By Graig Graziosi
Like most other facets of human interaction, the pursuit of affection and romance has moved almost entirely from the analog world to the digital realm.
Tinder, Grindr, Hinge, Bumble and numerous other apps offer seemingly limitless pools of potential partners, so long as the one seeking love is willing to spend hours swiping through fake profiles and dodging a deluge of creeps, weirdos and unsolicited nude photos.
John Schmutzer, a local man who grew tired of an online dating scene he saw as dystopian at best, is hoping to find success – and, for his clients, love, or at least a good time – through his new company, a real-world dating service called Fix Me Up.
Schmutzer’s business, located at 7536 Market St., occupies a space somewhere between dating apps and high-priced matchmaking services. The failures he perceived in both industries was the spark he needed to start his business.
“Five years ago, I used those websites. They were terrible,” Schmutzer said. “I drove to Pittsburgh and Cleveland twice a week and would hear ads for an in-person matchmaking service that has locations nationwide. I went in for a consultation and their services cost up to thousands of dollars – the kind of money you’d pay to retain a lawyer. I was considering joining, but ultimately it didn’t make sense to me to pay thousands of dollars to date,” Schmutzer said.
He assumed he wasn’t the only one to walk out of a match-making service due to their prices.
“I figured there were other people like me out there; good candidates for a dating service, but who weren’t rich enough – or desperate enough – to pay that kind of money for what is essentially an entertainment service,” he said. “That’s really when I came up with the business model.”
Schmutzer argues that both men and women have been disserved by online dating.
“For men, it’s hard because there’s a lot of fake accounts on those sites that might be scammers or people playing around, and they cause you to waste your time,” Schmutzer said. “For women, they end up dealing with a lot of creeps through online dating. Then they’ll be flooded with hundreds of messages, so they get overwhelmed and end up sorting through all kinds of garbage.”
Heres how the service works; first, a prospective dater will physically go into Fix Me Up’s office and do an in-person interview.
The interview will include a questionnaire that outlines important aspects of a person’s history and their romantic deal breakers – political preferences, whether you can tolerate smoking, if you have children or have a past marriage, for example – and complete a list of things you’d like to have in a potential mate.
Then Schmutzer and his operations manager, Carrie Hotrum, examine the questionnaire and their own notes from the interview and set up dates between candidates they believe might be compatible.
Where the service most noticeably diverts from online dating is the participants don’t actually see one another until they meet for a date, in-person.
“A lot of these dating websites are essentially the same as autotrader.com. You’re judging pictures. It’s weird to say good things about yourself in that forum and sell yourself. It’s an awkward, strange thing,” Schmutzer said.
Though Schmutzer doesn’t have any formal credentials qualifying him to play matchmaker, he says it isn’t an issue.
“Those big matchmaking companies that people pay thousands of dollars for have no credentials, either. It’s ultimately an entertainment service, and that’s how we market it. There’s no licensing or credentials you can get to do this. We’re here to have fun and help our clients meet new people,” he said.
The service will work similar to a gym membership, with six-month subscriptions that Schmutzer says will be “slightly more expensive than online dating.”
Schmutzer gave the example of eHarmony, which charges $40 per month for six-month subscriptions.
To ensure people get their money’s worth for his service, Schmutzer said new clients will have a five-date guarantee; if they don’t get five dates in the first six months, they can stay in the program without having to pay a renewal until they do.
The service is open to women 18 and older and men 21 and older – Schmutzer says the age difference is due to the fact that men between 18 and 21 likely aren’t mature enough for the service, nor does he think many of them would be interested – but it’s not for everyone.
Schmutzer says people who live very specific lifestyles – such as individuals who enjoy raising dozens of animals, or people whose lives revolve around fitness, tattoos or any other niche lifestyle choices – would likely be better served using a service that targets that community directly.
For everyone else, however, Schmutzer thinks Fix Me Up can do the job.
“If you’re a busy working adult, at some point you just get sick of this, so when you come to us we say we’ll handle all of the work, you just go on the dates,” Schmutzer said.
Fix Me Up is currently accepting clients. More information can be found at fixmeup.fun.