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Since I’ve been dating for about 20 years now (aside from my married years) and half of those have been spent with online dating, I consider myself an expert. I’ve been on just about every dating website out there today. In a series of blogs I’m going to review the most popular dating websites. I will be rating everything from the quality of people on them, user functionality, free versus paid sites and also steps how to remove your profile.

These sites make it very tricky for you to remove your profile once you decide it’s not for you. They pride themselves on how many users they have. So removing your profile will pull their stats down and thus they make it extremely difficult and sometimes nearly impossible.

The first site I’m reviewing is Plenty of Fish. This is a very popular dating website. They claim to have more dates, more relationships and more visits than any other site. This partially could be true because it ‘s one of the rare sites that is 100% free. Other sites claim to be free, such as Zoosk, yet after you create a profile that’s it. You can’t do anything else. To me that’s not free. Instead, it’s just a bait and switch, which really ticks me off.

As of right now (7/18/2012 at 2:51pm EST), Plenty of Fish claims to have 386,846 users online. That’s quite substantial. You can pay to be a gold member and unlock more features, yet the free version is enough to be able to create a profile, upload pictures and communicate with users. I really don’t see a point in paying for it.

Another good point of this site – other than it being 100 percent free – is the functionality. They must make enough from all the advertising to pay someone to program the software because it functions well. The ads across the top are annoying, yet if you can get past that it’s fine. This site also has the best instant message that I have seen so far. It actually works when you send a message. You can chat pretty easily online with someone and with multiple people at once. The only thing I wish they would improve is to have an alert noise when you receive a message. If you minimize the IM window and go back to check your e-mail, you aren’t aware if the person responds.

The blocking feature works well and is easy to use. If you get a nasty message from someone, right in the e-mail at the bottom is the option to block someone. I like that. It’s easy to see new messages that you have since they are in grey. Once you read it, that line goes white. You can also change your settings to filter out who can e-mail you which is handy. For example, I don’t want anyone e-mailing me without a photo. I have mine on there, they know what I look like and I want to know what users e-mailing me look like.

Plenty of Fish has introduced “Hook-a Fish” meet-ups. I have yet to attend one, so I am not sure how those operate. I may attend one in the near future and write a review about it. Also included in the free portion of the site, you can see who has viewed your profile, add favorite profiles and fill out the chemistry questionnaire. I have not completed the chemistry questionnaire portion of the site. I don’t really believe in a computer actually being able to tell you if you’re compatible with someone. Chemistry is something you can only evaluate in person not by answering questions on a computer.

POF also has a free mobile app which I have used on the iPhone. It’s fairly user friendly. The only bugs I have noticed is if I’m out and about and type a lengthy response, half the time it times out and says it cannot connect to the servers and then logs me out. That is annoying because now I have lost my entire e-mail. If I log back in, it’s completely erased and I have to write it all over again. Most the time I don’t even bother, so some guys might get the crappy end of the deal here. Not because I didn’t want to respond, but the app lost connection and I don’t have time to retype e-mails five times.

Other times I have responded to multiple e-mails and then I don’t get a response. Once I log into the website on my laptop, I look and it says the message was never sent, which is definitely annoying. I got into the habit of reading the e-mails on my iPhone then responding when I had the proper time and Internet connection to. If you do read your e-mails on the app, it will reflect that in the website when you log in.

The only downfall to this site being free is that it attracts anyone and everyone. With paid sites you can usually weed out the people who are just joking around and not serious about finding a relationship. I do consider Plenty of Fish the Wal-Mart of dating sites.  Walk into a Wal-Mart and those are the guys that are on this dating site. Why? Because it’s free!

I admit, I go to Wal-Mart too because I want to save money on my groceries. Low prices attract ALL kinds of people. You’re going to have your white trash, the mom with eight kids, the single parent, the collage partier, the divorcee and everything in-between. Just like at Ross, there are some great discount deals on Ralph Lauren shirts, but you have to carefully weed through all the junk to find them. I’m all about finding a diamond in the rough, so I guess I don’t mind this challenge. If you want your perfect man handed to you on a platter, POF probably isn’t the site for you. It takes a lot of time to filter out through all the e-mails to find a decent guy. Trust me, they are out there, but you need to be prepared for what else you’ll encounter.

I’ve received e-mails from guys looking for a booty call and saying nasty things to kids just joking around. It’s all a numbers game. Especially if you’re reasonably attractive girl, you’re going to get tons of emails. It’s best to establish a strategy. I only e-mail back to about 25 percent of the messages I receive. There’s no way I could respond to everyone even if I wanted to. I set up a filter, which included the top five things I’m looking for in a man. If the profile doesn’t match, next! I’ll decide within two minutes if I’m going to respond or not, quick and to the point.

When you’ve found your perfect chicken of the sea and want to delete your profile from Plenty of Fish. You will need to follow these steps:

1)      Log into your account

2)      Click the Help Button

3)      Select Delete Account (it is located in the 4th box down from the top)

4)      Scroll to the middle of the screen and it gives you options to hide, delete, upgrade, etc.

5)      If you choose to “Hide” your profile, it takes you to another screen, and then you need to select “click here” here under Edit Profile tab.

6)      If you choose to delete your profile, it will take you to another screen where you have to enter your username and password to officially delete it from the site.

In conclusion, I would give Plenty of Fish a 7 out of 10 stars. The overall site functions very well, which I like. The app could use some adjusting. The people on there? Well, like I said, it’s definitely an online Wal-Mart. Take from it what you can. Remember, it’s free! Don’t get upset by weirdos, losers and others that are on there to serve as a nuisance. Block them and move on, and with a little patience, eventually you’ll come across your pearl in the ocean.

Tara Richter

Tara Richter is an Internet Dating Coach in Tampa Bay. She is the author of “The Dating Jungle Series” and an Internet TV Show Host.