Written by Graham W. Phillips on August 20, 2013
The international dating / marriage company A Foreign Affair can get a pretty hard time in the media. Actually, I've given them a pretty hard time myself in previous pieces. Then something happened which put me communicating on something with A Foreign Affair CEO John Adams. Over the course of some weeks of this I arrived at the conclusion that the 52-year-old father of two, married to his Russian wife Tatyana for nearly 15 years, really was a decent man. So, rather than cut-and-paste another 'AFA Sex Tour' story, I wanted to do an interview with the Ohio native, allowing him to put over his side, but also asking some of the tougher questions.
Describe AFA, in your words.
AFA is a full service International Introduction service. Our goal is to introduce men and women globally for the purpose of serious relationships and marriages. We offer many different ways to do this, including simply writing letters and going over to meet the woman on your own. Or using any of the travel packages that we have such as group tours, or clubs, or the Executive Service to meet many different women in person to see where the best chemistry is. We try to make the trips as enjoyable as possible while still being as efficient and effective as possible.
Why do people use AFA?
I think AFA provides a great option/opportunity for both men and women who, for whatever reason, are not finding who they are looking for where they are looking and wish to expand their search. I do not think AFA is exclusive in that men and women will continue to date domestically, but this is just another option.
How does AFA differ to other options available?
I think AFA provides a full level of service, as much or as little as you like, which makes it quite different from other services. It is very personal and can be very focused or you can use it in a much more general way, so there is something for everyone regardless of the level of service you are looking for. However, for those that do opt for the much more personal service, such as the tours or the Executive service, I think they find that AFA offers a level of personal interaction that is very difficult to match or duplicate. We are the only service that I know of that has 18 offices spread around the world, as well as many affiliate offices to offer personalized assistance virtually anywhere our clients go.
If you were to give a breakdown, what proportion of men use AFA for what? I.e. love / friendship / sex
Very difficult to breakdown, however I will say that the notion that men use AFA just for sex is way overblown. I have been to well over 300 socials and have met many different men and I will say that the vast majority of them are very serious about finding a wife, not a playmate. As a matter of fact if a man goes on a tour and it is obvious that he is just 'playing', he will get shut down very quickly by the women. The women tend to talk and share stories, and they are not there as paid escorts or for sex – they are there to meet someone for a real relationship, so it makes it very difficult for a player. I do not think that too many men go over just looking to make friends, although that happens all the time and is a great by-product of the tours.
How do you feel about men using AFA primarily for sex?
I think it is only a very small percentage of men who will attempt to use the site for sex and if they do they will find that quite difficult. If someone were to call us and state that they really just wanted to go over and have sex, and that was their only intent, we would advise them, as we have done many times in the past, that this tour is probably not for them and they should look elsewhere for one that is more suitable for their needs. I have a lot of respect for the women who use the service and would not like to put them in a position where someone may be trying to take advantage of them.
Do you think a lot of women are just looking to use AFA clients for money?
No, I do not think that a lot of women use the site for the clients' money. Of course in any relationship and wherever you are dating, Moscow to New York, you have to be careful and look for and interpret the red flags. You may have some women who have different agendas, but for the most part I think the women are sincere and just want to find the right person. I have hundreds of stories where the women have helped the men, saved them money from unscrupulous taxi cab drivers or others trying to take advantage of 'foreigners' . Yes, once in a while there will be women who try to take advantage of the men, when we hear about that we investigate and if warranted we remove the profile of the woman. Unfortunately the negative cases get much more attention than all of the positive ones that greatly outnumber them.
What are your thoughts on Cary Dolego, a former AFA client?
I love Cary, he has a heart of gold. He went on our tour and did very well (I was there with him, as was Nightline who was doing a documentary about us at the time) and had absolutely no problem. He loved it so much that he wanted to go back again, and decided to do so totally on his own. I warned him to be careful but he said he was taking care of everything and would be fine. He had some ideas that he wanted to discuss with the professors at the universities, and he was also writing to some women from other sites and wanted to try and meet them as well. Obviously he had some problems with his finances, made some bad decisions and ended up having to be flown back to the States. We had nothing to do with any of this, but if he would have asked for our help we would have gladly assisted. In the event, we found out the same way everyone else did, via the online media.
Why do men go looking for love in countries like Ukraine, and other Latin American and Asian destinations?
It doesn't mean that they stop looking for it anywhere else, it just means that they are broadening their horizons. In addition to that some men may feel that the age stigma of the US is just too great of an obstacle, especially if they want children. If the man is 50 and wants to have children it is very difficult to accomplish in the US, but many other countries do not look at age difference in the same way and he may be able to meet a woman in her late 20s or early 30s much easier than he could here in the States. Many men tell me that they find that women in the US are less interested in marriage, very busy with their own careers, and they also are confused as to what they are looking for or how to treat them. They feel that women in other countries may be more receptive to them, more interested in marriage and family.
Why did you start AFA?
The three of us (AFA co-founders are also Kenneth Agee and Ron Redburn) were single at the time, in 1995, and looking for something to do. The internet had just started and we thought it would be a great fit. Actually, we were going to do a local dating service using the old BBS system here in Phoenix, USA, so people could actually see a photo of someone before setting us a date (the papers did not give you this option, and they were big back then). It took us months to get the local thing going, then we discovered the internet and thought it would be a great fit internationally, and fun, to do that too. Needless to say we all three found our wives in St. Petersburg, Russia, within two to three years of starting the company.
Describe your own life these days.
I work full time at AFA and enjoy assisting the clients. My wife and I have a son who is entering university and a daughter in grade school, so most of my time is dedicated to them.
What is your involvement in AFA, day to day?
I do many different things, help to resolve any client conflicts that cannot be resolved by staff, manage the tours, and work with our foreign offices. Every day is different and interesting.
How do you feel about the negative AFA postings on forums etc?
I learned a long time ago that no matter how hard you try you will not please everyone. We have thousands and thousands of very satisfied clients and every once in a while you will have a client that will not be satisfied and may post in forums or complaint boards. We try to resolve any and all complaints, and I believe we do a good job on that. Unfortunately in this day and age you will have competitors who will disguise themselves as clients and post negative thing about you, and the larger you are the more that happens. You will get one or two people that may be responsible for hundreds of posts.
Do you think AFA has an image problem?
I think the industry in general has an image problem and we are doing our best by working with the media and trying to be as transparent as possible, in order to change that image.
What do you say to AFA critics?
For the real critics and not those that are competitors posing as critics we are happy to have you call in to us and discuss any issues you have. If we can resolve it or change something we will, and we have in the past.
Tell me a little about your most popular packages, cost, and commitment etc.
The Romance Tours are probably the most popular. They will range from $1,400 to $5,000 or so depending on duration and whether airfare is included or not. The tours are a great way to meet a lot of women at once, and see who it is you have chemistry with. That is how I met my wife, and that was just about 17 years ago now. The tours include two or three large socials, which are very nicely done so that everyone gets a chance to meet everyone. In addition to the socials we also have staff working with the clients during the entire duration, setting up dates and assisting them so they are constantly meeting women. Some of the men will write to the women first, Others will go and just meet women who they have not written to, or a combination of the two.