City Desk

Selling Beer With Sex Appeal

I wasn’t looking for company.

I was at HammerHeads for part of Monday, June 8‘s  town council meeting, riding out the closed-door executive session by catching up on work and drinking Coronas. It was a slow night, but not too slow. I watched it gather momentum, following the cherries of cigarettes as they disappeared down side streets, betting which girl would fall off her heels first.

Then I was joined by Kara and Brianna, two twentysomethings in white undershirts and long, loopy necklaces made of iridescent blue beads and plastic Bud Light pendants. They’re beer girls, and their job is to convince barhoppers to buy not what’s on special, or what’s good, but what they’re holding in their hands. They don’t need mascots or super bowl ads. They have charm.

And they put a Bud Light on the table in front of me.

Kara and Brianna work for NKS, the mammoth distributor responsible for shipping Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Crown Imports (Corona, St. Pauli Girl) and Sam Adams to stores nationwide. Because most Americans don’t care about the politics of beer distribution, the girls represent one of the distributor’s brands. On June 8, they were Bud Light girls.

Their MO is to make people drink their beer. They asked me why I wasn’t drinking Bud Light. I told them I didn’t drink pisswater unless it was on special. They laughed, not really needing to respond – after all, the next beer I would drink was pisswater, free pisswater, the pisswater they brought to me. Somewhere in the chaos theory of consumer behavior, it makes perfect sense to give away a beer; a combination of gratitude, affinity, or lust could secure a second round. The potential for gain makes up for the loss.

But being a gorgeous beer shill in Dewey Beach –  where sunstroked drunks love to grab more than a cold one –  could be a dangerous job . Fortunately, Kara said, the bouncers keep an ear out for distress calls.

“Just from living here, you know everybody, and everybody always has your back,” she said. At The Starboard last year, a pair of Miller Light shills gave them a hard time for representing the competition. They were silenced before the teasing could escalate.

They aren’t all creeps, Kara pointed out. As part of a promotion last year, they gave away a cruise. The winner was a local, showing up on Sundays with metronomic regularity – the kind of guy you want to win a cruise. He sent her pictures form the boat, gushing with gratitude. Telling the story, she blushes.

Kara graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in business. Brianna is a rising senior Art History major. Being a beer girl isn’t bad for a summer gig, she said – it pays $15 – $20 an hour, depending on seniority. You only work for a few hours, she said, but it’s hardly work.

Kara’s face told a different story. A second-year NKS employee, she wore the detachment of a Dewey veteran, someone who’s been pawed a few too many times to spare the scorn. She sat with her shoulders slanted impatiently, boyishly. She wasn’t selling me anything, which actually made me want to buy whatever she was having. We were two people waiting out the clock in Dewey Beach, which is reason enough for a second round.

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