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Finders Keepers

By Tim McDaniel
Jul 1, 2018 · 3,466 words · 13 minutes

Young woman at Restaurant

Photo by satria eleazar via Unsplash.

From the author: Finder's Keepers is a matchmaking service with a stellar record of matching soulmates. But is romance dead when you can find your true love so assuredly?


Camera 1: Opening shot of the Panorama logo.  Zooming in to a two-shot on Tarbox and Madrazo.  Then Camera 1 close-up on Tarbox

Grant Tarbox

Hello, and welcome to Panorama for August twelfth, 2021.  I'm Grant Tarbox.

Camera 2: CU of Madrazo.  Insert screen behind her with Brayez's picture

Joana Madrazo

And I'm Joana Madrazo.  Tonight: He's made millions -- and, they say, has forever revolutionized dating, romance, and marriage -- with his amazing matching service.  We have exclusive interviews with the inventor himself, Zaghmout Brayez, former clients, colleagues, and some who are not so happy about this new, "instant romance."

Camera 1: CU of Tarbox.  Insert screen behind him

Grant Tarbox

Thank you, Joana.  We'll also have a disturbing report on sub-contractor fraud in the building of the Moon station -- fraud which some say the government knew about, and which could endanger the lives of station personnel.  Also, stories on the alleged cancer risks of the new generation of mindputers, and on Tibet's unique new health care system.  Finally, we'll have our weekly commentary by Steve Chue.  Joana?

Camera 1: medium CU of Madrazo

Joana Madrazo

Thanks, Grant.  But up first, Zaghmout Brayez and Finder's Keepers.

Camera 2: medium CU of Madrazo.  Insert screen behind her with file images of Z.B.'s early life

Only five years ago, no one had even heard of Zaghmout Brayez.  The son of Syrian immigrants, Mr. Brayez spent his early years in this San Antonio suburb, one of three children in a middle class family.  Neighbors and teachers recall a quiet boy who received good, though not outstanding, grades, and who ran on the school track team.  No one could have imagined that this young man would someday bring about a revolution in the way Americans -- and  others -- forge personal relationships.

After high school Zaghmout studied business administration here, at San Antonio State University, but his real love was in computer science.

<Roll tape>  Madrazo interviewing ZB in person, at his home, in chairs around small coffee table

"Joana, I never set out to change the world.  It was more an interesting idea, at first."

"An 'interesting idea.'  And yet, Mr. Brayez, that idea has made you many millions.  And promises to make you billions."

"Yes, isn't that a nice by-product?"

<Roll tape>  Shot of Gika, interviewer not in camera

Hector Gika, Friend

Well, basically, Zagh had to study business, that's what his family, especially his father, insisted on, and he seemed content to go along with that.  But he would take, in addition, all the computer classes he could, and he just ate that up.  He always thought of it as a hobby, though.  I think his father expected him to follow him in the retail clothing business.

Camera 1: CU Madrazo, with the screen behind her

Joana Madrazo

Brayez did indeed become an assistant office manager at a Rondiel's Clothes outlet after graduation, but friends say his heart was not in the business.  However, while there he did develop a new accounting program that saved the company substantial funds.

In 1994 he met Delia Moorey, who was working there part time as a sales clerk, and two years later they were married.  It is just that kind of two-year wait, of course, that has been virtually eliminated by Brayez' new matchmaking program.

And then, in 2011, James Bowker entered the picture.

<Roll tape>  Continue Madrazo interview with ZB

"James was a friend of mine.  I knew he was unhappy, and it hurt me to see this pain in him.  He was trying to meet the right woman.  Loneliness, of course it's terrible.  So I became interested in the solution he was trying out, these dating services."

"You weren't familiar with them before, Mr. Brayez?"

"Oh, goodness no.  I'd heard of them, but I met my wife the old-fashioned way."

<Roll tape>  Bowker, interviewer not in camera

James Bowker

I had been divorced for several years, and wanted to get back into the dating circle again.  Actually, I was hoping I would meet someone I could marry, settle down with.  But I just didn't seem to know anyone that could introduce me to someone.

So I started looking into these dating services, matchmakers, introduction services, whatever you might call them.  They had all these forms to fill out -- hobbies, career plans, your attitudes about children, all that kind of stuff.

