Changing demographics, a strong local economy, the Internet and mobile phones are the main factors in the changing bar industry, right? But there is another factor that has contributed to major changes, agencies and agency girls.
It used to be that bars advertised for staff by posting notices outside the bar, outlining the terms and conditions of employment. You don’t see notices outside bars so much these days because the bars don’t tend to get walk-ins. Many bars get new staff either by referral from existing employees, or through agencies.
The graphic below is the 2019 equivalent of one of those notices posted outside bars, and shows the terms and conditions which were posted online by an agency looking for girls to work as coyote dancers in Soi Cowboy.
Translating this ad provides some insight in to where the industry is at, and goes some way to explaining why many have little interest in being barfined these days.
The first line of the ad states that the agency is looking for coyote dancers for Soi Cowboy, that applicants must be aged 18 or over and that there are both part-time and full-time positions available.
The next line says that the agency guarantees that for the first 3 days of employment there will be no cuts to the salary and the employee will take home her entire salary for each of the first 3 nights. This perhaps needs a little explanation. Agency girls are required to get a minimum number of lady drinks each night. If this minimum number of drinks is not reached, a deduction is made from her pay. If, for example, she must get a minimum of 6 drinks per night but only manages 4, then 2 drink commissions are cut from her pay.
That the ad specifies that the first 3 days there will be no salary cuts is a ploy to attract new girls. Many girls start a new job with just a few hundred baht to their name and knowing they will take home at least several hundred baht each day for the first few days can be enough to convince them to take the job.
The third line outlines the hours of work, from 8:30 PM until 3:00 AM.
The first line with a ✔ says the rate they are paid each night is 600 baht – and they must get at least 3 lady drinks bought for them (which is a small number and at many other agencies it is higher).
The second line with a green tick says a commission of 80 baht will be paid for every lady drink – and this starts from the very first drink.
The one line that starts with an X says that for each drink below the quota of 3 lady drinks per night they don’t achieve, their salary will be cut by 60 baht. So let’s say that a lady doesn’t get any drinks bought for her in a night (which is about as likely as snow falling in Bangkok), her take home pay for that day will be the day rate of 600 baht less a penalty of 60 baht for each of the 3 drinks not achieved meaning a total of 420 baht.
The third line with a tick states that a uniform is supplied and the girls don’t have to pay for it themselves. In the past, many bars charged the girls for their uniform, the cost of which was essentially deducted from their first month’s salary – and some unscrupulous bar owners marked up the price i.e. the bar owner would buy a full bikini for a few hundred baht but sell it to the girls for 1,000 baht. Real crap way to treat your staff. (The other side of this is that the girls are notorious for taking their uniform home and never returning to work, which does go some way to explaining why many bars charge girls for the uniform.)
The last line with a tick says that the girls get paid daily, at the end of the shift / when they leave the bar.
The next line says that there is a bonus paid each month which is made up of money and gold. It doesn’t specify what this is for or just how much it is, but a best guess would be that it would go to the agency girl who gets the most drink commissions in a month. This sort of incentive is very effective with Thais who love to gain face and be seen as the highest earner.
The final line says that once barfined, there is no need to return to the bar i.e. after the business has been done in the short-time hotel room. Some bars compel staff to return to the bar and at least one bar in the Soi Cowboy area imposes a time limit within which they must return to the bar otherwise, you guessed it, a deduction is made from her salary.
This particular agency is very fair and girls can choose to return to the bar after they have already been barfined if they wish – and if they do, those who return and get barfined again receive a 200 baht bonus per subsequent barfine.
How many lady drinks can a lady get per shift? It depends on many factors such as the popularity of the bar, the day of the week, how many other girls are working that night, whether she gets barfined or stays in the bar until 3:00 AM etc. I understand around a dozen or so lady drinks is about average per night. At 80 baht a piece, that’s 960 baht. So with a day rate of 600 baht and an estimate of 12 lady drinks bringing in a total commission of 960 baht, that’s 1,560 baht for a night’s work. That would be about average nightly earnings for the girls, I suspect.
Some girls do get A LOT of drinks in one night and could go home with 2,000+ baht once their day rate and lady drinks commission are combined.
I have heard of ladies getting more than 30 lady drinks in a night. It’s not the norm but it’s not unheard of either.
