I read an interesting article about a service in Japan where men are paid just to listen.
The service provides people the ability to rent an “ossan” or “old man” for about $10 per hour.
Renting an ossan allows you to either schedule a phone conversation, or to meet in a public place, such as a cafe or park. There are strict rules governing any rental, such as no touching.
The men who are “rented” are typically middle aged – the idea being that someone who is older may have more life experiences and wisdom.
While I wonder about the liability of running a similar kind of business here in the U.S., one of many concerns, I do love the concept in its pure form.
Sometimes we all just need someone to listen to us. Talking often allows us to sort through our own problems. And you will likely receive a different type of response from people you know or family members than you would from someone you do not know – who could give you more unbiased perspectives.
The added benefit of hiring someone to listen to you, even if it is just temporary, is that a commercial transaction is going to “feel” different for you. You may be more likely to speak freely, which could help you achieve a better resolution or feel better after the conversation is over. Of course, if you did not feel comfortable talking to a complete stranger in the first place, you would not look for such a service, let alone hire one.
Some of the examples of how a company like this could help people in the U.S. are:
- Schedule to meet an elderly person in the park to walk with them and listen to them talk about their life
- Talk with teenagers who do not want to share their problems with their parents, but need an adult to listen
- Talk with men or women who have jobs that often place them in solitary situations
- Listen to college students looking to share career aspirations
- Listen to people who are experiencing a difficult or exciting event, and have no one to share it with
- Provide a fake friend (rent-a-friend), family member, or companion (rent-a-date or rent-a-man) for various occasions such as weddings, funerals and parties.
When interviewed about the “ossan” business he started, Takanobu Nishimoto has some interesting observations:
- He never knows what exactly people are going to ask for or talk about when they rent him, which is both scary and interesting
- He has had many emotional experiences, including being asked to visit sick people in the hospital, and announce a marriage
- He has debated shutting the service down, but finds he enjoys the social connections and needs the renters as much as they need him
The business in Japan has generated over 1,500 clients, with 60 percent as repeat customers. 70 percent of the clientele are women. Though social isolation has been a noted problem in Japan, most of the clients do not fit into that category.
Given our growing “gig” culture, and the benefits a service like this could provide, it could be a disruptor of sorts.
If anyone wants to start this type of business with me, I have some ideas on services, fee structure, terms and other aspects to this type of a business. I’ve also got a few domains in mind, as well as one purchased. If so, let me know via e-mail: michael [at] hackmer [dot] com.