Everyone needs to be aware that some former Great Expectations offices are now operating as Connections Dating. Connections Dating also uses youhometownsingles.com as portals to generate leads to bring people in for an "interview" for their services. They have posted street signs in the cities that they operate in advertising their service as yourhometownsingles.com. If you were brought in on that portal you may have grounds for aan advertising fraud claim as this is a bait and switch since nothing on their website indicates you would be doing business with Connections Dating aka Great Expectations
The interview you go through is actually a very smooth but aggressive sales pitch. I personally had the interviewer Linda ask me about how lonely I get and also point out that the older you get the harder it is to find someone. She made the service sound great!
The fees are presented at the end of the very lengthy "interview" for me began at $3795.00 for a 1 year membership plus $29.08 a month for website maintenance. But if you sign now and only now you get $1000.00 off. This is clearly designed to get people to not have time to think about it or research the company. I can not recall the even higher fees for a 3 year or lifetime membership. I figured if a dating service doesn't work for you in one year its not a very good dating service. I'm embarrassed to admit I fell for it at all. Being a professional single I signed believing who but other professionals would pay such fees for a dating service. The owner of the business contends that his business does not use high pressure or misleading sales tactics and told me that he's seen hourly wage workers that can afford his service because they are responsible about their income. I'd be interested to see how many hourly wage workers in his system paid the same fee that I did and feel they got a good value for their money. He also argued that offering different fees to different people and not being transparent about it is not ethically wrong.
The much touted social "events" that I saw when I was in the service were dinner at Cheddar's, an outing to Dave and Busters and a Bunco night. The Welcome sheet I was given states "Do you like dancing, or hiking in the countryside? Do you like wine tours and classes? Do you like bowling or baseball or karaoke? If so be sure to check out your Event Calendar section."
I had heard of Great Expectations but I hadn't heard of Connections Dating and I didn't realize its the same business operating under the same name, you can confirm this through the BBB.org website as the business is listed under the DBA (doing business as) names of Connections Dating, Mad Management and Great Expectations. The owner of the Austin branch, Michael Miess will contend that there's nothing wrong with him charging different fees because they are only occasional specials and always justified. He did admit he applies "specials" on a case by case basis. But again only occasionally. Would be interesting to see his financial books and see exactly how many of his members paid a full fee to a discounted one. Again he contends there is nothing unethical about not telling people about his discounting practice before having them sign a contract with a no cancellation, no refunds clause.
One thing I couldn't find on the internet is a complaint about this service not allowing people to join after a screen interview. If the interview is an actual screen and not a sales pitch designed to get whatever money they can out of people you'd think that someone at sometime would have failed the screen and complained about discrimination.
On the subject of Michael Miess, if you do a google search for Michael Miess and dating scam the first two results are a link to a Democratic Underground post pointing to a Consumer Affairs complaint from a Melissa of Round Rock, TX on 1/23/08 where she mentions him by name as the owner of the Great Expectations business she dealt with.
There is also a link to a story by Jeremy Finley of WSMV TV out of Nashville, TN where Michael Miess was interviewed as a "former owner" of one of the Great Expectations franchises. Happily the woman involved with that complaint eventually got her money back but only after the WSMV story.
During my interview I was not presented with the opportunity to view the entire member database. Linda brought in a few selected profile numbers and brought up the profiles and then showed me the profiles on her screen. You can not view the member database until after you sign and contract and after you allow them to take your photos and video for your profile. Thats right even though you've paid, you can not even see the other members until AFTER you have photos/video taken. This gives them the opportunity to claim that they incurred costs on your behalf if you later find their service is not what you were lead to believe and start to fight. Its a way for them to open the door to argue for keeping at least part of your money for their efforts.
Connections Dating also issues you the log in and password for the service. There are no instructions for how to change the password and in the few weeks I was on the service I could not find any way to change the password. This means Connections Dating can log in anytime, as anyone. Any message you transmit through their service can be viewed by them at anytime. You have no user privacy.
By chance I recognized someone in their database who I knew in passing through a friend of mine. Once I had his phone number from my friend he told me he was surprised that I had seen his profile listed as active since his contract ended with them months ago. He had also been very dissatisfied with the service and stated that hardly anyone in the service responds to contact attempts. This was my experience too. I sent contact attempts to 5 guys, I got one "no thanks" and after 19 days the others were all still at "no response".
Where one "active" profile is inappropriately labeled as active, there could be others so its reasonable to wonder how many "active" profiles are actually active, especially when others make claims of people not responding to contact attempts ever. And with the control that Connections Dating has over passwords and ID's no user can be certain that even a "no thanks" response came from the actual user they were trying to reach. Do I know that they do this? No however their system create the possibility for this type of profile abuse. Only Connections Dating can take down profiles, so once you leave the service and don't have access anymore you can not confirm that your profile is no longer used. I took a screenshot of the inappropriately active profile to prove its status.
The cities which currently have Connections Dating offices are:
If you feel that you have been ripped off by this company I urge you to step forward and speak up. Keeping quiet about deceptive trade practices is what allows businesses to keep engaging in those practices. Rip Off report is a great forum for this. But also report them to your BBB and to your State Attorney General's office. It's only if enough people report the incidents that authorities can do anything about it.
To date I have not gotten a refund but I'm not done fighting. If I get the full refund I'm seeking I will post that here.