Upon entering, the website displays the catalog of people available in any city such as Buenos Aires or Barcelona, with their photos and descriptions. “I like art, going to bars and walking around the city,” smiling Jazmín, 27, appears. “I love travel and food; I am sociable, fun and educated, “announces Matías, a 24-year-old student of tourism. “I am a photographer, a cook and a traveler, entertained and not at all shy,” says the profile of Paola, who is 26 years old and shows her arms with tattoos on camera. The phrases could be from young people looking for a partner on a dating website, but no. What they offer is friendship . And they charge it by the hour.
The Internet has allowed for years that those who do not have a car could share a stranger’s; and that whoever did not have a place to sleep could stay in the house of a stranger, in general in exchange for a payment. With the same logic, those who do not have who to see, talk and go out to have fun can now “rent” the company of someone available and need to earn some money.
Controversies aside, the modality emerged about six years ago and has been growing. The proposal is simple: to allow people, who for whatever reason are alone, in their city or anywhere in the world, to find someone friendly and buy “friendship hours”, in cash or by credit card, to share everything type of outputs and activities.
The contact between those who sell company and those who demand it is established in specialized online platforms. The largest in the world is currently the American Rent A Friend, name that could be translated into Spanish as “Rent a friend”. Scott Rosenbaum, the founder of the company, has explained to the Argentine newspaper Clarín that those interested in being rented should only apply by filling out a form on the page.
Another well-known “friends of rent” website is Rent A Local Friend, of Brazilian origin and more oriented to provide service to travelers who seek to connect with inhabitants of the cities they visit. In this case, it already has nine people offering company in Barcelona, which on average are hired three times a month. “In the last year, we had a growth of 40%”, they get excited from the web that grows little by little all over the world.
Everyone chooses their price
The system allows each lender to put a price on their “friendship” and negotiate it with the contractors, who access the contact details of all their possible “friends” after registering on the pages, sometimes paying a membership fee.
How much does an eventual “friend” cost? As a parameter, Rent A Friend indicates that the time is usually charged at least 10 dollars (about 9 euros) and at most 50 dollars (about 45 euros). In the other network, Rent a Local Friend, each one sets a rate for the full day of service, which in Barcelona goes from 35 euros to 120. In both cases, those who hire also run all expenses related to activities, including transportation, meals and tickets.
What these sites also allow is that each bidder specifies for what kind of activities it is willing to “be rented”. There are “friends of rent” locals who only target tourists: they dominate several languages and offer themselves to foreigners to let them know the city in a different way.
Although there are also those who offer their company to locals or foreigners to carry out activities that are usually shared with real friends. Going to the movies, going to sports, going out to eat or attending a party are some examples. Others are available to go fishing, go jogging or train at the gym. And there are even those who are willing to lend their ear so that whoever pays them can vent, tell their problems and receive advice. After each service, the “friends” are qualified and that is in sight of the next ones who want to rent them.
“It’s a nice job that allows me to meet very diverse people and have an extra income,” summarizes Gisele Teixeira, a journalist from 47 Argentina who is charging $ 140 per day. “Sometimes they rent me three times in the same week,” he tells the Clarín newspaper.
Lisia Bonini, 32, lives in Palermo, works part time in a company and offers her company on weekends, in general to Brazilian tourists. “I offer to use my car to walk and I charge them in dollars. The best thing is dealing with people, “he says.
To avoid misunderstandings, the sites clarify that the offer is limited to “friendly platonic companies, without physical contact allowed .”