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.”
“It made 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.
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.”
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.
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.