Computex booth babe: Exhibitors want us to show more skin

A so-called booth babe interviewed at this week's Computex exhibition in Taipei says that tech companies are wanting their product models to reveal ever more of themselves.

The, um, scene at TOSY's booth. CES 2012. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

An exhibition of electronic products surely wouldn't be the same without an exhibition of local models, students, and other women who would like to earn a little money in exchange for smiling a lot.

If you can't get a comely woman to hold your new tablet and thrust it at potential customers, then how on earth are you going to sell it?

It seems, though, that -- despite this week's kerfuffle featuring a sad sexist tweet from Asus -- booth babes will not be disappearing anywhere soon.

Indeed, reports from this week's Computex exhibition in Taiwan suggest that the sweet snort of sexism is ever more rampant.

I am grateful to IT World for tearing itself away from the excitement of yet more electronica to talk to the ladies who are left holding the product.

Some accept that their positions are relatively relaxed ways of earning, say, $100 to $170 a day. Those high heels can be uncomfortable after 8 hours, though. You're telling me.

Others, however, point to slightly darker circumstances.

Eileen Lee, 25, for example, has decided that Computex will be her swan song. She is moving on to better things (one hopes) as a product manager for a biotech company.

Perhaps she feels more able to reveal certain truths, then.

For she told IT World: "The industry is now moving towards making models show more skin. People will look at you, but do so in a way that's more sexist and sexual. There's no respect."

From wandering around the halls of CES, I hadn't been aware that there had ever been any respect.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The ladies are there to be ogled at, in the sweet hope that the predominantly male audience will stop and ask them all about the fine new, um, global positioning system that they've been holding for the last 25 minutes. (Lee's regimen is that she has to hold her Nvidia product for 30 minutes. She then gets 10 minutes rest.)

Another booth babe, Regina Xue, expressed her professional feelings a little differently. Exposing products for Micro-Star International, she simply wants to be taken seriously.

"This is a job for us, we just wear less," she told IT World.

Well, indeed. Whatever talents we possess, we all want to be taken seriously. No one, though, has ever analyzed the relative performance of babeless booths against the be-babed ones.

You'd think that companies rooted in rationality might ask themselves whether this sales tactic is quantifiably stellar.

It's not as if any tech company CEO has ever said on an analyst's call: "Sales are down 20 percent. We think it's because some idiot in marketing decided not to have booth babes at this year's CES."

Sometimes it's tempting to believe that these women are there to please executives from the hiring company more than any potential customers.

At this year's CES, some companies managed to stoop to quite valiant depths. Vietnamese robotics company TOSY, for example.

At a very early hour of the morning, two bikini-topped ladies were dancing at its booth, as if they had been plucked from a club at 5 a.m. and told simply to not stop moving.

The women looked so drained of life's electrolytes, that one wondered how this could possibly be helping TOSY's business.

Traditions, though, die hard.

As Ashley Hsu, modeling models for Elitegroup Computer Systems, told IT World: "It seems like more and more young women want to do this kind of work."

Of course they do. It's every girl's dream, isn't it?

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