Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Rent-a-Friend Service

By Haroon Siddique

LONDON: Despite all the chatrooms and social networking sites, the lack of faceto-face interaction can make the world wide web a lonely place sometimes. But fear not, for not only can you use the web to order your takeaway and DVD, now you can also use it to order the friend you share them with.

Rent a Friend, which already offers its services in the US and Canada, is being launched in the UK this week to give people the chance to overcome their British reserve and hire someone to keep them company. Unlike the myriad dating websites, which cater for everything from a long-term relationship to a nostrings fling, Rent a Friend advertises itself as “strictly platonic”, while also emphasising that it is not an escort agency.

“You can rent a local friend to hang out with, go to a movie or restaurant with, someone to go with you to a party or event, someone to teach you a new skill or hobby, or someone to show you around an unfamiliar town,” explains the US website. It also suggests using its services for a friend “to help motivate and spot you during your workout”. Popular activities peo ple are renting friends for, according to the website, include teaching manners, prom dates and “wingman/wingwoman”.

Subscribers pay up to $25 a month for access to a database of more than 200,000 “friends” who have profiles and photographs to enable browsers to make an informed choice. Once they have chosen a friend, they can negotiate an hourly fee with prices starting from $10 an hour. Rent a Friend founder Scott Rosenbaum, who lives in New Jersey, said he was moved to start his business because, amid all the websites offering every imaginable dating experience, there was a gap in the market.“I wanted to go a step back,” he told the Times. “No one was offering friendship.” Agencies offering similar services are already popular in Japan, where the friend is often asked to stand in at a social function and exaggerate their relationship with the client.

George Washington famously said: “True friendship is a plant of slow growth”, but that was before the invention of the internet.Whether it can now be obtained by the click of a mouse remains to be seen.

Source : — Dawn/The Guardian News Service

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