June 20, 2011 at 9:06 AM ET
A dating website that caters specifically to individuals deemed "attractive" by their peers recently dumped about 30,000 members because, it claims, they were only granted access to the service due to a rather peculiar virus — and not because they met a standard of "beauty."
The Guardian reports that BeautifulPeople.com suspects that the so-called "Shrek" virus was planted by a disgruntled former employee, but there appears to be no evidence to back up this claim. No matter how the issue was caused, according to Greg Hodge — the site's managing director — it somehow "affected the software that existing members use to rate prospective new entrants."
As a result, BeautifulPeople.com was forced to send devastating emails to the individuals who slipped through the usually ruthless admission process before the issue was noticed:
[Hodge] attempted to placate the rejects. "I sent them all a very carefully worded email, trying to be as sensitive as possibly," he said. "But naturally many of them are finding it a bit of a sting to have been rated beautiful by their peers only to lose the accolade overnight." The company has paid out $112,500 in refunds to 4,500 of the 30,000 who had paid $25 a month for membership of the site. The others were still on a free trial period.
We're not sure whether to laugh or cry as Hodge stumbles over his words while explaining and justifying his actions. The Guardian quotes him as calling the rejected members "no oil painting," while making remarks such as "we have to stick to our founding principles of only accepting beautiful people — that's what our members have paid for [...] we can't just sweep 30,000 ugly people under the carpet."
Almost makes you hope that this whole virus and ban story is part of some kind of elaborate publicity stunt, doesn't it? No? Well, see how you feel after reading remarks supposedly provided by a rejected BeautifulPeople.com member:
Rachel Godfrey, a 31-year-old Australian nanny living in LA, said she received an email telling her she was rejected two weeks after being accepted. "I was getting on really well with this American guy and we were going to go on a date and then they said I'd been chucked off and they locked me out of the site," she said. "Now I can't get in touch with him."
Godfrey said she is planning to have a makeover and professional photo shoot before reapplying to the website. "What if he's the one? This is [the] only way I'll be able to get in touch with him," she said. "If that doesn't work I'll see what I can do with Photoshop."
Update: Looks like we're not the only ones who are wondering if BeautifulPeople.com is simply pulling off a bizarre publicity stunt. The folks at Sophos pointed out one rather big hole in the story the site is telling:
The website explains that it hasn't needed to inform any computer security firms about the malware as it is being "investigated internally", and a "former employee.. placed the virus before leaving the team" and "despite wreaking havoc with the application process, member privacy and security was never breached."
Phew! So, lots of publicity for the website but nothing for current or future members to worry about then. How convenient.
Of course, there's no real proof regarding the authenticity of the story one way or the other — but just like Sophos, we'll continue to maintain our skepticism.