LONDON (Reuters) - When Richard Martinez goes to a nightclub or bar, he often goes alone.
But the 38-year-old former RAF officer wastes no time in heading for a target -- a woman -- to flirt with and flatter.
Martinez will not try too hard, but will allow himself to be drawn into conversation and, if asked, will give out his phone number for a potential future date.
Martinez is a “honey trapper” -- or as he likes to call himself, an “integrity tester” -- one of a growing team of private detectives who are hired by wives, husbands or partners to test the loyalty of their loved ones.
“It’s growing all the time,” he says of his business, the Expedite Detective Agency (www.ex-da.com), which charges 300 pounds ($588) for an integrity test on a potential cheat.
Martinez refutes accusations of marriage-wrecking, arguing that his customers come to him when they are already concerned about their partner’s fidelity or when rumors have led them to suspect an affair. But he admits around 80 percent of targets fail the test and turn out to be ready and willing to cheat on a partner.
Martinez and his colleagues -- he has a team of male and female trappers, some more, some less attractive -- record the whole “hit” on audio and video, so that the customer can see for themselves how the evening develops.
And Martinez has “rules of engagement”: The target must not be drunk, there must be no touching, and the relative attractiveness of the trapper to the target must be equal.
“It’s got to be a fair test,” he explains. “So we make sure that we don’t set a very attractive honey trapper on a not so attractive target, and vice versa.”
“The customer needs a fair answer to the question of whether their husband or girlfriend is loyal.”
Martinez says that while many of his customers may end their relationships, other use the honey trap to confront unfaithful lovers and appeal to them to change their ways.
“So we can also act as a deterrent,” he says. “The customer can say to their partner: ‘I caught you this time and I want you to change’ and they can warn that they will use the honey trap service in the future to test them again.”
He shrugs off criticism that he is fostering mistrust, and insists he is meeting a real need among British couples. But while Martinez is unashamed about what he does, other such detective agencies are more reticent.
At UK Honey Traps, a service based in Worcestershire in the heart of England and offering trappers across the country, they are not keen to talk.
“We don’t talk to journalists,” a spokesman there told Reuters by telephone. “It wouldn’t help our business.”
They are, however, looking for new recruits.
Under the vacancies section of their Web site, the detective service is on the look-out for “confident, bubbly, outgoing men and women with an ability to think on their feet.”
Becoming a honey trapper demands reliability, honesty and accuracy, it says, and because most of the trapping takes place outside office hours, it can offer “an ideal second career.”
Editing by Luke Baker