Certainly I was persuaded that it would be odd, and probably indeed impossible, to pay a financial bounty upon meeting a romantic partner.
Moving in together, marriage? None of this adequately explains why per cent of the fees needed to be paid up front. This was never convincingly answered, perhaps because my agency never needed to. It would be unfair to call introduction services confidence tricks, but my role in the arrangement increasingly came to feel like that of the mark. There would be no close matches — not even a short-term relationship, let alone anything serious or marriage.
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One of the very first matches was the most promising: But a month later, her calendar miraculously opened up. Within six months, my matchmaker had gone on maternity leave and was replaced by two other staff members. Before long, I asked for a partial refund and you can guess how that went. One curiosity throughout these match-made dates was that I, the man, invariably felt an obligation to foot all bar and restaurant bills.
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This was, apparently, the norm in these higher-end dating arrangements: Why should this be, in an era of greater gender equality? Just how unbalanced could things get on this expensive dating journey? I was about to find out.
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Here, a deeper truth about the way this exclusive dating world works was revealed: There are different theories as to why this is, one being that women are more willing to invest substantially in finding the right life partner, another being the perception of a depleted pool of eligible men in other walks of life. Unwittingly I asked whether this was pounds or dollars. It was pounds, of course; we were sitting in a Chelsea pub, not in the West Village.
Her own eyes narrowed.
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Finally I offered alcohol. Champagne, that ever reliable pick-me-up. Most dates were pleasant enough. Indeed, two women became friends. Matchmakers meet clients in person for just a couple hours of their lives, and feedback given after each date does little to alter this reality. Understandably, everyone wants to put their best side forward on paper and in photos; profiles tended to be of little use ahead of dates.
In exclusive dating as in life generally, much comes down to happenstance. Far more effective for me have been events where it is possible to meet several people on the same night. The most promising of all have been activities that I enjoy doing anyway, which include literary events, yoga and travel the Weekend FT is crammed full of suggestions for such activities, should you ever be stuck for candidates.
Online dating services such as Match. It makes conversation easier as you immediately have something in common with your fellow attendees. Traditional matchmakers are entering the space as well. One distinctive newcomer in London is The Sloane Arranger, catering to a set that founder Lara Asprey defines as much by shared values as by type of education or physical appearance.
Other newcomers in the traditional matchmaking space have also sought to offer more flexible fees arrangements. The Picnic Project is a bespoke agency set up by Suze Cook, a former marketing manager at Microsoft, who spotted ways to improve the dating process while she was single. If we took a fee from every person who contacted us, then we would probably be retired by now. For everybody else, my advice would be to consider your alternatives. And keep your sense of humour. Get alerts on Personal Finance when a new story is published.
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