Stickman's Weekly Column October 7th, 2018

Smooci Is Snowballing


The prices being asked by many Bangkok bargirls for a lackluster lay are on the rise, but all is not lost. There are alternatives.  For those fed up with the modern-day bargirls’ antics and the bar scene in general, there is Smooci.

I first took a look at Smooci in January of last year when the app which allowed punters to arrange a get-together with escorts launched in Bangkok.  With many innovative features and a super easy to use interface, Smooci had the potential to revolutionise the pay for play scene and level the playing field. Almost 2 years on, how have things gone for Smooci?

Smooci has cemented itself in Bangkok.  The Smooci brand is well-known amongst naughty boys and the term Smoocied – meaning to have used Smooci to meet an escort – has made its way in to punter parlance.

Traffic has gone gangbusters and the Smooci site and app now consistently gets more traffic on a daily basis than this site did at its peak.  Bookings run around 120 a day.  And the site has become a repository of information about the girls with more than 25,000 verified escort reviews.

The article I wrote when Smooci launched last year is the most read weekly column published in the last two years, more popular than the Bryan Flowers interview and even more popular than my goodbye column.  Since it was published early last year, site stats show the Smooci column has been read by more than 57,000 people.

Smooci chose Bangkok for its launch but it was never only about the Thai market, more a case that Bangkok was the ideal place to get things going.  Almost two years on, the kinks have been ironed out, new features created and many more new features planned.  And expansion is well under way.

Smooci has rolled out in a few hot spots around Asia and it can be fun browsing the listings on Smooci from time to time, comparing prices in locations across the region.

Manila is growing nicely.  Hong Kong is slow, but promising.  And then there’s Singapore which hasn’t turned out as expected.

Singapore with its large – and very well-paid – expat workforce looked like it would be a sure thing, especially with so many expats taking weekend trips to Bangkok.  But Smooci has struggled in Singapore.

The Singapore scene is to some extent dominated by a breed of pimps who control many of the ladies who fly in to Singapore to work for a couple of weeks, stash the cash and return home to the likes of Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.  These pimps run ads online, making it hard to find genuine escorts.  Smooci has been surprised at how much bait and switch goes on in the Singapore naughty boy scene – and they have had to ban more accounts in Singapore than in all other locations combined.

Now Smooci is looking beyond Asia.  The world beckons.

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Is there a sex tourism industry in Europe?  You bet there is!  The real hardcore naughty boys know that there is fun to be had outside Asia, in fact many have turned their back on Asia.  And it is the home of the world’s finest cars and some of the finest beer where many naughty boys head, to Germany’s FKK clubs. Where do you think all of those randy Germans who used to flock to Thailand go now?  They have their fun at home.

Smooci is launching in Europe shortly, and no prizes for guessing that open-minded and liberal Berlin is where Smooci will make its first foray in to Europe.

Will Smooci work in Europe?  The pay for play industry in Europe and South-East Asia may be different but my sense is that with Smooci it’s all about the platform – and the Smooci platform has been tried, tested and passed with flying colours.

Back in Bangkok, Smooci has driven down prices, especially for agency girls who have gone from asking for 5,000 – 6,000 baht, to 3,000 – 4,000 baht – for 2 hours and what is commonly referred to in the industry as 2 shots.

Prices have dropped and a quick search shows ladies available at 2,700 baht for 2 hours and almost 1/3 of the ladies online, 26 out of 84, were available for 3,000 baht or less. Smooci is forcing prices down.

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Is there a Smooci effect in the bars?  Are prices elsewhere being forced down?  There’s no evidence this is happening but I think it’s no coincidence that some of the massage houses on Sukhumvit soi 22 – especially those where a massage is not really on the menu – have been forced to lower prices.

Since early this year Smooci has allowed independents i.e. freelancers to join and they compete alongside agency / escort girls.  Smooci gives independents the tools to compete with agency girls on a level playing field, creating choice and healthy competition.

The live booking system has been tweaked and works well.  Ratings and written reviews have made escorts more customer and service-focused and any punters using Smooci are making an informed choice. Today in Bangkok on Smooci there can be well over 100 girls online at any time.

But Smooci is not without its issues.  It’s the same old story when arranging to meet someone online – does she really look the same as she does in her profile photos?  Some ladies profile photos are taken in a studio with her hair and makeup professionally done making even the least attractive ladies look glamorous.  And some ladies’ use photos which may not have been taken recently.  There needs to be better photo verification.  Smooci is aware of that and working on it.  Interestingly, some of the reviews on Smooci comment on the likeness between the lady in person and her profile photos.

