Stickman's Weekly Column July 22nd, 2001

Standardised Pricing



Some people work for the love of their job, but for most of us we work because we need the money. But imagine going to work every day and just receiving a small retainer as a salary. And imagine that you had to go off to do some extra work that was perhaps not what you really wanted to be doing, and that you were unsure how much you would be paid for it, or God forbid, even if you would be paid for it. How would that feel? Would you like to work under those conditions? If you answered yes, you're brave. Spare a thought for the girls who work in the gogo and beer bars in the farang oriented nightlife areas because this is exactly the situation that they face. The nature of their work means that they often do not know how much they will be paid, or even what the job will require.

In Angeles City in the Philippines, many of the bars get around this by having one all inclusive fee. You pay your 1000 pesos and this covers both the bar fine and the girl's fee. No arguments in the morning over what she will be paid and the same price for everyone, newbies and old hands alike.

So how about the idea of introducing standard prices for the girls in all gogo and beer bars, just as they have not only in the Philippines but also as they do at many other places in Thailand such as in the massage parlours and even in other locations such as the Eden Club and to a slightly lesser extent, the blowjob bars – though the prices in there can be negotiated. How would you feel going into a gogo bar and alongside the prices on the menu for the drinks, prices are also listed for the girls' services?

As far as the girls are concerned, there would be some advantages in this. First, they would know exactly how much money they would get paid rather than having to wait to see what their customer deemed appropriate for them. The money would be paid up front so they know that they would not get stiffed by the customer.

But what about the disadvantages? Quite simply, there are many. In Thailand, the prettier girls usually get / charge more so while they cost more, the less attractive girls still have just as much chance of getting barfined as these girls charge less. But if all girls are the same price, who would ever choose some of the less attractive girls? These girls would suddenly be doing little to no trade, though that may have the effect of attracted only the most beautiful girls to work in the bars. Bars are not shy to fine girls (arriving late, not enough lady drinks etc.) and this would give the bars an opportunity to fine the girls a larger amount. Knowing Thai girls, the prettier girls would still quote a price like "the bar's price + an extra 1000 baht"! But most of all, paying all of the money up front would make it feel much more like a business transaction than a girlfriend experience, notwithstanding that it is actually business after all.

The likelihood of this happening in the near future in Thailand is most unlikely, but one shouldn't forget that the King's Group tries to impose such prices in some of their bars right now. In Camelot Castle amongst others, the mamasans walk around with cards that have the price for the barfine which varies according to the girl's role (gogo girl, waitress, cashier, mamasan) but they also have cards that say short time 2000 baht and long time 4000 baht. Is this a sign of things to come? Probably not, but in Thailand, you just never know…

Outside Villa Supermarket near Sukumvit soi 33/1, you
can always find a nice big selection of flowers for your teeruk.

In response to my question about the new underground and Bangkok flooding in the wet season, an engineer sent in this response:

