DENVER -- Elizabeth Young first saw ads for It’s Just Lunch in airplane magazines.
After not having luck with other online dating apps, Young, a 41-year-old school counselor, said she decided to write a check to It’s Just Lunch Denver. It cost Young $2,700 for a lifetime membership and then a fee of roughly $90 per month.
The dating service sells itself as an elite international matching service that has offices across the country, including in Denver.
“What they say is ‘It’s Just Lunch is the world’s No. 1 personal matchmaking service. It’s personal, it’s private, it’s convenient, it’s real.’ They just forgot it’s a scam,” said Young, while reading the company’s website.
She saw the purchase as a major investment with the promise of handpicked dates. Young said the salesperson told her over the phone that she would have a few dates per month.
Young said she was told, “We have so many great men I can’t wait for you to meet."
"I had this expectation and this excitement of meeting quality people who also invested what I did," she said.
Young is one of two It’s Just Lunch customers who spoke with Denver7, saying the company did not meet expectations. They’re not alone, as the company has already settled one class action lawsuit and faces another.
Class action lawsuit filed against the company
John Balestriere is a New York-based attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit against It’s Just Lunch and won. He said Young’s story matches what his firm has heard from other clients.
“A common trick they were taught was to be speaking to someone and at some point just turn over the clipboard and say, ‘I’m sorry, I just have to stop you. I have three people who would be just perfect for you.’ The idea of kind of luring people in,” Balestriere said.
As a part of the lawsuit and settlement agreement, It’s Just Lunch agreed to pay nearly $5 million to impacted clients. The average customer received around $14. The law firm was also paid a fee of $1.5 million.
“People who are signing up are busy and they have disposable income. They are very vulnerable,” Balestriere said.
The lawsuit called the dating service “a massive scheme to defraud tens of thousands of single professionals throughout the country.” It claimed the company, “overcharged its clients” and “matches are driven entirely by monthly quota requirements.”
Balestriere said the most shocking thing his firm found was that in some cases, It’s Just Lunch employees went on dates with female customers so that they “could at least have a date with a man.”
He said the company trains its employees to make the sale, and the lawsuit states the company “[r]outinely hires staff … who have no experience … whatsoever in the field of matchmaking.”
The suit resulted in a settlement in late 2019.
“We frankly thought that was the end of it,” Balestriere said.
But it would end up being far from the end.
“This is the worst financial decision I’ve ever made,” Young said.
Young was not a part of the settlement agreement. She said instead of getting the few dates per month the company verbally promised, she had four dates over three months.
“So, mathematically, that’s $3,000 for four dates,” she said.
And while Young does acknowledge the contract she signed only promised her one date per month, she said she believed what It’s Just Lunch was selling.
“I believe that the company really preys on people who — like me, in the Denver area, especially during a pandemic — really want connection,” Young said.
Another Denver client tells a similar story
Joseph DeOliveira said he had a similar experience with the company. He was a single father also looking for love who said he fell for It’s Just Lunch’s sales pitch.
“It was basically a waste of money and waste of time,” DeOliveira said. “They told me that I was going to have multiple matches a month and that I was going to find people that were committed to a relationship.”
Instead, DeOliveira said he received “one or two dates for the thousands of dollars that I put in and it wasn’t consistent.”
He said his matches weren’t matches at all, and the women he went out with had nothing in common with him.
“There were so many good reviews, I thought it was a good company,” DeOliveira said.
Young said she also believed those reviews and everything else she read.
Both now question the accuracy of those good reviews and want to warn others trying to find love.
“They are going to continue to scam people until they are brought to light,” DeOliveira said.
Law firm files another lawsuit against the company
After Balestriere’s firm settled in the original class-action lawsuit, the firm said new It’s Just Lunch clients started reaching out to them with the same complaints.
“It’s Just Lunch is continuing to engage in very similar sounding misconduct,” Balestriere said.
The firm filed another class-action lawsuit against the company in November 2020, this time in California.
The suit claims It’s Just Lunch “continues to engage in similar misconduct” the original suit was supposed to stop.
“I’ve been a lawyer and doing this stuff for over 20 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it,” Balestriere said.
“They took advantage of people wanting a real relationship,” said DeOliveira.
It’s Just Lunch responds
It’s Just Lunch Denver declined Denver7’s request for an interview.
In a lengthy statement, the company said, “The new claims in the California lawsuit are brought by two individuals. It is very disappointing and unfortunate that this matter is pending because these allegations are completely without merit. IJL intends to vigorously defend the new suit.”
It’s Just Lunch Denver is a franchise of the company and said, “The satisfaction of our clients has been our number one priority” and that the company “cannot guarantee chemistry, long-term relationship or marriage.”
In It’s Just Lunch Denver’s statement, the company said DeOliveira “called our Denver office on February 10, 2021 requesting to continue his membership.”
DeOliveira confirmed to Denver7 he did reach out to the company but said in an email, “My only purpose was to inquire and confirm the facts I gave you in the interview and to express my displeasure with the service I was provided and to give them a chance to make it right.”
He went on to say, “I stand by what I said 100% that I believe IJL is a scam and I will not retract that statement unless I am proven wrong by their actions.”
To read It’s Just Lunch Denver’s full statement click here.