Rentafriend.com is and does exactly as the name suggests; it enables you to rent a friend for short periods of time. Just to be clear from the start, this is not about sex or even a prelude to it. This is a strictly platonic website and so if you are looking for a partner, a spouse or an escort then it isn’t for you. I’ll explain.
Just say you fancied going out tonight and all your real friends, (including the 762 people you claim to know on Facebook) are unavailable. You might want to try a new restaurant, maybe there’s a play or a show you want to see, it could even be a match or a sporting event; then renting a friend is the perfect solution. First of all there is none of the time investment needed to create a real friend. You just find someone you like on the website and, if they were truthful in their profile, then the chances are that you will get on with them. This saves a great deal of small talk trying to find out if you have anything in common. It also saves you harassing strangers in the supermarket or in the library in an attempt to make a quick friend just for a particular event. (I don’t suggest the latter at all as a few wrong moves and it could lead to you being arrested.) If it is a specific event and you require them to look a certain way or behave in a particular fashion (all within reason of course) then you can specify that too – after all you are the one paying.
In this age of My Space, Facebook and Twitter we have all the appearance of being in touch. The speed at which news flies around the world is phenomenal and it further convinces us that the world is getting smaller and we live in a global village. The paradox however is the fact that people and communities are more fragmented than ever. While the word ‘village’ conjures up a notion of human togetherness and friendship the reality is miles away.
Online many of us feel we have many friends. Facebookers boast hundreds in some cases. There are forums and websites where we trade information, ideas and opinions with like minded people. We might even go so far as getting a webcam and talking face to face, but no matter how little broadband costs or how inexpensive it becomes to spend all day on the information superhighway it still doesn’t solve the problem of not having anyone to go to the cinema with on a Wednesday night, but rentafriend.com is the solution.
I know that straight away, by its very nature, these people are not your friends as they are charging you for the pleasure of their company and that could be construed as very unfriendly altogether. However once the vulgar money issue is out of the way then their job is to act like a friend and you shouldn’t be aware of the business transaction behind it. Of course here again this is a vague enough area. We all have different ideas about what a friend is and the boundaries of friendship. Maybe you have close friends that will wash a pile of dishes without being asked or tackle a bunch of ironing for you while they chat. Maybe you have friends that share a passion for one of your hobbies such as gardening and love nothing more than digging around your beds on a Saturday. Real friends might lend you money, help you out in a tough situation or squeeze your spots but sadly, I don’t think a rentafriend would. The blurb clearly says, “Whether you are looking to hire a friendly companion to attend a social event or party with you, someone to introduce you to new people, or someone to go to movie or a restaurant with, RentAFriend.com can help.” It also gives you some ideas on what to do with a friend once you have rented one. I suppose that’s just in case you weren’t used to having friends in the first place. Anyway they say you can “hire a Friend to show you around an unfamiliar town, (good idea!) teach you a new skill or hobby, or just someone for companionship.” They make it very clear that it is strictly a platonic friendship site and not an escort or dating agency.
I then had a Eureka moment. What if you turned it around? If you became the friend for renting it would still probably mean that you were going out on Wednesday night in the company of another human being, which is what you wanted in the first place, but now you would also be making a few quid in the process. Admittedly the choice of event or venue would be taken out of your hands, but the advantages still outweigh that small drawback. It is a recession after all.
So what type of person is available to rent? Well in Ireland as this article is being prepared there is just one friend available. Slim pickings I’ll admit but according to his profile he is very versatile. His name is Shane and he’s in Ardee. The following is his list of what he is prepared to do. “Introduce you to people, Wingman/Wingwoman, Poetry/Art/Drawing, Coffee House, Run errands, Book Stores, Bowling, Site Seeing, Hiking, Hot Air Balloon, Photography, Zoo, Music, Teaching Manners, Workout Partner, Pottery, Baking/Cooking, Museums, Amusement Parks, Golf, Friends with Seniors, Wine Tasting, Going To Park, Prom Dates, Personal Advice, Business Events, Parties, Hanging Out, Snowboarding, Skiing, Beach, Giving Tours, Movies, Dinner, Clubbing, Going to Bar, Sporting Events, Family Functions, Travel, Outdoors, Swimming, Arcades, Video Games, Picnics, Casino, Psychic, Biking, Yoga, Religious, Comedy Club, Shopping, Phone Friend, Email Pen pal, Has a drivers license, Friends With Handicapped or Disabled, Martial Arts, Playing Sports, Dancing, Teach Language, Fishing, Actor or Movie Extra, Personal shopper, Pet sitter / dog walker, Shopping/Errand Runner”. He definitely sounds like an all round Man Friday. Who wouldn’t want a Shane in their world?
Without signing up as a full member I couldn’t find out how much Shane was to rent but on the same site in America it works out at ten dollars an hour so I am assuming it is around €10 an hour here. (Apparently that’s around the going rate of an average teenage babysitter these days which leads me to think I’m in the wrong business.) Who said there were no opportunities in a recession!