Fake groomsman for hire at $800 per 12 hours

From ‘Friends for hire: They can be your groomsmen or party buddies for a fee’, article by Benson Ang, 19 June 2016, Sunday Times.

For his wedding two months ago, bank executive Kenneth L., 31, found himself short of a groomsman.

Instead of enlisting one of his not-so-close friends as a “brother”, he decided to pay $800 and hire a fake groomsman for 12 hours.

At the gatecrash, the fake friend performed all the challenges enthusiastically. During the dinner, he led the “yam sengs”. In fact, the guy was so convincing that no one except Kenneth’s wife and himself knew he was a hired gun.

In April, financial analyst D. Tan paid $100 for a two-hour dinner date. The 32-year-old, who also paid for the meal, says: “I just came out of a long-term relationship and was hoping for some company. There are some private topics I won’t want to share – even to my friends – but I felt comfortable talking about them with her.”

Who says talk is cheap. At PallyAsia, it costs $40 to talk to someone on the phone for 1 hour. In the 90’s we had 1900-chatlines, which were really sex chats in disguise. The ‘chat club’ lives on in the form of ‘Fast Talk‘, which charges you 50 cents per minute, or $30 an hour. It’s cheaper, and you don’t have to pretend that you’re talking to someone like you’ve known him/her for ages.

Other services include ‘Get a Crowd’, which can earn you a whopping $100 per pax for 2 hours by just standing around pretending to be interested at someone’s party. If the PAP runs out of  PA rah-rah gangs, I’m sure they could afford getting some ‘pallies’ to bring da noize. An hour with the parents is worth $250, which essentially requires your pally to be an out-of-work aspiring actor. Maybe that’s where Pally Asia gets their talent pool from, has-been actors or extras who never made it into the big screen. You’d probably earn more being a fake brother at a wedding than an extra in a long-running drama series.

An interesting service offered is the ‘Customise your experience‘ option, which is bound to draw exotic to downright depraved requests. I could pay $50 to have someone to engage in a discussion about artificial insemination in otters, or I could be a fully grown adult and ask a pally to come ‘babysit’ me as I crawl around in diapers begging for milk.

Hiring people to make social situations less awkward is apparently a thriving industry in countries with a ‘fear of losing face’ culture like Japan or Korea, where young adults face immense pressure from their parents or peers to get dates.But it’s an idea that has filled many a romance fairy-tale plot for at least over a decade. Take the rom-com the Wedding Date for example, where a dashing male escort is hired to pose as a single woman’s boyfriend at her sister’s wedding. Except that if he’s Dermot Mulroney he’s an ‘escort’. Anyone else is a ‘pally’.

In Singapore, getting pallies during CNY may be as, if not more, important for visiting relatives as remembering to bring oranges. For singles, a method-actor pally may be a life-saver. If only they have rent-a-baby services for couples without kids. I wonder if they have ‘queue’ pallies too, people who would line up overnight for your new iPhone, preschool registration or bak kwa. The good thing is you don’t need to even see their face or strike up small talk.

The only difference between a pally and a dating service is you probably can’t choose your temporary partner based on their background or how they look, especially if you’re just looking for a ‘local guide’, a ‘party buddy’ or ‘dinner date’. Because that would make them a pseudo ‘Lunch Actually’. Nonetheless, the pally system seems to ignore the problem of chemistry. What would two strangers with nothing in common talk about? How is paying money at risk of awkward silences even worth it? Have we become so deprived of company that we need to hire someone to walk the dog with us because having a handphone to fiddle with is not enough stimulation?  What about your neighbours, or gasp, your FAMILY MEMBERS? Can’t we just deal with, well, eating ALONE for a change?

If you’re on a tight budget and you’re dying for company and Craigs List is too unsavoury for you, there are free Meet-Up groups which may cater to your personal tastes no matter how weird they are. Or you could embrace the me-time and do what you want without giving a shit about people and their fake pallies staring at you. If you’re a rich tai-tai with time and money to spare, why bother with a fake-friend for hire site when you could go all the way with a professional male escort.

The only instance where I would even consider paying someone to hang out with me is if I needed a see-saw ride so badly that my life depended on it. Or if I can’t afford a bodyguard and need someone buff and menacing to act like one when I’m in JB.

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