Being a shot girl is like being an animal in the zoo, except you don’t have the bars.
I needed some fast cash, and one of my friends suggested being a shot girl. Sign up to the agency, get placed in lots of different bars and clubs in Glasgow to sell shots a few nights a week, and get cash in hand at the end of each shift. Sounds great, right? At first I loved getting all glammed up and feeling like some sort of fierce Coyote Ugly at work. I would listen to Beyonce’s ‘Grown Woman’ and think I was dead feisty. Fast forward three months to now and I’ve just quit – girl power it was not.
The manager’s constant reminders on the staff page including, “GLAM HAIR AND MAKE UP IS A MUST”, “YOU MUST BE LOOKING SUPER SUPER GLAM” and once even, “REMEMBER!!! PAINTED TOES!!!” became very tedious and I started becoming overly conscious about whether my eyeliner wings were good enough. Worse still though were the customers. Men were genuinely confused when you had to tell them that they do not get a free kiss when they buy a shot and some honestly did not understand why I got angry when they grabbed hold of my arse. On one gruelling shift I told one arse grabber, “That’s not right. How would you like it if I grabbed you at work?” and was met with sniggers. There was no training put in place about how to deal with this type of abuse and the only advice we were given was to ask the bouncers to remove them from the club. When you have customers asking you in all seriousness if you’ll go home with them after your shift would you want to piss them off by throwing them out? I thought my best option was to ignore it – to avoid the risk of any angry men waiting for me outside. It was as if you were some sort of doll or animal on show that both men and women could touch and stare at. The women were often worse than the men. Fingers were shoved in your face, some girls would give you a bitchy look if you went anywhere near them, and other girls made you feel like shit by laughing at you looking all pathetic begging for their money.
The cash varied too. The opportunity to make uncapped commission seems fantastic – however you were given no contract, and no basic hourly rate. So if you sold fuck all, you’d make fuck all. Often I’d come away with an alright £30 or £40, but some nights I walked away with as much as £80 – £120 for just three hours of work. Would you grin and bear it for that much money? We were ripping people off, selling shots which were usually more expensive than at the bar, with the shot girls getting a measly 20p for each shot they sold. We were all enticed in by the promise of extra commission by hitting the targets we were set each night. However it became clear pretty quickly that these targets were set unachievably high for a reason. Only once did I manage to hit my target and it was during a shift where I endured one man literally screaming in my face for not giving him a free shot. Free shot requests were irritating too – it was everyone’s birthday and men even offered to kiss or hug me in exchange for a free shot. Errr I’m alright thanks, you massive sweaty mess. You couldn’t give away shots, or spill a tiny drop because it all had to be paid for by you at the end of the night. The fear of navigating packed dance floors while protecting a tray of £100 worth of shots was real.
The time to leave hit me after I realised I’d been putting off going back after an unbelievably shit week. Shit shift number one involved me almost vomiting selling Sambuca in the midst of a dangerous hangover at a beach themed student club night. After three hours of pain in my heels (mandatory) while trying not to lose my shots to the beach balls being lobbed around I walked away with just £12. Shit shift number 2 was even shitter. The club I was sent to on the Friday night had just 2 people on the dance floor at 1am. I only made any money because some nice boy spilled a tenner’s worth of Apple Sourz in my hair (shitemare to get out) by accident and gave me £20 to apologise. The shift that topped it off though was during the following night – I was almost strangled at the bar by a man and a woman threatened me. I was too scared to enter one club room in case said woman would have a go after becoming irritated by me trying to sell to her. On the occasion where the man put his hands around my throat, the bouncer saw but didn’t say anything. In all fairness I don’t think he meant to hurt me, he was trying to make a joke about my death stares being bad enough to strangle someone. He had, however, had enough Sambuca to probably think his hands were as light as marshmallows and was confused when I told him to fuck off. I told the bouncer about the scary woman but he laughed it off and said “oh that’s just Beth, she’s fine”. I definitely didn’t feel fine though.
The whole idea of the shot girl is degrading. But it’ll keep going because the girls are desperate for money, and from the management’s point of view: sex sells.
[Lucy Hornsby – @lucyvhornsby]
Image by David Humphreys for VICE