Chinese woman says dating agency kept her in office for six hours until she spent US$2,800 on premium service

Phoebe Zhang
Chinese woman says dating agency kept her in office for six hours until she spent US$2,800 on premium service

A Chinese woman claimed she was kept in the office of a dating services company for six hours on Sunday and forced to buy its VIP services, one of a recent string of complaints against China’s matchmaking industry.

The woman from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, who used the online pseudonym Chen Dan, said she met her matchmaker from the dating agency Zhenai.com to update her personal details and pick out some prospective dates, Qianjiang Evening News reported.

She said the matchmaker showed her photos of male clients on an iPad and asked her to pick one. Then she was asked to look the matchmaker in the eye and imagine she was lying on a sofa beside the client where the man would ask her to “get more intimate”, the report said.

Chen told the matchmaker the scenario made her uneasy, but she was told to not take offence because it was just “procedure”. The matchmaker gave Chen a contract on the iPad to sign.

“I don’t quite remember what exactly happened in the six hours. The room was stuffy and I was hungry and scared, I just wanted to escape,” she said.

She said she felt the matchmaker pressured her to not use her phone or go to the toilet. Chen paid 18,800 yuan (US$2,800) for four months of the company’s VIP services.

“The matchmaker said that when I found a boyfriend, he could help pay the fee, [as] any man with sense would willingly pay,” she said.

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Chen came to regret her decision and complained to the police, who told her to report the company to consumer rights services.

On Monday, the matchmaker sent her a link to the company’s website where she could cancel the contract and demand a refund of her money.

Zhenai did not respond to a request from the South China Morning Post for comment on Chen’s complaint. On its website, photos of couples, many in wedding gowns and tuxedos, were used to illustrate successes. The website claimed that Zhenai had 3,000 professional matchmakers for more than 140 million clients.

The online dating services industry has boomed in China – a market of more than 200 million single adults in 2016, according to government statistics – and a country where divorce rates were on the rise. Agencies have been accused of scamming clients, mainly involving claims of heavy sales pressure and personal profiles that were misleading or exaggerated

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A 32-year-old woman surnamed Shen, from Nanjing in Jiangsu province, said she began using the dating app Baihe this month and immediately received a phone call from a woman who tried to persuade her to sign up for VIP services.

She refused and, on Saturday, she received a call from another matchmaker – a man – who chided her for being “rude” and tried to sell her VIP services again.

In January, a man in Hangzhou surnamed Wu told media that he had paid 10,800 yuan to become a VIP member of matchmaking service Shiji Jiayuan and was set up with a woman who claimed to be the daughter of a company executive.

After he spent 30,000 yuan on jewellery for her, Wu discovered her profile was fake – she was a divorcee with two children.

A month later, Shiji Jiayuan apologised on the Weibo social network, said the woman had lied to the company and offered Wu three times his contracted amount as a refund.

It also said it would set up a mechanism to verify the identities and personal details of its clients.

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