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PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2004, 12:00am

The column for anyone fed up with bureaucracy, frustrated with delays or furious with poor service. Tell us your complaint and we'll try to fix it...

A woman reader wrote to say she had a disaster with WhirlWind Date, a dating service, more than a week ago when she suspected two men were 'planted' by the organiser. 'I read about WhirlWindDate and logged on to their website to check it out. It seemed pretty promising as it would be a chance to meet 20 guys in one go,' she wrote.

'So I dragged my cousin in and signed up. The cost was $350 each. After we paid, a WhirlWindDate e-mail told me to get to a club by 7.45pm.

'We made it to the club just before 8pm that night; there were around 2-3 guys, 3-4 girls, the MC, the owner of WhirlWindDate and the organisers (two girls and one guy). We were asked to wait as the speed dating would start around 8.30. We then proceeded to wait for the 'latecomers' until almost 9pm. When we finally started, there were 12 girls and four guys in total. In the middle of the game, two other guys joined the event and we were told by the organisers they were late.'

Several participants immediately became suspicious. 'I suspected these two were not real participants. At the end of the event, one of the suspected impostors started chatting up all the girls and asking for e-mail addresses,' she continued.

'Wow, what a deal for him - didn't have to pay $350, but still got all the e-mail addresses! Then everybody started leaving and, sure enough, the two suspected impostors joined the organisers for a snack in one of the alley food stalls just outside the club. I saw that because my cousin and a few other girls sat nearby to eat our very late dinner. We were joined by the guy who came in at the end to get e-mail addresses. After much pressure, he admitted that some guys were impostors.

'I'm fed up and disappointed. They could have had the decency to cancel the event due to insufficient numbers or at least grouped two events together and rescheduled. Holding the event with a severe shortage of participants and then asking friends to be impostors was absolutely unacceptable.'

WhirlWindDate replies:

'We are truly sorry to receive this complaint, especially as the vast majority of the hundreds of people who have been speed dating with us since we introduced this innovative concept to Hong Kong over a year ago have expressed very high levels of satisfaction and pleasure. Many people have been brought together who would never otherwise have met.

'Whilst not accepting much of what the complainant says, we value our reputation as the region's most professional speed dating source. We have already offered two free places [to your reader] at our next event. However, if a full cash refund is preferred, then we are ready to offer this as an alternative.'

Chow Chak-hung of Causeway Bay was travelling aboard Cathay Pacific Flight CX 839 from Vancouver to Hong Kong on October 7 when a flight attendant told him his seatbelt was malfunctioning. As no other seat was available in the economy section, he was offered to be relocated to a first-class seat because air safety regulations required all seatbelts must function properly. The 72-year-old was never relocated despite the offer.

'I noticed that my safety belt did not work properly. I told a crew member at once,' he said. 'She checked but it did not help. Another crew member tried to fix it. When his efforts failed, he said according to company regulations, he had to take me before landing to a seat in first class for safety reasons. Then he left.

'To my great disappointment, nobody returned to take care of my case ... The experience was most horrible.'

Cathay Pacific acknowledged the incident but did not explain why the passenger was never taken to another seat with a proper seatbelt despite safety regulations.

'As the plane was close to descent, the cabin crew performed a mandatory routine check to ensure all passengers were seated and that their seatbelts were properly fastened,' a statement said.

'While Mr Chow's seatbelt could be fastened, it could not be pulled to fit snugly around him. He was then offered another seat with a properly-working seatbelt during the landing process. There was no turbulence recorded during the descent and landing of the concerned flight, and the safety of Mr Chow and other passengers on board was never at stake.

'It is mandatory for crew members to check if passengers have fastened their seatbelts whenever 'Seatbelt' signs are on.'