TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida dating service with offices across the Tampa Bay area charges clients thousands of dollars. But dozens of customers have filed complaints with the state and Better Business Bureau saying they didn’t get what they paid for.
After her husband died, Barb Smith says she tried online dating. Smith, who loves horses and travel, says she’s been looking for a guy who enjoys the outdoors and can keep up with her active lifestyle. But the internet scene never led to any lasting connection.
So in October 2019, Smith signed up with Sun Coast Introductions, a dating service with offices in Tampa, Largo and Sarasota, paying the company nearly $6,000.
“It just seems they are going to do all the work,” Smith said.
Indeed, on its website, Sun Coast Introductions states, that “our comprehensive search efforts ensure we seek out and find the area’s most eligible singles for you to meet.”
But Smith says the first two dates had trouble walking and the third turned out to be a smoker, a trait she said told the service she did not want in a man.
The I-Team found nearly three dozen Sun Coast Introductions’ clients filed complaints with Florida’s Department of Consumer Services and the Better Business Bureau over the last three years. Many accused the matchmaker of misrepresenting its services.
David Carlson is among those dissatisfied customers. Carlson, a widower, signed a $3,000 contract with Sun Coast Introductions earlier this year. An avid kayaker and biker, Carlson said he told the company he wanted to be connected with athletic women. But, he said, three of the first four matches didn’t come close to what he’d asked for.
And in Pinellas County, Kelly Coffin’s contract shows she paid Sun Coast Introductions $2300 but says she too didn’t get what was promised. Coffin, who is divorced, says she told the company no smokers but claims two of her first three dates smoked.
When questioned about the dating services pattern of complaints, Sun Coast Introductions would not grant an on-camera interview but did release this statement.
"The total BBB complaints across Sun Coast Introduction's four locations....equates to 1% of our collective current membership. We address every complaint and compliment we receive. Internally our member services team works, before, during and after the matchmaking process to proactively address any member concerns, such as those mentioned in your story....it is our policy to offer a match credit for any match a member reasonably believes was not a fit."
Barb Smith and David Carlson told ABC Action News the company has since offered them credits for more matches. Kelly Coffin says she has received a follow-up from the business and plans to respond.
Relationship expert and author Karen Card coaches women on how to meet “Mr. Right.”
Card is not in the matchmaking business but says she steers her clients away from expensive dating services simply because the number of people signed up for the service is normally much smaller than with a online dating.
“If the clientele that the service has doesn't have the exact man there, they can't do anything about it,” Card said.
Dating services are not regulated in Florida, so consumers need to do their research before signing contracts as they are often non-refundable. Consumers can, however, file a complaint for mediation with the state at www.fdacs.gov or the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.