The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 11, 1977 · Page 37
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 37

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 11, 1977
Page 37
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The Palm Beach Post-Times SECTION SI NDVY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1977 Dating services make it sound safe and easy to find attractive, compatible dates. Even people who won't go to singles bars try them. Yet this survey found more applicants are separated from their money than matched up with mates, and local people are finding that few win e Dia. By BARBARA SOMERVILLE Pott Staff Writtr The hopes of the seven smartly dressed West Palm Beach women soared. They were all over 40 and could hardly believe their good fortune as they listened to the motherly, middle-aged woman. They were so attractive, the woman said, that she would have no trouble getting them dates through her dating service. She said she had plenty of names of older men who like mature women, and plenty of young men who prefer older women. Two of the women decided to pay her fee of $65 for five dates. That was 10 months ago and neither has had her first date. Alice (not her real name) did get one telephone call from an older man who said he lived in a monastery in Fort Lauderdale and didn't have a car. He said he was lonely so Alice suggested he take a bus and she would meet him at the station so he could spend Christmas at her house. She never heard from him again. Her friend got one call, too. The man said he was 70 and couldn't drive but owned a Cadillac so if she would drive to Lake Worth to pick him up, she could drive his car. She told him she didn't need a date that badly. When the two women complained to the woman at the dating service, her story changed. "She told us she couldn't do anything for us," Alice said, "that no man would be interested in us because we were over 40 and overweight and men want 105- to 115-pound girls. She refused to refund our money." These women are attractive, active widows who work to support themselves. But they feel lost among Palm Beach County's surplus of unattached women. Many of the 39,000 single, divorced, widowed or separated men in the Palm Beaches aren't finding the dates they want among the 56,000 similarly unattached women. So both men and women pay $50 to $500 for a series of blind dates, which they probably won't get. You may do that too, someday. You may be 51 or 61, or maybe only 21. But chances are, at some point in your life, you will find yourself alone and unhappy about it. When you do, you suddenly will start to notice the advertisements and television commercials for personal introductions that promise to match you to the right person. But desperation and loneliness aren't the only motivating forces behind this pay-before-you-date approach. Some of the busiest daters in the Palm Beaches are paying a high price just to have even more dates. It is simple enough. You dial a number, bet your money and wait for the wheel of fate to spin. The lucky number, you hope, is your telephone number. The klinker is you may pay an exorbitant price for that jingle of your phone if it does jingle unless you are aware that the match-mating business has always been a problem industry. A-Date G Usually, these are fly-by-night, one-person operations which advertise their telephone numbers. When you dial the number, it's likely you will be asked to leave your name and phone number with an answering service. The person who returns your call will arrange to come to your home to "interview" you and fill out a questionnaire for "matching" purposes and to be sure you are suitable because only high-class people are taken, you will be told. You will have difficulty checking the validity of the service. Such operators often are not members of a Better Business Bureau (BBB) and usually aren't even corporations. Government-sponsored consumer protection agencies know little about them and have little chance of getting your money back should you be dissatisfied. Most victims don't file complaints with consumer protection agencies because they are embarrassed to have anyone know they tried to buy a date and were cheated. So the dating business is lucrative and safe for the seller but risky for the buyer. When too many people become dissatisfied and ask for their money back, the service simply changes its name or moves to another locale. Victims sometimes switch to another dating service, only to be cheated again by the same outfit using another name. Alter a year of interviewing singles around the Palm Beaches from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter I learned that . . . A telephone is all the office these operators need and all most have. They have a small pool of applicants if, indeed, they have any. They may not even intend to match anybody with a date. They aren't selling dates, only names. Even if you do get a couple of names, you may not get any dates for your money. Such an operation could be a cover for prostitution. At least one was