It’s no wonder so many girls put their efforts in to getting lots of drinks rather than try to convince customers to take them to a short-time hotel. When she knows she’ll probably make 1,500 baht or so per night, why have sex with a customer when you can make decent money hustling for drinks? This is why the ladies request such large sums for a roll in the hay these days and are genuinely not interested when small money is offered.
Of all the agency ads I have seen, this one impressed me. The pay is decent without being over the top. The terms and conditions are fair and this agency shirks imposing some of the nonsense penalties many bars and agencies are notorious for. And the monthly cash / gold bonus is the icing on the cake. It’s good to see an agency treating the girls well.
Last week’s photo was taken from the patio of the Silom branch of Sunrise Tacos, looking out at Silom soi 4. Bangkok’s skyline is full of skyscrapers these days, but which ones can you see in this week’s photo?
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
I wanted to reiterate the importance of having health insurance in Thailand. Recently, while performing my duties and responsibilities as a judge at the Nanapong dance contest, I was carrying a drunken young employee across a floor slick with the accumulated cocktail of fluids commonly found at one of these exercises in debauchery. I stepped in a patch of, by the taste of it, chocolate syrup and my feet came out from underneath me. Luckily my fall was broken by the sharp edge of a stair. The young employee came down on top of me and was uninjured. I knew I was hurt but the overwhelming sense of duty as a judge inspired me to get up and carry on, which I did. Getting up the next morning was not nearly as easy. This is what a cracked rib feels like, but I had so much fun cracking that rib that I’d say it was worth it. Not sure if Nanapong / Angelwitch extends health coverage to its temporary officials but I’m looking into it.
Thoughts on the nightlife.
Responding to emails in last week’s column, the punter complaining about the 2 for 1 lady drink scam sounds like a newbie. It’s been going on for ages and is a known ‘drink whore’s’ practice and as you’ve mentioned several times before, is a common tactic in the Arab’s bars. And to the punter espousing the virtues of online internet lady service is missing out on one key feature, chemistry. Part of the fun is finding a girl that you can ‘click’ with.
Thailand’s best sports bar?
I visit a bar called I Rovers in Pattaya on the corner of Soi LK Metro, opposite Billabong. If it’s not the best sports bar in Thailand I don’t know what is. Not since the halcyon days of Bob in The Office in soi 33 in Bangkok have we had a true sports bar that caters for all, 24/7. I’m a sports nut and you can find anything, not just for the Antipodeans, but from anywhere in the world in this bar. As it never shuts, the ice hockey, American sports and EPL etc. all get a run at crazy hours. Darren is an ex NRL Canberra Raiders and Illawarra Steelers player and knows his sport. A nicer bloke you won’t meet in Pattaya. Beer is cheap. Food is great and he runs a clean joint. And because he is one of the last true publicans in Pattaya, his bar is very popular. It’s one of my favourite places to go in Thailand. He has a great regular crowd too who are not cliquey and there is some very nice eye candy to boot. Great place to go before you stumble off to one of less reputable establishments just metres away.
The low-down on the Nana Hotel.
I have been staying at the Nana Hotel for the past 3 weeks and can confirm it is not only American expats living at the hotel. There is a Japanese guy who is always there when I am in town, and I have been staying at the Nana Hotel during different months of the year for over a decade. The Nana Hotel give you a 10% discount for stays of 15 nights or longer, and a 20% discount for stays of 30 nights or longer. So the base tariff of 1,490 baht per night becomes 1,192 baht for an extended stay. For this you get: a breakfast buffet, daily maid service, utilities such as WiFi / cable TV / electricity / water, daily newspaper and bottled water resupply. Not to mention the ground zero location to nightlife, Sukhumvit Road, and the BTS system. Plus the amenities of the hotel like a pool, security, room service, etc. IMO this makes it a compelling option compared with renting your own Bangkok flat. And you have the flexibility of checking out should you decide to travel back to your home country, saving the expense of paying for unused digs. My other note would be: the Nana Hotel has fixed room rates throughout the year. So it can be a relative bargain during peak periods, but you might be able to get better value elsewhere during slow periods when the more upscale properties go on sale.
The Philippines retirement option.
