By Teresa Mintoe
Since the very first online dating websites appeared they’ve courted controversy, often (and rightly) being regarded as places women go to find love and men go to find a lover. My earliest experiences of online dating were between 2002 and 2004 when I lived in the West Midlands and worked as a freelance journalist. My boss at the time, a man, asked me if I’d ever taken part in speed-dating or online dating. I laughed (if you could see me you’d know why I didn’t need help finding a date) but agreed to take on the job, mainly because it meant six months on salary, not to be sniffed at as a jobbing journo finding her way.
I began to look at possible websites to join (the plan being to try four sites for six weeks). “Udate.com” was regarded as a relatively credible website at the time although the options to filter and block were rudimentary at best I discovered. However, the men on the site generally had profiles with more than a couple of lines of text on them and most of the photos were of a decent quality for the time. Also, as I was going through an experimental period of my life, I looked for girls to meet too although this was complicated by the limited options for same-sex dating but along with DatingDirect.com and Match.com (as well as a rather saucier site I won’t mention here) I had all I needed to begin my investigation.
I had no problems attracting male or female attention, which is not the typical experience I was reliably informed by some of the less attractive girls in the office, but after a number of first dates, second dates, naughty dates and very un-naughty dates I realised the problem was not finding a date but getting rid of them if you didn’t want to see them again. Here, girls, I’m afraid to say you came out as far worse than the men; look, just because I let you touch me intimately does not mean I want you as my live-in pussy muncher and co-grocery-shopper. The men, true to type, were far more aloof in most instances until we got to the third of fourth date when they too started asking about where things were going and wanting to have conversations about commitment and exclusivity. It was at that point I would come clean and admit I was researching for an article to be published in at least once local and one national publication and sure enough they all did run, run like the wind, away from trouble. I was lucky though – I had my escape route planned (although I did factor in the possibility I might meet someone deserving of me) but what if I hadn’t?
Almost a decade and a half later nothing has changed as such, there are just more choices for a wider range of potential partners. While I don’t “Tinder” myself I know plenty who do and the gay boys in the office all admit to at least one or two Grindr episodes. Online dating, however, may well provide you with the skills necessary to start a relationship but what about the almost-inevitable break-up? Online dating in its many guises does nothing to help you with that problem and breaking-up is, I find, such a chore. Only one man has ever broken-up with me but I welcomed it and, to be honest, I’d been treating him like shit for weeks in the hope he’d do it, bless him. He was a nice enough boy but even when he could keep it up he was never going to be much of a lover with that little thing he had going on down there. Bad genes, not his fault but yucky all the same.
In every other instance I’ve had to do all the hard work, arranging the impromptu meet in a public place so as to avoid the anger and the tears (guys generally man up long enough to cope with my words and leave the establishment before the begging-via-text begins by which time I’ve usually blocked their number) and any potential violence – some boys do get a little swingy with their arms when they find out they’re being dumped; there’s Neanderthal in all of them. For the boys who break up with girls I don’t know how they do it to be honest because we can be crazy machines when we want to and for some reason it’s much harder to do when you’ve met someone online. It’s almost as if the filtering and searching you do online rules out any possibility of disappointment later on! Sadly no online dating service can do anything about the intentional lies people tell in order to sound more attractive than they are and so we’re all left to do our dirty work and move on. A little help would be nice though, don’t you think? Well, at last we may have some.
A couple of months ago EndIt.com appeared, quietly and unannounced. The intention of the service’s creators is to be as discreet as possible and so it goes without saying there were no adverts on TV, Radio or online – people who were looking for help breaking up with someone could do a web search and find them. Having spoken to them at length about what they offer it’s clear they’re building a thriving business on word-of-mouth which unusual for an online start-up but then they’re offering an unusual service. They offer a variety of services on a pay-as-you-need or subscription basis (the latter for serial short-term daters who hedge their bets) that range from a personalised email or phone call to the person you want to dump right up to a face-to-face meeting at which you can be present if you wish. They also provide sundries such as flowers, wine, cards and even short videos that allow you to pour your heart out to the one you no longer love without fear of them reaching across a table and slapping you across your face. If it sounds a little clinical that’s because it is, but the intention is to end your relationship in as peaceful and amicable way as is possible and with the minimum of fuss and to achieve that a health detachment is required of those who perform the task on your behalf if that’s the method you choose. After just a couple of months the company claims it has over 200 people working part-time or full-time, breaking up with their clients’ partners on a daily basis and so far the feedback has been extraordinarily good, even from those unsuspecting souls on the receiving end. I was hoping for a good selection to show you but, obviously, discretion is required and while the email below is being reproduced here with the client’s permission some necessary censoring has been done to ensure continued anonymity.
