Would you pay someone to break up with your partner for you?
That’s exactly what 28-year-old Trevor Meyers did.
“I felt like it was easier for someone else to take care of an awkward situation like a break-up,” says Trevor, who lives in Canada.
He has used the services of a company called The Breakup Shop more than once to end relationships.
You can choose to pay a stranger to send a text, email or good old-fashioned letter to the person you are breaking up with. Or they can call your soon-to-be-ex to tell them it’s over.
“I used The Breakup Shop to end a couple of short-term things when things just didn’t mesh with the way I live my life,” says Trevor.
“Overall I think they [those broken-up with] get it – it’s pretty simple. I haven’t had to use it often but I’m glad there is a service for it now.”
The Breakup Shop was founded by Canadian brothers Evan and Mackenzie Keast in November 2015.
The idea for the site came about when Mackenzie was “ghosted” by a woman. This is the term for when someone disappears from the life of a person they were previously dating or in a relationship with.
“She stopped responding to messages and phone calls, she totally disappeared. She didn’t have the courage to break up with him herself,” says Evan.
Within a week, The Breakup Shop was launched.
Prices range from 10 Canadian dollars (£6) for a text or email, to C$80 for a “Breakup Gift Box”, which includes cookies and wine.
While the messages can be personalised, Evan is keen to stress the company would never relay anything “offensive or damaging”.
Over the past 18 months, the brothers have ended “hundreds and hundreds” of relationships while also working full-time jobs in technology and property development.
‘Violation of norms’
Evan acknowledges that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of The Breakup Shop but says times are changing.
“We’re living in an age of fast communication,” he says. “Everything is sudden and abrupt, it’s how the next generation communicates.”
Dr Bernie Hogan, a research fellow at Oxford University’s Internet Institute, says the process of ending relationships has evolved in line with the shifting way they are formed.
“People don’t have a context in common with their partners anymore. When you meet someone on the internet or via a dating app, they aren’t friends of friends or colleagues to whom you are connected. So when the relationship ends there isn’t the added complexity of mutual friends to deal with,” he says.
This explains how ghosting can happen, as it’s easier to make a clean break.
So perhaps using a third party to end a relationship is better than not officially ending it at all, but Dr Hogan says it is still very much a “violation of norms”.
Though paying someone to break up with your partner may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s not the only personal task that you can pay someone else to do.
You don’t get much more personal than sending a hand-written letter or thank you card. In this age of digital communication, such correspondence is becoming increasingly rare.
Finding the time to write letters or even having stationery and a stamp to hand can be tricky. So how about getting a machine to do it for you?
Sonny Caberwal is chief executive of Bond, a company that has developed a machine that can hold a pen and write. It can even learn your own style of handwriting.
The average price for a note is around $5 (£4) and customers can send in the text to be transcribed from their computer, tablet or smartphone.
Sonny says customers range from recently married couples needing help thanking their guests for wedding gifts, through to business people who travel too much to make it to the post office.
While this novel use of technology is decidedly James Bond-esque, the famous spy isn’t actually the inspiration behind the name of the company.
“The whole idea of the company was about creating beautiful experiences that bond people,” says Sonny.
“Our target customers are the people that love writing notes but simply don’t have the time to write them themselves.”
Waiting your turn
Another thing that people don’t seem to have the time for is queuing.
Contrary to the popular perception of British people loving a good queue, we in fact do not like standing in a line, according to social historians (unless it’s for tickets to the tennis at Wimbledon).
But help is at hand.
Online errand-running business TaskRabbit says people who will queue up for others – whether in person or online – are in popular demand on its platform.
“We see hundreds of requests for London Taskers to wait online for the latest restaurant and theatre tickets, or wait for a BT or Sky technician to arrive, or even queue for five hours for the latest Yeezy shoe [Kanye West trainers],” says Ian Arthurs, TaskRabbit’s chief operating officer.
British users, however, tend to be a bit more reserved than their American counterparts, he says. “We had a task in LA where a customer was looking for someone to impersonate them at a party so they didn’t have to go.”
Where matters of the heart are concerned, though, it’s not just breaking up with a partner that some people seek help with.
On a more uplifting note, Ian Arthurs points to an example of someone in New York seeking TaskRabbit’s help to plan and execute a surprise public marriage proposal.
Luckily, it worked. She said yes.