'He was partially toothless': Edmonton woman raises alarm over matchmaking service

An Edmonton woman is raising the alarm after she spent thousands of dollars with a matchmaking company but only went on a single date - with a gap-toothed homeless man.

'These kind of companies need to be shut down because they're preying on vulnerable people'

The Edmonton Matchmakers office in Old Strathcona has been the subject of numerous complaints. (CBC Edmonton)

An Edmonton woman is urging buyer beware after she spent thousands of dollars with a matchmaking company but only went on a single date with a gap-toothed homeless man.

Val Taylor, 54, paid $7,344 for a membership with Edmonton Matchmakers at their office in Old Strathcona. A company salesperson promised to find her a match, but Taylor says her single suitor was hardly the man of her dreams.

'Very surreal experience'

The date was shorter than her five-foot-10 frame, unemployed and homeless, she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"He was partially toothless," she said. "And during our coffee, he continuously chewed and destroyed plastic utensils. It was a very surreal experience."

"I had very strictly specified that I'm not anybody's sugar mamma. I'm not dating any unemployed bums and this guy lived in a camper on the side of the road." 

Taylor decided to go public with her story after another Edmonton woman, Margaret Clark, filed a lawsuit against Canada Introductions Inc., which operates as Edmonton Matchmakers.

In a statement of claim filed March 31, Clark said she paid $10,494 for her membership — and a single date. She claims the company was "using extreme and persistent high-pressure sales tactics."  A statement of defence has not yet been filed in the case, and the allegations have not been proven in court.

'Hiding in my house in shame'

But Taylor said she too has serious concerns about the company.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, somebody went public with that,'  because I've been basically hiding in my house in shame since it happened," said Taylor. "I think it was very brave of her. I've long wanted to do something myself and bring this company to light because I'm sure Margaret and I are not the only two people out there."

Taylor went to the company's office in July of 2015 to inquire about a membership. She alleges that was subjected to an aggressive sales pitch, which "hacked away at her self-esteem." 

The contract with the company promised to provide her 12 "referrals" but not a successful match. An information package describes the service as a "premier matchmaking service for upscale and mature singles" with an "introduction process that has produced thousands of relationships."

She eventually agreed to sign on and filled out a form, asking for a match with an attractive and gainfully employed man close to her own age, she said. 

"Your self-esteem is already low when you go to someplace like that, because you're thinking I'm such a loser, I have to go to a company to find me a date," she said.

"And they use high-pressure sales tactics, and then when you tell them that you want to think about it, they berate you and make you feel like you've wasted their time and cost them money."

Within a week, she was set up with a date. It would be her first, and her last with the company.  

After her outing with the "toothless gentleman," Taylor said she complained immediately and asked for a full refund on her contract.

'Very, very fine writing'

She was flatly denied, and was never again matched on a date, she claims. 

"You can sign up for these different packages and in very, very fine writing it tells you that once you've had your first meeting, you're locked into the contract," she said. "And then they set you up with someone completely inappropriate. They set you up very quickly so you don't have time to change your mind, and then it's a brush-off after that."

Edmonton Matchmakers has not responded to CBC Edmonton's repeated requests for comment.

In 2015, the Texas attorney general's office shut down the company's U.S. affiliate, ordering Lone Star Introductions to pay a fine of $500,000 for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The Better Business Bureau of Massachusetts confirmed Edmonton Matchmakers is affiliated with Lone Star Introductions, which also operates as eLove.

In addition to the fine, Lone Star was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution to customers. The company was also found in violation of the Texas Internet Dating Safety Act and debt-collection regulations.

Service Alberta investigated Clark's claim in 2015 but found "insufficient evidence" to identify an offence or enforce regulations. As of Wednesday, a Service Alberta spokesperson has not yet responded to a request for comment from CBC News. 

A number of negative reviews can be found on the Edmonton BBB page.

Taylor said she would like to see the matchmaking service investigated again. 

"These kind of companies need to be shut down because they're preying on vulnerable people and laughing all the way to the bank," she said.

With files from Mark Harvey