They had to build the entrance to the subway one metre above the highest historical high water level in the area. Plus they have an advanced pumping system. Thank God for German engineering
An engineer writes:
The tunnels are constructed in the same way as a channel tunnel. i.e. the entrance / exits, when complete, will be built up and extended above the flood level, so that the water cannot pour down into the tunnel network. The tunnels themselves will be constructed such that they are water proof – in the same way a channel tunnel is constructed. To deal with any leaks etc, there is to be a complex drainage system, that
will channel all flood water into a centralised underground reservoir, where by it will be pumped via a manifold of lift pumps to the surface again. However, this is only a standby system.
From another reader:
The subway won't flood, thanks to good drilling & pumping to lower the water table in the immediate vicinity, and good pumps. Even if the pumps fail due to some massive power outage over time, it would take time due to the barriers and resistance to water flow under the ground. It's accounted for. But given this is Thailand and they cut corners on many sorts of things, who knows…
And from Mr Pessimism comes:
The Bangkok subway or the Bangkok SUBMARINEway. Anyone crazy enough to ride on it during the wet season obviously doesn't realize that all of this dodgy Thai substandard construction is going to result in a tragic accident before too long.
And even more about what the girls do when it is that time of the month:
Last month I was with a 24 year old girl in Pattaya and I asked her what she did during her period. She told me she had her period now and it was not a big problem as she had this thing to put into her pussy to stop the flow of blood while having sex. She offered to show it to me but I declined. She told it was sometimes difficult to get it out again as it got too far inside during sex. Sometimes it was necessary to see a doctor to get it out again!
And again!
One day my girlfriend showed me after I'd involuntarily been bathed in red by a co-worker. It's a very small mostly circular sponge made in Japan. The only word I remember on the clear plastic package was "toy". I wouldn't think it would do much good during a heavy flow, but maybe they give "smoke" specials for a couple days.
And just to prove that there are a zillion ways for the girls to deal with their period…
One reason many hookers don't have periods is that this is a side effect of birth control techniques used here. One lady had sticks in her arm good for five years of no babies. When she wanted to have a period, she had to take pills to induce it! She could go months without flushing her system. I think the same effect arises when they get an injection that's good for four or five months.
Some feedback about Le Cherie Massage Parlour which was featured in last week's column:
This used to be my favourite soapy. A fine place, with a long escalator at street level transporting you up to the fish bowl. On the way out you could take the elevator down to a side entrance and be discreetly on your way. It was conveniently located very near Patpong on Suriwong Rd. I used to go there before making the rounds at Patpong to relax away the sweat and stress of the day. I think it closed down in the mid 90's. I miss the place.
6 new bars have been erected around the back of Asoke Plaza, overlooking soi 23, about 40 metres down from Cowboy. It's nice to see a few new beer bars in Bangkok but one can't help but think that they are more than a little bit out of place. There's quite a difference between sucking in fresh air and looking over Pattaya bay to being forced to inhale some of the filthiest, most polluted air in all of Thailand, while staring across at a bunch of boring, dilapidated Chinese shophouses. On top of all of this, these bars need some attractive girls or something a little different to attract customers.

Rock Hard A Go go in Clinton Plaza has signs up stating "all staff and dancers are tested for STDs and HIV". I wonder if someone would like to ask the British manager Ricky if he gets tested often – he is staff after all! But seriously, an active expat reports that there is at least one girl there who has some sort of warts problem, brown lumps and so forth on her love zone. Rock Hard should be congratulated for testing the girls, but it's not enough just to test them. When they have something, they should be told to get it cleared up before they can return to work!

A humorous ad in this week's Bangkok Post advertising for English teachers in Korea – and paying very well too at 65,000 – 180,000 baht per month. The ad went on to say that teachers could enjoy the same pleasures of Thailand…. Umm, really? Why didn't they say that as farangs in Korea, teachers can only enter a very small number of the "pleasure palaces" – most of which are the exclusive domain of the xenophobic locals.

The Crown Group of Nana Plaza got a lot of stick when the gogo bars in the group increased their prices up to 110 baht. Down at Clinton Plaza it seems that the push for the price increases is coming from the management of The Dollhouse, though other managers / owners down there have told me that price increases were going to come sooner or later whether or not The Dollhouse had made noises about all bars simultaneously increasing prices. The price increases haven't come yet, but they are imminent and my prediction is that prices will go up on the night of Sunday, August 5 when The Dollhouse hosts the next Nanapong dance contest. The bar is going to be full anyway so what better opportunity to put the prices up then. Should the prices go up that night, do not blame the kings of partying at Nanapong!

Two soi 33 girls buy some food in a side alley off soi 33. The girls
may be classier, but you'll still find them at the nearest som tum stand.

I have always found the most mercenary girls in the bars are found in the big bars, the bars with a large number of girls – such as the bars with 100+ girls in Nana Plaza. The girls in the smaller bars always seem to be that much more pleasant and frankly, not as hard. Does a correlation exist between the size of the bar re: number of girls, and the propensity for the girls to become hardcore? Is it the girls already in the industry that contribute towards changing the new entrants into the industry – or is becoming hardcore simply a symptom of time in the scene, and exposure to lots of different men?