Zagh was a friend and neighbor.  We lived next door to each other for years, in San Antonio.  And one day he was over, and saw some of these forms, and the whole subject just seemed to fascinate him.  Of course I didn't know then what that would all lead to.

Madrazo in voiceover; tape still running of Bowker

Joana Madrazo (VO)

And Mr. Bowker met someone.

James Bowker

Well, she was really nice, special.  We got married.  A very nice person, nothing wrong with her, but the marriage only lasted a couple of years.  But when Zagh opened his first Finder's Keepers, I signed up, and got married the same month, and have been absolutely happily married ever since.  Zagh's a godsend, a true godsend.  And my wife will tell you the same thing.

<Roll tape>  Video of the exterior of a small shop

Joana Madrazo (VO)

Brayez researched dating service systems and methods for the next three years, and then -- to the astonishment of his family, his friends, and his co-workers -- he suddenly quit his job and used virtually all of his savings to buy into a partnership with a small matchmaking firm, Finder's Keepers.

<Roll tape>  Continue interview with ZB

"It was just a little operation at that time, you know.  My wife did some bookkeeping, some reception; it saved some money for us.  For me, I was very excited about seeing if the system I had developed would work.  Theoretically, it was sound, but in the real world?  I had to find out.  I had to refine it."

"And your partner in Finder's Keepers, Brian Kidd.  Was he happy with the new partnership?  With your new system?"

"Well, he needed an investor, so I came along at the right time for him.  And he was willing to let me try the new system out."

"But he is no longer with Finder's Keepers?"

"Yes, that's right.  We bought out his shares a few years ago.  I think he's in Florida now."

"And how do you feel about the way things have gone for the new company, Mr. Brayez?"

"Oh, it was gratifying to see the theory borne out.  But I didn't foresee all these changes, I just...  Well, the world changes, I guess."

<Roll tape>  Brian Kidd, shot in office, interviewer off camera

Brian Kidd

He said he bought me out?  Yeah, you could say that.  Or you could say that Brayez used every lever he could find to force me out.  I guess he thought I was in his way.

Am I happy about that now?  Hell no.  You'd think there was enough money to go around.  I guess Brayez didn't think so.

<Roll tape>  Delia Brayez, shot at home, interviewer off camera

Delia Brayez

It was a tiny shop, just a tiny shop, that first one.  We put ads in the local papers, and we just hoped it would go.

<Roll graphics tape>  Screen shows first a map of the US showing FK locations and then a graph

Joana Madrazo (VO)

And go it certainly did.  Starting with a single location in early 2013, business boomed from the start as the word spread: this was not like any other dating service.  Franchises began popping up -- Houston, Los Angeles, New York.  Now, Finder's Keepers can be found in over twenty North American locations, and has become a multimillion dollar industry in less than six years.  The competition has been virtually wiped out.

<Roll tape>  Madrazo interview with ZB

"I can't say I am sorry that so many of the dating services went out of business.  I think they, well, most of them, were just fooling people, giving them false hope.  Trading on their loneliness."

"And your system doesn't?"

"Because it actually does what it says it will.  None of the others could say that."

<Roll tape>  Bowker, interviewer off camera

James Bowker

Because Finder's Keepers works.  That's all there is to it.  People go in there, and two weeks or whatever later they're marrying someone from across the country.

<Roll tape>  Happy couples in various settings

Joana Madrazo (VO)

They certainly were.  And of the tens of thousands of marriages brought about by Finder's Keepers, how many divorces have there been?  Just two.

And in both of those cases, the couples involved later remarried.

Each other.

Cut to Madrazo interview with ZB

"Of course, Joana, I am very happy to see the happiness that people have found as a result of my new method, and my business."

"Congratulations are certainly in order, Mr. Brayez.  Your success is unprecedented, in this field or in any other.  And yet there are those who wonder about the costs to society."

"Happy marriages!  What's the cost?  Maybe the divorce lawyers aren't so happy.  People said Hallmark cards would go out of business, with the shorter courting period.  But Hallmark made more money last year than it ever had before.  Happy couples are romantic couples."

