WORK-LIFE BALANCE / NOV. 14, 2013
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Rich People Use Their Hired Staff as ‘Real’ Companions

Wealthy people turn to paid friends or 'PFs' because they cannot easily forge a real friendship, a recent study shows. Being rich and having a busy schedule, restricts the wealthy in spending time with their friends, and what’s more, it is found that friends are more likely to resent or be jealous of their wealthy friend's high status and success. This is why wealthy people resort to acquaintances or paid service providers like personal trainers, yoga instructors, stylists, chefs and chauffeurs to find an alternative ‘real’ friend.

It is ridiculous how friendship, a concept which carries so much meaning becomes a flimsy moniker. These wealthy people use 'staff' or important clients as companions and present them to others as one of their dearest friends. Interestingly, while rich people view this ‘friendship deal’ as a convenient way of finding a substitute of a real friend, PFs like hairdressers, stylists and make-up artists use this situation as an opportunity to capitalise on their relationship with their boss to make and sustain new contacts.

Friends For Hire?

PFs provide wealthy people with all the benefits of a real friend’s companionship, such as the opportunity to socialise, encourage and support during difficult times, without complaining or arguing about things. According to an avid PF employer “Once you have had paid friends who don’t argue with you, it’s actually quite hard to go back to real friends”.

The ex-wife of a PF hoarder said "many really successful men don’t actually have time for real friends," because normal friends "are either resentful or bitter or ask for money," and that some ‘"are often competitive."

Paid Friends ‘Worship’ their Bosses

PFs try to satisfy their bosses as much as possible and strive to maintain their working relationship and make the most out of networking and meeting new people. Working for successful and wealthy people is a great opportunity for them to network with an array of professionals and celebrities and promote their business.

Sometimes they have to go to extremes and go along with even with the most far-fetched fetishes in order to fulfill this purpose. A PF stated that "you have these incredibly successful and wealthy people who are the top of their game and should be so happy…[but] if they were so incredibly happy and satisfied, why would they need me to go to Hawaii to entertain them?"

It is clear that this job is not suitable for those who seek a flexible working lifestyle. A downside of being a PF is that you heavily rely on someone else’s schedule. 

The relationship of Jessica Simpson with her go-to hairstylist Ken Paves is an example of how fragile a paid friendship can be. An anonymous source claims that Paves has tired of Simpson’s treatment of him:  “Ken is sick of her cycle of dumping friends when she’s with a guy. She smothers guys and they dump her. Then she goes back to Ken.”

Then again, Simpson pays her hairstylist and PF for the services he provides to her, so why should she stay committed to him? Surely, that's a benefit of having a PF? You can pick them up and drop them down whenever you please. The major downside however, is when the business relation between a celebrity and a service provider intertwines with friendship and things then go sour.

Of course, let’s not be cynical. We should not view all paid friendships from a negative angle. Jennifer Aniston has a long standing relationship with her hair stylist Chris McMillan who has been her go-to guy for some time. They have an excellent relationship and they are often spotted having a coffee together.  

On the whole, resorting to acquaintances, associates and paid staff and using them as ‘friends’ is usually the easy solution for wealthy people to satisfy their need for some congenial company. Paid friendships show how complicated it is for rich people to build up a genuine relationship, based on mutual trust and sincerity.  Conversely, PFs often try to make the most out of this relationship as an opportunity to advance themselves and their business.

How can such a relationship prove robust when there is a business link behind this sort of friendship? A proverb says “live like brothers, do business like strangers”. The friendship gets complicated when the entourages of rich people become part helpers and part friends and there is often no genuine intention for a ‘real’ friendship by either of the two parties.

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