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Judge rules women were bilked by dating service

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NEW YORK - Two Manhattan women who dumped a dating service they said left them poorer - and still single - are going back to finding love the old-fashioned way.

"I think I'll stick to meeting people at bus stops and the elevator," said 43-year-old "Jennifer Doe," who paid $1,000 for a six-month membership with Great Expectations that yielded exactly no dates.

"I just wanted to go out for coffee and have nice conversations with a couple of people," she said. "Instead, I got not a single introduction."

A judge last week ruled the unlucky-at-love ladies are entitled to refunds from the national dating service after paying too high a price in a failed bid to meet Mr. Right.

The women, whose real names were not used in Civil Court Judge Diane Lebedeff's 10-page decision, told the Daily News they were misled into thinking they could meet dreamboats, not duds.

"They found people who had no resemblance to what I wanted," said 40-something "Debra Roe," who works in financial services and paid $3,790 for a three-year deal in hopes of meeting a fellow professional.

"I got a personal trainer and a salesman," she said.

But the company says its records show that, for Roe at least, failure wasn't for lack of effort. The records indicate she turned down 13 inquiries from potential suitors, and didn't respond to two others.

The women said they were set up with suitors from out of state and received lousy service - and the judge agreed. Lebedeff ruled they should not have paid more than $25.

The company counters that it has provided reputable service for nearly 30 years and boasts that 20,000 married couples met through Great Expectations.

It plans to appeal, said company spokesman Bob Liff, disputing the judge's assertion that Great Expectations' services are covered by a state law governing matchmaking services.

"Great Expectations is a dating service - not a matchmaker," Liff said.

Members sign contracts allowing them to contact other screened singles whose profiles and photographs are entered into a company database. From there, they're on their own.

"I pretty much knew what I was getting into, and it worked for me," said Shane Bushman, 31, who met his wife after several months as a member in New York. "I'm not the type of guy who was going to meet someone in a bar or on the street."

Both Doe and Roe say they haven't given up on love, but are going back to more tried-and-true methods of courtship.

"The Internet is not the solution, it may be the problem," said Doe. "And we're all missing solutions right under our noses."


(c) 2005, New York Daily News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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