Saturday, April 03, 2004

A post I saw on another blog reminded me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a friend who's an escort. She's been in the game for a few years now, but I've been in it longer and she likes to get my take on certain aspects of the biz.

"There's this guy," she began. "I saw him once and he was a total jerk. Not scary, but just pushy and creepy and a weird energy. He's been trying to make another appointment, and I was just dodging his calls for a while. But he kept on calling and leaving messages, and I know you've always told me sometimes it's easier to just tell them that you don't want to see them than keep trying to avoid them forever."

I nod, because she's right. Sometimes the jerks will give up and go away, but other times you have to be straight with them. It takes a little judgment to tell the difference, though.

"So, he next time he called, I picked up and talked to him and told him that he made me uncomfortable last time I saw him and that I didn't think we were compatible and that I was sure he'd be better off seeing someone who was a better match for him."

I nod again – this is exactly what I have told her to say in these situations. There's no reason to be nasty about it – it just makes them get defensive. Much better to be calm and polite.

"Well, he wanted to know what he did wrong, and then he said he really wanted to see me again, and would I give him another chance, and" – Wait for it – "that he'd give me a thousand dollars for an hour if I'd see him again." Yep, there it is. The number-one most common response of a jerky client to being 86ed: offering more money.

Not that offering more cash is an inherently evil thing to do. Like Madonna once said, we are living in a material world. And we are definitely material girls. There are some professional conflicts that can be mitigated by money. No-showing for a scheduled appointment, for example: money fixes that. As long as the client pays for the time, I'll happily make appointments with him again. But if you dislike someone enough to actually fire them as a client, it is always, but always, a bad idea to let them bribe you into reversing that decision.

So when she asked me, "What should I do? It would be nice to have a thousand dollars, but…" I shook my head. "Nope. Don't do it. Let me tell you why: you've told this guy "no" about something. If he convinces you to change your mind by promising you more money, what you've taught him is that your "no" doesn't really mean "no". That's a real bad precedent to set with a client."

"And," I went on, "I would be very surprised if you ever got that thousand dollars. Because now that you've taught this guy he can move you around, he's gonna start jacking that figure down. It's a thousand now, but if you say yes, he'll call you an hour before the appointment and say, 'oh, I can only get eight hundred from the cash machine, can he write you a check for the rest?' And then when you get there, it'll be 'whoops, I thought I had eight hundred, looks like I've only got five, and you are gonna stay two hours for that much, right?' I mean, he's not an idiot, he knows the market rate in Seattle and he knows there are other women around. Once he's got you there with him, why should he pay more? He's gambling that once you're actually there, you'll take the money and stay rather than walk out empty-handed."

"Shit," she said. "You're probably right."

"The only way I'd do it is this: number one, make him Paypal you half the money before you ever leave the house. Number two, do it as an outcall - he stays in a hotel, right? Have your boyfriend go with you up to the room, but stay outside in the hall. Go in and collect the other half of the money and discreetly give it to your boyfriend. Remember that there's probably a security camera in the hallway, so don't flash the cash, just give him a hug and slip it in his pocket. Then stay and see the client and have your boyfriend ring the room when it's time to go. And be nice, you know, be good to the guy. This isn't about ripping him off. I mean, you know you don't like him, but if you decide to do it, do it right."

She nodded slowly. "That sounds like a good plan."

"Well, it is, but I really doubt it'll happen, because I doubt he'll agree to the terms. I mean, looking at it from his point of view, even if he's sincere in his offer, he's taking a risk. If he gives you the half up front, how does he know you'll show up at all?"

"I would," she said. "Because taking his money like that and not showing up would be stealing. But I can see how he wouldn't know that I don't steal from people."

"Yeah, I agree – it's very bad karma. But my theory is that he isn't sincere and he doesn't actually intend to pay you any extra money at all, and that's the real reason why paying you five hundred beforehand isn't gonna fly with him." I shrugged. "I could be wrong. But I've just seen this too many times, and it always plays out the same. Test the theory if you want. Just be prepared to walk out if he welshes on the deal. Because if you let him talk you into seeing him again for less than what you agreed to, you're going to be so mad at him, it'll be an awful session, and you'll feel shitty about yourself afterwards because you compromised your own boundaries for nothing."

So – she made him the offer I told her, and he said he'd call her back. Thus far, he hasn't called. Score one for honesty and good boundaries.

Postscript: This guy didn't seem like a violence risk, but this conversation did remind me of my favorite reading suggestion for working girls: Gavin De Becker's The Gift of Fear : Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence "In this extraordinary groundbreaking book, the nation's leading expert on predicting violent behavior unlocks the puzzle of human violence and shows that, like every creature on earth, we have within us the ability to predict the harm others might do us and get out of its way. Contrary to popular myth, human violence almost always has a discernible motive and is preceded by clear warning signs. Through dozens of compelling examples from his own career, Gavin de Becker teaches us how to read the signs, using our most basic but often most discounted survival skill - our intuition.

It's a fabulous book - fascinating to read and extremely helpful in learning to tell who the bad people are...

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