(You can find updates to this post by clicking here for eHarm and here for PayPal)
Okay, dear reader, I am swallowing my pride in telling about this experience because my outrage and frustration outweigh my chagrin.
The short version: eHarmony is unethical in their practices. PayPal is of little to no help when an injustice has occurred. I have no plans to ever use them, nor allow them to do me such a disservice again.
The Jubilee version: I thought that now that I have been single for awhile and the stigma of online dating has lessened greatly, I would try it out. What could be the harm? Might even be fun. Meet some people, dip my feet into the dating pool again and see what happens.
The eHarmony website is polished and classy. I felt good about my decision to join. After all, they are purported to be the leading online site for marriages. Makes sense to use this site since I am interested in marriage, not a hook up. We all have heard about THOSE sites. eHarmony does not seem to be one of those kinds of sites -- from my experience.
There is a series of questions that helps analyze your personality type. It didn't take long and I was impressed with the results. I even learned a couple of things about myself that I hadn't realized before. A subscriber can put in preferences about distance (60 mile radius? 300 mile radius? Anywhere?), lifestyle choices (like drinking and smoking), and religion, to name a few.
I was surprised with the bevy of match results. I sure had fun those first couple of nights looking through matches and dreaming about the possibilities. Handpicked, just for me. Okay, okay, an algorithm does it, but it's close enough.
Everyday there were new matches to explore. What's not to love, right?
Except, I started noticing that some of those matches were not close to being matches at all. Either eHarmony wasn't as good at matching as they claimed, or other subscribers were putting in different criteria when they filled out their profiles than from the questions they answered for eHarmony to use in order to connect matches. I chalked it up to the former.
Then, it came time to renew my subscription. I decided to decline. I just wasn't as ready to date as I thought.
Unfortunately, I was unknowingly caught in an automatic renewal process. I called eHarmony, found out the situation and had that feature turned off. I did not protest too loudly in regard to that particular automatic withdraw payment because, eHarmony (and most other match services, I have learned) has a zero refund policy. They send you a tidy little email saying that you may dispute, but they are quite clear in the same email that the chances of hell freezing over are better than a subscriber getting any type of refund for any reason. Uh, I may have paraphrased there, just so you know.
Ah . . . The light bulb went off! THIS is how they make their money. Silly, naive me. Deep breaths . . . lesson learned.
I continued on their site despite my frustration because, after all, they got my money. A couple months later, I was curious about when my subscription ended. I clicked on a link that claimed it would take me to my accounts page. I was taken to that page, but never suspected that clicking that link would also grant eHarmony permission to automatically renew my subscription.
Without notification of any kind. Without confirmation of any kind. Without showing on my accounts page that a transaction had even occurred. I did see that coincidence upon coincidence, that particular day was the last day of my subscription. No big deal. I didn't intend to renew anyway.
Fast Forward to the next morning. I was checking my bank account and saw that PayPal (my chosen method of online payment in the past) had sent a request for payment for eHarmony. I called PayPal to get it stopped because it was unauthorized, at least as far as I knew and was concerned. I was told that their system was automated and they could not stop payment "once it was in their system."
I called eHarmony and was told by an agent that by clicking on that particular link (which initially showed my options for renewal, none of which I selected -- and none of which were the same as the dollar amount I was being charged), I was in fact giving eHarmony permission to set up automatic payments. When I protested, but calmly explained what happened (and that no transaction appeared on my accounts page), the agent shut me down and told me that #1. eHarmony has a zero refund policy and I should look it up in their policy practices; #2. I could take it up with the resolution department via email and she would send me the link to my email address. She did agree, however, to turn off the auto renewal feature, but only after I insisted.
I told her that the policy practices I agreed to, never stated that just by clicking through to my accounts page, I would be granting automatic renewal permission. She told me that the policy practices had been changed with the last website update and the mere act of using their website, was acquiescence to abide by their new policy changes.
Uh, what?! Hold the phone! Seriously?!
I sent in a complaint letter explaining the situation, in detail. I was told I would get a response within 7-10 business days. I guess they have a lot of complaints to wade through and deny before getting to mine in the pile. I have yet to hear from eHarmony. I am not expecting to. I am, however, reasonably sure that they still expect to be paid and will make sure my credit score reflects that.
I called PayPal back, explaining that it was an unauthorized transaction and two separate agents told me that they could, indeed, cancel the payment. The second agent told me she was cancelling it as we were speaking. Not only was she cancelling that payment, but did she have my permission to "cancel all future requests for payments from eHarmony?" I gave her a resounding, "yes."
The payment was sent to my bank any way. A third call to PayPal ensued. I was told that payments cannot, under any circumstances, be cancelled. They can cancel future payments for any company I chose, but once a transaction has been requested and put into their system, it cannot be cancelled.
Guess what? PayPal requests payment from the bank a second time if it is denied the first time. I put a stop payment through the bank for the second request. Unfortunately, I was not in time to stop payment on the first request and my account became overdrawn, even though the payment was eventually denied by my bank. But not before racking up NSF charges, of course.
Because I was misinformed by PayPal agents, I was given a $25 credit by PayPal. They told me that they have several branches (one in the Philipines and one in Costa Rico) and not everyone is properly educated as to the PayPal practices and the particulars of how the payment system works. This did little to restore my confidence in PayPal.
I wish I had a good ending to this story. I do not. In fact, I see the second payment request from PayPal has been issued to my bank and payment is pending. Although I was charged by my bank for a stop payment, no stop payment has been enforced as of yet.
The nightmare continues. Even the sites that claim to want to "help you to find happiness" are just out to grab as much money from you as they can -- and possibly make you miserable in the process.
The only joy I can find in this situation is that I am better educated. Unfortunately, it comes at the steep cost of becoming less trusting and more jaded.