Just in time for the holidays, two Canadian brothers are selling the heartwarming gift of avoidance: Starting at just $10, you can pay someone else to end your relationship for you.
The Breakup Shop is the vision of 20-somethings Mackenzie and Evan, who declined to use their last names publicly for fear of inciting the wrath of a scorned sweetheart. ("We're really just the messenger," Mackenzie says.)
The brothers, who described themselves as university-educated entrepreneurs, launched their business Nov. 9 with a crisply designed website that offers an array of ways to ditch your significant other. These include a breakup text or email (starting at $10), a standardized form letter (starting at $20) or a phone call ($29 and up). If you must be single by Saturday, rush orders are available; and if you care to soothe your soon-to-be-ex's pain, you can always send the $80 "Breakup Gift Pack," which includes a Netflix gift card, a box of Chips Ahoy! Rainbow cookies and either The Notebook on Blu-ray (for those who want to cry) or the Call of Duty: Ghosts video game (for those who want to blow things up).
It's the kind of gimmick that gets passed around and gawked at online - which can create a bit of a fiction, because although the service does exist, only a handful of people have used it.
Mackenzie says he and Evan were inspired to create the Breakup Shop after Mackenzie was recently "ghosted" by a woman he was dating: Instead of just telling him she didn't want to see him anymore, she stopped communicating and disappeared. Mackenzie was bummed.
"My brother and I were commiserating, and talking about our experiences with relationships in the 21st-century modern dating world, and saying - you know, if there's all these apps and services to help you get into a relationship so easily, why isn't there one to help you get out of a relationship easily, with compassion and empathy?" he says.
Nothing says "compassion and empathy" quite like the phrase "end-of-relationship technology solutions," as Mackenzie puts it.
They're not the first to become breakup middlemen. There was, for example, "IDUMP4U," launched in 2010 by a pragmatic Iowan who offered to handle people's breakups by phone for cash, according to the Globe and Mail; or "Sorry It's Over," an Australian breakup service founded this year by a former nurse, according to the Daily Dot.
For now, Mackenzie and Evan are the only ones fielding breakup orders at the Breakup Shop, although they say they're looking to recruit employees who have a background in counseling, writing and/or psychology. So far, people seem more interested in becoming a professional "heartbreaker" than hiring one.
As of this week, more than 500 people have applied to work at the Breakup Shop, Mackenzie says. The number of breakup orders? Fourteen - including one from Emanuel Maiberg, a writer at Motherboard who purchased a phone breakup as a stunt for a story.
The brothers like to keep the ordering process simple; they won't ask any invasive questions about what prompted the imminent split. "We don't want to be asking why or casting judgment on anyone who wants to get out of a relationship," Evan says.
But customers can choose to include personal information if they want, which is then plugged into the breakup message. (We're imagining something like a breakup Mad Lib: "Tobey no longer wants to be with you because he feels DISTRAUGHT when you MAKE HIM WALK THE DOG EVERY TIME and he thinks it would be better if you NEVER SAW EACH OTHER AGAIN but he hopes you can still be friends.")
In other words, the service seems slightly better than straight-up ghosting; still arguably worse than a parting Post-It note (à la "Sex and the City" - at least it was handwritten!); and on par with getting Homer Simpson to deliver your message ("Dear Baby: Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You").
But wait! Before we rush to judgment, the Breakup Shop's blog page includes two heartwarming stories from satisfied customers -- Samantha, who eventually married her Candy Crush-obsessed beau after an icy text from the Breakup Shop inspired him to turn his screen-centered life around; and 24-year-old Vanessa, who found lasting love after she dumped her loser boyfriend, Steve, who couldn't support her and her kid because all he did was play in a band. Angry Steve then stole Vanessa's car, but then Vanessa became smitten with Mark, the lawyer who put Steve behind bars: "Before you know it, Mark was taking me to the opera, to fancy wine bars and taking my son Zachary to the zoo," Vanessa gushes.
But, wait: None of that is true. The fabricated testimonials are merely "intended to allow people to try to relate to how their experiences might be," Mackenzie says.
Still, Mackenzie and Evan say their commitment to the Breakup Shop is just as real as the testimonials are fake. "We want to grow to become the biggest and best out there, and the most trusted and the most well-respected," Mackenzie says. The brothers are talking to investors, he adds, and focusing on how to build the business.
"There have been articles saying, 'Oh, it's a cowardly service' and whatnot, but there are a lot of people in relationships who know they don't want to be in them and because of conflict they choose not to actually do the deed of doing the breakup," Mackenzie says. "I think, if anything, if our service is just a 'Hey, the cat's out of the bag' service, then it's served its purpose."
Fair enough. Considering how many breakups are plagued by second-guessing - Was it really for the best? Is there a chance this person was The One? -- the Breakup Shop gives the gift of certainty.