Money can’t buy you love
Money can’t buy you love. Or can it? This is something I will discuss in this blog.
I read an article in The Telegraph Money about a retired barrister, Mrs Brock, who paid £6595 to a dating agency in London. She claimed to have met only one man over two years.
As I am in this industry I read the article with interest. The agency in question is not some fly-by-night one. In fact, they have been well established for some twenty-eight years, with a proven track record of creating many happy relationships.
Mrs Brock’s Claims:
Mrs Brock was 61 when she paid for her membership with the agency. She was hoping to meet a man no older than 65, who was active, an educated professional and if divorced he should be so with a clean break. A clean break divorce is a settlement with no financial ties with an ex, so all properties are sold, pensions divided, there are no periodical payments and both parties have a share of the liquidated assets.
She claims to have met only one man in two years with the agency and she said he resembled Donald Trump.
After no success Mrs Brock was advised to have some professional photography by her agency consultant and to curtail some details in her profile so as not to intimidate potential suitors.
She claims that the men suggested did not suit her criteria. She requested a refund which initially was refused but was later given a full refund.
The Agency’s Response:
The agency said that Mrs Brock was offered over sixty profiles in two years, that’s one every twelve days. Out of sixty profiles shown to Mrs Brock she only opted to meet nine. And out of the nine she chose, only one male client agreed to meet her in return.
The agency said they advised her to be more flexible with her “extremely stringent criteria”. They eventually refunded Mrs Brock in full.
Client’s Expectations and Criteria
As I read through the article, the first question that popped into my head was, had this client’s expectations been set right from the start? Was she given a realistic chance of her success given her criteria and age?
It’s difficult for me to answer the above questions on behalf of the agency without being in possession of their consultation notes and being present during any meetings with Mrs Brock. However, there are always two sides to any story which is something I learned whilst serving as a police detective. You don’t know the truth because you weren’t there. People will sometimes tell you what they want you to hear and hold certain things back, which assists their case or undermines the case of the other party.
What I can tell you though is how we manage peoples’ expectations and criteria. Right from the initial contact a person makes with us, we are ‘testing’ them to see if our service is right for them. If someone comes to us with unrealistic expectations and a strict list of criteria we ask them how important all of this is to them. We are not expecting anyone to lower their standards but if someone is specifying an exact height, age, hair colour, size of hands (oh yes, someone specified a hand size) then we will tell them that we cannot create someone just for them. Usually when we discuss criteria with someone they will say certain things are not so important. Finding someone lovely is what they really want and not a made-up person that does not exist.
If, however they are steadfast in wanting perfection with their list of must-haves then we will tell them that such a thing does not exist, it’s likely to be impossible for us to help them therefore, we cannot offer them a membership with us. We simply will not take on someone we believe will be difficult to match for whatever reason. It’s not fair to them and it’s a headache for us.
Was Mrs Brock’s Criteria too stringent?
Was this too stringent? It’s hard to tell without seeing the full consultation notes and again being present during meetings. Maybe there was more information to be given here. But on the information provided in the article I do not believe she was being overly stringent, – “no older than 65, educated, professional, clean break if divorced”. I may have asked her to be more open on age and education as we have seen some lovely male clients who are aged between 62-68, have run their own businesses quite successfully from start-ups to sale and employed people, all without having a formal degree.
Photography and Profile advice
The request by the agency for Mrs Brock to have professional photography was good advice. It’s always best to invest in some good photos, why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward. Curtailing her profile is also a good idea as people read too much into too much. There should be enough in the profile to make the other client see why you have been matched, things such as values, qualities, lifestyles and some interests. A lot of the other material can be left for a date and discussion for later dates should you like one another and continue dating.
The Public Humiliation
There were many comments left by both men and women who had read the article in the Telegraph. Two women spoke of their positive experiences with the agency in question. One woman had just celebrated her Silver Wedding Anniversary and met her husband through the agency.
Whereas other comments directed insults at Mrs Brock stating, “she needed a make-over, a better fitting bra, a smile, a new hairstyle, she was no oil painting herself and she was not so well-endowed with good looks”. These comments were downright cruel.
I felt a pang of sadness for her because people may think she might be tough due to her former profession as a barrister, however, it was what she did, not who she is. I am certain anyone being the victim of comments such as that would feel hurt, embarrassed and humiliated.
