They say the key to success is sincerity—once you can fake that, you've got it made. I recently encountered a great example of badly faked sincerity: pickup cards. Now, there's nothing wrong with chatting up chance-met hotties, provided you exercise some couth. But any hint of a standardized script is dating death, and these cards are like the robocalls of flirtation. The card- carrier signs up with a website—like Cheek'd, FlipMe, or Greenlight—pays a fee, and creates a profile. They get a package of cards with a "clever" line, a web address, and a unique code number. The idea is to give them to attractive strangers. Recipients go to the URL, look up the user, and contact him/her—or not.

I'm thinking not is more common. All dating gimmicks are, well, gimmicky. But I find this one rather creepy. Maybe it's the lines on them, which range from overly cutesy to overly slutty. Some Cheek'd cards read like unintentional parody: "I don't give these to everyone" and "Feel free to stalk me." FlipMe says: "I play games. It's your move." Great! Thanks for the warning, bunny-boiler! Greenlight—perhaps sensing a niche into which it can slide—errs in the other direction. "The person who presented you with this card felt some chemistry. If interested, please proceed to and enter their member number (below) to get their contact info. #JYR2617." Wow, that would intrigue me. If I were a Vulcan. With Asperger's syndrome.

Or maybe it's the advertising that suggests one wouldn't hand the card to people directly, but instead leave it somewhere where they'll discover it later. The phrase "secret admirer" is used more than once. I strongly doubt anyone attractive enough to receive such a card will find the idea of being ogled by an unseen stranger alluring. I polled my female pals, who agreed. "Some guy left this in my purse or next to my drink? I wouldn't date him, I'd take out a restraining order." My straight male buddies were equally scornful. "If a woman gave me one of these, I'd think it was weird and stalker-y. And a guy using them is lame. You might as well just print 'I'm a loser who anticipates rejection' on them."

For a pickup attempt to charm your object of desire, you must create a sense of "I normally don't do this, but I feel something magic between us." If it's security you want, create a separate account on a social networking site—don't use your real/full name anywhere on it—and get cards with that URL and e-mail. Extra win: a cool headshot on the card. But it must look like something you'd give a platonic new acquaintance. Planning a sincerely romantic moment with someone you haven't met yet is a delicate matter, and it must be pulled off perfectly. Because when it comes to romance, nobody wants someone who's obviously faking that moment of sweet connection. recommended