My Take On Bargirl Economics
Well, since everyone seems to be weighing in on the bargirl economics issue I thought I’d put my own two-cents worth in.
First of all I have to say that I agree with Starky and some others that too many people are complaining about the recent bargirl price hikes in Bangkok. Of course, I can‘t really remember a time when people weren‘t complaining about prices in this forum. In fact, 7 or 8 years ago when I was regular Stick reader I seem to remember that everyone was up in arms because they thought that the Japanese were driving up prices by overpaying the girls. Maybe next year people will be complaining that global warming or unusual sun spot activity is leading to higher prices.
In any case, like some others on here, part of me is happy that the girls are getting more money. I might even be tempted to say that they deserve more money. But the truth is – as a certain Clint Eastwood character once put it – “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it”. I mean, there’s really no such thing as a “fair” price for a prostitute to charge. Prices for sex have always been determined by what the market will support, and always will be. “Fair’ simply doesn’t enter into the equation. So you can never really say that a prostitute is being either underpaid or overpaid (excluding those who are forced into it) – although you can certainly feel sorry for them for what they have to do to earn a living.
It's also true that even 5,000 Baht a night is indeed still relatively cheap compared to what we would pay for the same services back home – although in truth this would likely price me right out of the market if I were still doing the bargirl thing today. Still, I never think in terms of how prices relate to what I would pay back home, but rather I think in terms of how cheap they are in relation to the economy of the place I happen to find myself at the time. And based on our respective economies I’d say a Thai prostitute actually makes about the same, or even more, as an equal caliber American prostitute would here. For example if a Thai prostitute makes 5,000 Baht for long-time, she is making nearly as much in one day as some department store girls in Thailand make in an entire month. Now, seeing as how a department store girl here in California might make $1300 a month after taxes, this means that a prostitute here asking $1000 a night would be asking pretty much the equivalent of what our Thai prostitute is asking in Thailand. Of course it's probably better to compare short-time prices since I have a feeling that only the most expensive high class prostitutes in the States (high-end escorts) even do long time. In other words, you are not really comparing apples to apple when it comes to prices for long-time in both countries. This is because in Thailand almost all levels of prostitutes will do long-time, but in the States only the elite level prostitutes will do long-time. Or at least this is my understanding of the situation.
So, based on average salaries in Thailand, it seems that Thai prostitutes do just as well as their American counterparts. In fact, I’m sure they do a hell of a lot better than the bulk of the street level prostitutes here. This is because many street walkers in the USA don’t even get to keep a dime of what they make – it all goes to the pimp. Not to mention the fact that they get beat up and arrested on a regular basis, and many of them are addicted to drugs as well. Can you imagine having to have sex with ten guys a day and not seeing a dime of the profits. By the way, this is one of the reasons I have never paid for sex in my own country. I just can't stand the idea of helping support a scum sucking pimp. I think street pimps and human traffickers are the lowest from of scum on the planet and if I had my way I would have them all shot. Hell I’d even volunteer to do the killing myself, and then I’d go home and sleep like a baby. And any person who would have sex with a girl who they know, or even suspect, has been trafficked or otherwise forced into prostitution is no better than the traffickers or pimps themselves.
I have nothing against escort services here of course, but unfortunately I could never afford to avail myself of their services. Which is a shame because these are the only places with girls I might actually want to have sex with. Most street walkers, and even most girls working in legal brothels here, I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Although I have to admit that when I was living in Honolulu I saw some gorgeous prostitutes working the streets in Waikiki – ironically right across from the police station. Honolulu attracts the cream of the crop in street walkers because they know they can get big bucks from all the Japanese tourists.
Anyway, I imagine that some low-level American prostitutes would think that Thai bars girls have got themselves a pretty sweet gig. After all they don’t have to worry about getting arrested or beaten up, and they can scrape by sleeping with only 3 or 4 guys a month rather than 100 or more. On top of that they usually get to keep every dime they make, particularly if they are freelancers. Also the best looking girls can pick and choose their clients. I know one bar girl who strictly goes with good looking guys who are under 25 years old. And if a girl has enough of a clientele built up she doesn’t even have to go out looking for customers. She can just go about her life and wait for her phone to ring. In fact I’ve long suspected that the availability of cell phones in Thailand is at least partially responsible for the decline in the quality of girls available in Bars and strip clubs over the past 10 years.
Of course the downside is that there are just so many prostitutes in Thailand that for many girls it's hard to get enough customers every month to pay the bills. And, as in any business, when there is a lot of competition for customers you can’t really raise your prices higher than the average going rate unless you have a product that is much better than your competitor‘s. Although, I believe Stick said that he thinks fewer girls may be working in the industry these days and that would certainly allow for price increases.
