Elena's Models - Review

Anyone who has been a reader of my site prior to August 2014 knows that I have always recommended Elena's Models (www.elenasmodels.com) very highly. They were simply the best service available in the industry and had the best reputation even among the harshest critics.

Elena's Models used to be the best on several fronts: (a) Anti-Scam, (b) size of database, (c) "realness" of the Russian women users, (d) site function/design/features, (e) price.

Many of these qualities may still exist, with the most notable exception of "D" (site function/design/features). They had a major site "upgrade" released on June 1, 2014, and in my opinion, since this "upgrade" it has been downhill ever since.

Naturally a guy who builds a site like this about "Meeting Russian Women" accumulates a number of friends and acquaintances along the way who somehow interact with the world of foreign dating. And of all such friends and acquaintances, many who have had exposure to Elena's Models, none of them like the new site. NONE.

Now mind you, that may only be a sample size of 8, but what they say mirrors my own observations: that features didn't work, the site is slow and glitchy, pictures didn't display correctly, members who had "Gold" membership status lost this status, for some members whose "Gold" status was restored, their previous unused credits were still not restored, etc. (see EM - Review Evidence for documentation)

Some of these issues may have been fixed since the release, but not all. And many other bugs - many of them small but irritating - remain. In summary, NO ONE LIKES THE NEW SITE -- at least no one I have heard from.

Maybe all their issues will be worked out in the weeks, months, and years to come, but unfortunately I'm not optimistic. Whoever is managing and executing their I.T. operations just doesn't seem up to the task, in my opinion.

Previously I gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed that they were still a decent and honest business, but their recent "upgrade" has definitely taken them out of position of industry leader, and even more recent actions have made me seriously question the integrity and character of Elena's Models management. You will probably see the reason for this by reading EM - Review Evidence (but read the rest of this page first or it won't make much sense).

Ownership Change?

I have heard speculation that Elena's Models' ownership and/or management has changed. And I must say it made sense. I even suspected it myself initially.

But on July 30, 2014 they sent an announcement to users denouncing rumors that the business was under new ownership and claiming that Elena (the founder and namesake of the Elena's Models) is still the "sole owner and contributing head".

Well, depending on what they mean by "contributing head" this may be true, but in October 2012 Elena sent an email to all Elena's Models users explaining her "new passion" for fashion. She talked about her history of involvement in the international dating arena and the founding of EM, and then after basically saying she had given the dating business enough of her life she said "but since recently I have not been involved that much with the dating industry..."

So by her own explicit admission in late 2012 she had stepped away from involvement in the dating industry (presumably including her dating website business). And it seems fair to interpret that her withdrawal from the dating industry started some time prior to this announcement ("since recently").

This is not a criticism of Elena. Interests change. But maybe it's not an accident that I started observing what seemed to be a declined in service quality.

For example, prior to that Elena's Models offered an "Individual Search" service. Basically the service involved someone from Elena's Model's staff really working with you personally to help you find and meet your special Russian/Ukrainian lady. It was a little expensive, but to have a hands-on personal guide through the whole process was probably worth it, especially if the guide was very good.

But in 2011 a reader of my site wrote me reporting that he had attempted to inquire about Elena's Models' "Individual Search", but received no reply. Imagine that... The service was offered on the site, but would-be customers couldn't get a reply to inquiries.

So I wrote to them and asked. Essentially the answer was something like "Oh, yeah, the Individual Search is a very involved process and right now we're at our capacity and cannot take on any new clients for that service". I wrote them back suggesting that if they advertised this service on their site (which they no longer do), and there was a demand for it, then they should try to increase their capacity to handle the additional demand (makes sense, doesn't it? :-) I received no reply to that suggestion. (see EM - Review Evidence for documentation)

And then there's the matter of profile screening. At least as I understood it, the Elena's Models policy was that they screened all female applicants. But starting sometime between 2010 and 2012 (approximately when Elena announced that she had lost interest) women applicants didn't seem to be as carefully screened. Maybe there was no change, but I know several Russian/Ukrainian women who assured me that they signed up on Elena's Models with no useful validation... Usually just a call asking "Is your name Natalia?", "How old are you?", etc. In all fairness, that may be more validation than many sites do, but it's not exactly infallible, and scammers have made it through that screening.

Then a reader of my site contacted me informing me that had been scammed out of some $17000 or so by a woman he met on Elena's Models. He forwarded me scanned copies of his "Internet Crime Complaint" form filed here in the U.S. and his letters written to the prosecutor's offices of Kiev and Kherson. See EM - Review Evidence for documentation.

I have no doubt that Elena's Models investigates reports of scams and removes scammers when they are found. I'm only saying here that the screening is fairly light, and not always very effective.

So what does all this mean? Simply this... and this is just my speculation... From sometime around the founding of Elena's Models till around 2010-2012 they seemed serious about their founding vision because Elena was on the scene providing direction and leadership.

When Elena announced her loss of interest she probably farmed out the operation of her site to people who didn't truly share her core convictions, and consequently many of her values vacated the scene with her. They stopped screening new applicants as carefully, they stopped providing the more labor-intensive services, and helpdesk responses to inquiries were less helpful, etc. See EM - Review Evidence for documentation of this fact.

About the helpdesk, Elena's Models' helpdesk is still the only helpdesk I've ever contacted who told me that the problem was on my end and that I should find a computer-knowledgeable friend help me (I've been a web/software developer for 18 years!)

This is a help desk who, when I reported that I received "Page Not Found" errors ALL day, although I was able to reach all other websites as usual (demonstrating that my system and network were running fine), replied saying "Hi Bob, Thank you for your message. It's very strange - working fine at my end. Warm regards".

Maybe these negative experiences just coincidentally started around the time Elena announced her loss of interest and withdrawal from involvement, or maybe they were always like this but I didn't notice. Whatever the case, it isn't top notch like I remember it.

But whether or not there is new ownership or new management doesn't really matter. And it doesn't matter whose fault it is that the site has become such a mess. What does matter is that the site was good, now it is a mess, and there's no end in sight.