Tuesday, October 12, 2004

And Now For All The Business News That's Fit To Print...

Today's NY Times offers tips for a certain type of entrepreneur:

In the highly competitive world of paid companionship, Mae Lee knows that a string of disappointed clients can hobble an enterprise that thrives on reliability, discretion and customer satisfaction. The disappearance of Rachel meant that seven men that day would have their hourlong sessions canceled, turning their putative business meetings into aching voids of unrequited need.

And we all just hate it when that happens. But, there are other idiosyncratic problems too:

....Mae Lee employs a battery of procedures to keep prying vice officers at bay. To start with, she sticks to a steady roster of 2,200 customers, most from suburban New Jersey, whose bona fides have been thoroughly checked out. New customers often come via existing ones, and then they must provide personal information: a business name, a work telephone, sometimes a home number and an address. Before the initial conversation can proceed, Mae Lee puts the prospective client on hold, verifies the information on Google and dials the numbers, pretending to be a telemarketer when a wife or secretary answers.

A police investigator, she says, would never give up his home phone and address. Just to be doubly safe, she never writes down clients' personal information. "For some reason I can remember anyone by their e-mail address and phone number," she said.

.... Most encounters take place in hotel rooms she books by the week, reserved online at a discount, of course.

Cost cutting. Very important, indeed.

Her employees specialize in what is known as "the girlfriend experience," a slower-paced, affection-filled encounter that closely resembles a date. Her 10-page employment contract, signed by each woman, instructs them to cuddle, sprinkle flower petals on the pillow and "never rush or make anyone feel rushed."

Sort of like Nordstrom.

....It was in junior high that she first realized she wanted to run her own escort agency one day. "All the girls at school would talk about how they wanted to be like Duran Duran when they grew up," she says. "I wanted to be like Al Capone."

Be goal oriented. Check.

....she finds out that Rachel had inexplicably decided to shirk her responsibilities. "She didn't even have the decency to call me," Mae Lee said, her fury rising. The betrayal spurs Mae Lee into action. In another era, a wayward employee might have found herself bruised and bloody in the gutter. But Mae Lee, who runs her business with only an assistant for errands, imposes her own code of conduct. She telephones Rachel's boyfriend, informing him that his longtime girlfriend is a prostitute, and prepares a CD-ROM of Rachel's promotional pictures that she plans to send to the woman's family.

"If she doesn't call me, she'll learn the meaning of respect," Mae Lee said contemptuously. "She'll want to commit suicide by the weekend."

Motivational technique. Every business needs to keep up morale.

....Although her work is lucrative, she claims it is not just about the money. In a society with so many fraying marriages, Mae Lee says her services help keep families intact.

"Men have their needs," she said, adding that it is better for a husband to seek satisfaction through a no-strings-attached prostitute than through a marriage-wrecking mistress. That philosophy, she says, partly explains why she closes shop in the evening and on weekends.
"I want these guys to go home after work and spend time with their families," she said. "That way everyone is happy."

And everyone loves a happy ending.

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