LONDON, Nov. 2, 2006 -- As anyone who has had a relationship knows, breaking up is hard to do. But for some, it just got easier.
If you live in Germany, have $25 to spare, and a partner you wish to be rid of, all you need to do is contact Bernd Dressler of the Separation Agency in Berlin.
For $25, he will call your ex and deliver the bad news. You can either opt for the sensitive "Let's just be friends" approach, or, if the thought of seeing him or her again is just too much to bear, select the somewhat harsher "Leave me alone" package.
For $40, Dressler will even pay a personal visit to deliver the message -- it's called a Personal Termination Call, in case you were wondering -- to the (usually) shocked dumpee.
Quick -- and Impersonal
And, for $65, you can get the full package, which includes having Dressler arrange for a list of your belongings to be picked up from the ex's apartment.
With the outsourcing of everything from tutoring to banking, perhaps it's no surprise to find that relationships too have joined the list. Speaking to ABCNEWS.com, Dressler mused that "the idea of a 'separation agency' is right for our time. Young people like easy living."
And easy loving, one imagines.
The "silliest request" to the Separation Agency came from a 16-year-old girl who asked Dressler to break up with her boyfriend because he was, in her words, "getting on my nerves."
Chuckling over the memory, Dressler said that he decided then to only accept requests containing "at least three reasonable reasons." The peeved teenager was told to go elsewhere for a solution to her problem.
A Dangerous Job?
One would imagine that such work would be emotionally exhausting, not to mention a touch nerve-racking, given history's long record of crazed jilted lovers. After all, who hasn't seen "Fatal Attraction," or any number of films with similar themes?
If such concerns trouble Dressler at all, he doesn't show it.
"Most of the time, my job is really unspectacular. Nothing much happens," he said.
Of course, if a partner is known to be violent, he limits himself to phone breakups but always checks to see that "they are not driving when I call." He doesn't want any accidents on his conscience. "I am really a kind man," he said, laughing.
Chances are that his dumpees have a different take on that assessment.
For his part, Dressler makes sure not to let things get too personal. During on-site visits, he stays "outside the house," informing the ex that the relationship has been terminated, and handing them a contract stating just that, in case they are not convinced. "The whole thing takes less than five minutes," he said.
Fulfilling a Need
As far as his clients are concerned, 73 successful requests in less than six months suggest a pretty satisfied customer base. Unsurprisingly, most of his clients are women -- 66 percent at last count.
When asked why this was the case, he said, "I think women lack the appetite for conflict. They will discuss, discuss and discuss some more, but they find it hard to make a final decision."
"Besides," he added, "men will always promise to change."
But it seems that few do in reality, which may explain why so many of Dressler's women clients approach him after several attempts at breaking up on their own.
"They try to break up at least three to four times -- that's my experience -- but finally, they come to me because they know that I will go into the situation as a neutral person."
It helps that the 5-foot-10-inch Dressler seems unlikely to be swayed by tears or intimidated by threats.
But when I asked the 52-year-old Dressler whether he would ever consider breaking up through a separation agency, he vigorously refused. "I am too old for that," he said.
Successful as such separation agencies may be, it looks as if some people still prefer to end relationships the old-fashioned way.