We all go through these stages when we wonder what the hell we are doing in Thailand, wondering how we ended up here and we start to reminisce about all of the good things that we miss from the West. Happened to me the other day and as I had a bit of time on my hands, I am embarrassed to admit that I started searching through one of the personals websites back in my homeland. There were a huge number of women seeking men adverts, many with photographs, so I skimmed through a few for a laugh. It only took a few minutes and I suddenly realised why Thailand is so good. Are things really that bad back there?

People visiting Panthip Plaza today were disappointed as many of the stores selling pirate software are closed. While DVDs and VCDs could still be bought, other types of software couldn't. There has been quite a bit in the Thai press recently about the problem of pirate software in Thailand. Will they clamp down on the industry and close it all down for good? Most unlikely as the industry is so big that to close it down would directly and indirectly put tens of thousands of people out of work. At the end of the day, these illegal economies make significant contributions to the Thai economy and while not everyone involved is paying their share of tax, quite simply too many jobs are at stake.

Visa runs are never a lot of fun but if you don't have a work permit – and you do not fancy sending your passport away on holiday, they are an unfortunate necessity. The closest visa run for all of us Bangkok boys is to zap up to the Cambodian border at Aranya Prathet. You can take a bus from the Mo Chit station which takes around 4 or so hours and costs about 150 baht. The big problem being that the plastic seats are not the best and even though the bus is air-con, the plastic seats make one sweat like a pig. So if there are two or three of you, it is well worth taking a car up to the border and back. A number of the cabs based beside the Mo Chit BTS station will take you up to the Cambodian border and back for 1700 baht if you negotiate hard – their initial price is often 2000 baht but there is no need to pay that. Faster and much more comfortable, the taxi will take you right to the border, unlike the public bus which takes you to the bus terminal from where you must catch a tuktuk or motorbike to the border – and then back again. Travelling by taxi is a far better way to do it, is faster and a lot more relaxing. In comparison, a hire car for the day from one of the better companies will cost around 1400 baht for a small Japanese car with petrol on top of this.

The fruit vendors who sell portions of fruit for ten baht a bag can actually do quite well for themselves, at least by Thai standards. The cost of the cart is not that expensive and that is the only set up cost for their new business. The mark-up on the fruit that they sell, at least based on prices in Bangkok is fairly high. Take watermelon for example. A whole watermelon is usually bought for 15 – 20 baht and will then be cut up into six or eight pieces, each selling at ten baht a piece, a decent mark-up. Still, standing around under the hot sun and with all of the fumes from the Bangkok traffic can't be a lot of fun. Oh, and anyone thinking of setting up their former bar girl girlfriend in this business is dreaming!

Lots of small vendors can be found all over Bangkok. But is the
fruit as cheap and as clean as buying it in a supermarket?

Where's the baht going? We have seen 45.80 this week. Is 46 on the horizon – or is it going to go a lot further? Whenever the baht starts pushing boundaries, it quickly becomes a hot talking point amongst the expat community. In the past, many expats became quite excited and wanted it to slide as far as possible and there were more than a few folks (dreamers?) talking 100 baht to the $US! But a lot of people now realise that as the baht slides, prices of many goods and services will go up. But when the baht ultimately regains some of its lost value, those prices that had increased, will not come back down! With this in mind, many folks do not want to see the baht slip any further as it is so often used as an excuse for increased prices.

Catching the skytrain and casting a glance over at some of the Thai commuters, you could be forgiven for thinking that Central and Emporium department stores are doing a roaring trade, for everyone seems to have just come from one of those stores and has a bag of goodies with them. But hang on, it's 7:00 AM and those places don't open for at least 3 hours. So why are people carrying these bags around. Image and that big one, FACE! Emporium and Central are both fairly expensive for the average Thai so a Thai wandering around with all of their crap in one of these bags gains face by showing all of the other commuters that they have shopped at that expensive store. I wonder how much face a Harrods bag would get you? Probably little more than an unknowing alai na!

