Action 9: Dating service customer complains of high prices, hidden fees

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A business is called Dating in Charlotte says it offers a safe way to meet singles, but customers have complained about high prices and hidden fees.

Liz Tremblay's husband died six years ago. She said he wanted her to date after he was gone.

"(It’s) been rough. It's been rough," she said.

She went to Dating in Charlotte, a local online dating service, with hopes of finding romance.

"I consider myself pretty savvy, and I got sucked right in," Tremblay said.

She said salespeople offered her a three-year membership for $6,000. She said she talked them down to $3,790. She said they made her sign a non-disclosure agreement so she wouldn't discuss her price with other customers.

Then, Tremblay said, Dating in Charlotte tried to charge her other fees -- $2,000 for extra profile photos and instant messaging.

"They know that everybody that's single is looking for somebody to love them. And they know how to play that card," Tremblay said.

Action 9 found two other similar complaints with the Better Business Bureau. One mentioned "excessive fees" and the other mentioned the “non-disclosure agreement."

The BBB said Dating in Charlotte resolved the first and addressed the second, but that customer wasn't satisfied.

The business does have success stories on its website, but Action 9 found the people pictured are actually stock photos, not necessarily real-life customers. 

For example, “Jeremy and Crystal" are also on a website for a dentist's office in San Diego.

For two weeks, Action 9’s Jason Stoogenke exchanged emails and calls with Dating in Charlotte, asking the business to drop the non-disclosure requirement, spell out the extra fees up front and let customers take contracts home to read more carefully.

The business responded, but didn't answer the questions.

So Stoogenke went there in person and talked to owner Danny Marraro.

"Are you willing to change any of those things we discussed, that I laid out?” Stoogenke asked.

"Change or tell you the truth?" Marraro asked.

"Tell me the truth," Stoogenke said.

"Yeah, I will. Why don't you call me and make an appointment?" Marraro asked.

"OK, well, I've been trying to do that for two weeks," Stoogenke said.

Ultimately, Marraro told Stoogenke by phone that he won't refund Tremblay's money or change company policy.

He said his business, “isn't perfect, but we do go above and beyond to accommodate people."

Since he wouldn't go on camera, Action 9 offered to interview a satisfied customer instead. He put Stoogenke in touch with Chad Wells, who didn't want Action 9 to show his face.

"To me, it's been priceless. Yes, it costs money, but you're also in there with people that are also spending money that are serious about finding a relationship," Wells said.

Wells said he's still single, but landed new friends from Dating in Charlotte.

To see the BBB review of Dating in Charlotte, click here.