Website offers option for people to "rent a friend"

Posted at 11:29 PM, Oct 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-06 12:40:24-04

If you're looking for love online, why not try making new friends online, too?, launched by creator Scott Rosenbaum more than a decade ago, now has more than 100,000 users worldwide. 

The site connects you to thousands of people in cities across the globe. It's a forum where you can plan outings, from exploring a new city, to dinner and a movie, and invite someone new to tag along. Rosenbaum says the site markets itself as one of the only websites for "strictly platonic friendships". 

The idea stemmed from a demand in people who were looking for someone to accompany them to a specific event, but, it comes at a cost. 

Members looking to hire a friend pay $25 a month for their accounts, and every friend they plan to meet, comes at an added cost. Each friend charges their own rate, between $10 to $50 an hour. 

"It is really appealing," said Krys, a user and friend available for hire through the site. "I mean and I think that's why so many people are on the site." She joined the site a year ago as a rentable "friend", as a way to make easy, extra money. "You're just accompanying somebody, and you're just being paid for it."

Another friend, Joe, says he's made thousands while on the site, accompanying members to events, and even teaching some new skills. "I've had anywhere from people wanting to go the bar to meet people," he said. "to people that are new in town that don't have any friends."

Here's how it works: After making a profile, you can reach out to friends directly to meet, or put out a public request to have a friend reach out to you. You're responsible for their rate, and any expenses on the outing. 

Searching in Phoenix alone, the site shows more than 200 pages of people available for rent, each with their own profile, bio, and photos, but, how safe is it? 

The site creator admits there are no background checks for friends who sign up, but says both members and rentable "friends" need to use common sense before meeting someone in person. 

"You always want to meet in a public place," Rosenbaum said. "You never want to go to someone's home, you never want to go to a hotel room, you want to stay in public, in a restaurant, in a bar."

He also suggests asking for some basic information before agreeing to meet.

It's not as easy as it sounds for some, though. Krys says she's had trouble getting anyone to meet her.

"The internet is still kinda scary cause you really never know what is out there," she said. "I've asked for just a simple picture of somebody, and they just completely back out."

Joe agrees, comparing safety on Rent-A-Friend to that on any other social media platform. "I feel like it's the same grounds as Facebook," he said. "Like anything else, you're obviously going to have...people misusing it, just like anything else, nothing in this world is 100% safe."

Still, though, both agree the site is a great resource, and recommend it, as long as you're careful, saying it could lead to great connections. 

Rosenbaum says if two people just happen to hit it off after meeting, there's no rule against becoming actual friends after the initial meet. 

"We have people contact us and they say 'Is it okay if we don't charge the person anymore? We've become friends.'" he said. "I say that's great, absolutely."