Confessions of a Former "Booth Babe"

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 10 2014 10:15 AM

Confessions of a Former "Booth Babe"

461480025-dancer-performs-at-the-dts-headphone-x-booth-at-the
A dancer performs at the DTS Headphone:X booth at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas.

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Little is more off-putting than being hit on by a married man, yet as I helped adjust for a potential customer the newly designed earphones—guaranteed not to fall out while providing a superior sound experience—he leaned in and whispered, “You smell nice.” My paid response was to smile sweetly and squeak “Thank you!” in an overly excited voice. It's simply part of the job as a brand representative (aka booth babe).

With the excitement of the new products from the annual CES in Las Vegas comes the perennial debate over booth babes. Is the role truly degrading to the women working the booths? What about the women attending the show? Do booth babes really help drive quality foot traffic? Or simply awkward gawkers and sex-crazed bloggers who publish annual galleries of the booth babes?

Advertisement

Throughout college, I held many part-time jobs, but few were as lucrative and easy as a brand representative at conferences and trade shows. These gigs paid a good hourly rate ($25-$50 per hour) and were not nearly as demeaning as other high-paid, low-barrier jobs such as shot girl or go-go dancer. At trade shows, generally the bastards weren't that drunk.

What defines a particular trade show experience is not necessarily the politeness or vulgarity of the trade show attendees, but rather the company's expectations of the brand representative. If the hiring company simply expects eye candy, it leaves the “booth babe” with little to cultivate potential customers besides looking pretty and small talk. We're left objectified at the same level as the other booth props and displays.

However, if the company expects these women to be additional marketing representatives and provides adequate training and education on the product(s) and company represented, it becomes a more empowering experience. It allows us to have a voice to educate and engage potential customers.

Coming into any given brand representative gig, it is usually evident what type of experience to expect based on the job description and application process. If a job posting requests three full-body photos, it’s clearly a booth babe gig. However, if a description expects previous sales experience or the ability to learn quickly and requires some training (even a 30-minute crash course helps), it's likely to be a genuine brand representative experience. A rep can be sexy by being smart and knowledgeable about a product.

My brand representative experiences exposed me to industries I wouldn't have otherwise encountered. For example, I once represented a cybersecurity training product and learned about the challenges that major corporations face in educating employees about cybersecurity standards. It was valuable training and could help me in my career one day. More of the companies at shows like CES should realize that some of the young women they employ as “booth babes” could actually be valuable assets to their companies.

I learned a lot, good and bad, during my tenure as a brand representative. But when I think back about my time, I realize that the most degrading part of my experience was the infantilizing title “booth babe” itself.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Alicia Fremling is the director of Second Home Pet Resort in Phoenix, Ariz. She also blogs about credit card debt.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.