Feeling Lonely? Rent A Friend!

Friendships — so difficult to maintain, so many variables and personalities. Well, thanks to a new service called RentAFriend, you can skip all the “getting to know you” stuff, and get straight to the hanging out. RentAFriend puts a transactional twist on platonic relationships by charging users to hang out with its “friends.” How it works: Users can put in their zip codes and find profiles of potential “friends” that live nearby. Profiles include the stuff that each particular “friend” is interested in doing, along with basic stats on them.

And then users arrange a “friend” hang-out. It’s more than a little weird. According to the site, RentAFriends are great for:

  • People who travel to a new city can hire a local to show them around town. It’s always good to know someone from the area who can give you first hand information about where to go and what to avoid.
  • Someone might want to see a movie or go out to a restaurant but don’t have anyone to go with. They could “Rent a Friend” to go along with them.
  • Many Friends on RentAFriend.com have unique talents and skills. They can teach you a new language, tutor you, share a new hobby, art, dance, and much more. It’s also a great way to meet people of different cultures and religions.
  • People who travel often for business that are looking to find local Friends to go out to dinner with, go to the bar with, or watch a sports game with. It’s always great to have Friends in different cities.
  • People who have an extra ticket to a sporting event or concert and don’t want to go alone. They can “Rent a Friend” to go along them.
  • Someone may want a workout partner for the gym. Renting a Friend to help motivate and spot you during your workout. It can also be a lot cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.
  • Just looking for someone to give you personal advice. There are lots of people who just want to get real advice about a situation and it’s always great to get an outsiders point of view.

And what kind of “friends” are available? In our area we found more than 94 pages of results — of both men and women of all ages, shapes and interests who were willing to play “friend” for pay. First on the list was 25-year-old Sal, who’s available for everything from “Introduc[ing] you to people, Wingman/Wingwoman, Poetry/Art/Drawing, Coffee House, Site Seeing, Hot Air Balloon” to “Sporting Events, Family Functions, Outdoors, Biking, Religious, Comedy Club, Shopping, Phone Friend.” He also clarifies that he “has a drivers license,” and is “Friends With Handicapped or Disabled” folks. Phew, Sal. And that’s how each of these profiles read: A litany of things potential “friends” will or won’t do and what kinds of people they’ll hang out with.

“Friend” fees start at around $10 an hour — about the same as a minimum wage job in many areas. The site insists that RentAFriend is for purely platonic friendship only (we wonder if that’s actually maintained).

All in all, we get why people might be driven to use such a service — people are busy, or transient. They don’t have the time or energy to organically build new relationships. But it still seems, well, dishonest to disguise a financial exchange in the form of “friendship.” It’s like all our postmodern nightmares have come true.

We’re curious to know if any of you have ever rented a friend. Would you ever consider renting yourself out as a friend? And below, watch a video profiling a woman who used the service and her “friend” who charged her $25 an hour for his “friendship.”