Sunday, October 09, 2005

Match.com Glitches Crosses Dating Profiles

By Frank Ahrens

Internet dating can be scary. You agree to meet complete strangers based on blurry headshots, puffed-up self-descriptions and furtive e-mail exchanges. The guy who said his body type is "about average" shows up with a body type that is "about average" in a crowd of baby hippos. The girl who said she "loves reading" turns out to "love reading" only "Star Wars" novelizations.

Well, something really scary happened last week at Match.com, the popular Web site where lonely hearts post profiles and pictures and get entered into a database searchable by geography, religion, height, pet preference, body art and so forth.

Owing to a glitch, profiles and preferences for many members temporarily were shuffled for several days. Or "criss-crossed," the company told one irritated user, a Tom from Northern Virginia, whose identity we protect because we're stand-up guys. (Match.com does not post users' real names. It's up to individuals to release names to prospective dates. Seems fair to do the same here.)

For several days, Tom's profile page sported his picture with a headline identifying him as a "funny girl." (You -- stop laughing!) Also, Match.com wiped out half of his profile, which he put more than a little effort into writing. Tom said the same thing happened to several of his friends who use Match.com.

Tom said the glitch was remedied only after several calls to the site, which -- like the Ask Jeeves search engine, the Home Shopping Network and several online businesses -- is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, headed by Barry Diller, a Washington Post Co. director.

The error came at a bad time for Tom: He had just sent e-mails to a few women he was interested in. "They probably thought I was an idiot if they'd read my [criss-crossed] profile," he said. Tom had to take down his profile and completely rewrite and post it. To salve the wound, Tom said Match.com offered to kick his profile up to the front of the queue.

Thanks. Thanks a bunch.

On Friday, Match.com spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said the "unprecedented" problem affected about 10,000 of its 15 million users and that an explanatory e-mail (that offered seven free days as remuneration) was sent out, though Tom said he didn't get one. (Note to Tom: Call. Get your seven free days.)

We suggest this new headline for Tom's page: "Justifiably Angry Man Seeks Correct Profile."

(why oh why do people still use internet dating? Fighter wants to know!)

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