Good weekly on the new expat, especially regarding getting & staying legal. The only point I may add is that it is now a big ASEAN world and Bangkok may no longer be “best in class” for expats (retiree expats in particular) due to rising costs and hassle. I have the SRRV (Special Resident Retiree Visa) in the Philippines and it has many advantages over anything available in Thailand. You must be 35 years old or 50 years old, depending on the cash deposit required, but once complete it never expires like the Elite Visa in Thailand does. You can cancel and take the deposit money back any time if you decide to move on. No need to get married, no reporting required at all, unlimited / multiple entry, just an annual renewal fee of $360 USD and they leave you alone, forever. It also allows for full coverage in the national health system and in my experience it is very good. The SRRV does require a full criminal / background clearance and health certification, both of which must be authenticated at a Philippine consulate in one’s home country before applying in the Philippines. So if you have any record of theft, drugs, violence, sex crimes etc. it isn’t happening. Also, if one has a history of being a nutter, addict, or has picked up anything contagious that doesn’t go away, it’s a no-go. So if one is open-minded, not dead-set on Thailand, and has kept it relatively clean through life, SRRV is an ASEAN option that effectively eliminates future immigration hassles, and gives you 7,000 islands to explore.
Intel received during the week had it that progress had accelerated on to the new bar under construction in Soi Cowboy that I have been referring to as Crazy House 2. I was going to write that the bar was taking shape after a sign went up revealing the strangest name, Kazy Kozy. And before we knew it and with absolutely no fanfare, suddenly the bar was open. Word from those who stuck their head inside on the first night is that it is nothing like Crazy House. And in what is a big surprise, girls were dancing in dresses. Perhaps it’s going to be more of a hostess bar or perhaps this was an opening night special? A second floor is coming soon and sounds like it is much-needed as it is small inside and has been described as being rather “kozy“. Kazy Kozy has only just opened so it’s too early to review and form any impressions just yet.
And Kazy Kozy wasn’t the only new bar to open on Soi Cowboy this week. In the spot that was previously Shadow Bar, a new bar opened on Friday and is called…..drum roll…..wait for it……Shadow Ladyboy Bar. Word is that it is more of a show-style bar and not the straight (perhaps not the best choice of words, eh?) barfine and bang format.
The latest Nanapong event held at Angelwitch this past Thursday was a huge success. It started slow but soon filled up and before long customers were as wild as the girls. The rules weren’t followed, the girls weren’t wearing numbers and the judges didn’t keep score. From all accounts it was mayhem and girls from both sides (Angelwitch and Dollhouse) were as naughty as ever. The girls from Angelwitch were greatly improved from their first event, and were declared the winners.
Add Rainbow 4 to the growing list of bars with a double lady drink policy. This week, a long-time reader offered a Rainbow 4 damsel a lady drink and she returned with a lady drink i.e. one glass. So far, so good. A sneaky look at the bill, however, revealed a charge of 370 baht. Asking why the price was so high, she explained that it was made up of the lady drink fee of 185 baht x 2. He had offered her a lady drink and she had returned with one glass….but the charge was for two lady drinks. In fairness to Rainbow 4, when said reader called over the mamasan and made the point that he had ordered *one* lady drink and not 2, the lady put her hand in to her bra, removed one of the lady drink chits, gave it to the mamasan who then changed the bill to read 185 baht. And with that the lady floated away as if he never existed.
And comments from readers feeling like they are being asked to spend more and more these days don’t end there with word that a popular Patpong gogo bar has a policy where buying a lady dancing on stage three lady drinks allows her to get off the stage and come and sit with you without the need for her to get back on stage. However, all three lady drinks must be ordered at the same time. Buy her one lady drink, a second drink a little later and then another does not allow her off the stage. The days of a lady drink costing around the same price as a standard drink and the lady sipping it for a while are over. Lady drink policies vary from bar to bar and confuse the heck out of customers and are a bone of contention in some bars. It would be a whole lot better if each bar had signs or a menu explaining how the lady drink system works in that bar, what the prices are etc.
Work on the popular expat pub, The Picked Liver, at the end of Sukhumvit soi 7/1, finally started this week and the renovations are expected to take around 2 months so figure it to reopen some time after Songkran.
Shenanigans in Patpong has taken over the floor above and a new sports bar and comedy club are on the way.
Speaking of Patpong, word from my most trusted of sources says that it was dead this past Friday night which is a disaster, given that for many expats that happened to be the day after pay-day and they were flush with cash on the last day of the work week.
Still in Patpong, over in soi 2 Bada Bing is still going for the time being. That said, most of the dancers can be found 30 metres up the soi in Glamour.
