Two women say they are out thousands of dollars after signing up with dating service Lifemates Canada and being disappointed by a string of mismatches. The national dating service meanwhile, says the women gave up too soon.
Gabriela Klacansky, 47, from White Rock, B.C., has a successful career and is fit and financially secure. The only thing missing is someone to share her life with.
Last year, Klacansky called Lifemates Canada, hoping the company could match her with someone for a serious relationship.
"I was very clear about my expectations — what I was looking for, what was very important and the things that were not as important to me," Klacansky told Go Public.
Klacansky says that when she asked what the service would cost, the company wouldn't say. Instead, she was told she first had to be interviewed at a Lifemates office in Vancouver.
Klacansky describes the interview as a "draining...interrogation" that lasted more than 2½ hours.
She says she was asked about her divorce and other relationships, but that most of the questions were about her finances, including her income, bank accounts and credit cards.
"I can't believe I answered these questions without questioning intent, but it flowed from the conversations about relationships, so I did give him the benefit of the doubt [so they could] establish a profile."
Klacansky says it was only after disclosing that information that the Lifemates representative gave her a handwritten list of prices.
According to Lifemates, six of the 22 questions asked related to finances and the interview of prospective members was intended to provide information on health, criminal history and financial stability.
'Don't you want to be happy?'
Klacansky paid nearly $4,300 to join Lifemates. The company says that was the second least expensive option.
She also says she wasn't allowed to take the contract home before signing it.
"I did question that before I signed the contract, but the interviewer basically looked straight at me and said, 'You get what you pay for.'"
"He said, 'You want a quality service, you want a quality man, we have what it takes, we can satisfy your needs. Don't you want to be happy?'"
But Klacansky says that's not what happened. She says the first match was so off it seemed random or maybe a mistake.
"It was so utterly ridiculous and out of touch with absolutely everything I said was important to me … almost the opposite … I can't call it a mismatch — it's a no-match."
Lifemates says there was a 90 per cent compatibility quotient between Klacansky and that individual.
She gave the company one more chance, but says the next match was no better.
"I complained. The response was cold and that I didn't give it a good chance.… that I didn't go out with this gentleman.
"But I said I wouldn't go out with a man who doesn't even fit the basic profile of what I asked."
Klacansky asked for a refund, but says what she got were "patronizing emails" from Lifemates Canada and an "outright refusal" to cancel her membership or offer compensation.
'I was feeling really lonely'
Jan Blackmer, 60, of Richmond, B.C., tells a similar story. Her marriage of 26 years ended in 2012, and, last year, her daughter suggested she start dating again.
"I found I was quite lost, lonely, and alone all the time," said Blackmer, who called Lifemates Canada after seeing the company's TV commercials.
Like Klacansky, Blackmer asked for the price upfront, but was told she had to go for an interview first.
"They asked me to bring financial documents with me to prove that I had money in the bank … so that I qualified."
She says her interview was also more than 2½ hours long and that she felt "overwhelmed" by the end of it.
She was told that because of her age it could take a while to find a match. Blackmer paid $2,200 for her basic, one-year membership.
"That's a lot.… But I was feeling really lonely. You can't depend on your kids for your social life, so I decided I needed to step out and do something," she says.
Blackmer says Lifemates Canada set her up with three men over about six months.
She says the first man wasn't what she told the company she was looking for. And the other two matches were already dating someone else, unbeknownst to Lifemates Canada.
Blackmer's request for a refund was denied.
"The whole experience makes me feel like I've been taken advantage of. I guess I stepped into it as kind of a vulnerable person."
'It only takes one match,' says Lifemates
Lifemates Canada says it has thousands of satisfied customers and Klacansky and Blackmer gave up too soon.
Responding to CBC inquiries about the women's experiences, the dating service's director of membership and customer service Shaun Waterman said that membership pricing is fixed and not based on someone's finances.
"We require a large amount of information prior to presenting membership options, not just financial information. We deny membership to close to 20 per cent of the inquiries we receive," Waterman wrote in an email to Go Public.
Waterman says both Blackmer and Klacansky needed to give the process more time, adding that when the company "matches" clients they may be compatible in most of the criteria but not all.
"Dating is a process. We are well aware of how important love is for each and every member and how difficult it can be to find a fulfilling relationship.
"It only takes one match for Lifemates to go from 'zero' to 'hero.'"
Klacansky is taking Lifemates Canada to small claims court, hoping to get her money back.
"They play with people's emotions at a vulnerable time in their lives," she said. "I can see why people have difficulty going public with this because it is somewhat humiliating."
"I think that's what they count on, because it's very difficult for people to go public to acknowledge the mistakes they made."
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A previous version of this story said that Blackmer's request for a refund was ignored, when in fact, it was denied. That version of the story also incorrectly characterized Klacansky's membership as a one-year contract.Nov 13, 2015 4:26 PM PT
This story has been updated to better reflect Lifemates' response to Blackmer and Klacansky's concerns.Nov 13, 2015 4:29 PM PT