This email should give you a very good idea of the range of services EndIt.com provide and the little finishing touches, pardon the pun, they offer; I particularly liked the card and the arrangement to return personal effects to the client through them, which makes things much better for both parties.
If you’re thinking about looking them up you may want to look at the costings I’ve sourced from EndIt directly; if you’re looking for a quick and easy way out of a failing relationship then you’ll get it, but the service is not cheap for many reasons, not least the intensive training and assessment that EndIt’s “Break-Up Specialists” go through and this constant performance monitoring comes at a price that the client obviously pays for. Here are some of the, so far, most used services and the costs related to them. (Please note that ALL non-subscription services incur a £50 fee for the one hour telephone interview that takes place before any break-up is finalised – it’s non-refundable even If you decide not to go through with it so add £50 to each of the below where applicable):
There are some additional services offered where the client believes their partner may struggle emotionally beyond receiving the bad news and that includes a medical professional’s assessment, but this is not included in the subscription and can cost the client upwards of £2000 so unless you really are a completely spineless turd, you should probably take care of those yourself anyway.
It seems like they’ve covered most if not all the bases (based upon the services they offer) and the fact you can do everything but the telephone interview via a browser or their app (available for pretty much every device, even Blackberry!) means you’re never more than a few taps away. It’s not cheap but if you really can’t bring yourself to end a relationship there’s not better, kinder way of doing it but that’s not to say that EndIt.com is beyond controversy, criticism or even censure and what does it say about the people who use the service? Shouldn’t we all take care of our breaking-up business ourselves? Is that not the right thing to do, especially if you’ve been with someone a long time? Is it immoral? What do religious groups have to say about it? I spoke to Endit’s head of Quality Assurance and Specialist Management, Richard Selby about these and more issues. Unfortunately he would not engage in conversation as such, preferring instead simply to answer my questions directly.
Me: “Shouldn’t people just deal with their problems and end relationships face-to-face like they always have done or are you responding to a need people have reached-out for?”
Richard: “At the start of any interview with a prospective client we ask probing questions to establish whether or not they have come to us because they are cowardly or lazy. Also, we ask them if the reason they’re ending the relationship has to do with adultery on their part. If the caller answers yes to any of these questions the call is transferred to a second tier specialist who, in most instances, will explain that we are not prepared to take on the case. Our service if for people who are anxious not to hurt their partners any more than necessary and wish for the feelings of their partner to come first. If we don’t believe they are genuine about that we politely inform the client we cannot help them. They pay only the standard call rate for the screening element of the call.”
Me: “You have a subscription service – surely that makes your answer to my previous question contradictory in that it almost encourages people to use your service as much as they can?”
Richard: “The subscription service is a deterrent. I wouldn’t pay that much money for it and nor should anyone, but relationships can be very temporary in this day and age, what with the “Friends with Benefits” now a common occurrence and such relationships rarely last on such terms. We do psychometric testing on clients as part of the application process and if they exhibit certain personality types we may decline a one-off application but offer them a subscription instead. Where someone actually agrees to do that we can at least assume they are serious enough about the process to commit a large sum of money to it.
Me: “Per every 100 calls you get, how many do you decline?”
Richard: “In our first six weeks we declined 74% of applications at the first stage. Right now there are less than 50 active subscriptions compared to almost 9000 completed one-off cases.”
Me: “How many calls/enquiries have you had since you went live?”
Richard: “I don’t have an exact figure but as of two weeks ago it was around 45,000.”
Me: “That’s a lot of unhappy people. Did you expect this many calls?”
Richard: “We planned to take on roughly 20% of the cases we received. We have to be careful that people aren’t contacting us because they’ve had a bad day or an argument and have gone straight to defcon one.
Me: “Are you concerned about the moral implications of your service, that it may become the norm for people?”
Richard: “Our priority in every instance is the protection of the person who is being broken-up with, the victim if you will. We go out of our way to ensure the process is as painless as it can possibly be and we only take on cases where we believe we’ll make a better job of it than the client could.”
Me: “You didn’t answer my question?”
Richard: “I provided you with a response to it.”
Me: “How does the meeting with the Specialist and the client present work? That’s got to be weird?”
Richard: “The client is not present at the outset. Once the specialist has established their reason for being there they will ask the person if they are comfortable having the client present. If they are not the client will received a text message asking them to leave the area. If they ignore that message the Specialist is instructed to leave with the person, to ensure their safety, and the case is immediately closed. If the client exhibits any threatening behaviour the Police are called without delay.”
Me: “Have there been many incidents?”