The other issue is that of age.  Many of the ladies on Smooci in Bangkok are, or were, escort services – and escort services have long stretched the truth when it comes to age.  That 20-year old might be 30 and a lady listed as 35 could actually be in her early 50s.  And escort sites don’t typically update a lady’s age so someone who was listed 5 years ago as 26, when she was, in fact, 32, is still listed as 26 today when she is in fact 37.  Taking years off a lady’s age is pretty much the norm.  Of course it should be pointed out that all things being equal, you’ll likely have a much better time with a 40-year old than a 20-year old and if I were a naughty boy, a 40-year old would appeal much more than someone younger – but I know I am in a minority.

To tackle the age issue, Smooci has launched a new premium feature called Verified Age where the lady’s year of birth is verified with an official government ID.

One aspect of the dynamic of the bar industry is the ability to negotiate.  Smooci would like to implement a feature that allows clients to enter in to negotiations with a lady – just don’t go thinking Miss Hot at 8,000 baht is going to halve her price!

While the immediate focus is on launching Smooci in Europe, Smooci would like to expand further in Thailand and believe the demand is there.  Pattaya seems likely to be next, although I reckon that could be a challenge.  Competition in Pattaya is fierce and I am not sure whether the prices ladies get on Smooci in Bangkok would be achievable in Pattaya.

Smooci isn’t reinventing the wheel.  The platform simply brings modern tools to the world’s oldest industry.  It is to mongering (oh, how I hate that word) what AirBnB is to holiday accommodation and Uber is to more affordable taxis.

Smooci offers a live booking experience (similar to Uber / Grab and most food delivery services) with booking requests usually responded to within a couple of minutes.

Reviews are available to premium members.  However, ratings (scores) are available to all users.  Reviews are verified by way of the app, which they can track to verify that the booking took place and was genuine. In other words, there’s none of the nonsense you get on the likes of TripAdvisor where someone who has not used a service can write a bogus review.

A new premium feature is online notifications – so premium members can set alerts to see when a lady – Smooci calls them companions – comes online.

And then there’s the new calculate distance feature.  The system can quickly ping all the escort’s app locations and calculate how far away each escort is from the punter which helps provide approximate arrival times.  It’s not such an issue in Bangkok, but in Manila it is very useful where some girls and clients could be 2 or even 3 hours apart at rush hour.  In Bangkok it helps those staying outside the main downtown area, as it allows Smooci to add on a fair and reasonable travel fee when the girl and client are a significant distance apart – pre-warning the client beforehand about any travel fee, of course.

Bangkok was a launching pad for Smooci.  Europe is where things get serious.  Smooci has a great product.  Let’s check in with Smooci in a couple of years and see where they’re at.

 

  • For new purchases between now and the end of the year, drop an email to Smooci and mention Stickman and they will double your premium membership for 3, 7, and 30 day purchases.
  • As you’d expect with any fast growing start up, Smooci is on the look out for top talent to join the team.  They are particularly interested in skilled programmers to bulk up their tech lineup.  For more details take a look at their recruiting page https://smooci.com/jobs

 

 

 

Mystery photo

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Last week’s photo was taken inside Safari Bar.  I was surprised that only a small number of people got it right, surprised because A) it’s a bar that has not changed a lot over the years and B) last week was the first time in years a decent prize was on offer.  The first person in Asia to email me with the correct location of this week’s photo wins a copy of Hardship Posting Volume 5.

 

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Stick’s Inbox – the best emails received this week.

Fridays ain’t what they used to be.

This past Friday – an end of month payday Friday – I headed back to the Asoke BTS station from the Craft beer garden on soi 23, by way of Soi Cowboy.  It was about 8:15 PM – no rain – on a payday Friday.  The length of Soi Cowboy, there was maybe 30 people on that soi, not counting the employees and shady hangers-on of the bars.  That works out to two guys every ten meters.  15 years ago, there would have been 300 or more visitors on a payday Friday night, at 8:15 PM.  It was pretty dismal. There were about 90 customers at Craft, when I left there – and that place is quite expensive.

What gentrification?

I’m still not totally convinced of various people’s assertions about the gentrification of Sukhumvit soi 4. I lived in soi 6 in 2003 and 2004 and I know there are new hotels and condos going up now and maybe it’s just my imagination but I really do think it’s more sleazy at night in soi 4 now than back then.  I still like the odd night out in that area myself, but it just amazes me how anyone paying the sort of money that the new Q House is asking for apartments would actually want to live in that area!

