Click to viewHere's your job: Stand for ten hours in a noisy convention center. (You might want to wear something revealing.) Try to get the attention of thousands of men—and a few women—who rush by. And don't forget to smile.
We didn't approach these women—models, actresses, circus performers, dancers, students, nurses, programmers—just to ogle and schmooze. We didn't simply want to collect pretty pictures for readers to drool over. (Although we did that, too.) We wanted to get to know the girls, their pasts, how they came to be booth babes, what they did when they weren't charming strangers, and what they experienced during their times at conventions such as CES.
Many of these intelligent, charming women had a sense of reluctance when it came to taking members of the press seriously. Often we heard girls talk of men who don't understand that a "press badge isn't an excuse" to fondle them as one might touch "everything shiny and pretty" in the booths.
A booth babe's job is to lure convention attendees into her booths, to do a product demonstration or to pass people off to a coworker. That's fine. But when misunderstandings occur—or attendees forget they're interacting with living, breathing human beings—some attendees turn into jerks, pressing intimidatingly close and crossing boundaries.
Some slip these girls their hotel keys, pressuring them for a visit later in the day. Others mistake professional flirting for actual flirting and try pick-up lines. "Do you know what the speed of light inside a vacuum is? I do."
We've shown off pictures of booth babes plenty and even encouraged ogling them. Others in the tech industry, such as game developer EA, have promoted this mentality to the point of offering a bounty to anyone harassing their booth babes with photo evidence. The point is that these girls are being paid to be pretty and cordial—and we aren't ashamed to enjoy checking them out and laughing with them.
But there wasn't a single woman we spoke to that didn't have at least one icky experience. Let their confessions serve as a warning to you: don't be a creep.
Many thanks to Adam Lam and Christopher Mascari for assisting with the video, Michael Margolis for sending in a few photos, every wonderful woman who spoke to us (particularly Bob Suicide whose encounter guided along this idea), and every single gal running a booth or promoting a product.