To earn money for living, beer attendants at restaurants across Ho Chi Minh City accept to serve customers of various backgrounds and ages including civil servants, businessmen, and even teen boys as long as their pockets are full.
Money makes everything go round
One night, a group of ten beer girls including Huyen were called to serve a 20-member clientele of a real estate company at a restaurant on Pham Ngoc Thach Street, District 3. The waiting room was chock-a-block with heavily made-up young girls who were waiting to be selected.
The manager named Thu kept on reminding the girls to whole-heartedly serve the customers because they are frequenters of the restaurant.
“They drink very much, so you have to drink as much as possible,” she warned - “The customers are a little bit hard-to-please and often meet their business partners here so you have to talk to them politely. But no worry! They leave generous tips.”
The clientele arrived at 8pm that day and Thu quickly ordered two youngest and prettiest girls to serve the director of the company and his business partner.
Huyen was selected by an old man while her other “co-workers” had already been picked up by other men. The aged man talked to Huyen in a whisper “How much can you drink?” and immediately opened three Heineken cans and put them in front of Huyen, announcing: “Drink up and tell me some funny stories.”
Huyen clinked her glass one by one with other men and tried to drink it all. “Good drinking!” the man satisfactorily said and put in her hand a VND200,000 banknote (US$10).
As the party draw to a close, the guests had been heavily drunk with the girls been forced into consuming a huge amount of alcohol. Except for two girls who were quite sober as their two patrons had been busy discussing business, all the other attendants were exhausted.
After drinking continuously three or four beer cans, these girls were rewarded with banknotes of VND200,000 and VND500,000. Though Huyen’s customer was terribly drunk, he still forced her to continue drinking with him. He even confided to Huyen his wife had an adulterous relationship.
On the table, another beer girl sitting opposite Huyen named Hong was soaked in puke discharged by her client while a heavily-drunk man nearby threw a beer glass at a girl and sent her away because she refused to drink.
The party ended after midnight. Most girls were exhausted. Some walked shakily to the locker room to change clothes and went home. Some rushed to the toilet to vomit. Some had red faces and collapsed right at the locker. And some laughed crazily or cried counting their tips.
Tuoi Tre undercover journalists saw the watery eyes of Hoa, a first-year college student from Binh Thuan central province. This is her second day at work.
Drink one, get one
Nearly 11pm at a restaurant on Phan Xich Long Street, Phu Nhuan District, a bad word came from the mouth of a customer right after the sound of a broken glass: “F***, why did you refuse my kiss, you are just a beer girl!”
He stopped shouting as another costumer and the restaurant’s manager showed up. After that, Tuyen, the scolded attendant, was sacked.
“It is a shameful job. I’m tired of being sexually groped and harassed. We are beer attendants and not bia om (beer hug) girls [who offer sexual services],” Tuyen forced a bitter smile.
“My husband used to be a construction worker but he quit the job after having a leg broken from an accident. He’s very jealous so I’ve to lie to him that I’m working for a restaurant as a waitress,” Tuyen continued. “But if I don’t do this job, I don’t know any other way to make money.”
Going back to her rented room after a day of heavy drinking, 20-year-old Ly, hailing from Kien Giang, told Tuoi Tre her story three years ago when she started to work as a beer attendant: “I told the customer I could not drink much because I was a newcomer. But he put on table a pad of VND500,000 banknotes and said simply ‘drink one beer to get one note’.”
After drinking up the third beer, Ly vomited but the customer was not angry and gave her three VND500,000 banknotes. When the party ended, she was rewarded with one more VND500,000 banknote. “VND2 million after my first day at work is higher than the monthly food allowance my parents give to support me to attend a hairdressing training course,” Ly said.
“Now I’m able to drink ten beers but I have to pay a price for that since my belly is getting bigger and bigger”.
Hong, 19, who just quit a music school, said that she only agrees to be hired as a beer attendant if she knows for sure who the costumer is and is paid VND1 million for one “appointment”. But “it is an unstable job,” she concluded.