Orli Ross, a 33-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep living in New York City, said she had gone through lots of relationships and every dating service out there, with no success. Then she took her search for a mate a step further.
Ross recently paid a matchmaking service $10,000 to set her up on three blind dates. It took Ross two years to save up the money. It's a high stakes version of "The Dating Game" that she believes she can't afford not to play.
"I really want to be in a great relationship," she said. "I want a husband, I'd like a family. I really feel I've done everything that I could possibly do up to this point. So, why not?"
"We are smart, we know when we meet a great man that we are going to hold on to him, we know how to pick and choose and we want to teach the women to pick and choose," said Susan Rose, who runs an "elite and discreet" service with Jennifer Heller called Rose and Heller Inc.
The matchmakers throw in a year's worth of "on-call" dating advice. But don't rush for your checkbook just yet, ladies: The waiting list is six months long (the pair do offer online dating advice at zgoddess.com).
"We will not take on any more people, we are at maximum right now," Heller said, citing the bad economy as a magnet for people in search of a stable relationship. "Because it's very labor-intensive, and it's very time-consuming. And we want to give everybody as much attention as we can. They are calling us 24/7, they have access to us. So we never shut off, we never say no."
Such attention to detail, they say, accounts for the expense.
The business model has proved to be a success, despite the hard times. The service recently raised its fees by $5,000, up to $15,000.
"We want to help people find love, and it's not just about finding that partner, it's about changing their mind-set," Heller said.
Which is no easy task. Heller and Rose might just be the hardest-working matchmakers in America, and they claim to have a 75 percent success rate.
For them, hobnobbing in hotel lobbies and throwing lavish cocktail parties is no fun and games. They're paid to be on the prowl for high-powered, successful and, in most cases, beautiful bachelors.
What is the secret?
"It's even before the chemistry," Heller said. "We uncover peoples' patterns. They could be out there dating for many years and think, 'I know how to do this,' but they are not getting into a relationship, something is stopping them. So we are able to identify that pattern."
But can women really be coached into attracting Mr. Right?
"Dating is really stressful," Ross said. "You go on these dates, I'm constantly out there networking. It would be nice to sort of sit back and have someone choose for me, so that's part of the reason I've invested in it."
Does Ross think she's been doing anything wrong?
"Maybe I haven't chosen correctly, and maybe the wrong guys are attracted to me, and that's why I hired Susan and Jennifer, because I really want to dig in deeper to find out what's going on," she said.
Before the dates, Ross undergoes a kind of date coaching. The first step is a grueling personal assessment.
"The man is not going to come in and swoop you up," Rose said. "That's just not going to happen."