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You Can Now Rent a Friend – what’s next?

21 May

Sorry – this is not a post about renting a member of the cast of ‘Friends’ – although I’m sure they are available at a price. No – it’s a post about renting a complete stranger to act as your friend. I have to say, it seems to me that it would be a truly sad individual who is so bereft of a friend that they feel the need to rent one. I’m sure even Kyle Sandilands has mates – that he doesn’t pay for. Yet – such a ‘friend rental’ service exists, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald
which says 181 Australians… have recently signed up with http://www.rentafriend.com to offer their friendship – for a fee. ”I’m hoping [someone] will rent me and say, ‘Can you show me around Sydney?”’ says Deborah Webber, a home healthcare worker. ”I like to help people that need help.” Tasmin Sharp, an actress who works part-time in marketing and promotions (and has signed up to be a ‘friend’), said: ”I thought, well, it could be quite cool to have that as your job, to get paid to hang out with someone.” Scott Rosenbaum, the New Jersey owner of rentafriend.com, attributes the success of his company – 417,000 friends for rent worldwide and 4100 renters – to a growing group of people open to hiring ”purely platonic” friends for various reasons. They include business travellers who want a local to attend a boring corporate function with them and others who simply want ”to get an outsider’s point of view” on personal problems.

OK – there are so many flaws with this idea, let’s just break it down scenario by scenario.

1) You hire a ‘friend’ to show you round Sydney.
Because cars are eating up Sydney, most of my (real) friends rarely venture more than a suburb from their homes. If you want to visit Cabramatta (for the great Vietnamese food) as well as the Northern beaches, don’t ask a Sydney-sider – they will never have been to both. If you want a tour, hire a tour guide.
2) You’re a business traveller who hires a ‘friend’ to attend a boring corporate function.
So let’s get this straight – you’re hiring a perfect stranger because you don’t want to hang out with a bunch of other perfect strangers. It makes no sense. Is there any guarantee that the friend you hire will be any more interesting than the nerds at your function? As far as I’m aware, the hired friends do not come with a ‘laughs guaranteed or your money back’ type of promise. There are many boring people in this world and there’s a good chance that your hired friend will be one of them. I’ve got a better idea – just get drunk. It will be free (because the company’s paying) and you will instantly feel more confident, witty and in the morning, you won’t remember it anyway.
3) You hire a friend to get an outsider’s perspective on your problems.
This sounds downright dangerous. If you’ve got serious problems, see a counseller or a psychologist. Don’t ask someone who doesn’t know you from a bar of soap. Do you really want some stranger putting in their ‘five cents worth’? Because that’s about what their advice is worth.

The question is – where will it end? Just how far can we take the outsourcing of relationships which, up until now, have been ‘free’. Here are a few more ideas…

1) Hire a Mum – someone to come and harass you about the state of your house/love-life/career.(I thought about calling this ‘Hire a nag’ – but people might think they were getting a pony.)
2) Hire a Dad – someone to tell bad jokes and fix things around the house, which will be broken again five minutes later.
3) Hire a hubby – someone who – oh wait – that business actually already exists! I think you can hire a bloke to come round and do odd jobs. However, for the true husband experience then that five minute repair job would have been put-off and put-off for months and months, actually take close to 2 hours to complete and when said job is done, you would have to stand and admire it for at least 20 minutes with ongoing praise for the rest of the day.
4) Hire a neighbour – someone to collect your mail when you’re away and make sure the kids don’t have any wild parties, as well as organise a petition to oppose your other neighbour’s renovations.
5) Hire a sister – someone to come and mess up your wardrobe, steal your clothes, and return them dirty.
6) Hire a pet – this is strictly for the singles. Apparently, taking a dog to the park is a sure-fire way to meet people.
7) Hire a baby. Not sure if you’re ready for children? Well, hire a baby for the night to puke and poo on you, and wake you up five times in the night for a dummy replacement.
8) Hire an ex boyfriend/girlfriend – someone you can drunk-dial and randomly abuse for ruining your life.

Disclaimer: Can I just say – I have an awesome Mum, Dad, sister, husband and babies. The list above is in no-way a reflection on them – except my husband – who is pretty bad at DIY.