Important Consumer Protection Information
(Information you should be aware of if
your are looking for a date or a mate)
dating or “introduction” services,
reputation is everything. But even with
plenty of members, the companies can’t
perform miracles. On average, only 15%
of dating agency customers succeed in
finding a spouse. Perhaps more important
when considering a dating company is its
philosophy. Some rely on people to make
matches, some rely on computers and some
let members do the matching through
videos and profiles. Each approach has
its pros and cons. Dating firms charge
from $300 to $10,000 for their services,
and there are no guarantees.
companies are often short-lived, so be
wary of startups. Roughly half listed
in the Yellow Pages are out of business
the next year, or have disconnected
phone numbers. Despite the attrition
rate, the dating service industry is a
crowded field, and each company tries to
distinguish itself with a gimmick;
computer matching, videos, computer
matching and videos, psychological
counseling, professional clientele only,
etc. The important distinction, though,
is a simple one – size of the company.
Potential customers should be prepared
for aggressive sales tactics, because
representatives are often paid on
commission. The pitch may include a lot
of flattery, assurances that many
members will want to date you, and a
hefty “discount” up to $300 to $900 off
the standard price if you join the first
day you come in.
generally agreed that consumers should
use the following precautions when
thinking about signing up for dating
of services that cannot give you prices
over the phone because they have so many
a service that does NOT sell long-term
for a service with a membership that is
kept balanced for age and gender.
to see that the same person that
interviews does the matches.
find a reasonably priced service, a few
things to look for include the
following: a) a service that covers a
local area only, b) non-franchise
(franchises have overhead and royalties
and large advertising/marketing costs to
pay, costs that are passed on to the
customer.), c) no commissioned sales
reps and no telemarketing teams, d) no
constant mailings to your address (some
services mail to entire zip codes, costs
that are passed to the customer), e)
offices so plush and large that you know
you’re going to be paying for the costly
Better Business Bureau suggests
investigating several services and
reading their contracts carefully before
spending any money. In most of the
complaints received about dating
services, the consumer is at fault
because he or she did not thoroughly
read the contract.
Industry Code of Ethics
1998, there was only one trade
association representing this industry,
The International Society of
Introduction Services (ISIS), West
Hills, CA. This small organization only
represented about 60 dating services and
was one of the few organizations that
attempted to collect any kind of
statistics and to survey the industry.
ISIS was basically a one- person
operation that had limited success
recruiting members at $350 apiece.
Nevertheless, its Director, Patricia
Moore, was a very good source for
information and for referrals to other
key people in the industry.
Moore in past years operated a dating
service herself, The Patricia Moore
Group, based in San Francisco. A 1992
American Demographics article
claimed that her company had a
wealthier, older client base. Fees
started at a hefty $5,000 and the
average income of clients was $84,000
for women and $134,000 for men. The
majority of 70% of members were in their
30s and 40s, but a relatively large
share of 28% was age 50 and older.
developed guidelines of conduct for
dating services. For example, each ISIS
member had to:
Comply with the spirit as well as the
letter of all local, state and national
Maintain the highest standards of truth
and fair dealing in all business
practices, advertising, public relations
and promotional activities
Provide clients requesting a contract
with a complete, straightforward and
understandable written agreement prior
to commencement of services.
Provide services that always fully meet
or exceed any pre-sales representations
made to clients.
Refrain from making any statements about
competitive services except those that
are accurate and verifiable.
Attempt to resolve promptly all disputes
with fairness and sincerity and to honor
a client’s request for arbitration.
Maintain strict confidentiality of all
client records and information unless
otherwise specifically authorized by the
Maintain a pricing structure that is
always reasonable and appropriate to the
level, quality, duration and respective
value of the provided service.
Recognize a client’s right to a
personal, supportive and professional
Refrain from placing prospective
clients under pressure and respect their
desire to make an unhurried decision to
join the service.
In addition, the following list of
questions was recommended for consumers
who request information about
to ask when shopping for an introduction
you a member of the Better Business
Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce?
many years have you been in business?
many clients do you have in my desired
age range and gender?
What statistical information do you have
about your client base?
What is your rate of success? How do
you define success?
What geographical areas do you serve?
is the background of the principal of
What is the membership fee?
the first consultation/interview
May I have references from someone
with my demographic characteristics?
there a contract available? May I have
a sample contract?
How many matches are promised and
over what period of time?
for matchmaking services:
Does the person who interviews me also
do my matchmaking for me?
the matchmaking service proactive or
must I call to ask for an introduction?
