"True love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly." ~ Jason Jordan
And so goes the principal behind most dating services. Dating services rely on the promise of poetry and the power of statistics. I truly believe the perfect person is out there for every individual. I also think that having ANYTHING in common isn't necessarily a qualifier for finding true love. I know many a military man that has married a woman who can't speak any English, grew up in dire poverty, and is a completely different person than they had ever been with before. It's actually what you don't have in common that makes or breaks a relationship. As an example, age has never meant much to me. I have dated women up to 8 years younger than me, the same general age as me, and up to 21 years older than me. I had more in common with the one who is 21 years older than with most of the women who were the same age or younger. We had completely different backgrounds, spiritual concepts, and attitudes - yet we got along. That's why I would say that:
"True love isn't easy to find and one is really only lucky if they find it through a dating or matching service ... but luck is common"
Together makes the claim on their "junk mail brochure":
"Over the years, our team has been responsible for thousands of relationships and marriages of quality singles.
The truth is, many marriages (and I would expect the same percentage) have resulted from random grocery store cart bumps, barhopping, traffic accidents, and possibly even funerals. The point is, dating services have NO better chance of helping you find that special someone than you would have on your own.
Know what you are asking Together® to do for you, "FORCE someone to go on a date with you." This is unlike any of the online matching services - where people have the option of meeting you or not.
You have a better opportunity of finding someone who is appealing through a self paced "browse" method. Think of searching for someone, like you would, trying to find a good tomato at a grocery store. Do you just pick any tomato laying there? Or do you inspect each one carefully? Do you send someone who doesn't know you at all to go do your grocery store shopping? Do you send someone who won't be eating the tomato if they don't know you?
"But wait!" (you're saying) ... "The purpose of Together® is to help me find someone because I don't know how to find anyone. I'm too busy, I'm isolated in my job, and I don't do the bar scene"
Well that is Together's perceived intention. The purpose of Together® is actually to make as much money as possible without any regard to you or your love life whatsoever. Are you saying that you won't fall right back into that "too busy, job isolated, no getting out pattern" once you get comfortable in your relationship? Shame on you. YOU are not ready for love if this is your philosophy.
Together relies on the simple inevitability of statistics that you will find someone they introduce you to. They do no more actual legwork than your your average website personals like eHarmony, MATCH.COM, or Yahoo Personals. Yet here's the difference: Online personals average $30 a month with simple refund or cancellation policies. They have so much competition that they cannot afford a single bad review of their site. Together®, who has minimal competition, costs a minimum of $2500 with no refunds or cancellations. If you find someone with Together® you don't receive a partial refund (even though you pay for blocks of dates) and you are out thousands of dollars.
Their claim is;
The idiocy of that statement is that the MAJORITY of the people who are at Together® are also on MATCH.COM or another online personal site for $2470 less!!
Together® lists 6 reasons to join:
(commentary below each)
WE'LL INCREASE YOUR EXPOSURE. "We reach millions of people in our relationship search, so you can meet people you'd never be able to meet on your own."
Millions more are on MATCH.COM ... far fewer people have $3000 dollars lying around to go to Together®. (This first "reason to join" will seem very ironic once I tell my personal story about Together®.)
YOU'LL FEEL SAFER "We place a high premium on safety; therefore, we're choosy about the members we accept. We meet everyone in person and conduct background checks on all members so you can feel more secure about the people you meet."
For the money that you pay Together® you (and each member) should get a lie detector test. Nothing prevents a member from lying about anything. Together makes little to no attempt to verify marriage or authenticity of a driver's license. Together® is therefore no more secure than a wise man is with a flashlight in an abandoned house.
YOU CAN END ONLINE DATING "Burnout" "Finding someone special is easy and comfortable with Together®. You can stop surfing the internet and playing the "Dating Deception" game.
Finding someone special is actually hard. There is nothing gratifying or confidence building by Together's method of matchmaking.
