When Val Taylor met with Edmonton Matchmakers, she says the dating consultant suggested her weight was the reason she hadn’t met anyone.
Taylor hesitated over the $7,344 price. She said that made the consultant Sharon Claire Jones go from “nice Claire” to “evil Claire.”
According to Taylor, Claire became aggressive and raised her voice to tell her “You will be a lonely old woman by yourself for the rest of your life.”
“It made me feel well maybe she’s correct and maybe it’s the only chance in the world I will have to meet someone,” said Taylor, 56.
In her testimony Thursday in provincial court, Taylor said the appointment at Edmonton Matchmakers on July 17, 2015 left her feeling defeated and afraid.
Taylor was the only witness at one-day trial for Jones who is charged under the Fair Trading Act after an investigation by Service Alberta.
Jones has pleaded not guilty to exerting undue pressure on consumers to enter into a transaction.
A conviction for the offence carries a maximum penalty of $300,000 and two years in jail.
Jones occasionally shook her head as she listened to Taylor’s testimony but didn’t take the stand.
“I just wanted to get out of that room so I said I would sign,” recalled Taylor, a medical lab technologist, who eventually put the payment on two credit cards.
Crown prosecutor Fraser Genuis argued Jones played on his client’s insecurities saying, “If that’s not seeking to exploit the vulnerability of someone seeking a matchmaking service, I’m not sure what is.”
Defence lawyer Evan McIntyre questioned why Taylor had only complained to Service Alberta in April 2017, nearly two years after her appointment.
He argued Taylor willingly signed the contract but her story “keeps getting worse.”
McIntyre pointed out that Taylor hadn’t protested at the time, or cancelled her contract before the first date.
“You sat there in silence didn’t you?,” said McIntyre during cross examination.
“Silence and fear,” Taylor responded.
But McIntyre produced a document signed by Taylor that stated she was treated courteously and provided with adequate information.
Service Alberta has received 19 complaints about Edmonton Matchmakers between 2015 and 2018. Four complaints were investigated but this is the only case where charges were laid.
CBC first reported on Edmonton Matchmakers in April 2017 after Margaret Clark launched a lawsuit complaining that she only went on a single date after spending thousands of dollars on the service.
The story prompted Taylor to come forward about her own matchmaking woes with the company who sent her on a date with a “partially toothless,” homeless man.
In court Thursday Taylor said she emphasized to Jones that any suitable match must be employed but her one and only date did not meet that criteria.
He said he was “happily unemployed” and had no intention of looking for a job because he planned to “bum around for the summer,” recalled Taylor. He told her he lived at “no fixed address” and parked his camper on the side of the road or parking lots.”
Judge D’Arcy DePoe said the contract, which locks someone in after the first date, appeared “incredibly one-sided.” But DePoe expressed doubt over whether it could amount to undue influence.
He said he was troubled by the document Taylor signed indicating she was pleased with the service.
DePoe has reserved his decision.