Mrs Brock’s comments about the only man she met were uncalled for “he resembled Donald Trump, looked older than he did on paper with dyed orange hair”. I am sure he was sitting somewhere reading that article. He was the only one of nine clients that agreed to meet her after all, so she really should have kept her comments to herself about his personal style. By not doing this and putting herself on display publicly, she opened the door for some of the comments others made about her personal style.
I also wonder how much the ‘story hungry journalist’ explained to Mrs Brock that this media coverage could end up in her being targeted by online keyboard warriors. In my view the journalist has some duty of care to protect Mrs Brock from some of the abuse she suffered with those comments. Instead the journalist urged even more people to come forward for some of the same medicine, no doubt.
Misrepresentation, Consumer Rights and Refunds
The article stated that some three hundred people complained to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) last year about dating agencies. The CAB told the journalist that most of these cases related to substandard services and breaches of contract.
It really goes back to what is promised to the client, what guarantees are made, are realistic expectations set, what is in the contract of service and did the client materially change what they originally asked the agency to provide at the beginning when discussions were had? If a client materially changes what they initially said they were looking for, well there is no breach of contract. It is so important to set those expectations and be completely honest and upfront with your agency from the start.
The Consumer Rights Act covers anyone paying for a service in the UK. There is a 14 day Cooling off Period during which a no quibble full-refund can be obtained should you, as a consumer, change your mind.
After the 14 day Cooling off Period to obtain a refund you must show that the service provider (the agency in this case) did not demonstrate a reasonable level of expertise and/or did not deliver on the Terms in the contract.
However, Martyn James from Resolver, an online complaints service, said: “You can’t complain that you didn’t fancy someone, or you were disappointed when you met up”. Such things are beyond the control of any agency, they cannot predict whether you will fancy the person or fall in love.
James went on to say that “the key word is ‘misrepresentation’”. You might have a case if you feel you were misled. So ask yourself, have you been told you would get one thing, but you were given something different by the agency? What were you promised versus what was delivered? You must separate the emotion of your disappointment with the service when asking yourself these questions and answer honestly. Were you upfront with the agency from the start because they are not mind-readers.
You should never have to change or widen your preferences after joining an agency, they should be able to deliver on what was agreed upfront or they should refund you or refuse you membership on the basis that they don’t have what you want. If, after joining, you decide to change or widen your preferences, the agency may be able to increase the number of matches they originally agreed for you, which might benefit you.
Conclusion – Money Can’t Buy You Love?
In short no, money can’t buy you love. Dating agencies are an alternative service to online providers, who offer you opportunities to meet their members who have been identity checked and met in person. They can take the hard work out of finding a partner. Many of them have excellent proven track records and have introduced people who are now married and in love. However, they can never and should never guarantee your money can buy you love.
No matter how much or how little you spend you cannot make someone fall in love with you. No dating agency or matchmaker, no matter how well established, can guarantee you will leave them happy and in love.
We are very clear from the start that we cannot guarantee members will fall in love. We can guarantee numerous opportunities to meet our members and the clear majority of them leave us happy and in love.
Joining a dating agency is a big decision. Some agencies charge thousands of pounds, anything from £3k to even £30k for effectively what is a chance that they might introduce you to that ‘someone special’ to share life with.
Why We Charge What We Do
We don’t charge thousands of pounds and have on occasions have been asked if the more expensive services are better than ours? Our response to that is the more expensive dating agencies tend to be in London where the higher earners are. Whereas we are based in the Home Counties where the average salary (data from the Office National Statistics) is £28-£45k. We do attract and have some high earning members who are high achievers based in the Home Counties. Our success rate is just as good as the more expensive agencies. It’s just our location that governs our pricing.
Moreover, our service is all about managing someone’s expectations and giving them a positive experience. If their expectations are too high and they are making unrealistic demands, then we will be honest and say our service will not work for them.
On the other hand, if we believe they are genuinely open to finding a partner and are realistic about criteria then we will help them. We have helped hundreds of our clients find love with many sharing lives together, engaged, married and living together as partners.
Author: Tara McDonnell, founder and owner of South Downs Introductions & Your Matchmaker. Tara is a trained & certified matchmaker from the Matchmaker Academy, London. She is also a proud award winner at the UK Dating Awards 2015.