YOU CAN HAVE FUN "We've done all the hard work so you can have all the fun."
Ask my friend how much fun it was for her to be introduced to a married man, someone who was 4 years outside her preferred age range, and then go through a Better Business Bureau mediation, be insulted and humiliated in front of a number of individuals about the service, AND to lose almost $2700.00.
YOU SAVE TIME "We know life can be hectic. We designed our system to save busy people time, energy, and effort."
If you don't have the time, energy, and effort for finding someone ... you soon won't have the time, energy, or effort to maintain a relationship with them. I've always looked at effort with this analogy. Which card would your mother like better, the card from Hallmark that you spent five minutes driving to the local Walgreen's, two minutes picking out, another five minutes driving home, and one minute filling out, OR would she like a piece of paper folded in half with a drawing of you and her (stick figures) and a heart on the front of the home made card and a simple "I love you MOM" on the inside - also taking 15 minutes of your time?
Saving time & energy should never be in the same sentence with the word "effort". <-- Except here of course.
Lastly, the homemade card cost you almost nothing ... what did you spend on the gas, time, and money for the store bought card?
Before I begin with Part II I want to start off with a disclaimer.
* The following experience was given to me by a friend with whom I trust was giving me completely accurate information about Together Dating® in Greenville, South Carolina. I was involved ONLY in the resolution process for which this friend came to me for help. I stand by my decisions for resolution and believe the local franchise of Together Dating® to be a very poorly run business. I am in no way romantically involved with the person mentioned in this story. I have considered Together Dating® in the past and passed on their match making services. I have also conducted an interview with friends who have used the service. Together Dating® is a franchised business and your local branch may vary from this experience significantly.
Friends come to me for help. In fact, friends of my enemies come to me for help. They know that I can usually help them solve a problem - I am a problem solver.
It was difficult for me to handle this particular problem because I knew the person very well that was involved in the experience I'm about to relate to you. How well did I know this person? I had dated her two years prior. She IS the 21 years older than me woman that I mentioned in Part I of this story. It was even more difficult to help her as I have finally met the woman of my dreams and it's rather impossible for there not to be some conflict of interest with me helping a former girlfriend with a dating service issue - but I did just that and I hope to be able to tell you how to resolve a horrible experience with Together Dating® if you experience the same ... so please read the following story carefully.
Some time around March of 2007 a friend of mine, who (IMHO) is an extremely poor manager of money, decided to respond to a local advertisement for Together®.
From a Together® PR piece at Online Personals Watch:
How much are memberships?
Together CEO Paul Falzone: I can’t dictate what my franchisees charge but everybody is basically in the same ballpark. Smaller towns in the Midwest may not charge as much, but the programs start at around $2,000 to $3,000 and go up to $6,000 to $7,000.
Why would I bother to mention my friend is a poor manager of money? She COULD NOT afford the service, yet she went in with the assumption that ANYONE who could afford the service must be well off. Her interview with Together® consisted mostly of a high pressure sales pitch reinforcing lowering your expectations and dating criteria AND reinforcing the statement,
She ended up signing up for a $2700 contract and placing the entire charge on her credit card.
My friend is an attractive 54 year old woman. Her criteria was a single, widowed, or divorced man with an age range of 45-55 years old. She was prodded multiple times that if she just extended her age range to 60, she would have several more opportunities available. She resisted twice and caved on the third time she was pressured*.
*A matchmaking service making you feel like you are buying a car?
She came from the interview even more nervous about dating than when she had walked in.
The Together® process is rather simple:
1) They match you with people within a Together® database. (Both parties having forked over $2000+)
2) They mail you a profile. You have 3 days from the date of the profile mailing to accept or reject a date with that profile. At this point you are also promised a phone call 24 hours in advance of a date.
3) If you go on the date you "rate it" by a form that you are given and can reject a second date or choose to move further.
Her preferred age range was 45-55 years old - her DEMANDED criteria was Single, Widowed, or Divorced.
