Friday, February 18, 2000

Web sites provide alibis for cheating hearts




BY RICHELLE THOMPSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Internet users can hear the latest drudge from the Drudge Report, get a fetish fix on the pornographic sites and pretend to be a 14-year-old girl gabbing about boys even if they've got stubble on their chins and sweat stains on their T-shirts.

        In the latest foray into an ethical morass, two United Kingdom-based companies have established Web sites offering to lie for you. They will dummy up alibis to fool a spouse into thinking you're attending a weekend work seminar or enrolled in a night class, while, in reality, you're shimmying up with the latest squeeze.

        The service comes with a fee, of course. Membership is $35. Phone calls, fake pamphlets and phony receipts start at an additional $35 each.

An ethical wasteland
        With so little regulation on the Internet, University of Cincinnati communication professor Michael Porte said he's not surprised some people would turn to unethical means to make a buck.

        “Right now, the Internet is an ethical wasteland,” said Mr. Porte, who teaches an Ethics in Mass Communication course. “No one's in control of the Internet ethically. People have been given complete freedom. Often what we see on the Internet violates not only our ethical code but truth.”

        The sites perpetuates unfaithfulness, said Elissa Gough, Cincinnati author of Infidelity & You. She also is the founder of Face Reality (www.facereality.com), a company offering workshops, books and websites about infidelity.

        “Instead of actually dealing with it, (the site) gives people a place to hide,” she said.

        The agencies will buy flowers, candy and other special gifts for their clients, with the purchases appearing on the credit card under an innocuous — and fake — company name. They'll also set up a phone line to take calls from a spouse — complete with an operator with the desired accent.

        Founded in London eight months ago by Ronnie Brock, the Alibi Agency (www.alibi.co.uk) operates with the slogan: “If you're going to swing, give us a ring.”

Half unfaithful
        Membership numbers 18,000, about 40 percent women and mostly from the United Kingdom, Mr. Brock said. Alibi Agency already operates in Argentina, and Mr. Brock said he is negotiating franchises in the United States, Russia, Germany and Italy.

        He may have a market for the service.

        Because people don't always tell the truth about cheating, infidelity statistics generally are regarded with a skeptical eye, Ms. Gough said. Still, she estimated about half of all married people in the United States are unfaithful.

        A 1999 Global Sex Survey by condom maker Durex found Thailand led the world with 53 percent unfaithful. The United States ranked second, with 43 percent. The United Kingdom scored 31 percent.

        “Half the world's cheating,” Mr. Brock said. “We thought we could earn a good living helping people out.”

        Does he regret lying for others? Nope.

        The clients do the actual lying, he said. “I'm just producing white lies for them. They're the ones carrying the burden and guilt.”

        Further, Mr. Brock sees his service as a guardian of family values.

        “We're protecting the family,” he said. “Because if you don't get caught, then the family won't break up.”

        Often, he said, people love their spouse but find the sexual component of the relationship missing. Alibi Agency helps them cover up their philandering without jeopardizing the marriage, he said.

Not all affairs
        The founder of a similar site, John Watson, said he wouldn't use the service. He's happily married to Rose, his wife of nine years.

        But he doesn't mind providing ruses for cheatin' spouses through his site, Ace Alibi.

        “To tear up the family for one night of stupidity is not worth it,” said Mr. Watson of Inverness, Scotland. “I think they must (want to keep their marriages together) or else they wouldn't come to us and want to cover up what they're doing.”

        And not all of Ace Alibi's 1,000 members are unfaithful spouses. One woman wanted a relaxing weekend away from her family; another client pined to play pin bowling over his wife's objections. Ace Alibi (www.ace-alibi.com) signed him up for a night computer class.

        Mr. Watson said the brainstorm for the company was a friend who wanted to go to a soccer match on the same day as his mother-in-law's birthday party. Mr. Watson printed a fake training course pamphlet scheduled for the same day.

        Both companies said they require clients to sign a contract barring them from committing a crime while using the service. And both said they would work with police if allegations of wrongdoing arose.

        That doesn't comfort Mr. Porte.

        “If they're willing to do this, what's going to stop them from doing the next step?” he asked. “If they see nothing wrong in lying and cheating, then what's going to stop them from doing something physically harmful?”

       



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