The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas on April 27, 1986 · Page 10
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April 27, 1986

The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas · Page 10

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Baytown, Texas
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 27, 1986
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Page 10
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THE BAYTOWN SUN Suaday, April 17. 1996 Complaints prompt probes into singles clubs DALLAS (AP) - For $1,250, Myrna was matched with an ex- boyfriend, Ron's "ideal date" turned out to be a man and Ruth Thurgood got no dates at all. So goes life in the high-speed, low-mileage singles lane at two Dallas-area clubs under Investigation by the Better Business Bureau because of dozens of customers' complaints, BBB spokesman Bill Beckhart says. More than 60 people have written the BBB and the Texas attorney general's office alleging high-pressure sales, shady business tactics and broken promises at American Millionaires Inc. and Successful Singles International, he said. "These are the two big ones" in drawing complaints that point up the problems lonely singles can face succumbing to badgering salesmen and $975-plus membership fees for a dating service that may not be able to live up to their expectations, says bureau President Ron Berry. Many, like Myrna, said that if the companies hooked them up with anyone at all, they were people with whom they had nothing In common: smokers- nonsmokers, drinkers- teetotalers, religious-atheists, wealthy-poor. "This was my first experience with a singlet club, and I can guarantee you it will be my last," said Pattl'Arnold, a 58- year-old widow who paid SSI $975 but never got a single date. "I won't be that stupid again." Ron, another unhappy male customer who asked that his full name not be used, was astounded to see a man had been referred to him as his "ideal date," Successful Singles did not return repeated calls from The Associated Press and Beckhart said the 1,000-member club — which stopped responding months ago to the complaints against it — closed its doors unexpectedly last week and "just vamoosed." The attorney general's office, meanwhile, has launched a probe into American Millionaires, sending a letter to company officials outlining 20 allegations of deceptive practices it wants stopped. Attorney General spokesman Eliot Shavin says the company has practiced false advertising, printed brochures promising more than the company can deliver and wrongly told people they can deduct some of the fees from their taxes. AMI is a Los Angeles-based singles club with eight branches, including Houston as well as Dallas, that have about 1,000 members each. Founder Brian Popko vehemently denies the findings of the Better Business Bureau and says he will fight CARMEN FOSTER of Illinois will hold revival services at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Victory Temple Pentecostal Church of God, 5 Greshman. Foster and his family travel extensively across the United States holding revivals. Foster will also preach at 11 a.m. Sunday at the church. School menus MONDAY BAYTOWN BREAKFAST - Fruit juice, cereal, toast with jelly and milk LUNCH — Chicken fried steak or beet tips with gravy, squash, okra and tomatoes, green beans, salad, roll, milk and fruit crisp. BARBERS HILL BKEAKFAST - Bacon, juice, pancake and milk. LUNCH - Pizza or grilled cheese, vegetable beef soup, tossed salad, crackers, milk and apple cobbler ST. JOSEPH LUNCH — Pizza. Irench fries, salad and milk. CROSBY BREAKFAST— Cereal. LUNCH — Tacos. Spanish rice, pinlo beans, chilled fruil and milk. TUESDAY BAYTOWN BREAKFAST - Fruil juice, sausage, biscuit and milk. LUNCH - Pizza or manager's choice meal, beans, corn, broccoli, salad, bread, milk and cookie. BARBERS HILL BREAKFAST — Sausage, biscuit, juice and milk, LUNCH - Taco or LIVLT. rice, pinto beans, taco salad, cornbread. milk and fruit cup. ST. JOSEPH LUNCH - Oiar-broiled steak, rice with gravy, green peas, fruit and milk. CROSBY BREAK FAST-Pancakes with syrup. LUNCH — Dagburgers. french fries, pop-eye salad, gelatin cubes and milk. WEDNESDAY BAYTOWN BREAKFAST - Fruit juice, waffles, butter andj, syrup and milk. LUNCH — Coney or Salisbury steak with gravy, green peas, triangles, beels. salad, roll or bun. milk and baker's surprise. BARBERS HILL BREAKFAST - Bacon, juice, waffle and milk. LUNCH - Spaghetti or steak fingers, carrots, mustard greens, tossed salad, cheese roll, milk and pudding pop ST. JOSEPH LUNCH — Hamburger on bun. french fries, rib salad and milk. CROSBY BREAKFAST - Scrambled eggs and toast. LUNCH - Pizza, corn on the cob. green salad, kolache and milk. THURSDAY BARBERS HILL BREAKFAST - Sausage, juice, biscuit and milk. LUNCH - Fish or stroganoff. french fries, squash casserole, cole slaw, bread, milk and chocolate cake. ST. JOSEPH LUNCH — Spaghetti