Fifteen percent of adults in America have used an online dating site or app, according to the Pew Research Center, but a matchmaking service may appeal to those looking for a more personalized approach.
That was the case for Dorothy Luhn and Kathleen O’Rourke.
They have never met, but they share a similar experience with a matchmaking service called It’s Just Lunch (IJL).
Luhn, who is divorced, heard about it from a neighbor. She said the sales pitch is very convincing.
"They tell you all about all the wonderful things about how the matchmaking is going to go and how it's going to change your life," Luhn said.
O’Rourke’s membership was a gift from a friend.
“As you get older, you want that partner, right? You want that person you can travel with and go to family functions with,” she said.
Luhn and O’Rourke had high hopes about the $2,800 membership, which is good for six months or four dates: whichever comes later.
"I was expecting that putting that type of investment in, that I would also be meeting people that would be making a similar investment," Luhn said.
The company’s website describes, “a dating experience personalized just for you.” But Luhn and O’Rourke said it didn’t feel very personal.
“I got a real sense that the woman on the other end of the phone was just reading a script,” O’Rourke said of her initial interview upon signing up. That was followed by a video conference with an IJL representative.
“And it really is a 10 minute back and forth with a person that you’ll never see again, you’ll never hear from again,” O’Rourke said.
After her video conference, she was assigned a different IJL representative as her matchmaker.
Luhn and O’Rourke both told NBC Connecticut Responds they didn’t feel the company was taking into account their preferences for potential matches.
The IJL contract said, “All Date Introductions will be within the criteria provided by Client at the time of join with respect to age, religion and parental status.”
It goes on to said that IJL representatives can present matches outside of those criteria, which the client can accept at his or her discretion. IJL representatives “may take into account the general criteria and guidelines specified by its Clients,” according to the contract.
One of O’Rourke’s main criteria was location.
"I was very clear that I live in lower Fairfield County," she said.
The company’s website shows three locations in Connecticut: Hartford, New Haven and Stamford. That led O’Rourke to believe her matches would live within her geographic area.
But the contract lists Hartford as the only designated It’s Just Lunch location in Connecticut.
After traveling more than 30 miles for her first two dates, O’Rourke asked her matchmaker for dates closer to home.
"They said they didn't have a hub in this area. And I explained that it was on your website and they didn't seem to have an answer to that," O’Rourke said.
Over in Haddam, Luhn said her concerns started even before her first date. She passed on her first potential match because he did not meet her criteria.
“Too old, and as far as the profile, we had nothing in common,” she said.
The contract said, “Client may receive one Date Introduction before the Personal Interview,” which was the case with Luhn.
She saidshe felt pressured to accept the next match. IJL is only obligated to present six matches. After that, any declines count as one of her four dates.
She said the date was uncomfortable.
"I was just really dumbfounded, of what was he really there for? It seemed like he was forced, like it was something that he had to do," Luhn said.
She requested a refund, but was turned down. So she asked for a new matchmaker to be assigned to her. Luhn also decided to contact Responds.
O’Rourke asked for her money back after her second date. Her request was also denied.
According to their contracts, It’s Just Lunch will issue refunds “at IJL’s election and sole discretion” if it is unable to provide the agreed-upon four date introductions or six matches. The contract goes on to said, “all remaining monies will be refunded on a pro-rated basis, less a $500 interview processing charge and this Agreement will be automatically cancelled.”
After NBC Connecticut Responds reached out to IJL with the women’s concerns, It’s Just Lunch offered Luhn a “good faith discount” of $500 on her membership fee.
A spokesperson told us they consider O’Rourke’s case resolved because she accepted her fourth and final date. O’Rourke said the gentleman was the only one of her matches who lived within 30 miles of her home.
Luhn and O’Rourke both agree that after this experience, they want a little more than just lunch.
"I just don't feel like they're very good at what they do and they're not honest with their clients," O’Rourke said.
"I believe that they need to take a second look at what type of matchmaking service they're offering," Luhn said.
It’s Just Lunch provided the following statement to NBC Connecticut:
“Our clients are our highest priority and they have always been our highest priority. As such, It’s Just Lunch regrets to learn of any client dissatisfaction. We recognize that each of our clients is unique, and that their attributes, experiences, and life goals shape the type of relationship they are looking for.
Matchmaking is our passion and our profession, and when initial matches don’t result in perfect chemistry, we dedicate ourselves to working with our clients to refine our selections and find a match that does. This is the foundation for our commitment to work with each and every one of our clients to understand their needs and provide a successful, fun, and productive dating experience.”
Responds asked IJL how many clients it has in Connecticut and how its matchmakers are trained. The company did not answer.