Nature in Bangkok.

Nice article on Benjakit Park.  I’ve been past the entrance so many times but never entered.  Now I will put it on my list.  On the rare occasions I’m in need of some jungle I go to Lumpini.  On the subject of parks, I like the one across the river from Taa Reua Klong Toey pier.  You have to take the boat taxi from Taa Reua Klong Toey (last stop for most bus #47 that runs along Rama 4 at the river side) not the regular boat taxi though, it seems they just know you’re going to the park and get a commission from the bicycle rental shop on other side where at the pier you can rent bicycles for 100 baht a day and maps that show all the points of interest and the floating market.

From a park regular.

I live in lower Sukhumvit and usually go to the park 5 – 6 times per week.  There are currently no plans for apartments, shopping centres etc there.  Being such a central, large and one would think very sought after prime area, we can only hope that this continues.  You may (or may not) be aware that next to Benjakit Park on the west side is a newish park that roughly translates as Park of Trees.  It is just across the road next to the park in the estate.  It would be about 50% of the area of Benjakit.  It has a lot of roads in it but traffic is not allowed except for the park staff on bicycles.  (There is a huge car park there which has a lot of the older TOT trucks parked.)  I would guess that there are approximately 1800 trees in there with a lot of grassy areas, all very well-kept.  The story is that they are supposed to be building part two of this park to join up at the southern end, but this has not materialized yet.  I usually walk in Benjakit and finish off in PoTs as it is quieter and more peaceful in there, with no defined track and cycling area.  Let me add another bit here about the photo of the woman lying on the bench.  She is there every day and I reckon she appeared there about 12 months ago.  I have no idea about her, but am surprised the guards let her stay.  I have been there as early as 3:30 PM and as late as 7:00 PM and she always seems to be there.  She is often doing herself up and seems to talk to herself a lot, but is clean and orderly.  She usually has a bag with some stuff and her clothes with her.

The old and the new.

The old Old German Beer house on Sukhumvit soi 11 is undergoing renovation until early 2019. Meanwhile they opened the new old German beerhouse on Soi 13 and say it will be permanent.  As a regular at the old location I was first frustrated to see it had moved, albeit temporarily, but I must say that the new location is really good and has the same familiar feel as the old location had – without that traffic jam out on Soi 11.  When they reopen the old location on Soi 11 I will have a problem to decide where to go.

 

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Flooding in Soi Cowboy this past Friday, outside Tilac Bar.

This past Friday night the heavens opened and dumped a load on the capital.  After the rain stopped falling on Soi Cowboy the soi was flooded 10 – 15 cm deep.  Plenty of shit was seen floating its way to the drain at the Asoke end of the soi.

The next thing in the works at Dollhouse on Soi Cowboy is their annual Halloween party.  It’s always a big night with prizes for the girls with the best costume.  Speaking of Dollhouse, the date for the next Nanapong dance contest has not yet been decided.  Expect it to  be before the high season comes into full swing.

Every year it seems like yet another of the old style gogo bars on Soi Cowboy is modernised, acquired by The Arab or one of the big bar groups.  Amongst the remaining old-style bars in Soi Cowboy, Long Gun endures and it is the last bar in Soi Cowboy performing what I think of as Patpong-style shows.  Think horns, candles, cigarettes and darts.  Other than a revamped music playlist, a visit to Long Gun is like stepping back in time.  Personally, I’d like to see the old-style shows scrapped, but the old music and decor retained.

Cactus in Soi Cowboy has long been known for small-framed, slender dancers.  If you are in to sub-40 kg girls, that’s the place to go.  Cactus is another venue that made an attempt to modernize, but still has one foot in the past and the other in the present.

Friends tell me there are a lot of new faces in Soi Cowboy.  Perhaps you can thank the Arab for that.  The Arab’s bar recruits well, girls come to work at his bars but it’s usually not that long before they leave and move somewhere else.  Reasons for leaving are as many as they are varied, but range from not being able to meet the extreme quota on lady drinks to what I would call general mistreatment – and putting it that way is being kind.

What happened to all of the Africans around Soi Nana?  Readers are asking.  It’s not that long ago that comments about the influx of Africans in Soi Nana were unkind, but now that they are gone it would seem that they are missed!