with meat and cheese, green beans, fruit and milk. FRIDAY BARBERS HILL BREAKFAST - Sausage, juice, biscuit and milk LUNCH — Baked chicken or cook's choice, baked potato, stir fry vegetables, green salad, roll, milk and frozen fruit bar. £ ST. JOSEPH jf LUNCH — Sloppy Joes, french fries, beans »nd Fmllk. Sun Teen Times Provides School Scoops them in court if necessary. Complaint! continue to come In against the firm, with about 30 recorded to date in the BBB'i Dallas office, Beckhart says. One customer was so upset that she pirated AMI's mailing list and sent letters to all members urging them to complain, "This whole thing has been terribly unfair," Popko said, adding that the club has not seen such a rash of complaints in its seven years. "We're willing to go through any fair group and present both sides of the case. We're getting a black eye in Dallas alone." Beckhart and Eliot Shavin of the attorney general's office say, however, that the black eye is well-deserved, Beckhart says he took Popko up on his invitation to go to AMI'S north Dallas office and look things over. "1 went through there and found even more problems," he said. "It didn't solve anything." He said he found a labyrinthine date-selection process; misleading information and statistics, lack of referrals and evidence of high-pressure sales that prey on people's loneliness. Another common complaint against AMI was that many of the events it scheduled were either canceled or held at public bars. And AMI often charged a fee for members to attend its bar functions, Beckhart said. "Some deal, huh?" he asked. Popko says that of the 99 events planned in 1985, all but five went on as planned. But Shavin said in his letter to AMI that the club must inform members outright that events may be canceled or rescheduled. , Even the clubs' names are misleading, Beckhart said: The screening process at both requires members be neither millionaires nor successful ("The only millionaire in AMI is Brian Popko," groused 33-year- old Candice Burns). And Berry adds that some members hardly were screened at all. Popko said, however, that "we do screen people out if there are arrest records or if they are socially inept or alcoholics." Of the seven "happy" customers' telephone numbers AMI provided to the AP, four were wrong numbers and two did not return calls. But Linda Friedman, 36, did say she was content with AMI'S performance. "I didn't Join to meet a husband,'' she said. "It's a nice social club that forced me to get out and meet people.'' But Ms. Thurgood not only never got a date, she also said' AMI falsely promised travel, rental-car and merchandise discounts that turned out only to apply at the club's California home base. AMI has responded to all its customers' complaints, the BBB says. But many of the letters offered extended memberships the customers said they had no use for. Few had their money refunded by either AMI or SSI. Brad, a 26-year-old who asked that his real name not be used, said he joined AMI because its sales pitch was different from other club*. Both parties, baaed on the videotape* and personal information on file, have to agree to meet before phone numbers are exchanged. "But it was a Joke," the 36- year-old said. "I made my selections and never heard back from them. And they would never return my calls." Myrna says she knows she'll never be able to get her money back, but "I just want to do something to keep other people from having to go through this." Beckhart says the complaints against SSI and AMI don't mean that legitimate, well-run singles clubs don't exist. "People just need to be careful In^choosing one," he said. LLOYD'S MEDICAL HAS MOVED TO 1104KNOWLTON AVE. (off Hwy. 146 - Across from Boy Plaza) Hospital Beds Bath Aids Wheelchairs Walking Aids Used Equipment Sales Medical Oxygen Sales, Rentals & Repairs 427-9431 If s Your Choice! Optional Measured Service. You only pay for what you use! Optional Measured Service. General Telephone is now offering Optional Measured Service (OMS) in Baytown. The Alternative. Optional Measured Service is an alternative to flat rate service which permits customers to have more control over their telephone bill. It is based on separate charges for access to the present toll-free calling network and for the use of that network to place calls. No Charge for Incoming Calls. There are no charges for incoming calls. Outgoing completed calls are charged based on the number of calls made, the duration of the call, the distance of the call, and the time of day , You Only Pay For What You Use! Optional Measured Service Pricing is based on usage, similar to the pricing methods used by water and electric utilities. You pay a flat monthly fee (about one-half your present rate) for access to the network, then you are charged for each completed call you make. Call your GTE Business Office for complete details, General Telephone

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