Dating and matchmaking services vary widely on a number of dimensions, one of which is price. Below I'll talk about services whose prices vary from zero to an initial fee of $20,000. One question is how much if anything does that already tell you about who might use which services?
Penny-Pinchers Might Unite at Free Dating Site
"Match.com, which is owned by Internet company IAC/InterActiveCorp and also runs dating site Chemistry.com, was set to announce Thursday the launch of DownToEarth.com. ...DownToEarth.com joins other free dating sites like Plentyoffish.com and OkCupid.com, and expects to bring in revenue from ads. It is geared toward Web dating newcomers and lets users put up post-rendezvous ratings regarding the truthfulness of others' pictures and profiles."
Online Dating Putting You Off? Try a Matchmaker
"Matchmakers prescreen potential matches, focusing on long-term compatibility rather than “short-term chemistry,” Ms. Clampitt said.
While online sites allow unlimited fantasizing, matchmakers encourage clients to take their heads out of the clouds. “Sometimes we will get a guy who is a good-looking man, but no Brad Pitt, and he wants a thin model,” said Shoshanna Rikon, the owner of Shoshanna’s Matches, a Yenta-style matchmaking service in Manhattan that includes an in-person interview and a Web presence, and charges about $1,500 for eight dates. “We try to be more realistic with who we set him up with.""
The New Arranged Marriage
"Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking Incorporated's fees begin -- begin! -- at $20,000 for an initiation fee, plus $1,000 for a one-year membership that includes 12 dates. That also includes a background check and a home visit, during which Janis spends time with the client, to get a sense of him and verify that he is who he says he is (i.e., rich or very rich). Her image consultant also comes to inspect his wardrobe and, if necessary, make plans to revamp his look. Janis has many clients outside the New York area (in Tampa, Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto, Las Vegas). An out-of-town client must fly Janis and an assistant first class and put them up in a hotel for the home visit. Additionally, a marriage bonus is expected -- sometimes it's a car or extravagant jewelry; other times it's cash. She has received gifts in the $75,000-to-$250,000 range. "
This latter service primarily charges fees to men, and actively recruits attractive women to match them to. This reminds me of a 1993 paper by Mark Bagnoli and Ted Bergstrom called "Courtship as a Waiting Game" which considers why husbands are often older than wives. In their model, people live for two periods. In period 1, men and women are each endowed with a "quality" between 0 and 1, and a woman's quality is common knowledge at period 1, but, although men know their own quality at period 1, it only becomes common knowledge at period 2. So, in their model, the highest quality men wait until period 2, and marry the highest quality women. I guess that, in this model, the $20,000 above would be a signal of male quality... :)
Of course, the value of a match could be a subject of dispute; e.g. here's an 1885 report from the NY Times about a matchmaker suing to receive his full fee after a marriage was arranged but called off. Needless to say, matrimony need not be the only object of matchmaking; Daniel Hamermesh has a Freakonomics post describing an internet site "Ashley Madison, which matches up married women and men who wish to have a quick fling. " (I couldn't figure out their fee structure from the easy to access parts of their web page, but they do offer a $249 refund under their "Affair Guarantee Program" if you fail to have one...)