"But certainly you must wonder what kind of society that is being created by the widespread use of this process.  Detractors complain that romance is actually dead -- because there is no more mystery, no more doubt."

"I don't know.  What do people want?  People don't want doubt.  They don't want a long search, that is painful and often futile.  They just want to be happy, with a partner who is perfectly right for them."

<Roll tape>  Shots of protesting groups carrying signs

Joana Madrazo (VO)

Not everyone agrees.  In fact, some see "the death of romance" as deeply disturbing.  When we come back, we'll talk to some of these people -- and reveal that Finder's Keepers founder Brayez himself is more than a little worried.

Fade to black

<Roll tape>

-- Commercial break --

Camera 1: Medium CU of Madrazo at her desk

Joana Madrazo

Welcome back.  A billion dollar business, happy couples everywhere... but at what cost?  Just what kind of society is taking shape around us?  

<Roll tape>  More of Madrazo interview with ZB

"The future.. who can predict it?  Things change."

"That's true, Mr. Brayez.  But it's rare that the agent of such a monumental change as this is so obviously one person.  And as an intelligent man, you must have thoughts about where this is leading us."

"The genie is out of the bottle.  Even if I wanted to change it, to bring back the old romance, I couldn't do it."

"Except that you have zealously guarded the secret of your success. Mr. Brayez.  No one has been able to replicate it.  The genie is in your bottle."

"Well, that's true."

<Roll tape>  Intimate shots of DB at home, interviewer off camera

Delia Brayez

Of course Zaghmout is very proud of his system, and he should be.  But in the back of his mind... you know, we didn't meet through a computerized system.  And we've been very happy.

Sometimes at night he has a little trouble sleeping.  All the money, the fame, and he does feel good that he has helped so many lonely people.  But the people coming in now, I just don't know about them.  They're just lazy, you know?  They play around, and then when they decide to settle down they just come in and they get a husband or a wife.  They seem so, I don't know, so offhanded about it all.

They should be sure, they can be, because our record is so good.  But it bothers him that they're so sure that they can't even imagine heartbreak.  You know?  It bothers me too.

<Roll tape>  More shots of protesters

Joana Madrazo (VO)

Jan Aaris is a representative of one protesting group, HUGS -- Humans United for Growth.  They're concerned that the new attitudes fostered by the new technology is undermining romance and personal development.

<Roll tape>  JA, being interviewed in a studio by Madrazo

Jan Aaris

"Maybe the traditional way of finding a special someone is inefficient, and I guess in our post-modern, efficient, consumer society that's considered wrong.  But we don't like the idea of one-stop shopping, of just stepping into a shop on the way home from work to pick up a life partner."

Joana Madrazo

"Brayez' supporters say that if the people are happy others have no right to tell them that what they're doing is wrong."

Jan Aaris

"Happy isn't everything.  We could inject everyone with endorphins and make them happy, twenty-four hours a day.  Should we do it?  Of course not.  It's artificial.  Just like Brayez' system.  It's not the way humans were designed to operate.  Without some doubt, even emotional danger, what's the point?  And what will be the long-term effects?  Brayez certainly can't say."

<Roll tape>  Home video of a wedding

Joana Madrazo (VO)

Fred and Sherry Hice, of Atlanta, would disagree.

<Roll tape>  FH and SH being interviewed at home, sitting next to each other on a sofa, interviewer off camera

Fred Hice

I was shy, I guess.  I just wasn't meeting anybody, or I wouldn't have the courage to ask people out that I did meet.  And I was getting close to 45, thinking, I'll never have kids, never have a wife.  Then a Finder's Keepers opened up in Atlanta.  It was a godsend.

Sherry Hice

My friends used to set me up sometimes, but I couldn't meet any really nice guys, that really understood and appreciated me.  I mean, go to bars?  Forget it.  I'd given up, but my sister took me, well dragged me into Finder's Keepers.  Thank god she did.

<Roll tape>  TM and KM interviewed at home, also on a sofa

Joana Madrazo (VO)

Kelly and Takashi Matsumoto, of Sioux City, see nothing to worry about concerning the new society.

Takashi Matsumoto

It's great.  I mean, why bother?  He's done it all for you, it's just sitting there waiting for you to come and pick it up.  I can live without the romance.