You can watch Liverpool crush Manchester City at Stumble Inn tonight.  English-owned and English-managed Stumble Inn on Soi Nana – right out the front of Nana Plaza – is firmly established as a popular spot to watch English Premier League football.  This week’s fixture takes on a special significance and not just because these two teams top the table.  The owner of Stumble Inn is a Man City fan and the manager of Stumble Inn and his chief nong are both Liverpool fans.  Kickoff is at 10.30 PM.  Whenever English Premier League matches are screening at Stumble Inn, pints of Chang and Tiger are just 100 baht for the duration of the match.  Also, Stumble Inn has taken on a new chef and their homemade burgers are getting rave reviews.

A correction is needed re: the newsbyte in last week’s column about the change in ownership of Bangkok Bunnies in Nana Plaza.  I was misinformed that it had been acquired by the Hillary Group.  That was incorrect.  My apologies for that.  I have since learned that it was sold to Tee and his Thai partners who own Twister Bar.

Meanwhile, Playskool is on the market.  It looks like the Dutchman who sunk a lot of money in to those two ground floor Nana Plaza bars wants out of the trade altogether so he can focus on other businesses.

On the subject of PlaySkool and also Mandarin, readers of the Thai language might enjoy some of the posts from staff on Facebook about the relationship between these two bars and some other skullduggery which I daren’t mention here.  Up to you to find it on Facebook yourself…

Rumours circulating last week that the ladyboy bar on the top floor of Nana Plaza, Cascades, had changed hands proved to be right.  Apparently it will undergo renovations with remodeling will start in the next few days.  It has been sold to A Korean which makes me wonder where it could be going.  Korean-owned bars are usually heavily marketed towards a Korean customer base.  Will it remain a ladyboy bar or change format to a girly bar?  There’s much speculation.  A lot of bars in Angeles City in the Philippines are run by Koreans and I am afraid to say that you don’t always hear the best things about them.

From a reader, the sleepy northern outpost of Chiang Mai might be worth another look for naughty boys. Long known as a great place to retire (quieter than other big centres, friendlier locals, better weather and cheaper), Chiang Mai has never been on the naughty boys’ radar.  But said reader says that Chiang Mai has not suffered from anything like the same level of inflation that bars down south have.  In naughty bars in Chiang Mai you can still find lady drinks for around 80 baht, barfines for 400 baht and willing takers to offers of 1,500 baht long-time.  Perhaps it’s worth a look for naughty boys watching their pennies?

If you’d like to get in to the bar industry but don’t fancy the idea of operating a girly bar, The Pickled Liver might be worth taking a look at.  The English pub at the end of Sukhumvit soi 7/1 is on the market and could be yours for 3 million baht.  The Pickled Liver started in Pub Lane off Sukhumvit soi 11 and moved to its current location several years ago.  I don’t know how busy it is these days nor what sort of numbers it’s doing, but soi 7/1 is as central as you get and while The Pickled Liver is at the end of a dead-end soi, it’s only about 90 seconds walk from the main Sukhumvit Road so with some decent marketing there’s no reason to think it can’t do well.

I am hearing really mixed reports about where is busy and where is not.  Some friends have observed quiet bar areas while others insist things are anything but quiet.  I’m not there on the ground so the most plausible explanation for differing points of view is that friends are out on different days at different times – and see different things.

WeChat is getting more popular in Thailand, especially amongst those looking for a short-time dalliance. Be aware that there is a disproportionately high number of ladyboys using WeChat.  Some are said to look amazing and if you don’t ask, they might not tell.  What the heck, if you meet a ladyboy when you wanted to meet a lady, give them a blast and let us know how it goes!

 

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The large plot on the corner of Sukhumvit Road soi 6 in the foreground, and the luxurious Q House condominium building in the background.

 

How long has the huge plot on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and soi 6 been vacant?  It has been vacant for so long that I can’t remember what used to be there!  With the huge demand for space on Sukhumvit, it’s amazing that it has not been developed.  That said, I imagine the land owner is rubbing his hands together as the value goes up and up and up.  Maybe they are in no hurry to let it go because I don’t think anyone thinks land prices in that part of town is going to do anything other than keep going higher.

There will always be the odd branch that is a soft-touch but opening a bank account in Thailand as a foreigner without a work permit is more difficult than ever.  One professional services firm which offered assistance opening an account for foreigners is no longer offering this service.  And in another sign that the banking industry in Thailand is tightening up, a successful businessman in Thailand this week told me how sending money out of the country is much more difficult than before, even if you have documentation to support the transfer.  There are more and more reports of a transfer being accepted and then a day or two later the bank comes back to say that more documents are required.  Bank branches which are a soft touch are becoming rarer and rarer, especially in the capital.

