To pay or not to pay? Two dating sites go head-to-head

Should you really part with your cash to find love?

Should you really part with your cash to find love?

According to a recent article in The Telegraph , there are now over 14,000 online dating websites in the UK. But is there any difference between them? Which one is best, and which is most suited to your needs?

Although it would be impossible to road test every single site on offer for you, a trusted Graham foot soldier is here to give her views on two on either side of the spectrum. The expensive and exclusive Guardian Soulmates goes head-to-head against fun, free and easy Plenty of Fish.

I started with Guardian Soulmates. It seemed like the right place for me. I was nervous about the whole online experience, and the Guardian seemed comfortable, a known entity in the unchartered world of online dating. I’m a Guardian reader, maybe I would find another Guardian reader. We could go on bike rides and drink flat whites. So I made a profile, swallowed my pride and picked a picture. I browsed through the reams of graphic designers and fellow ‘media-types’, all just a click away. So far so good.

Then came the downside. Subscriptions. Like many sites, the Guardian lets you make a profile and browse for free, but as soon as you want to contact anyone you have to pay. And it don’t come cheap. I gave myself a month. At over £30, it was all my student budget could afford. I sent a few messages, got a few replies. Nothing more promising than I could have got in a bar, through friends of friends, any of the traditional offline methods. In all honesty, I felt like I had been robbed.

I was rapidly losing faith with the whole expensive experiment. The final blow came just a few days before my subscription came to an end. In order to get my moneys worth, I decided I had to be more active.I finally plucked up the courage to send an awkward message to a more promising potential suitor, and low and behold an hour later a message landed in my inbox. It was an automated reply, I can’t remember the wording but it was something along the lines of, “I will respond when I too have parted with my hard-earned cash”. Not for me, Guardian, not for me.

So, I chose not to resubscribe, but I wasn’t done with online dating. If Our Graham has taught me only one thing, its that everyone’s doing it. There must be a way to tap into a demographic trend without having to spend the equivalent of a moderately priced meal out.

To POF. The experience could not have been more different. Out with the well-designed website, the curated crop of like-minded people and in with what can only be described as a blanket approach. Quantity over quality. POF is an overwhelming prospect. But, the profile was refreshingly easy to make. It cost me nothing, and within minutes I was getting messages.

Plenty of Fish has a reputation. With thousands and thousands of profiles, and no limits to anyone that wants to make one. It is full of people seeking ‘intimate encounters’, full of half-naked pictures and full of fake profiles. Some of the messages I have received in the past months have been filthy, blush inducing even. I’ve taken the liberty of including one recent good-time-guy’s call to arms below. (Though it was a tempting offer, I’m afraid I had to turn him down.)


But, underneath all the dirty talk, the married men and the fake profiles there are ‘normal’ people on POF. And, in all honesty, there is something I find reassuring about the fact that those I may be speaking to are not paying for the privilege of doing so. I know that they are in it for the same reasons as I was. Not taking it too seriously, just giving it a go.”

Not everyone shares the enthusiasm for Plenty of Fish however, just a few days ago Our Graham interviewed Catriona about her experiences. You can watch the video here.

(featured image available on the public domain)


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