 

Kelly Matsumoto

Yeah, I figured, time to get married.  I'd played around a lot, and got that out of my system.  So I went to Finder's Keepers.  What's the big deal?

<Roll tape>  Madrazo interview with JA

Joana Madrazo

"'What's the big deal.'  Is the death of romance something we should mourn?"

Jan Aaris

"Frankly, it terrifies me that people are so predictable, that a computer system can tell us who our partner should be.  Advice is one thing.  Suggestions or educated guesses are one thing.  But when this level of reliability is achieved, they aren't suggestions anymore -- they're just statements of fact.

"The fact that the system is so reliable is what I find so awful.  Are we going to have similar systems that can tell us what we'll buy, where to live, what jobs to have, how we'll vote, with equal reliability?  Just as they now tell us who we love?  And who will be able to buck the trend, when the benefits are so clear?  And so profitable?

"Business Week for the week of July 15th reports that Brayez has been meeting with Rarris Polls.  Can you imagine the power a polling agency would have if it got hold of the system?  What they could do with it?  Our constitution protects us from the government controlling our lives, with the separation of powers, but who will protect us from a conglomerate that can predict our every reaction?

"It scares the hell out of me."

<Roll tape>  Madrazo interview with ZB

"Mr. Brayez, What do you think, when you hear stories like those we've just listened to?"

"It does... disturb me.  The coldblooded way that some people... I mean, certain people.  And the potential for misuse, if the system can be applied to other areas...  This is one reason why I have been so secretive about the system, about exactly how it works.  There has been a lot of guessing, on the internet and such, but all the guesses have been way off."

"And your meetings with Rarris Polls?  Should people be concerned?"

"They're just meetings.  It's still my company, and I'm not giving away any secrets.  To them or anyone."

"Suppose we trust you not to divulge any secrets that may be potentially harmful in the wrong hands.  What will you do?"

"I now think... that we have to be careful, very careful.  I am thinking about this...

"Tell you the truth, I don't really like many of the people that come into Finder's Keepers now.  They decide they need a wife, a husband, and they come into the place like they have decided to get a new pair of jeans.  Is that love?  Is that right?  But I tell myself that I have also made many, many people happy.

"I think the best thing to do is to scale back a little.  I don't need more money.  I think we should reduce the number of branches, and cut back, maybe screen a little more, so that we are helping only those truly in need of our service.  I want Finder's Keepers to be there when it is needed, but not to be used merely as a convenience.

"This is what we should do."

"Will you?"

"That's a question for the future."

"I'm asking you now.  If you feel uncomfortable with the world you're bringing into being, a world of one-stop shopping, in which finding a life partner is as easy -- and, critics maintain, as heartless -- as ordering a pizza, then why not stop it?  Is it the money?"

"The money?  Oh, Joana, I have made more than I can ever use."

"Then why not?"

"I..."

"You seem agitated."

"I told you, I don't like it either.  The way people, some people, stop in, just on the way home from work...  It doesn't seem right."

"So what will you do?  You have the power."

"I...  It's just that..."

"Mr. Brayez?"

"I agree.  I don't like this new world."

Camera 2: Medium CU of Madrazo at her desk.  Insert Finder's Keepers logo on screen behind her

Joana Madrazo

We put together this report two weeks ago.  Last week, Zaghmout Brayez announced his plans... to open twelve new branches this year in the U.S. and Canada, alone, and to open additional branches in Japan, Mexico, Britain, Russia... and even in the city of love, Paris.

And just last Tuesday, it was announced that Rarris Polls has agreed to buy a controlling interest in Finder's Keepers, for a reported fourteen billion dollars.

And what of the reservations that Zaghmout Brayez expressed to us?  Has he decided, as so many have before him, that "enough" money is not enough after all?  Has the money -- and the power -- become addictive?  Or is Rarris pulling strings from behind the scenes, for its own purposes?

When we contacted him, Zaghmout Brayez had no comment.

When we come back, Grant Tarbox with a story on the cancer risks you may be running if you have a mindputer.

Fade to black

<Roll tape>

-- Commercial break --

This story originally appeared in Aoife's Kiss.