Services advertised on e-commerce site Taobao can relay a break-up message to a significant other; they even provide gifts if he or she doesn't take the news too well. (File Photo/CFP)
Couples in China hoping to avoid breaking up with their partners have been able to avail themselves of an "apology service" to help them patch up their relationships. On the other hand, for those wishing to end a relationship but who lack the courage to finish things face to face, they can now hire a "break-up agent" to do the deed for them, according to Shenzhen News.
If one party wishes to break up with the other but finds it difficult to tell them in person, he or she can hand over the thorny problem to the 26 break-up services advertised on the e-commerce platform Taobao.
These companies will break the bad news to the jilted party and also provide gifts to soften the blow. The gift of freedom (if not from guilt) is avilable for around 100-200 yuan (US$15-30).
Tu Weiming, a 25-year-old man from Shaoxing in Zhejiang province, became such an agent together with his friends after watching a Korean film called, appropriately enough, Sad Movie. He said he started the business just for fun and was actually surprised when he got his first case.
Among his clients, he remembers most clearly the case of a young woman. He was originally paid by her boyfriend to tell her that their relationship is over. As he delivered the news to her however, the girl threw him 500 yuan (US$78) and told him, "I am the one who wants to finish it, not him." Thus, like an emotional version of Lee Van Cleef's mercenary in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he collected from both parties and broke both hearts.
Tu has not always been so lucky. On one occasion he was assumed to be the new beau of a girl who hired him to break up with her boyfriend, who then trapped him in a cafe with his friends until the girl showed up and talked the man out of beating him.
Tu said he is just moonlighting in this business. His real job is as a clerk in a clothes shop.
Break-up agents have emerged in many places around the country. They generally inform one of the couple through phone calls, instant message services or email that their relationship has not worked out and console the now former girlfriend/boyfriends.
Some charge a couple of hundred yuan for a complete service while others are more specific and list itemized charges according to the time taken to complete the task plus transport or miscellaneous expenses.
One such company told reporters that sometimes they need payment to buy a gift to soothe a tearful ex-girlfriend or may need to prepare medical expenses if a client's boyfriend proves to be a muscleman who takes his heartbreak out on the messenger.
The agents will turn down a case if it involves libel, slander, criminal behavior or if the client is under 18. If the mental state of the partner is fragile, if the client was in an ambiguous relationship or there are other complicated external factors involved, they will also reject the case.
A man working as a break-up agent said they usually turn down cases involving married couples as divorce cases involve dividing marital assets and custody of children, instead referring the couple to settle their dispute in court.