SARASOTA, Fla. — For Janis Smyly, life is good for her and her schnauzer, Reese. But she wanted more.
At her age, she knows what she wants and does not and was willing to spend thousands to find the right partner.
“I was looking for someone I could enjoy my time with, talk to and watch the same news channels with," Smyly said. "I Googled online dating for Democrats or liberals and Sarasota Singles came up and it said, ‘Yeah, we're here for you.'”
She set up an interview with the matchmaking company and liked what they had to say. Her hopes were high.
“I signed up with it. It was, 'Sign up today for bargain rate of $7,995,'” Smyly said.
The first date wasn’t a match and neither was guy No. 2. He smoked. She did not. He was older and lived too far away. She says her matches were missing the mark. That was last July.
She then left town for six weeks and says she called Sarasota Singles when she got back.
“That was right after Labor Day last year. I didn’t hear anything until October. And at that point, I called customer service and they told me the company has been sold,” Smyly said.
Now, it’s called Suncoast Introductions. It was a new company, but she says after speaking with them about a possible match, she had the same result.
“I said, 'Do we know what his political feelings are?' She said, 'Let me call him,' and she did,” Smyly said.
When the employee called her back, she was told that the possible match had different political views.
“I said nope. I am not starting a relationship with someone with opposite political views," Smyly said. "That’s why I paid the money because they were going to get you with somebody compatible.”
She did not go on that date -- she was done. Smyly said she felt she wasn’t getting what she paid for.
“I said I’d like a refund, prorated is fine you set me up on a few dates. They put me off and said that’s not going to happen,” Smyly said.
It turns out she’s not the only one asking for a refund. The company whom she signed a contract with was owned by Romance Pros. According to the Better Business Bureau, 23 complaints have been filed against them in the last 36 months. Romance Pros also owned other matchmaking companies, including Naples Singles and Tampa Singles.
Romance Pros was ordered to pay more than $21,000 in restitution and fees to consumers in 2012 by the Attorney General.
When we reached out to Romance Pros, a spokesperson from Suncoast Introductions returned our call because Romance Pros sold some of their assets to Suncoast and none of their contracts.
When it comes to Smyly, the company told us:
“To be clear, as a courtesy, Suncoast Introductions provides matchmaking services to Ms. Smyly, and since she is NOT a member of Suncoast Introductions and never paid Suncoast any fees for Matchmaking Services, Suncoast is not obliged to provide Ms. Smyly a refund.”
They also tell us that “Suncoast matched her again in February 2019, but she never responded to the matchmakers call. Thus, Suncoast placed Ms. Smyly’s services on “Hold” pending communication from Ms. Smyly. Suncoast Introductions will gladly resume providing matching services on Ms. Smyly’s behalf upon her request."
Smyly says she does not want any more matches.
She also says that she did not research Sarasota Singles or Romance Pros before signing her contract.
And that’s the No. 1 thing the Better Business Bureau says to do when and if you are thinking about using a dating service.
Do Your Research. Talk to friends, family members, and neighbors for recommendations of reputable dating services in your area. Read Business Profiles on bbb.org and make sure the business you are considering does not have any unanswered/unresolved complaints. Check the company’s website to become familiar with the business. See if the company has a satisfaction guaranteed policy and understand the details of the policy.
Determine What You Are Looking For. Before you start looking for a dating service, it's important to decide what you're looking for in a relationship. Whether you are looking for casual companionship or a relationship that will potentially lead to marriage may affect which dating service you choose.
Determine Who You Are Looking For. Know what's important to you in a potential match and what qualities you are looking for in a partner. Ask yourself how important it is that a date lives locally. Make a list of priorities to help narrow down your search since dating services are designed to meet specific factors.
Compare Pricing/Services. Decide on a monthly budget you are willing to spend for a dating service. Compare prices and what’s included in the membership to find the best value for your money. Many sites offer a free trial to test out their services before purchasing. Although there are free dating sites, spending a little extra money can be worth the cost for the added benefits of a premium service.
Be Cautious. When meeting a date, be sure to do so in a public place and that someone knows where you are and who you are meeting. Although most people join dating sites with the intention of finding a relationship, some are using love to scam other users. Be wary of people who insist on leaving the dating site and using personal email, profess their love immediately, say they live in the U.S. but are currently overseas, or cancel a date because of a traumatic event or bad business deal. Scammers may ask you to wire money for travel, medical emergencies, hotel, and hospital expenses for their family members, visas and other documents, or temporary money setbacks.
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