The Hidden Cost of Love, Part 2

The Hidden Cost of Love, Part 2

CREATED Sep 20, 2006
(Story created: 2/15/05)

When NewsChannel 5 went undercover at the Great Expectations dating service, our exclusive investigation showed the company's high-pressure sales techniques. But what happens when you sign the dotted line and hand over $3,000-$4,000 for a membership?

"Have you never heard of Great Expectations?" a company saleswoman asked one of NewsChannel 5's undercover shoppers.

Most singles who go to Great Expectations say they expect to find love, or at the very least, a few dates.

"It sounded like a good way to meet people," former customer Bill Hill tells NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus.

Hill decided he'd give the dating service a try, "a few months after I was divorced." He says he was looking for "a future wife."

The saleswoman told one of our undercover singles the way Great Expectations works. "It's like a mission to find exactly what you're looking for." Then she tells our single, "You're going to love it here."

Hill says he was told the same thing. He says he was looking to meet professional women and was assured he'd have no problem.

Both of the single women we sent in were also promised that Great Expectations would help find Mr. Right.

"You can pick your age bracket," the saleswoman told one of the women. "You can pick smoker, non-smoker."

The other was assured, "We've got lots of nice guys for you."

"Are we talking dozens, hundreds?" the shopper asked.

"Oh, hundreds and hundreds."

But Hill says, "I felt like I'd been suckered." It was only after he'd paid nearly $3,00 that he discovered, in his words, he'd "been taken advantage of."

Remember he was looking for "professional-type" women and was assured he'd find many. So how many did he find in the dating service's library? Hill says, "None. There were none."

The Better Business Bureau says that's one of the biggest complaints they've gotten about Great Expectations: very few prospective mates and even fewer actual dates.

Our undercover singles were told, "Some people get two or three (dates) a day."

But Hill says, "I got no dates."

And Chuck Holmes, another single looking for a mate, says he didn't get any dates either, despite being told by Great Expectations that "they had lots of ladies."

What Holmes wasn't told, though, was that Great Expectations likely didn't have many, or even any at all, anywhere near his age. Holmes tells us with a big smile, "I'm 77."

The BBB's Kathleen Calligan says, "That's complete exploitation."

Calligan says she's found that Great Expectations seems willing to say whatever it takes to get a customer's money, even if it's not true. Calligan adds, "This is the way this company does business."

Our undercover singles were told, "Dr. Phil says you ought to join Great Expectations."

The company told the single women we sent in, "Here, we check on you." The saleswoman insisted that the dating service runs a background check on everyone who wants to join.

"It's for your benefit...or we could have married men in here," the saleswoman insisted.

Hill tells us, "I'm sure there was no background check."

Great Expectations also maintained that they make sure everyone who joins is truly single. "You've got to bring in a divorce paper."

But Hill, who joined just a few months after his divorce was final says he never had to prove his wasn't married and never had to bring in any divorce papers.

The state of Kansas recently slapped Great Expectations affiliates in that state with a $1 million lawsuit for allegedly doing many of the same things our investigation uncovered.

The Kansas Attorney General called the company's practices "deceptive" and "unconscionable."

We went to the Nashville area Great Expectations office and tried to talk with the manager. It turns out she's the same woman who tried to get our two undercover singles to join.

She refused to do an interview. That's when the receptionist threw us out of the office.

"I don't come calling to you about your company so please stay away from mine. right now," the receptionist added.

Kathleen Calligan of the BBB says, "This is all wrong."

And while our undercover singles were told that the dating service promised "quick results and a guarantee," Calligan says Great Expectations' so-called guarantee is no guarantee at all.

The company's policy is, no one gets a refund, even if the dating service fails to live up to expectations.

"It was dishonest is what I would say," Hill says. "Dishonest and unethical."

The Better Business Bureau says they've tried repeatedly to get Great Expectations to try to address some of the complaints against them. But according to the BBB, the dating service hasn't been interested in making any of its unhappy customers happy again.