Remember, as pressured, she moved to age 60.
Before her first "introduction" she was not notified by mail as promised. She received no information about him as contractually promised. After receiving the information, she wished to cancel but had already set up a second date. Together® encouraged her not to cancel and to go ahead with the 2nd date. By paper work and details revealed by her second date with her first "introduction" she found out the details: The gentleman she was matched with was
Her confidence with Together® was immediately lowered, but my friend is a very peace loving person - she decided to go on the date anyway.
The date was pleasant, but could not possibly be a match because of her Christian values - dating a married man was simply out of the question. In my mind, ANY form of separation (even "legal separation") is STILL married.
My friend was sent no other dates for 3 months.
She contacted me and asked for my help. After hearing her story, I could clearly see that this was a severe breach of contract by Together®. I suggested contacting them and asking for a refund. The ONLY response received was:
Paraphrased, "You signed a contract in several places and are bound to it with no refunds"
I reassured my friend that NO ONE can enforce a "NO REFUNDS" contract if they do not live up to the terms THEY place in the contract themselves. I explained that this is not an AS IS item from a pawn shop or thrift store. This isn't a defective DVD that one paid $20 for at Walmart! If Together® Dating makes this claim they are no better than a $1 book bought from a yard sale. Besides, this is an intangible service, not a tangible item that one can keep. It is also NOT an education or merit that one can use to further their career or better their lives. Together® offers no life coaching or dating advice (for the $2700 paid) <--- as many of the other high priced services do.
I told her the best thing to do would be to make a chargeback on her credit card. She did so ... the charge was put into dispute by Chase credit cards. A 30 day dispute process ensued. Many calls to Chase dispute resolution to check on the status provided more and more details that Chase was fighting the charge with Together® but that their contract was binding. After 45 days of disputes and a final decision not to reverse the charge - I suggested filing a Better Business Bureau report against the local Together® franchise. She did so.
Added detail by my friend after reading this story: "Chase initially reversed the charge and for 2 months I had a positive balance. THEN they re-charged it and it went into re-negotiation (? they had another word?) for several weeks (with several attempts / calls for follow up."
The director of the local Together® franchise responded to the BBB by sending my friend's ENTIRE profile as a response. This response, which was not blacked out in any way to protect my friend's privacy, included her social security number, her address, her phone number, her credit card number, and enough personal information to potentially figure out passwords.
I was outraged by this audacious move. Together® sent this information to show that my friend had signed the contract multiple times.
Next step: The Better Business Bureau offers mediation with members. Together® is a member of the Greenville SC BBB. I offered to attend a mediation and provide "non legal" support to my friend because I have dealt with the BBB before and been involved in several legal disputes over contacts.
Together® of Greenville (DBA as Palmetto Introductions®) has a poor BBB record:
With this in hand, I could see that there might be difficulty ahead ...
Even though I have uncovered quite the controversy, and even though Together® refuses to refund for providing essentially zilch; I feel this is not a story worth pursuing or writing about when I myself have found true love and happiness in my life. I have come to the conclusion that this is not a battle I find worth fighting or investing any further energy in uncovering the scandal.
I had originally planned 4-6 parts in a series about Together® ... but this will be the final word in this post.
I have been let down by a few that were related to the making of this article ... including Together® corporate.
I'll end with showing you a lawsuit from 1997:
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 Together Dating Service…
Used 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 service.
Provided consumers with referrals who did not meet the qualifications and physical traits identified by the customers.
Falsely represented to consumers that discounts were “one time only” in order to induce them to purchase memberships.
Told 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
Used 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 referral.
The attorney general said the membership fee typically ranged from $1,495 for six referrals to $2,995 for 30 referrals.
In the words of Forrest Gump ...
"And that's about all I have to say about that."
Thank you for all your comments - please feel free to ask any questions or leave your own Together experience here - I am certain at this point that there is pretty easy "class action" material here. If you would like to use this commentary in a legal matter please contact me.