The Economics of Bar Girl Pricing
As a former student of economics I have always been fascinated by how prices get set. Formally, the study of individuals and how they make business decisions is known as “microeconomics” (as opposed to “macroeconomics” which is the study of how large institutions such as governments make decisions).
As a current student (follower?/fan?/lover?) of professional ladies in Asia, I also am fascinated by how their pricing is set.
To say “the market sets the rates” is true to some extent, but can be a simplistic explanation for a complicated subject. There is not one factor that determines prices. In fact, the proper way to do this analysis would be to develop a “multivariate model” in which each factor is given a weighting that determines how much impact it has on pricing.
But I’m not going to do that.
Instead, let’s review some of the factors that go into deciding the price you might pay for a evening of pleasure.
Supply vs. Demand
In classical economics, Supply and Demand are the variables that are most often used to determine pricing. Myanmar is an incredibly poor country, yet the going rate is not that much below Thailand. Why? There are very few places to find a girl in Yangon, whereas in Thailand the supply is much higher. The lower supply in Myanmar will increase prices, but of course there is much less demand which will suppress prices. On the other hand, demand (as defined by the number of male business travelers) is growing substantially. Hotel rooms in Yangon, for example, (for which short term there is a fixed supply) have seen rates increase by 200% in the last several years, with a hotel room that used to cost $75 now costing $250 and more). Unless the supply of girls is increased we should see a skyrocketing of prices).
Cost of Living
This is often cited by people to describe differences in pricing. I am not so sure. The price in Hong Kong is much more than Singapore, yet Singapore’s COL is higher (or at least equal). Generally however, we can say that the countries relative COL has an impact on prices, but perhaps not as much as the following factor.
Other Employment Opportunities
Long term bar scene watchers have always commented on the fact that the supply of girls dries up when it is harvest season or when other jobs become more available. Let’s face it, spending the night on your back with a guy you just met isn’t everyone’s idea of gainful employment, and while the job might not carry the same stigma it does in the West, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that given an alternative most girls would prefer to do other work.
Commodity vs. Differentiable Specialty
This is a tough one to analyze. When a product is a commodity, wheat for example, then pricing becomes easier. All wheat (more or less) is the same. But when a product can be differentiated by features, cell phones for example, or diamonds (which are formally classified according to multiple factors), then comparative pricing becomes more difficult.
So with bar girls, are they commodities or not? Now most punters would say there is a world of difference between the girls once you get them back to the room, but most would also agree that it is difficult to assess bedroom performance when sitting in a bar.
We also all know that looks are no guarantee of late night delivery, but looks are usually the factor determining a girl’s popularity. One should assume, therefore, that looks would be a determinant of pricing. Yet we have all been in bars where the resident dog charges the same price as the resident beauty.
To explain this, we need to discuss the next factor.
Price Fixing (Collusion)
While price fixing is illegal in most Western countries, the laws do not extend to the bars in Asia. Within one bar the mama-san usually fixes the prices, and if not then the girls will often do it themselves. Even from bar to bar we will find similar prices. And when prices go up (they never go down, do they?), the prices usually rise at relatively the same time (one bar might take the lead but others quickly follow).
Where you find the girl very often determines prices, although this also may be correlated with the “beauty” factor. Take Bangkok, for example. A streetwalker might charge 1000 baht, but is usually at the bottom of the food chain in terms of looks. The better looking girls (for Westerners) can be found at Spasso’s, where prices start at 5000 baht and can go up to 10,000 baht. But the quality, some might say, is vastly superior to that which one might find in, for example, Rainbow 4.
The same is true in Singapore, where a girl at “Four floors” might go for SGD200 and a girl at Brics will start at SGD500 (and I have heard of girls at Brics asking for SGD1000).
Time of Day (night)
Now all of us like to think of ourselves as not being a pushover, in fact, as being a top notch negotiator. The later the evening gets to closing time, the lower the prices might become. And the better negotiator might always pay less (but possibly receive weaker service as a result). I have always agreed with the theory that the money means more to them than to us, and agree with those who like to pay a little more to ensure better results.
In Cambodia it is very possible to find a girl willing to go for $20, but the men who pay $40 or even $50 report increased levels of satisfaction.
Lastly, we have the exchange rate factor. Girls think in their local currency. 3000 baht is 3000 baht, but when the baht was at 40 to the USD that was $75 and when it strengthened to 28 (about a year ago or so) that same 3000 baht was $107. A big difference to the punter, no change to the girl.
In Myanmar the going rate for a while was 60,000 kyat but most westerners never bothered to convert their dollars to local currency. Hence when there were 1000 kyat to the dollar the rate was $60, but when it dropped to 850 kyat/dollar the punter had to fork out $70.
Of course, I am using the US dollar here, but we all know that punters come from different countries. For a while a couple of years ago the USD was dropping like a stone, and Americans were complaining about prices, while Aussies and Kiwis were overjoyed at how much their strong currency could get them.
I may not have covered all the factors and would be more than happy to hear from readers and add more factors to a revised sub.
Now let’s put this all together. The following chart makes a lot of assumptions and I am not presenting it as gospel. Again, glad to update following reader response.
For Cambodia I will use $40 which is more or less a standard rate at most of the bars. Yes you could pay more (or less).
In Jakarta I will use 1m rupiah from Bats.
In Myanmar 60000 kyat although it’s been six months since I was there and I expect prices have risen.
Singapore I will use SGD200 from 4 floors.
Hong Kong prices used to be 1500 HKD in Wanchai but went up to 2000 HKG a few years ago. If they are now more than that please advise.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in China but it was 1500 CNY the last I looked. (I am using Shanghai prices, clearly it will be cheaper in the provinces.)
Now all of these prices are for freelancers, so it is not necessary to pay a bar fine.
In Thailand, let’s use 3000 baht. Bar fines are now between 600-1000 so I’ll take the median and add 800 to the bill yielding 3800.
Drinks are always extra.
So here we are (I will convert to USD for ease).
Note I have not put anything for the Philippines. The variations are huge and I am not an expert. Filipina fans: let me hear from you. Same for KL. The Beach Club used to be the place to go to, but it’s been years since I’ve been there and don’t know the prices today.
I’m certainly not an expert but thought this was a fun analysis. In the end, it’s you, the girl, and how desperate each of you are.