I have the right to decline an
for video dating services:
there additional fees for photographs or
What are the days and hours that I may
have access to client profiles and
frequently is your database purged for
clients who are no longer available?
for computer dating services:
many listings will I receive in my
desired age range and gender?
Will I automatically receive updated
lists? How frequently are these issued?
frequently is your database purged of
clients who are no longer available?
Possible reasons why ISIS was NOT
successful in recruiting many members
include not only resistance to paying
the fee, but that many services simply
can’t meet the stringent guidelines
above. Many don’t want to be
fair to the public, and prefer to use
underhanded tactics to get as much money
as possible from clients.
Problems with Formal
“Marriage Market Intermediaries” (MMIs)
the number, variety, and size of MMI’s
has increased dramatically in the past
15 years, their success has been
limited. The only independently
confirmed data on the success rate of an
MMI come from Adelman and Ahuvia (1995)
where 10% of the respondents reported
developing a long-term romantic
relationship with someone they met
through the service, and less than half
of these relationships are expected to
end in marriage.
moderate, but still perhaps optimistic
assertion comes from Gentlepeople, a
large matchmaking firm that claims a 30%
marriage rate (Butterfield, 1984).
Significantly more modest figures come
from Great Expectations, the nation’s
largest video dating franchise, which
claims over 10,000 marriages and lists
around 45,000 current members (Larson
1987). This allows us to compute a
maximum marriage rate of 15%, but this
is necessarily an overestimation because
it does not figure in all ex-members,
who are excluded from the current
seems reasonable to conclude that a well
run formal MMI can have a marriage rate
of between 10% and 20%. This leaves us
asking the question, what happened to
the other 80% to 90%?
Industry Troubles and Resulting Actions
According to PR Newswire (August 1997),
Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike
Fisher sued an Erie, New York dating
service on behalf of consumers. The
suit charged that
deceptive and misleading verbal and
written statements concerning the
company’s ability to screen and
match each consumer with a
compatible customer of the dating
consumers with referrals who did not
meet the qualifications and physical
traits identified by the customers.
represented to consumers that
discounts were “one time only” in
order to induce them to purchase
consumers that a referral did not
count unless the referral resulted
in a date, when in fact the written
contract stated that the receipt of
a referral entitled Together Dating
Service to keep the entire
membership fee regardless of whether
a date resulted; and
a liquidation clause in its contract
which required members to pay one
half the total membership price even
if the member canceled the agreement
prior to receiving his or her first
attorney general said the membership fee
typically ranged from $1,495 for six
referrals to $2,995 for 30 referrals.
According to The Buffalo News
(February 1998) a dating service accused
of failing to match clients with similar
types of people and refusing to give
refunds was ordered to pay nearly
$40,000 in restitution. The order
against Together of Upstate New York was
made by state Attorney General Dennis
Vacco. Together and its owner, Jeffrey
Pappas, had to pay $38,754 to 46
According to a Newsday article, a
former employee of a dating provided a
look into the questionable tactics
frequently found in this business: “I
used to work for one as a “relationship
counselor….First of all, some of these
services don’t screen potential clients,
even though they claim to. They accept
anyone who spends the money (usually
hundreds of dollars) to join. Such
services don’t check backgrounds; they
just accept what they are told. Most
people misrepresent themselves, so the
clients don’t meet “compatible” people.”
for the counselors, some weren’t even
interested in serving the customers.
They were really salespeople who were
supposed to get as much money as they
could from potential clients. The
service I worked for matched people with
anyone, counselors didn’t care who was
set up with whom, and neither did
According to the Wall Street Journal
(January 1997) Great Expectations
in Houston Texas solicits members
through direct mail, telemarketing and
infomercials. Houston’s Better Business
Bureau accepts and investigates
complaints about any business, but it
denies membership to dating services,
credit repair operations, pay-in-advance
modeling agencies and other types of
businesses that it considers to have too
many suspect companies.
of the complaints, says Don Parsons, a
government and public affairs vice
president at the BBB, come from people
who say they were told by salespeople
that a quoted price would be good only
if they signed up that day, and who
incorrectly believed or hoped they could
get a refund within a day or two if they
changed their minds. Some were confused
about whether the law would allow them
to back out; others simply hoped Great
Expectations would cut them a break, if
only to maintain goodwill.
prices paid by consumers who complained
to the BBB ranged from about $1,800 to
$3,500 for a three year contract.
Today, the more consumer-oriented
services conduct themselves differently
than other services in order to reduce
consumer complaints, while increasing
long-term financial success.