I broke up with my girlfriend of five years today, and I didn't even have to talk to her. No call, email, or text. Not even a goodbye wave emoji.
Instead, I paid a new service called The Breakup Shop $30 to do it for me. The company will end a relationship for you in a number of methods for varying prices.
"People are already paying services like Tinder to get them in a relationship, why not pay a service to get you out of one," Mackenzie, a 20-something Canadian who launched the company last week with his brother Evan, told me in an interview over Skype. The brothers asked that I keep their last names out of the story to protect their identity.
The Breakup Shop offers:
- A breakup email for $10
- A breakup text for $10
- A standard breakup letter for $20
- A custom breakup letter for $30
- Or a breakup phone call starting $29 (you can pay more to rush the order)
In addition, The Breakup Shop also has a gift shop, where you can buy the person you're breaking up with a Netflix subscription or Call of Duty. Alternatively, you can buy them for yourself as a comfort after being dumped.
First of all, to be clear, I'm not really breaking up with my girlfriend, Angela. We just wanted to test the service. I asked her in advance if it was cool, and she said yes. I could have ordered a breakup without telling her, but I feel like that would have been a not very funny prank. As you'll see, it was a little uncomfortable even with advance warning.
I chose the phone call option, no rush, because that seemed like the most respectful way to do it, and also because I wanted to hear how the person from the The Breakup Shop would handle it. Sending an email or text is easy. What do you do when the other person talks back?
Here's how I told Angela:
After I made my order, I got a confirmation email that it went through. A few hours after that, I got another email from The Breakup Shop asking me who it should call, some basic information about me and Angela, and why I want to break up.
I told The Breakup Shop that I didn't like Angela's "obsession" with makeup and jewelry, and that I feel like it's not fair that I have to do all the cooking and cleaning around the house. Angela likes makeup, I like video games. We tease each other about this stuff, maybe bicker about which is dumber, but that's about it. These are not serious issues that we have...except for the part about the cooking. I do all the cooking and that's bullshit but whatever, I love to cook.
A couple of hours later, The Breakup Shop sent me another email saying it will call Angela the next day, at 2 PM.
Even though we talked about it in advance, and we thought it was funny, the call itself was still kind of painful. Here, take a listen. It's only two minutes long and the sound settles down after a few seconds:
I think there are a few things about this call that make it so uncomfortable and that make me, as a customer, a little unhappy. First of all, I never told them to give Angela advice. They asked what my issues were, I told them, but I don't see why they told her those are things she needs to work on. Most of the time, relationships end because people aren't compatible. It doesn't mean one of them needs to change. Rude.
Second of all, the caller tells Angela that I was breaking up with her because she's pressuring me to get married. I never mentioned marriage! I said she's bugging me for a huge diamond ring and that I didn't like it. I understand how one would equate a diamond ring with an engagement ring, but I never mentioned marriage. That's a dangerous assumption to make on behalf of The Breakup Shop.
Finally, The Breakup Shop ended the call by directing Angela to the website's online giftshop, as if getting The Notebook on Blu-ray would make someone feel better.
I thought the reasons I gave The Breakup Shop for the breakup were comically exaggerated, but the delivery felt a little too real to Angela.
It's okay. We worked it out. But Mackenzie admits that The Breakup Shop might not be the best fit for ending a long-term relationship, like the one Angela and I are in.
Since they launched the website last week, The Breakup Shop made three breakup calls, and delivered six breakup texts. I asked several times if the whole thing was a joke or if they were serious about it as a business. The brothers said they're serious, and that they believe they can scale it up to by automating part of the service. It's not hard to imagine automating the texts and emails, for example.
The response from most people, Mackenzie told me, is that the call isn't real. People think it's a joke. Evan and Mackenzie make all the calls themselves.
"Making the calls is obviously kind of awkward, we don't really want to make the calls, but we also really want to up-sell people on the gift shop, so it does kind of help that way," Mackenzie said. "It's obviously not pleasant, but you also got to think of it from the perspective of the other person who wants to break up. There's a reason they reached out to us. "
Mackenzie told me that he got the idea for The Breakup Shop when he was "ghosted" by a girl he was seeing casually, meaning she never properly broke up with him. She just stopped communicating until he got the hint.
"The least you can do is break up with someone and give them that closure," Evan said, and I'm inclined to agree.
Breakups aren't pretty, but not getting any kind of closure can be worse. If you're the kind of person who's in and out of casual relationships often, and you don't have the time or the courage to break up with someone yourself, you can pay The Breakup Shop to at least give the other person that closure. That, Mackenzie said, is the audience they're aiming for.
"This is something so new," he said. "The first time someone got in someone's Uber, I'm sure they thought, 'I'm just getting into some stranger's car, what the hell am I doing?' I think it will take time for people to realize that there's a service called The Breakup Shop that when you get a call from them, and they say you've been dumped, you've been dumped."