I didn't realise there were restrictions on who enters chat. I do think the site should do more to facilitate initial contact between non paying members, who may then be tempted to upgrade to take things further, e.g. a limited number of messages per day - maybe 5?
But if we can't make contact that way, it leaves blogs, forums and chat. Blogs don't have a presence on the menu bar. Nobody goes looking for them. People are using the forums to message each other, irrespective of the initial subject of the thread.
As for the chat room, I've posted about this on another thread about them, so as regards dates and times, I think that's a great way to encourage cliques to develop.
Apart from the problem, mentioned elsewhere, of different time zones, who plans their internet time? I use sites like this to kill time. I may pop in at noon, I may pop in at 4 am. If I go into a chatroom, it's spontaneous, not by appointment.
To all those who are bemoaning the lack of people in the chatrooms I say practise what you preach. Use it or lose it.