Back to the economic issue though, I’m sure some of you may be thinking that I should be making my comparisons based on cost of living rather than on average salaries, and you might be right. After all, it does seem like salaries in Thailand are very low in comparison to the cost of living. For example, based on my own experiences it seems like the cost of living in Thailand is about 1/3 of what it is here in Southern California, yet salaries for many jobs there seem to be ten times lower than they are here. This actually makes me feel just as sorry for the office girls as I do for the prostitutes. Especially when I consider that most office girls and department store girls I know work 50 or more hours a week. This also makes it fairly apparent that Thai prostitutes are actually closer to making the equivalent of what their American counterparts make than are Thai office ladies or department store girls. And honestly this fact makes it easy to understand why many girls start working in bars in the first place.
Please don’t think I’m completely unsympathetic towards the customers as well however, who soon may no longer be able to afford those sex filled jaunts to Thailand. After all, I know there are many men in this world who would have to go years, or even decades, without having sex if it weren’t for prostitutes – and life without sex is a pretty horrible fate to contemplate for a man.
Of course for those living paycheck to paycheck even the lowest tier prostitutes in the west are often out of reach. Let's face it, prostitution – like any product that is feeding an addiction – doesn’t offer much real or sustaining value for price. To put this in perspective, just imagine a world in which we don’t need food to survive but in which we still feel the same hunger pangs as we now would from going without food for days. Then imagine that the women control all the food and the only way to get food is to get a women to like you romantically. Naturally if you are very unattractive, socially awkward, or very old you are going to have to live in a perpetual state of starvation. Now imagine that there are some women who will sell you food but it will cost you $50 just for half of a very stale baloney sandwich with wilted lettuce. And if you want a gourmet three course meal with drinks and desert will cost you $5,000 or more. How many of us could afford $20,000 a month to have a nice meal once a week? Or for that matter how many of us could afford $200 a month to have half a stale baloney sandwich once a week to try and stave off the hunger pangs. And even if you could, let's not forget that selling or buying food is illegal since you live in an uptight puritanical society. So, you could end up in jail or even be shamed by having your name listed in the newspaper for all to see. Imagine the insanity of being made to feel ashamed by your own society simply for wanting to meet a basic human need. Of course, we don’t really have to imagine, now do we?
By the way, I often use this analogy with women to try to explain to them what it's like to have a male sex drive, and to illustrate the fact that women would behave exactly the same way men do if they themselves had a male sex drive. Only in this analogy the men control the food and women have no sexual power over us.
Anyway, Thailand is a very special and unique place because western men can go there and get that 3 course meal for as little as $25 (not today’s prices), which is what you would reasonably expect to pay for a good meal, and is also what most of us can actually afford to pay. So, as you can imagine, it might be very unsettling for many of these men to contemplate having to go back to eating nothing but the very occasional, guilt and shame ridden – not to mention illegal – stale baloney sandwich back home – or to do completely without.
Someday the party has to come to an end though, and 20 years from now it may cost $500 or more to spend the night with a Thai prostitute. That is if any of them are still even doing long-time by then. In any case it certainly seems like I picked the right time to get out of it 7 years ago. And all I can say to the rest of you guys is; enjoy it while it last.
Note: To the readers I have to say that I’m sorry for taking so long to complete part-two of “The Problem With Thai Women” but hopefully I’ll be able to finish it soon.
There have been a good few submissions about bargirl economics and what the girls charge and I have fielded a lot of emails on the subject with some readers getting VERY heated about my comments of how it is reasonable that the girls maximise their earnings. The often used argument – and my apologies if I am repeating myself here – is that a girl working in a factory or 7 Eleven earns 300 baht a day, so why should a Thai bargirl charge many multiples of that for an hour's fun or a night of passion. Again, not wanting to repeat what I have already said, what a 7 Eleven worker earns in Thailand is as relevant to a Thai working girl as what a New York lawyer earns, or what an engineer in Stuttgart earns. Working girls are eager to earn the maximum amount they can, period!
I think part of the issue is not so much what the girls charge, but that some customers are paid sex junkies. Some guys use prostitutes every day, especially guys on a naughty boy's holiday. Even some retirees damn near get a different girl every day, day after day, week after week. A prostitute a day is an expensive habit!
Finally, I never forget what a friend who runs another Bangkok expat website once said to me. Don't complain about the price of things. If don't have enough money to buy it – you need to earn more – and that is where you should concentrate your energy!