used by a West Palm Beach confidence man to find women with money and then part them from it. Prices for the same proposed services vary within the same operation. A visit to your house may jump the price if you appear to be affluent and drive an expensive car. Phone numbers are frequently changed so you cannot locate them if you have a complaint. One operator may use four or five different names. Occasionally, they satisfy a customer. I found one man and one woman who are satisfied. Until recently, little has been known about the practices of dating services in Florida. Now, little by little, they are coming to the attention of the authorities. In March, Atty. (Jen. Robert Shevin announced that seven South Florida dating service firms had agreed to stop sales practices he charged were unfair and deceptive. The firms operating in Dade and Broward counties were: Julie's Dating Service, Video Dating Center, Video Date, Scientific Selection Service, Lew Dick Enterprises, FAF Corp. and Compu-Date Limited. According to the records of the BBB in West Palm Beach, Julie's Dating Service is also known as Julie's Introduction Service. It was started by Julie Damos in 1972 in Silver Spring, Md., and has offices in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The Miami BBB office has one complaint on file; two complaints were filed in 1976 with the West Palm Beach office. All three women claim money was paid but no names were supplied. No adjustments were made. This dating service continues to advertise in the Palm Beaches. In May, the Mary McDonald Dating Service was ordered to cease and desist from "making false, deceptive or otherwise misleading statements or representations . . and otherwise deceiving consumers into believing a corporation existed when such was not so," by the Hillsborough County Board of Consumer Affairs and Appeals in Tampa. This dating service, which operated under the names of Elite Introduction Service, Elite Singles Club Services Inc., and Elite Services Inc., also was cited for entering into contracts for future consumer services based on false, fraudulent or misleading information, representation, notice or advertisement. West Palm Beach BBB files show that Mary McDonald started Elite Introduction Service in Orlando in 1969 but closed it in the fall of 1972. In 1974 she opened offices in North Miami, Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The West Palm Beach BBB office received many inquiries until July 1976 but only two complaints were filed. One woman complained she paid $195 for a six-month membership and got no names. The other claimed she paid $395 and when she called back to find out why she hadn't received any names she found the telephone had been disconnected. The BBB was able to get her monev refunded in October 1976. In April the BBB office in Sarasota requested information from the West Palm Beach office because Mary McDonald was believed to be opening an office there. Alice Skaggs, Palm Beach County's director of consumer affairs, also has had numerous inquiries but only two complaints in 1976 against Mary McDonald's operations. She recommended both women take their cases to small claims court. One woman paid $50 for six names, which she got. But when she called, she found four of the men had moved away, one never answered the phone and the other had changed his phone number. The other woman paid $295 for a one-year membership in the Elite Singles Club but got only one introduction which she considered unsatisfactory. She was able to recover her monev. a me It appears if you are young and insistent you may be able to get some of the names you pay for. Tom considers himself a satisfied" date-buying customer, but he has had problems and is going to take one dating service to Small Claims court. He thinks these services never intend to give out more than one or two names no matter what you pay. Nevertheless, this young West Palm Beach man has joined three such services and would join two more if they would answer at the phone numbers they are advertising. "After five years of marriage, I became single but I didn't know anybody who was single," Tom said. "How do you find these people? I didn't know, so last January I went to three of these services." Tom is 31, dark and handsome, owns his own business and drives an expensive sports car. The woman at the Fort Lauderdale dating service immediately asked him to invest $1,500 with her to open a branch office in West Palm Beach. "At the rate she charges I figured she must be making a bundle, so why does she need my money to open another office? Instead, I gave her $120 for 12 women's names. She asked me only a few questions about myself, so obviously she really didn't care much about my background. "I told her I was interested in attractive, intelligent women between the ages of 20 and 35. She said she had lots of beautiful ones who would like to meet me and when my check cleared she would call me but she didn't. Finally, I called her. She told me she didn't have any women in the Palm Beaches, that I would have to come to Fort Lauderdale. I