Nintey-nine percent of business articles are dry, boring, the same-old same-old. To search for and deliver the most interesting developments in the hiring world, as Staffing Talk tries its best to do for you each and every day, is often a struggle not unlike treasure hunting in that it’s not often we unearth something surprising or intriguing. But today I’m happy to report that we struck a nugget of gold (in my eyes, anyway) with an article from a stripper featured on BuzzFeed that has unexpected depth and insight.
The long-form piece from the 31-year-old professional describes in-depth her experiences in a North Dakota boomtown. The town struck oil and job-seekers flocked there in droves, but the story of Willison is beyond a case study. It’s emblematic of any job spike or market boom that the staffing world has seen in the recession era – quite simply, people go where the jobs are and the money is.
And that aspect of the story is interesting, but combined with the fact that it’s through the lens of stripping is even more intriguing. As it turns out, stripping ain’t that far removed from other industries and its workers ain’t that different from the temp candidates you place every day.
Don’t believe me? Read the story. I highly recommend it. However, as you’ll quickly see, it’s quite lengthy. So I’ll try to extract some of the points that stood out to me.
First of all, she describes her entrance point into stripping as a way to get through college, and once she graduated with a degree, experience, and internships, she decided that instead of scrounging for a hard-to-find journalism job, she’d just strip her way around the country instead.
“When there are longer-term economic shifts in play, workers who can will move to better areas. That’s why dancers traveled to New Orleans post-Katrina, when cleanup crews were in town. It’s why they go to Myrtle Beach during golf season, or Alaska in the summer, or Vegas any time,” she writes. “The one big advantage you have is the ability to travel to greener pastures. If you would like to have a job in another town, as long as you look good enough for the club’s standards, you’re hired. So those who can, move. When the level of bullshit is too high or the earnings too low, they the hit the road.”
(Sound like a temp yet?)
Susan Elizabeth (the author) describes using stripper-specific forums that clued her in to openings and connect her with employers, not unlike social media and job boards. And even more interesting is how the various clubs’ rules for compensating them are similar to recruiting.
“We were only keeping $15 from each $20 dance and there were no expensive hourly champagne rooms to sell. This is a typical arrangement for a small club, but strip clubs all have their own pricing structure and house cuts. In some, only table dances are available. In others, customers can buy dancers out by the hour for hundreds of dollars. What the dancer keeps varies from 100% to 40% of what the customer pays,” she writes.
When Susan first went to North Dakota to strip, there was one club in town and usually three dancers a week. When “the boom” hit its peak, the town got a second club and about 40 dancers a week.
“They didn’t even cap the number of dancers that could work. Not only that, they didn’t pay the dancers — and instead charged them a whopping $120 flat stage fee. … So instead of getting paid $250-$500 a week, depending on the booking, we paid $120 a night. Instead of keeping $15 from each dance, dancers kept the whole $20. The same dressing room that held six dancers packed in 12 to 22 women a night,” she writes, and later continues. “Younger, cuter dancers from further and further away would book in. Some of the old regular dancers found their bookings fewer and farther between. I noticed fewer black dancers, sometimes none. Some of the dancers who moonlit as escorts gave up dancing altogether, advertising online instead of getting clients in the club.”
Some of my favorite details come in the recession section of her article, which hit stripping (like everyone else) in 2008 and she noticed some trends about work conditions:
“The American worker has never been so efficient in terms of output over hours worked. At the same time, real wages and benefits have plummeted. Prospects are shitty for college graduates and non-graduates alike. Layoffs and cutbacks in previously solid industries protect the profits of an ever-smaller class at the expense of those who produce value. In stripper terms, here’s what that looks like: Lap dances in many places still start at $20, the same price they were in 1990. Customers expect ever-higher levels of contact and performance skill, meaning strippers work harder to earn the $20 or the dollar stage tip that is worth a lot less than it used to be. At the same time, clubs charge dancers higher stage fees and tipouts, especially as customer counts and tabs drop and dancers become a primary source of income for the clubs. There are no layoffs when your workers pay you, so instead of cutbacks, clubs hire more and more dancers, resulting in more competition for a smaller customer pool. Do more with less!”
Sounding familiar yet?