NJ Man's Got a Friend for You

So you'd love to find a quick friend to go to the movies with or a wingman at a party who'll introduce you to new people? Scott Rosenbaum hopes you can find just what you need on his new website, RentaFriend.

"You look at a site like this and think, 'Oh, they must all be escorts or it's a dating site or something,' " says Jennifer Morrison, a mother of a 2-year-old who told the Associated Press that she signed on with the blessing of her husband as a friend for hire.

"When I first saw it I had mixed feelings about it. I thought it was kind of sad that people have to do this."

Jennifer – who's a hostess in Las Vegas -- has accepted cash to show an introverted computer programmer around the Pinball Hall of Fame and the Bellagio's dancing fountains. A bored grandmother visiting family from the Midwest hired her for an afternoon movie. She’s even gotten paid to spend the afternoon scrap-booking with stay-at-home mom.

"People e-mail me all the time about it. Is it legal? Is it really platonic?" Rosenbaum says. "There's no 100-percent way to be sure, but we have a zero tolerance if a friend says they were solicited.

Christopher Barton, 31, hates to eat alone in restaurants and wants to make the most of his downtime. He first tried Rentafriend about six months ago during a business trip.

"I'm in different cities all the time," he said. "You kind of get a tour guide to a certain extent."

Rentafriend gets 100,000 unique views every month and has 2,000 members who pay $24.95 a month, or $69.95 a year to peruse the photos and profiles of 167,000-plus possible pals. Allowing renters to negotiate the cost and make arrangements one-on-one through e-mail or phone calls sets Rentafriend apart from competitor sites.

People choose to rent for lots of reasons. Two students rented parents to meet with college officials after they were caught drinking on campus. A woman once hired a college girl to visit her mother in a nursing home three days a week after she moved away.

"My first reaction was to roll my eyes, but it may in fact help people meet others and get back into circulation. If it's used as a substitute for meaningful face-to-face relationships, it's not going to work," said John T. Cacioppo, a social neuroscience researcher and co-author of "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Interaction."

Ori Brafman, co-author with brother Rom of the new book "Click: The Magic of Instant Connections," said the concept "seems really tragic, kind of surreally tragic" in ways that sex services don't because it represents the worst kind of social isolation.

"The danger isn't Rentafriend per se, but rather what it symbolizes," he said. "We purchase fleeting replacements because, as a society, we lack those close, meaningful bonds that are so essential. "

Contact Us