Companies Are Selling Barney (and Barnette) Stinsons for Hire

by Samantha Vincenty

Companies that sell the services of wingmen and wingwomen are growing in popularity, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. The businesses profiled say they’re attracting people who are exhausted with online dating (and have the disposable income to basically hire a fake friend for over $100 an hour). They’re catering mainly to men, since the onus is apparently still on dudes to do most of the approaching, but some offer services to women as well.

Josh Mitchell, 27, started his Indianapolis wingwoman service, “Miss Pivot,” last year after attending an event for young entrepreneurs. Romance aside, there was something else that convinced him he had a winning concept. No one, he says, seems to know how to have a face-to-face conversation anymore. “A lot of social skills you used to pick up watching your parents, but now everyone is busy watching stuff online or playing videogames online,” he says.

Mr. Mitchell now runs Miss Pivot with a team of five friends, including a “head coach,” plus eight freelance “pivots” for hire at $45 to $65 an hour.

I am obsessed with highly codified approaches to dating, which are almost always a complete horror show (who can forget Mystery and his merry band of Pick Up Artists?). There’s something unseemly about all the calculation involved. But I do think there is something to the idea that technology is chipping away at our collective ability to approach strangers. I know a wonderful couple in their sixties who met in the produce aisle of a supermarket 20 years ago. Does that happen these days, as we’re all shopping while simultaneously staring at our Kindles and blasting our iPods? For a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, approaching people in the sober light of day seems to fall somewhere between “creepy” and “just plain impossible.” When a friend tells me that they chatted up a cute girl or guy on the train or in a store, my response is always an overenthusiastic “THAT’S GREAT!” because I want to encourage this sort of boldness in friendly, available people everywhere.

As with any trend piece ─particularly one that’s scant in actual statistics─ I sort of suspect about 20 people total have ever hired these companies. But I must ask you: If there was a $1 Groupon offer, or somebody gave you a gift certificate, would you try this? Or conversely: If you met someone at a bar or event and it turned out they had hired the person who introduced the two of you, would it be a dealbreaker?

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