Uber for Breakups
You can now pay a stranger to end things with your significant other. Because of course you can.
The prices, it should be said, are quite reasonable.
For $10, you can buy a text sent to your significant other informing him or her of the cessation of your affection. For the same amount, you can buy an email version of that note. For slightly more—$20—you can buy, if you are feeling traditional or especially official about it, an actual letter announcing the breakup. Custom missives will run you a little more: $30 for a letter that features names, explanations, and other details that will help to drive home the facts that 1) this is over, and 2) this is not a joke.
It is, to be clear, totally not a joke. These breakup offerings are offered by the new service The Breakup Shop. Which is an actual thing. And which is exactly what it says it is:
The items for sale on the site, however, include not just writing-based notices. If you’re feeling like your text and/or email and/or letter might leave room for understandable and actually probably inevitable confusion on the part of their recipient, you can also hire a breakup phone call, placed at the time of your choosing. (It’ll cost you $29, with prices increasing for rush orders.)
That call will be made, at this early point in The Breakup Shop’s history, by one of The Breakup Shop’s two founders.
It will include select details, provided by the breaker-upper, of what the break-up-ee has done to be broken up with.
It will also include, at the end of the proceedings, an offer for the freshly dumped individual to visit The Breakup Shop’s online gift emporium, which includes such time-tested sadness solutions as a Blu-Ray of The Notebook ($25), a set of two 18-oz. wine glasses ($15), and a box of Chips Ahoy! Rainbow Cookies ($5).
We know all this because the Motherboard writer Emanuel Maiberg recently tested the service out on his girlfriend of five years, arranging for a breakup call that cited for its existence, among other deal-breaking flaws, her love of makeup and her distaste for helping out in the kitchen. (The call was, fortunately, an actual test: Maiberg warned her in advance that the call was coming, and the breakup was enacted for stunt purposes only.)
And: The results of the breakup call were
just as awkward as even more awkward than you’d expect. The Breakup Caller paused at inopportune moments. He dutifully cited the reasons for the breakup, clearly reading from a list. He suggested, at the end, that the dumpee take solace in that online gift shop. The whole thing was terrible and horrible and haunting on pretty much every level imaginable.
So. Yes. Anyway. Here is the argument for the existence of a service like The Breakup Shop: Closure. The avoidance of the confusion and the anxiety that can come when an official breakup is skipped in favor of a drawn-out process of ghosting. MacKenzie, one of the founders of the service, in fact got the idea for The Breakup Shop when he was ghosted upon by a girl he was seeing casually: Rather than telling him that they were done, she simply cut off communication with him. And “the least you can do is break up with someone and give them that closure,” Evan, The Breakup Shop’s other founder, noted. Which is extremely true.
But, then, here are the arguments against a service like The Breakup Shop: Empathy. Human decency. The fact that your mom raised you so much better than this.
And the fact, too, that this is probably not the kind of thing we, as a society, want to do with our new technologies. Last week, in an essay for The Atlantic, Robin Sloan argued against the sometimes dehumanizing efficiencies that the app economy is bringing about. “We are alive,” he wrote, “at a time when huge systems—industrial, infrastructural—are being remade, and I think it’s our responsibility as we make choices both commercial and civic—it’s just a light responsibility, don’t stress—to extrapolate forward, and ask ourselves: Is this a system I want to live inside? Is this a system fit for humans?”
The Breakup Shop may be efficient and, to a degree, even useful. But: Is it a system fit for humans?
It’s revealing that the cofounders of The Breakup Shop—MacKenzie and Evan, who are brothers, based in Canada—offer many, many justifications for their service. It’s even more revealing, though, that they asked Maiberg not to share their full names with his readers. They wanted, they explained—though, really, no explanation was necessary—“to protect their identity.”