The Hidden Cost of Love
If you're looking for love, you might be tempted to try a dating service. One of them is Great Expectations. They claim to have hundreds of members in Middle Tennessee. But an undercover investigation discovered it's not what you expect.
In the movies, there's always that moment when the girl finds the man of her dreams.
"A knight in shining armor, I guess," a former Great Expectations client tells NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus.
She wanted the same thing. "I had tried everything else." So she went to Great Expectations, a dating service that promises singles lots of dates.
"There's double the men as there are women," a Great Expectations saleswoman tells one of the singles that NewsChannel 5 sent in undercover. "You're going to love it here."
"She said they had people getting married there all the time," the former client says. But she says she quickly discovered what Great Expectations is really all about.
"They're just strictly out for money. They're not there to help anybody."
She says her initial so-called interview was in a very hot room and quickly turned into a high-pressure sales push.
"It was very high pressure," she adds.
And the same thing happened to the single women we sent in.
"Let me think about it," one of our shoppers tells the Great Expectations representative.
"What do you have to think about?" the saleswoman replies.
They were badgered.
"What are you embarrassed?" the saleswoman says.
They were belittled.
"You're 40-something?" the saleswoman asks a shopper.
"Do you want any children?"
"When?" the saleswoman replies, bursting into a laugh.
And they were downright insulted.
"You still like men, right?" the saleswoman asks a shopper.
"That's out and out intimidation," says Kathleen Calligan with the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee.
And the BBB says that's not all that's wrong.
One of our singles ask a half dozen times how much she'd have to pay, but the saleswoman refused to tell her unless she gave her credit card and bank account information.
"That's bunco room stuff," Calligan says.
And when our undercover single refused, the interview was over.
Our other undercover single gave her credit card information, and then was told, a 2 year membership would cost more than $4,000.
"44-hundred dollars seems like a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a dating service," says the shopper, Jennifer Box.
And when she told the woman that was too much, she somehow suddenly qualified for the so-called student rate of $995 -- a difference of more than $3,000.
"It's kind of like well how much money are they willing to pay?" Calligan says. "That's a real, real, real big red flag."
And Calligan says so is this: remember that special student rate of $995, there was a catch.
"I had to sign up today, that was the only day she would offer me that and it had to all be paid upfront," Box says.
Calligan says "this person is into high-pressure sales."
The woman who tried to get our singles to join Great Expectations, it turns out, is the manager, Sally Armendinger.
"We don't do hard pressure sales," Armendinger tells Jennifer Kraus.
"You don't?" Kraus asks.
"No. Nobody comes in and gets high pressured. You come in here because you want to date, not cause you don't want to date."
But the former client says she absolutely was pressured to join. "It's either sign this thing or you're not going to get out of there."
Still, she never did find her knight in shining armor -- "it was just a nightmare" -- and never got the happy ending she was hoping for.
The BBB says it's seen a steady increase of complaints about the dating service and that shows there's a real problem since people don't usually complain about dating services out of embarrassment.