When my colleague Sandy joined It’s Just Lunch a few months ago, not only was I hoping she’d finally meet that special someone, I was selfishly excited to vicariously live with her through $1300 worth of dates. In case you’re not familiar, It’s Just Lunch is a dating / matchmaking service – or so they claim to be – that charges $1300 for six dates or six months of membership, whichever comes last. They claim to have 2000 members evenly split between men and women in the DC area. Notice I keep using “claim” because upon further investigation, I must report, there seems to be very little truth in advertising.
And, here’s my favorite claim – that their customers are hyper-successful professionals just too darn busy to set up their own lunch dates. Because you know, of ALL the challenges of dating, it’s making my own lunch reservations at a generic mid-scale restaurant that really gets to me. Therefore $1300 for this wonderful and unique convenience is a deal clearly not to be missed by the hyper-successful busy professional! I am not sure how the said people can possibly handle these mission-impossible reservations once they’re through the membership and in a relationship, maybe even thanks to It’s Just Lunch. Perhaps there’s another level of membership – for couples – that takes care of all their subsequent scheduling needs – lunch, then dinner, then sex, then that tough coversation of “where we’re going”…. Possibilities are endless! If they haven’t come up with this level of service yet, they certainly should, don’t you think?
But after a few of Sandy’s dates, my hopeful anticipation of the magic It’s Just Lunch was bound to produce started to erode. Not only was she disappointed in her matches, she started developing major insecurities about herself. She was questioning why in the world they thought she’d be compatible with THOSE men! Was she giving out a “looser” vibe? Did they really think that she’d enjoy going out with Bud who only wanted to talk about his model trains? Or Stan who never missed a Star Trek convention? Or Larry who dressed like Screech on Saved by the Bell and silently stared at his shoes for an hour? I couldn’t believe what she was telling me – I was starting to worry she’d put my worst dating stories to shame!
It was clearly time for me to go undercover and investigate It’s Just Lunch first-hand. I called them up and asked to make an appointment. Smartly, they decided to first qualify me (basically see if I’d be willing to fork over the money and not ask for it back when they matched me up with completely undesirable dates.) Dori was the person assigned to me. In a tone of voice you might use with a puppy or a toddler, she carried on and ON about how great I sounded and how many of their men were looking for a girl JUST like me (truly, it was a miracle that all those men even joined seeing how I wasn’t a member yet!) I was getting cavities from her sugary compliments and promises by the time we finally set up an appointment. I then brushed my teeth – I just can’t handle that much artificial sweetness all in one sitting.
On the appointed day and time, I showed up at the It’s Just Lunch office and was showed to a conference room. There were framed articles all over the walls. As I looked closely at them though, I noticed that the most recent was written in 2003. Hmmm, wasn’t that when internet dating started to lose its social stigma? I then filled out several questionnaires, most quite predictably dealing with my interests and desired qualities for my mate. Nothing too deep, of course. A few minutes later Dori bounced in, chirping endlessly about how cute I was and how she couldn’t wait to match me up with the man of my dreams! Aha. She went down the list of my traits, interests, preferences, etc. I had marked quite a few boxes since well, I am a pretty well rounded person with a LOT of interests (with notable exception of model trains and Star Trek conventions).
As it turned out, the men would LOVE the fact that I enjoy dancing and sailing and cooking. Why only last week they signed someone up who owned a sail boat! AND he doesn’t kick little children as a hobby! Hallelujah, for I am sure this is my soul mate! I patiently explained to Dori that as much as I’d like to share some interests with my mate, what’s most important to me is personality compatibility. Not ethnicity, not even age or height as much, I just want someone who is brilliant, funny, sensitive, ambitious, warm, caring, and have it all be in the same package (not one trait in each of the six dates!) Someone well-rounded and balanced who doesn’t mind making his own lunch reservations and perhaps even at a not-so-generic restaurant. Someone who normally wouldn’t be using It’s Just Lunch to find his mate. I think I overwhelmed the hell out of Dori because all of the sudden she ran out of sales lines to feed me.
Yet Dori was a fighter – she desperately grasped for straws, trying to figure out how to sell me the membership, and finally asked what I most liked about my last mate. I thought about it for a moment “He was very intuitive” I replied. Dori gave me a blank stare and said, “I am sorry, what do you mean by that?” I gave her the look to indicate, if you don’t know that, are you seriously claiming you can match me?? The interview was clearly over and Dori looked visibly distressed.
In a last-ditch, half-hearted effort, Dori compelled me to be “patient and flexible” in my search. I assured her that I was neither of those things and unless she had someone in mind who matched my criteria precisely, we should part ways and wish each other well. I felt only slightly bad for intimidating poor clueless Dori. But seriously, I find it bordering on criminal to charge people over a thousand dollars for a few dates profoundly matched by their checked “sailing” or “movies” interest boxes. As I was walking out, Dori helpfully suggested, “Let me check with the other directors and see if they’ve interviewed anyone you’d like. After all, we have 2000 members and I don’t know every one of them”. I smiled at her, “To be fair, I am only interested in the male 1000 half Dori.” We were done.
I walked away from this interview convinced that Sandy has an equally good chance to find her soul mate in a bar, a party or even being run over by him while crossing the street, as through It’s Just Lunch. I sort of feel cheated on her behalf. As much fun as it was for me to play a dating detective, I am also sad. I am sad that there are hopeful people out there, getting taken to the cleaners by “matchmakers” with lots of promises but no clue or substance. Perhaps they can match generic people satisfied with generic dates at generic restaurants, but not the special, unique, phenomenal people like my friends and readers! I am not sure what to do about it. I am secretly hoping that the head of the Better Business Bureau is a single person reading this blog… Or enough of you will comment on your experiences with It’s Just Lunch (and similar services) so that we can build a strong case for getting your money back! I’d love to hear your stories about some of the services you’ve tried and whether you think they give you a better chance of meeting someone spectacular than bars, parties and the internet.