Breaking up is hard to do, so pay someone else

Want to break up with your lover but haven't got the guts? Enter Bernd Dressler, head of the "Separation Agency" in Germany, who will calmly and efficiently do the dirty work for you. For a fee.

"I knock on the door. I introduce myself and I say that my client no longer wishes to continue the affair," Dressler explained to AFP in an interview in his soulless and functional office in Berlin.

"It's very simple. It takes two minutes and it happens on the doorstep."

Even as Valentine's Day approaches, Dressler, a suave man in his 50s, is not the sort to get emotional. No tears. No hysterics. Just business.

"I'm just the messenger. It's not me breaking up the relationship. The person breaking it off is the person that hired me to do it."

The entrepreneur, originally in the insurance trade, has offered his unromantic services over the Internet for more than three years, taking his inspiration from a similar scheme in the United States.

"Dating agencies have been around for decades. I'm doing the same for break-ups," he said with a smile.

But giving your partner the boot is a serious business.

Dressler works only with clients who pay him in advance and sign a four-page contract detailing "three or four reasons" to finish the relationship.

"I can also show this to the person concerned to show them this is not a gag," he said.

Dressler offers four levels of break-up service.

With "let's be friends," - costing 29.95 euros (41 dollars), the bad news is communicated dryly over the phone.

"Leave me alone," for the same price, leaves the ditched lover in no doubt that Dressler's client does not want to hear from him or her again.

For another 10 euros, the unhappy Romeo - or Juliet - can opt for the "Break-up by letter" which, as the name implies, involves Dressler drafting a "Dear John" - or "Dear Jane" on the client's behalf.

- 'We live in a throw-away society' -

--------------------

Finally comes the deluxe service, the "personal break-up" (64.95 euros), which sees Dressler himself turning up unannounced on the doorstep.

Clients can even choose how they want the shattering news delivered: firmly or tenderly.

In Germany, where 57 percent of marriages end in divorce, the business of separation has flourished to the point where the country's first divorce fair is set to take place this year in the western city of Duesseldorf.

The fair is expected to draw specialist divorce lawyers, financial consultants, but also representatives of dating websites and even nutritionists.

As for Dressler, he believes there are worse jobs. "The woman who works next door to me is a bailiff. When she has to kick people out of their houses or take their furniture, that's much harder than what I do."

"Personally, I could never imagine hiring someone to announce on my behalf that I wanted to break up with them. But I'm from a different generation. I think the young people of today feel less responsible."

A typical client ranges in age from 18 to 35 and is predominantly female, he said.

"We live in a throw-away society. You drink a can of coke and you throw it away. You don't fancy your partner any more, you go out and find another one," he added, with a touch of sadness.

But Dressler is nothing if not an imaginative entrepreneur and he is already branching out. He has pioneered another website - www.verzeih-mir24.de - or "forgive me."

If you have committed some awful act or said something you regret, guess whom you can hire to go and say sorry in your place?

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