So, you've had a bad day? Maybe you've had a bad week or God forbid, maybe even a bad month? Well, that still doesn't compare with one poor English teacher's tales of woe and misfortune. Having lived in Thailand for the last four years, this fellow believes that someone wants to get their hands on his documents… At his first school, they lost his two degrees and his tax card, the degrees luckily turning up a few months later but the tax card was lost for good. At his next school, they lost his degrees but again they turned up a few weeks later. At his current school, they have well and truly lost both of his degrees – and now deny ever receiving them from him – so as to defer any confrontation and face loss on their part! To make matters worse, the Labour Department has now lost his work permit when it was transferred across from his last job to his current one. No original qualifications and his work permit lost, suddenly this well qualified fellow finds himself working illegally – and with no easy resolution on the horizon.

In the deepest darkest reaches of Sukumvit lie all sorts of interesting characters. Some of them have jobs, many of them don't. Some of them are involved in scams, and some of these scams are very sophisticated. But what about this guy – is he legal or otherwise? There is a fellow running a Sukumvit based business that produces international driving licences. He currently sells international driving licences and claims to have the right to do this from the North American Automobile Association. Would these countries not have their own auto associations? I'd love to give him a free plug and help to advertise his business, but would first like to know if what he is doing is above board? It would be a bit of a shame if someone was to buy such a licence, have a prang and then go on to find that the licence is dodgy and the insurance company then effects one of their many exclusion clauses, thus refusing the claim. Advertising type B licences at 1100 baht and type A licences at 2300 baht, this fellow seems to be running a professional outfit. The differences being that type B is cardboard and good for 5 years while the type A is plastic and god for seven years. Why is it that I always thought that international driving licences were only good for one year? So, is he legit or not?

An international driving licence, right here in Bangkok, available in
20 minutes, good for 7 years and only 2300 baht. Too good to be true?

The Kings Group of Bars in Patpong advertise in The Nation, but not the far better selling Bangkok Post. Why is that? I quite like their motto in the ad – At King's Group, everyone is a prince. So true!

One reader who has a long term Thai girlfriend but still likes to have a little fun in the nightlife area wrote how he never tells any of the girls in the naughty areas his real name and this way if he bumps into them while out and about with his long term girlfriend, there won't be any problems. "Hello John" can easily be countered by saying "sorry, but you must have the wrong guy because I'm Mike"! Very clever!

Remember when you first came to Bangkok? It was an assault on your senses, almost too much to handle. Reading in the guide books that the locals don't like to see tourists wandering around the city in shorts, I tortured myself by exploring the city on foot while wearing a pair of jeans. The unabating heat, air as thick as soup and an intense amount of noise were too much and within a couple of hours I was forced to return to the comforts of my hotel room. Farang residents slowly get used to these aspects of life in the in the Big Mango, and it takes a recent arrival to the capital to remind them of the city's drawbacks which have slowly become the norm. Able to overcome the heat and the pollution, the one thing I still notice in the city is the noise. Trying to speak with someone who is calling from a mobile phone while out and about in the city, it can often be impossible to hear them due to the huge amount of background noise. Bangkok really is noisy.

Working in Thailand, one must remember that they are not back in the West with the protection of labour laws. Even with a work permit, you only have so much in the way of recourse and redress available to you and without the little blue book, you have virtually none. Screaming and yelling but in my contract it says will get you nowhere. The trick is just to fit in with the way things are done because if you rock the boat too much one way or the other, you'll be on your bike.

A few titbits from Cowboy: The Hard & Hound in Soi Cowboy is up for sale. Asking price is mooted to be in the 5,000,000 baht range. Shirtz Bar has been sold and the new owners will have a bit of work to turn that one around. The new owners already own three other bars in the soi so obviously they have the mettle to make it succeed.

Richmond Bar on Sukumvit soi 33 has signs up stating that there will be a party on July 28, but no more details given. Presumably there will be free food. Also in soi 33, I notice that some of the bars have reduced their happy hour prices from 80 baht to 70 baht. Are the new bars that have recently arrived in the soi bringing stiff competition?

How many King's Group managed establishments are there in the Patpong area?

A) 7 C) 10 E) 12
B) 9 D) 11 F) 14

If you can name them all, you are doing REALLY well! Answer in next week's column. If you're impatient, email me for the answer.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Som tum – papaya salad, very spicy and very popular amongst the bar girls.



Contributions for Stickman Weekly are welcomed from readers!