vet that information like they said they would. They quickly set up a WhatsApp group which had over 10 dating consultants who would send me matches which consist of basic information such as name, height, nationality, annual income, education, where he lives and works, hobbies and overseas experience.

The first match they sent me was, simply put, insulting: a porky, balding, bespectacled, quadruple-chinned guy wearing last decade’s T-shirt and a side China man bag posing with his hand gesturing towards the McDonald's sign in the background. Appalled, I simply said no.

The matches that followed were nowhere near the likeness or attributes of those they had shown me before I signed the contract. This led me to believe they had baited me with fake profiles, although, of course, I will never be able to prove this.

But seriously, where did they find these guys? There were men who only had associate degrees, who had grammar that made my toes curl, listed traveling around Asia as overseas experience, gross men in their late 30s who earned less than half of what I earn – not to mention that they were short. I had been cheated out of my time and money.

Sorry to sound like a snob, but all the matches were a joke! They seemed to be dumping me all available profiles on their thin database. The matches they had given me strayed far from my minimum requirements. Come to think of it, these are men I would not even swipe right on Tinder or any free dating platform for that matter. At least those platforms adhere to my parameters because they use algorithms.

These dating consultants who charge exorbitant amounts cannot even stick to basic requirements and they call themselves elite customized matchmakers. Anyone with the slightest common sense or decency would not try to match a factory owner without tertiary education and living practically in mainland China with a lawyer living on Hong Kong Island.

And the consultants kept badgering me with “why” every time I said “no” to these so-called customized matches and then they reply with “Dear... he a nice guy.”

Now my first date with a match was memorable. He deliberately did not enter the restaurant until I had sat down because he had been stood up before. He was in the marble manufacturing business and sold his products in a van because he had lost his store to pay for a lawsuit. He glanced at the English menu and told me to do all the ordering because “these Western pasta and pizza are all the same to me”. Our drinks came in hip bronze mugs and he commented that it looked like cha chan teng milk tea. Not funny.

Clearly we came from different worlds. Between the crude words that I could barely understand with my limited Cantonese, he had the guts to ask me for free legal advice regarding the demand letter from his lawyers to pay their outstanding fees for handling his lawsuit. Having lived in fear of having his assets charged, he did not even have a credit card to split the bill for dinner. How is it that they charged him HK$3,000 for a year’s service when they charged me HK$20,000 for half that time?

Angry that they had misrepresented themselves and their database of men, I wrote an angry complaint letter to the agency and also sent it to the WhatsApp group, which was probably in vain judging by the comprehension level of their consultants. Of course, this sort of claim would never hold up in court. They had not guaranteed success and how would one quantify the quality of their services to make a claim?

Feeling stupid and extorted, at least I got to blow off some steam through my complaint letter.

And so, back to waiting for bagels at noon and happy swiping.

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EJI contributor