I Tried "Renting" A Friend Online (And It Was Super-Awkward)

Photo: Getty 
Love, Family

You won't believe who I ended up with.

When the opportunity came across my inbox to try out a new website called RentAFriend.com, I jumped at the chance to leave my sofa for an afternoon and do something fun.

I'm fun, I like friends, I could rent a friend and have fun with them  I'm perfect for this job!

And before I knew it, I'd volunteered to rent a friend — which in theory sounded a lot better than what was running through my brain as I paid the $24.95 membership fee and was suddenly presented with a menu of friends I could rent for the very low fee of 15 to 55 dollars per hour. (The friends set their own rates; some seem to value their time more than others.)

I took a few minutes to look over the site and it seemed fairly straightforward:

  • If you want to do something fun and don't want to do it alone, you can rent someone to do it with you. With that being said, the site rules strictly say that it's absolutely NOT a dating site and that no sexual activity should take place between the renter and the rentee.

  • The site's intentions are to be used only as a means for platonic companionship if you're new to the area, don't have any friends who like to hang out with you for free, or all your current friends are boring and you're looking to try something new (I may have paraphrased).

  • Rentable friends set up a profile with a brief bio with their likes, dislikes, and the hourly wage that they'd like you to pay them in exchange for their companionship  a rate that the site suggests may be negotiable if you find someone you absolutely must hang out with but is out of your budget.

Once I felt like I had a good understanding of the site, it was time to put up my own profile, which was really weird.

I mean, what do you even put on there? I'm a writer, so I'm decent enough with words, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to say that didn't make me sound pathetic, creepy, or like some kind of sugar mama.

In the age of the internet — even if you're new to an area or are trying to build a new circle of friends — why would this "renting" a friend be your first go-to option? In what realm would meet-up groups or some other option not come to you first?

"Hi, I'm Eden. 32-year-old busy single mother looking to rent someone to hang out with me on the weekends; not for sex or anything, just for platonic companionship. I don't really have time for real friends so I would like this to be the platonic version of a friends with benefits situation, except that in this case the benefit is that I'll pay you and then when I'm not paying you, don't talk to me."

Do you see what I'm saying? It's just ... strange.

In the end, I decided on a photo that made me look cute enough to not look like an overt creep but not cute enough that some rentable friend would meet-up with me while harboring the intentions of stuffing me in a trunk.

I added in a few sentences about what I liked to do for fun and called it a done deal.

Once that was done, it was time to go shopping  for people, that is. (Shopping for people. Just let that sink in for a moment.)

In light of giving this project an honest review, I decided that I really was going to go into this with the intention of having fun. I might not be living out my travel writer dreams but this was a great opportunity to try something I don't (read: wouldn't) usually do.

And so, I started my search in hopes that I could find someone who'd do any of the things on my bucket list that none of my real life friends would do with me:

  • Indoor skydiving
  • Take a Hatha yoga class
  • Go wine tasting
  • See Magic Mike XXL in 3D

After browsing through the pages of available companionship, I started to freak out a little bit.

The first profile I clicked on was a woman who listed herself as a yoga teacher, but then went on to say, "I do have some limits, but not too many. No drugs, I don't drink, non-smoker, nothing dangerous or illegal. I don't want to do nothing that will harm another person or animal in any way, but other than that I have no limits to what we do."

Umm ... I'm not always the brightest when it comes to reading people but I'm not totally convinced that she was in it for the platonic side of things  and I was definitely sure that I didn't want to find out.

After that, the idea of renting a woman scared me off, so I decided that maybe renting a male might be the way to go.

I browsed a few pages and when I saw a guy that (I'll be honest) may have peaked my interest in more than a platonic way (hey, this is my job here people, and if there might be an extra benefit or two, well then, that's just a bonus, right?).

I clicked on him and his profile contained exactly three words: "Wanna rent Howie?"

Not anymore.

I continued my search through the men, looking for that job perk I was hoping to find. But after scrolling past an infinite number of barely 20-year-old males  who were pictured fully decked out in their Boy Scout uniforms  that dream seemed further away than writing a resort review in the Bahamas.

If women were out and straight men were out, what's left?

Gay men!

The first friend that peaked my interest had a bio that said, "Gay and not looking. I'm new to the area after having moved here for my partner. I'm looking to build my own circle of friends and like to try new restaurants, hit the town, relax in a café, or see new movies."

Not too bad, right? He won me over when I zoomed in on his profile pictures and it didn't show any obvious red flags that he'd recently been released from the state penitentiary.

Next, it was time to direct message him, and this is where I got stuck again. How do you offer to rent someone and not sound like a complete weirdo? It's like online dating only worse, because in this instance not only do I supposedly not have a boyfriend but I apparently don't have any friends at all, which would likely cause someone to wonder exactly why that might be.

In light of keeping the integrity of the experiment, I couldn't outright tell him that I was renting him for work so the best I could come up with was to play off his profile and say, "Hey, I'm straight and not looking, but I am looking to branch out a bit socially and was wondering if you'd like to go see Magic Mike XXL with me since all my friends are married and boring."

He messaged me right back, said that he would love to, and then I never heard from him again. 

As the days went on, I repeatedly attempted to rent several different people and each time they'd either agree and then disappear completely or ask if they could bring 5 friends with them.

I began to get the clue that 50 percent of the people on there signed up because they thought it'd be the easiest way in the world to make money, but then freaked out when some apparent friendless psycho actually tried to rent them.

And the other 50 percent had come up with an ingenious plan to have Ms./Mr. Lonely Moneybanks (AKA me) bankroll an evening out for them and their friends. "Sure you can rent me, and I'll even throw in 4 free rental people just for the price of me!" 

After sleeping on it for a few days, I came to terms with the realization that the only person I might actually be able to rent that wasn't going to want to sleep with me was going to be of the senior citizen rentable demographic.

So, the next morning I set out to rent myself a grandma. (I'm not even making this up.)

After 4 more days of searching, I rented Ruth, a 71-year-old woman who thankfully erased most of the fears I had about being stuffed into the trunk of my rental friend's car.

I wasn't really sure that Ruth should be taking a Hatha yoga class or going indoor skydiving unless I wanted to rent a friend and demonstrate my CPR skills all at the same time. And in thinking about that, I figured that maybe I should cross Magic Mike XXL off the list as well.

And just like that, my bucket list went right out the window. Bummer.

On the plus side, I've never played Bingo before down at the veterans post near my house, so ... that could be something new.

That Friday, I got ready for what I was deeming my wedding date: Something old (Ruth), something borrowed (Ruth), something new (Bingo), and set out on my first ever writing field trip.

I met Ruth inside the crowded Bingo Hall where she was saving me a chair and waiting for me to buy her Bingo Cards.

She didn't talk much and that was fine by me because listening to her berate the other players and criticize the bingo attendant was enough to let me know that I'd be canceling my membership as soon as I got home.

After two hours of awkward "friendship" that resembled more of an indentured servitude of being ordered to buy her water bottles and Bingo Cards while she rested her knee, I paid Ruth $30 for her time and left her in what I think may have been an actual addiction.

And yeah, that's what a $24.95 membership fee, $15 per hour, and the costs of enabling a Bingo addiction will get you in America.

I'm still not a travel writer and I didn't make a new friend but at the end of the day I did manage to learn two things: I suck at Bingo and I suck at renting friends.