For Thais in Farangland the underground market is the preferred way to send money to Thailand.  Many Thais in Farangland avoid the outrageous fees and terrible exchange rates that most banks in developed countries charge.  The local Thai Facebook groups are full of ads from Thais who offer a service to transfer money to or from Thailand using the Super Rich rates – Super Rich being the most famous of the private money exchange operators in Thailand.  You go along to the local Thai offering the service and if, for example, you wish to transfer money to Thailand, you give them cash.  They then log in to their account in Thailand via Internet banking and transfer to the account in Thailand you wish the money to go to.  It’s done instantly.  And it works just as well the other way.  It’s simple, fast and the exchange rates are excellent.  It’s nice to see Thais helping Thais.  I imagine that similar exists in Thai communities all around the world.

 

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It was funny watching the morning breakfast news TV show เรื่องเล่าเช้านี้ on Wednesday morning this week. While politicians and tourism industry figures are scurrying to grovel to the Chinese and make up for some of the issues Chinese visitors to Thailand have rightly complained about – the boat sinking a few months ago killing 50+ Chinese nationals and more recently, the incident 10 days ago when a Chinese national was assaulted by airport security staff – the attitude of Thai officials is in stark contrast to the mood of the nation.  On the morning news, comment after comment from viewers were very much anti-Chinese with comments from “Is the reason I feel happy related to the fact that Chinese visitors may not be coming to Thailand” to “Why don’t they find another country to visit” and everything in between.  The sentiments expressed on TV are much the same on social media.

Many Westerners married to Thais really don’t have much idea of where things are at with their in-laws and extended family.  Often they don’t know much about the relationships between members of the extended family i.e. who gets on with who, and who doesn’t.  They don’t know (or perhaps misunderstand) the general financial situation of the family and whether, for example, the family house (or farm, or various properties) is owned outright or whether there is money owing on it.  They may not know who is responsible for the big decisions, the sources of income and just what the big picture is.  While there is an argument that the financial situation of the family you marry in to is none of your business and is irrelevant, in Thailand I think it is something you need to have some idea of – and certainly Thais want to know where such things area at when in a serious relationship.  In some families – and a disproportionately high number in which Westerners are involved – there can be an expectation that the foreign son-in-law help out should any money issues arise.  You do not need to know every last little detail but I do think that a level of disclosure regarding the big picture money-wise is only fair – because if things are grim then it is quite possible at some point that it will have an effect on your relationship.

One of Thailand’s largest and oldest forums is up for sale.  TeakDoor is widely known as the alternative to ThaiVisa.  Loved for its liberal rules, anything goes debates, and generally a more open-minded take on what’s happening in Thailand and the rest of the world, the forum is now up for sale.  Despite a recent much-needed facelift, it seems the current owners are looking to move on and willing to part with the forum for 750,000 baht.  If interested, drop me an email and I will forward it to the owners.

 

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Quote of the week comes from a friend in Bangkok and made me laugh, “Is it just me or do people who use ya dom look like junkies and idiots?”  Ya dom is the nasal inhalers so popular in Thailand, and which some people are not shy to put up their nose and leave wedged right there in their nostril.

Thailand is concerned about a fall in the number of Chinese visiting the country.

The Mall Group has teamed up with an American company to build two world-class arenas in Bangkok.

The Thai beach made famous in the movie The Beach has been closed indefinitely.

A Thai woman and a man from you-know-where are arrested for perpetrating a romance scam against Thai women.

A foreign female resident of Bangkok who made what seems to be a legitimate complaint about noise outside her condo could now be subject to investigation by Immigration.

A real life Thai caveman beds dozens of hot backpackers on Koh Phangnan.

A young Kiwi is set upon by a pack of dogs in Thailand.

 

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Bar bosses need to do more to get the word out about what’s going on.

 

How many people go to Nana Plaza on any given day?  What about Soi Cowboy?  It’s got to be quite a lot, right?  That may be the case, but I’d say that the number of visitors this website gets per day is greater than the number of visitors Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza get combined.  With that in mind, why don’t most bar owners take advantage of this column to get the word out about what’s going on in their bar? Sometimes I feel like I have to prise information from bar owners about what’s going on in their bar. When I resumed writing this column I fired off emails to bar owners and bar managers explaining the column was back and inviting them to drop me an email when anything is going on, be it a party, special event, new format – basically anything of note.  Some responded to the initial email, others did not.  Some of these bar bosses have since organised events which would have benefited from being mentioned in the column, yet they did a lousy job of letting people know about it.  One even complained that I did not mention their party – but they never told me (or anyone else, it seems) about it!  Frankly, is it any surprise some bars are struggling?!

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]

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