Some shot girls in Liverpool; neither of them are the author, nor do they necessarily share any of the same opinions as the author. Photo by Dave Humphreys
Think your corporate career is a nightmare? Tired of biting the entire way through your lip every time your sociopathic line manager barks something at you in totally nonsensical office jargon? I feel for you, but then I also kind of don’t. Because however many KPIs you’ve got to action by COB, trust me when I tell you that being a shot girl is endlessly more soul-destroying, and doesn't come with any of the perks you enjoy—like four-figure bonuses, interacting with mostly non-drunk people, and being able to wear pants to work.
Try maintaining a rictus grin as you prowl the nightclub floor, a bottle of Apple Sourz in each clammy hand, Calvin Harris’ discography hijacking your eardrums for the third night in a row. Try having to hustle a crowd of leery city workers while the balls of your feet turn white with pain and your self-esteem disintegrates like a Rizla at a foam party. Now try doing that sober.
I never thought I’d end up selling shots in a bar. After moving to London to study for a masters—which so far has amounted to little but an extra line on my resume—my sister introduced me to the world of promo work. It’s a profession that saw me flyering (being paid £6 [$10] an hour to dump bits of paper in a bin), nightclub hostessing (£8 [$12], an hour to pretend to be friends with strangers) and checking names on the door (in my experience, £10 [$16] an hour to listen to bouncers be racist in sub-zero temperatures).
However, selling shots in London's West End was the only piece of promo work that actually paid well. The job works on commission, so bigger, better clubs mean bigger, better profits—but you can also do all right if you corner a couple of bankers locked into one of those weird macho competitions that revolve around trying to out-spend each other on Don Julio shots. And if you’re willing to work over New Year’s or Christmas, I’ve heard of girls managing to clear close to a grand in a night.
But it’s not all Dan Bilzerian wannabes making it rain. Working as a shot girl was exhausting, depressing, demoralizing and, ultimately, the worst job I’ve ever had. I learned a lot strapping that Jäger-belt on every night, most of which I’ve tried to suppress in the dustiest filing cabinets of my mind. But in the hope that it’ll make you sympathize with one of my compatriots the next time you see them wading through a club, here’s the most important insights I gained in my time on the job.
CHAT, NOT TITS, WILL MAKE YOU TIPS
The job requires you to get on your social A-game as soon as you clock in. Simply batting your eyelashes doesn't work, because there's normally another girl selling shots in the same bar, and chances are she's prettier than you and doesn't have nearly the same amount of sweat building up under her hairline.
Movement is also key. You need to be constantly circulating—keeping an eye on who the other girl’s talking to, so if they turn her down you can make your move—while ensuring that any newcomers flock to you first. You can't stick around in the corner flirting with one guy; big groups are where the money's at, and unless you genuinely enjoy spending your Friday nights being knocked back by apathetic shufflers, that's what you're there for.
When it comes to which specific groups to target, bachelorette parties are the holy grail. Where others might see tiaras and giant inflatable cocks, I saw a means to keeping my heating on. So if you're thinking of wading into the shot girl arena, I'd make a beeline for the bride as soon as she enters the room.
Photo by Jess Cole
YOU CAN MAKE A LOT OF MONEY, BUT YOU'LL HAVE TO GRAFT
Selling shots can make you an all right wage, but you've got to be prepared to assume some risk. When I did it, the norm was to buy two bottles of spirits at the bar for the ludicrous sum of £70 ($112) each, so before you've even started working you're already £140 ($224) down. It's probably on the higher end of the reseller risk scale, actually—just like buying and selling classic cars, if trading 40-year-old Pontiacs was more about vomit and bathroom line punch-ups, and less about capitalizing on the existential crises of middle-aged men.
Mind you, at least it's an incentive to work; you're not going to spend all night trying to crush your Diamond Digger score when you've got a week's worth of rent at stake. And the consequences of not putting your all into it aren't exactly ideal. While I've never met a girl who's lost money working, I've certainly met a few who've hustled all night to walk away with little more than £30 ($48) after paying the club back.
A LOT OF DRUNK MEN ARE EXACTLY AS YOU'D EXPECT THEM TO BE
Being a shot girl is essentially the same as any other sales job: You're using your personality to turn a profit. However, unlike most sales jobs—which are conducted from the safety of an anonymous suburban desk cubicle—you're required to work in a dark room with the constant threat of an unwanted ass grope or boob-hand-brush.
Generalizations are lazy, but the one I'm about to make is accurate. There are two types of drunk heterosexual men: those who see you as malleable objects ready to be manipulated into bed, and those who see you as a person just like them, but with less showy genitals. As a shot girl, you're on the frontline of the sticky-carpeted battleground, constantly having to deal with the former bunch and every one of their sleazy lines.
"When are you gonna speak to me, gorgeous?" As soon as you realize women can't be tricked into having sex with you, dude.
Some people having a great time in a nightclub. Photo by Jake Lewis
YOU'LL WISH YOU PAID ATTENTION IN MATH CLASS
If you’re going to be a shot girl, you’ve got to be good with figures. Normally, you'll sell various permutations of shots—for example, a “mixed shot” at £3 ($5) a pop, a “straight” (i.e. undiluted) shot for £3.50 ($5.60) and a Jägerbomb for £5 ($8). If you're going to cut people deals—three straight shots for £10 ($16), say—you need to be smart about it, otherwise you’re going to start hemorrhaging the little money you have left after bankrupting yourself on those two big bottles of booze.
YOU'LL START TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT RIPPING PEOPLE OFF
Somewhat shamefully, I would usually employ dodgy measures to maximize my profits. For example, if I was going to pour you a Jägerbomb, I’d drop the shot in the glass before you had the chance to realize it was only three-quarters full. Ask for a mixed shot? I’d have filled one of the glasses on my belt with mixer already so that your shot was basically just juice. Sometimes I'd say I was fetching fresh glasses from the bar and intentionally grab the just-washed ones that had a little water kicking about at the bottom.
However, watering down the bottle itself was always a step too far. Mostly because I'd have been fired if I were caught.
Selling people diluted drinks for full price isn't the most ethical thing I've ever done, but in my defense, binge-drinking is a bad thing, and I only ever did it to people who were too drunk to see straight, let alone notice. So don't worry about me. I'm sleeping OK at night.
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