As a single woman, I’m thinking maybe it’s time to go back to the old-fashioned dance. Where a guy could see which woman caught his eye and approach her. And where the women could excuse themselves and chat about prospective suitors in the ladies’ room.

Online dating sites and matchmaking services aren’t cutting it.

Online sites ask you to post a picture and describe yourself to attract a mate. A matchmaking service has you meet your matchmaker in person, talk about yourself and who you are looking for. Like a few dates that don’t make you wish you had never shown up.

Regardless of which method you choose you’re probably paying a monthly fee. And you hope to get something for your money.

People have gone from grumbling to their friends about the lack of response they’re getting for their money to reporting these sites and services to the Better Business Bureau.

Chicago’s BBB received more than 2,500 complaints about dating sites and services in 2006. The BBB expects the 2007 numbers to be even higher.

Here are some of the most common complaints the BBB has received about matchmaking services:

  • Disputes over the caliber and demographics of available singles promised (35 percent). A significant number of complainants said they were matched with singles who did not meet their specified criteria common complaints include that the singles they were set up with were smokers, uneducated, not religious, lived too far away and some were even married.

  • Poor or rude customer service (17 percent) and high pressure sales tactics (13.7 percent). Many complainants reported being intimidated or outright duped by sales associates into signing up for matchmaking services. Also, considering the high cost of matchmaking services, many felt they didn’t receive the level of customer service they deserved. Complainants reported being yelled at, others were told to not be so picky, and many said they were simply completely ignored by the respective companies involved.

  • Dissatisfaction with the number of arranged dates (15.1 percent). Matchmaking services often say they have a database of thousands of singles in the area and promise a minimum number of dates. Complaints show that matchmaking services often failed to deliver on the quota of promised dates. For example, promising 10 dates, but delivering only two. What good is a coupon for more free dates if you can’t get the number you were originally promised?

Here are the most common complaints about online dating sites:

  • Online dating services normally require a specific length of membership and charge a monthly fee. The contract is typically renewed automatically when it expires. As a result, about two-thirds (63.7 percent) of the complaints against online dating sites are about accounts being automatically renewed following the end of a contract or trial period. Either the customer didn’t realize they needed to take steps to cancel the account, or they did take the necessary steps but billing continued anyway.

  • Other common complaints for online dating services include the inability to immediately cancel after signing up (6.8 percent), general dissatisfaction with the company and its process (6.8 percent), and the practice of the company contacting other singles on behalf of the complainant (6.3 percent).

The takeaway? There must be a better way.

February 13, 2008