‘Just Lunch’ Love Script May Have Been a Fraud

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A matchmaking service that allegedly had employees tell every prospective client, “Oh, by the way, I’ve got three people that I’m thinking for you just off the top of my head,” must face fraud claims, a federal judge ruled.
     In 2007, nine men and women sued the New York-based matchmaking service It’s Just Lunch and its regional affiliates, alleging that they roped in clients with a sales pitch that promised to find multiple matches for everybody, whether or not it was true. The proposed representative for the New York class claims that the company violated the state’s general-business laws by charging him more than $1,000 per year.
     It’s Just Lunch sales staffers pick up an “info-call script” at “First Date University” to guide them through calls with potential customers, the complaint alleges.
     U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein liberally quoted from that script in a Wednesday opinion that green-lights the New York class to pursue class-action fraud claims.
     It’s Just Lunch president Melissa Brown acknowledged in a deposition that the script warned “in all capitals” that salespeople should “NOT DEVIATE FROM THE INFO CALL PRESENTATION,” according to the 41-page opinion.
     One sample come-on said: “Ok, so far I have 3-4 ideas for your first date,” the opinion states.
     “When asked for an example of a situation in which she would reject a prospective customer rather than claiming to be able to provide matches, Jill Vandor, co-owner of the New York IJL franchise at which plaintiff Bruno was a customer, testified that she would ‘likely’ reject ‘a 55-year-old [who] came in and only wanted to date a 30-year-old,'” Stein wrote.
     Sales representative Camila Craig testified that she initially turned down a potential customer who “could not complete a full sentence” but “ended up taking him” upon the advice of a supervisor, the opinion states.
     “In short, the evidence in the record that defendants’ salesforce ever diverged from the script is speculative at best,” Stein found.
     Class counsel John Balestriere with Balestriere Fariello applauded the verdict.
     “We are very happy the court agreed that there is evidence to show that It’s Just Lunch perpetrated fraud on a massive scale, that our clients are able to proceed against It’s Just Lunch as a class action,” Balestriere said in an email.
     Attorneys for the defendants did not return a request for comment.

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