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Lonely e-hearts turn to online dating

world Updated: Jun 02, 2010 01:23 IST
Ellen McCarthy

Max Hartshorn has pretty much mastered online dating. It took awhile, but the 24-year-old now knows exactly what kind of message to send to pique a woman’s interest.

The Montreal research assistant will come home from work, sit down with his laptop and bang out dozens of e-mails to attractive, eligible women.

He’s never needy — always charming and a little flirtatious. He keeps his missives short and usually includes a question or a subtle challenge. He’s witty, a touch aloof and not overly complimentary.

And when he gets the woman, it’s not his heart that flutters. It’s his bank account.

Hartshorn is a hired gun, ghostwriting correspondence on behalf of single men unwilling, too busy or too inept to do it themselves.

His online dating is done on commission for Virtual Dating Assistants, one of the first full-scale Internet-dating outsourcing companies. For $600, Virtual Dating Assistants (VDA)_guarantees clients two dates a month; the “executive service” package promises five dates a month for $1,200.

“I get paid for each woman who writes back positively,” he said. A telemarketer who toils anonymously in pursuit of love for the lonely. His job is “lead generation” only. Sealing the deal is up to the company’s “closers.” And going out on actual dates? That, unfortunately, the men have to do all by themselves. And the women never need know who hooked them. It’s love through a high-speed line, a model of amorous efficiency.

Author Timothy Ferriss popularised the concept when he wrote about outsourcing his online dating accounts to teams of competing writers in his 2007 book, The 4-Hour Work Week.

VDA is hardly the only outfit to offer such services. Dozens of profile-writing shops have popped up in the past few years, and dating coaches are increasingly managing their clients’ online pursuits.