said I would, so she gave me the name of Clara, a 33-year-old woman. When I dated her I found she was 43. She said I was nice but not to call her again. "I called the dating service and got another name. Again the woman lived in Fort Lauderdale. She, too, said not to call her again because she never dates the same man twice. Every week for two months I bugged the dating service woman until she finally gave me the other 10 names I had paid for. If I had waited for her to call me, I would never have gotten the first two names." Since that time he has met a West Palm Beach woman and a Palm Beach Gardens woman who had joined the same dating service at the same time he did, but none of them were given each other s names. He wonders why they were all given names of people in Fort Lauderdale instead. For his $120, Tom found two women he may date again. He figures his money was well spent. "The standard of the women was pretty low and they were older women. But the 120 bucks was no more than the price of going out on two dates so 1 feel happy about that service; but not the next one I contacted." Turn to DATING, C9 Army's Promise to Women Pilots Never Honored Ron Wiggins Imagine that it is 1942; you are a pilot and you are physically disqualified from flying in combat and yet you want mightily to serve the country's war effort at the job you do best: flying. Imagine that the Army Air Force comes to you and says: "We need your flying skills desperately. We need you and hundreds like you to fly high-performance fighters and bombers from factory to base to free combat pilots for duty. Will you serve?" "Sure," you say "Show me the airplanes." "Before you agree," Uncle Sam stipulates, "there are some things you should know. You will undergo military flight training, live in barracks, wear military uniforms, stand watches, handle weapons, carry a sidearm, obey military orders but be paid less than military pilots." "OK," you agree. "The hours will be terrible, the work dangerous and many of you will die so the war effort will be furthered. Apart from the satisfaction of fighting the Axis, all I can of fer you is my word that if you and others can handle this mission successfully, you will be accorded military status." "Your word is good enough for me," you say to your country. So you do your part and two years later the country is fresh out of wars, thanks you for the 60 million miles of flying missions, and savs it certainly was handy to have you CIVILIANS helping out. In a word, the country reneged on its promise to confer retroactive military status on 1,074 women pilots who served as WASPs (Women Air Force Service Pilots), 800 of whom survive, yet are denied veterans' benefits at the caprice of Congress. Specifically, Gen. H.H. (Hap) Arnold assured the WASPs they would be adopted into the Army Air Force. Fly the planes now, he said in effect, we'll take care of the red tape later. In this he had the support of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But when it came to enacting the promise into law, Congress on June 21, 1944, one week after passage of the GI Bill of Rights, voted down the WASP bill by 19 votes. The rationale seems to have been that the war was won and that to commission women pilots was to take a job from a male pilot. Today, 35 years later, the WASPs have regrouped and petitioned Congress for what they were promised while the republic was at stake: military status including the right to be treated at veterans' hospitals. In their corner is Sen. Barry Goldwater and Rep. Lindy Boggs, both of whom have Introduced WASP bills in The senate and House. The reason I am aware of all of this is that former WASP pilot Teresa James of Lake Worth plopped a whole folder of the unit's history on my desk. Mrs. James flew the following aircraft during her 27-month hitch; P47, P38, P60, P69, B25, B26 and the C60. Who can be against belated military status for the WASPs The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Veterans Administration (VA) to name two. The VA through Dorothy L. Starbuck, chief benefits director, stated before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs this year that the surviving WASPs should remain ineligible for veterans' benefits since during their service they were not subject to court-martial and they could resign at will. I fail to see how this squares with the fact that we are talking about people who neither resigned nor needed court-martialing and who were assured military status and who served and never thought to complain until after the rape. I suspect the VA considers the WASPs an administrative headache and wishes they'd go away. The VFW fears that if the WASPs are accorded benefits, "Such action would destroy the special status of veterans and do irreparable damage to veterans' benefits" according to Donald H. Scwab, director, National Legislative Service. Irreparable damage? That strikes me as funny. Here the WASPs are trying to get the damage repaired and the VA and VFW are seeing to it that it stays irreparable.

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