Richard: “Happily just the one and it was quickly diffused by the Specialist who reminds the client they paid in advance.”
Me: “You seem to be enjoying a considerable amount of custom. Are you concerned that copycat services might spring up left, right and centre?”
Richard: “We have anticipated that and taken all appropriate legal measures to ensure anyone who offers even one of our services will be seeing us in court.”
Me: “What if a client seems genuine but lies in their application?”
Richard: “We do background checking on all clients with their permission. If they lie to us we close the case immediately and ban them from using our services for life.”
Me: “Is there any after-care for those who your Specialists break-up with?”
Richard: “The Specialist will assess the physical and mental state of the person before putting them in a taxi home (which the client has already paid for in their fees to us). If a Specialist feels a person is particularly vulnerable or at risk we have a process in place to deal with that.”
Me: “A process?”
Me: “You haven’t had much negative press but there is a rumour doing the rounds that certain Christian groups are very unhappy with you.”
Richard: “The morality question again? Look, morality is subjective but I think we can all agree it’s based on the well-being of all people in society in which case I don’t see what problem those with a pious and judgemental worldview could actually have with us.”
Me: “Two more questions. Firstly, how does your service cater to LGBT people?”
Richard: “Every case is regarded with careful consideration and a bespoke plan put in place dependant upon the needs of the client and the person they are breaking up with. Our services are applicable to anyone over the age of 18 regardless of gender.”
Me: “And finally, I presume you pay your staff well as I’m not sure there can be much job satisfaction?”
Richard: “On the contrary, our focus is on caring for the needs of the person our clients wish to break up with and everything we do puts that person first. The feedback we have received from people has been overwhelmingly positive and many people have told us that in hindsight they are glad their relationships ended with us and not directly with the client.”
Me: “I’m sorry…one more question?”
Richard: “Of course.”
Me: “Has anyone used the SMS/Whatsapp break-up option yet?”
Richard: “Less than 1% I’m pleased to say.”
Me: “Thank you for your time.”
So, it all sounds pretty well thought out, but the moral/social implications of such a service remain. Will they eventually serve divorce papers perhaps (the service is, at present, open only to people who are not married) or offer evidence in the event of a court hearing related to a relationship failing? Are they hack-proof? You would not want data this sensitive getting out.
While they screen their prospective clients there will always be a nutter who slips through the net, someone who knows how to play the system and then what? If a Specialist is attacked (or worse) during a break-up will that lead to changes in the law, regulations against the service or a complete shut-down? Is this service something we need to care about or is it just another thing that technology has inspired to limit our inter-personal exchanges? I did ask a question about the number of men who use the service compared to the women and while it’s possible they don’t have numbers yet I would’ve thought that would’ve been top of the data analysts’ list of things to check. While I would like to believe it’s a 50/50 split I can’t help but feel this is a service for men to use and abuse.
It’s early days for EndIt.com but I did some rudimentary maths based on what Richard told me and they’re making a lot of money already which bodes well in the short to medium-term future for the company. I’m sure clients feel happier that EndIt are not affiliated with or owned by a big company, one who likes to squeeze every last drop of information out of the data it collects but one can’t help feeling that if things go well one of the tech giants will come in for them. I, for one, would not even consider using the service if they were owned by Google, for example.
For me the jury’s very much out. On the one hand I feel that mediation when it comes to break-ups isn’t a bad idea but the whole idea concept seems built on the cowardice of people who just don’t want to take responsibility for something as important as a relationship that’s failing. I’d like to think I would never use this service but if Richard’s numbers are correct it would seem that I could well be in a minority. Of course you’ll need to have more than a few quid at your disposal to do it properly and It’s reassuring to hear that almost nobody is using the SMS/Whatsapp option but despite that I can’t help feeling that relationships need to be managed by the people in them unless they both agree to seek help. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. All that said, after Richard spoke to me I had a call from their PR department who asked me if I’d like £2000 in exchange for the right to use my image on their website and like the true sell-out I am I couldn’t say no. I told them I might not write particularly nice things about them and they were okay with that so I agreed and the fruits of my labour can now been seen on their homepage and at the top of this article; yes, that’s me in the photo with my hand over my mouth and a lot of thigh on show. I had my reasons for agreeing to it…look at me, look at those perfectly-shaped thighs of mine and that head-turning figure; who in their right mind would want to dump me? Yep, for all my criticism I do not fear a visit from an EndIt specialist, I’m just too damned hot. As for the guy on the sofa he obviously asked me out but I politely declined as I saw him getting changed before the shoot began and, well, he didn’t have much to say for himself in the pants department. Sorry guys, bad genes, not your fault but don’t believe what the doctors say; it does matter.