Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dissatisfied client sues dating service

Her experience with a Schaumburg-based dating service last year left Galina Safir irate instead of in love.

Safir said she agreed to pay Soulmates Inc. $4,000 to be matched with men who, like her, were Russian, Jewish and no older than 52.

Instead, the potential mates she received referrals for were anything but, Safir alleges in a lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County. Safir, who could not be reached for comment, is suing Soulmates for a full refund, saying the company misled her.

But Soulmates tells a different story. Marcia Engel, the company's membership service director, said Safir did not state her preference for a Jewish man of European descent until a month after she signed a contract for 36 referrals in January 2005.

"She had an age preference . . . [but] her profile card stated that she was open to any religion," Engel said, adding that Soulmates does not include nationality on its list of client preferences.

Soulmates calls suit 'ridiculous'

Soulmates gave Safir, then 49, a total of 10 referrals for men matching her profile, and she agreed to meet with two. The first was 53 years old and Jewish, while the second man, a 47-year-old, was not Jewish, Engel said.

The lawsuit doesn't give specifics about the men Safir was set up with, but it argues that Soulmates violated the Illinois Dating Services Act by not giving Safir a full refund when it failed to find her a suitable match.

Soulmates director Tracy Choubmesser called the lawsuit "ridiculous."

"It's to our benefit to match people as soon as possible," she said.

'There are no guarantees'

In the past year, the Better Business Bureau of Northern Illinois has received 251 complaints against dating services, spokesman Steve Bernas said. Twenty-two percent of those complaints were against Soulmates, but the company, which says it has thousands of clients, is in good standing with the bureau.

Bernas said dating services get their share of complaints because they can't always provide what customers expect -- true love.

"The company's not going to create somebody for you," he said. "Consumers need to understand that you're taking a chance; there are no guarantees, no matter what the salespeople tell you."

At the same time, dating services protect themselves with iron-clad contracts that often leave unhappy clients without a leg to stand on in court when things don't work out, Bernas said.

That's why it's critical for would-be dating service clients to read the fine print before signing a contract and paying hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

The Illinois Dating Services Act gives clients three days to back out of a contract before the terms become legally binding.

Google News