Back in Nana Plaza, if Butterflies continues on its current trajectory it will soon be the second busiest bar in the plaza, behind its sister bar Billboard. With a few tweaks here and there, customers seem to really be taking to Butterflies.
The general impression is that there are plenty of people out and about on Sukhumvit but are they spending? If some bar bosses are anything to go by, the answer is no.
What is the main attraction in the bars? It’s the girls, right? For good music, a convivial atmosphere or well mixed / fancy drinks, gogo bars probably wouldn’t be your first choice. In too many bars the girls seem to forget that they are the main attraction. I get it that the girls are there to make as much money as they can – and all power to them. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like the mating game any more, does it? There’s a big difference between playing hard to get and being unapproachable. But perhaps this is less about the girls themselves and more about the bars and how some are managed. Customers want to know that if the chemistry is right, take away is possible. Of course plenty of bars still operate in this manner but more bars are moving towards the coyote model where it’s all about extracting as much money from the punter in the bar without even giving him the hope of getting something more. I think the time will soon come for those bars where girls are available to promote themselves accordingly, in the same way that some bars in Nana Plaza have signs outside stating that they only have real girls i.e. they don’t have ladyboys. The problem is, bars have to be a little bit careful with what they say and cannot explicitly say what is available, lest they be accused of illegalities.
The Pattaya Secrets forum has not gone offline as was previously announced it would.
Crocodile meat is becoming more widely available in tourist areas. A regular reader currently in Pattaya reports that grilled crocodile meat is being enjoyed in Sin City. The food stand pictured above can be found behind Central Festival shopping centre. Other photos of the booth show signs in one of the Chinese scripts so perhaps Chinese visitors are the main market?
A New Zealand drug king died in a Thai prison this week and as newsworthy as that may be, it’s not the reason I mention it (a full article about the fellow published in the New Zealand Herald can be found in the news article links below). What is interesting is the reason the fellow found himself in prison. No, it was not for anything to do with drugs but for the same reason as so many get caught by the authorities in Thailand – because he overstayed his visa. I have been banging on and on about the need to make sure you stay on top of your visa and don’t overstay – and there are reasons for it. Overstaying might not seem like a serious crime, especially when you consider that you can pay a fine of 500 baht per day for the period you overstayed and leave, seemingly without any major drama. But what is not known is how having previously overstayed might be used against you in the future. At some point in time the law might change so, for example, someone who has previously overstayed might face obstacles when applying for a visa in the future. This is in fact already happening. If you have overstayed more than once you are ineligible for an Elite visa. If you are picked up by police on an overstay and subsequently arrested, you are in the system. That means you’ll go to court, will almost certainly be convicted of a crime and finally you will be deported. The consular affairs officer at the Kiwi embassy in Bangkok once told me that overstay accounted for more than half the arrests of all Westerners in Thailand. Don’t overstay, just don’t!
Steakhouse Co in Patpong soi 2 has bucked the trend of rising prices and has halved the price of its Sunday carvery. They have been able to do this by taking appetizers and desserts off the menu and they now serve Thai Wagyu beef instead of Australian Wagyu. Western visitors to Bangkok (and plenty of retired expats) are more price-sensitive these days so repositioning at a different price point is probably good business.
Quote of the week comes from a friend, “People who can’t handle reality move to Thailand while people who can’t handle Thailand move to Cambodia.”
Reader’s story of the week comes from Tommaso, “The Bottom Line“.
A former Bangkok teacher quits his job to concentrate on the lucrative business of selling drugs but the inevitable happens and he is caught.
The Business Times looks at why Thai women are so successful in business.
A Frenchwoman is fined 40,000 baht and deported from Thailand for the heinous crime of vaping an e-cigarette.
126 Thais are arrested for crimes against tourists in the area surrounding the Grand Palace.
Lack of communication was a major complaint from tourists after almost 5,000 passengers found themselves stranded at Bangkok Airport this week.
A New Zealand drug king dies in a Thai prison.
The opening of two new bars on Soi Cowboy this week is just what Bangkok’s naughty bar industry needed, even if one of the two won’t appeal to most. I can’t help but feel that the industry is at something of a crossroads as far as customers are concerned. Some punters are looking for new destinations while I think most would actually like to stay in Thailand….but they just feel frustrated at where things are at. New bars, new bar owners and fresh ideas are what is needed. Here’s hoping many more new venues open this year.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]