I can always tell when the economy is taking a turn for the worse, because you start running into a higher hustle factor at some of the Vegas strip clubs. I recently had to remove a major club from my best-of-Vegas list because on recent visits I had found the hustle factor so bad.
In many of the clubs, you’ll see dancers clustered near the entrance, greeting a new customer as he walks through the entry doors and asking him if he’d like a dance. That’s fine. But when they won’t take no for an answer, and start badgering him before he’s had a drink or even found a place to sit down, that’s a problem.
If a customer tells this type of dancer he’s just going to have a beer and watch the show for a while, she’ll tell him she can do a lot better show in the VIP.
If he says he doesn’t have the money for that, she’ll try and drag him to the ATM. If he says his bank account’s tapped out, she’ll tell him it’s only $100. Surely he can afford a hundred measly dollars.
If he says $100 is a lot of money to him, she’ll ask him what the hell he’s doing in a strip club. You start feeling like you’re a defendant in court, being attacked by the prosecution. If he goes back to square one and says he just came to have a beer and watch the show for a while, she’ll insult him for coming to a strip club without more money.
Underlying Causes of the Vegas Strip Club Hustle
Part of the problem is over-hiring. Some clubs over-hire dancers because they haven’t yet realized that they’re seeing fewer customers, or that customers have less money to spend. Others may over-hire to compensate for the money that’s not coming in the front door by bringing more money in the back door. Since dancers have to pay the house fee to work in a strip club, the more dancers a club hires, the more money the club makes.
But when a club over-hires dancers to make up for fewer customers, or customers who are spending less, even the top dancers have a more difficult time eking out a profit after paying the house fee, tipouts, and their other expenses. They’re forced to become more competitive, more aggressive, more hard-sell.
The customers blame the dancers for being too pushy. The dancers blame the clubs for hiring too many girls. The clubs blame the cabbies for charging too much of a head fee.
You’re liable to encounter hustlers in any strip club in Vegas, including clubs that rate among the best in town. The problem tends to be worse in the bigger clubs where the dancers pay a higher stage fee, especially the second-tier big clubs that may be struggling to fill the place.
Hustlers in strip clubs walk a fine line. If management perceives that a dancer is chasing customers away, that dancer will get the boot. But some hustlers make good money for a club, so a dancer who’s perceived as aggressive in pursuing customers will be welcome as long as she’s pulling in more money than she’s chasing away.
Vegas has always been a town run by hustlers—a carny town where the tourists from out of state come to drink, gamble, and blow off steam in the strip clubs and nearby legal brothels.
In the 80s and 90s the town cleaned up its image and got rid of a lot of the mobsters. But image is one thing and reality is something else. Vegas has never stopped being a carny town. And when times are hard, the carnies get ruthless.
How to Deal with a Strip Club Hard Sell
1. Come to a strip club with cash in your pocket and only the amount you intend to spend.
2. Never, under any circumstances, should you use an ATM machine in a strip club. The “processing fee” may be as high as 20%. (That is not a typo.) If you need cash, stop at a bank ATM before you go to the club.
3. Never pull out a credit card in a strip club to pay for drinks before you know exactly what those drinks will cost. Strip club drink prices—especially in the VIP rooms—are not reality-based. And even if you know the price of the drinks on the floor, the prices for the same drinks in the VIP will often be much higher. Men have been known to sue when they see their bill for drinks in the VIP. But failure to ask the price will not get you off from paying the bill.
4. If you’re on any kind of a limited budget, do what the locals do. Get lap dances out in the main room and avoid the VIP rooms. That’s because three dances in the main room will cost you $60, as opposed to $100 in the VIP or $140 if there’s a required extra bar tab. At the high mileage lap dance clubs, three dances on the floor is a lot of lap dance.
5. If a dancer is hyper-aggressive, never tell her “maybe later.” This is a polite way of telling a non-aggressive dancer “no,” and a non-aggressive dancer will take off and won’t come around again until quite a bit later, if ever. But an aggressive dancer will only hear the word “maybe” and she won’t leave. Ever. You will literally have to plan an escape. And if she does leave, you won’t be free of her for more than 5-10 minutes. You have to tell her “no.”
6. Never allow yourself to be bulldozed into the VIP. If you’re not interested in a dancer, don’t buy her a drink, don’t get a mercy lap dance from her. Tell her you just want to watch the stage show. I’ve never yet found it necessary to insult a dancer to get rid of her, or threaten to report her to management, or take any such drastic measure. Once a dancer knows you’re not budging, she’ll leave you alone.
7. If you go into the VIP with a dancer, watch the time. Depending on how much you’ve had to drink, this may not be easy. But do not overstay the time limit, or you may find yourself being charged. If you’ve been drinking and you don’t trust yourself to pay attention to the time, then tell the VIP host or bouncer as well as the dancer to let you know when your 30 minutes (or whatever) is up.
8. Take your wife or girlfriend to the club with you. There is a major reduction in the hustle factor when you have a woman at your side, and every major strip club in Las Vegas is not only allowing, but encouraging couples.
9. If your budget is tight and you don’t want to be asked every couple of minutes if you want a dance, go to the lowest-hustle strip clubs. Most of the smaller Vegas clubs have a low hustle factor, but a few of the major Vegas strip clubs also qualify. Here’s a list of Vegas strip clubs, including major clubs, where the hustle factor is lowest (and why).
The Lowest Hustle Vegas Strip Clubs
Babes: This is a locals club with rarely more than a handful of dancers on any given night. A lot of the customers are regulars. There’s always an easygoing atmosphere. Top-end dancers from some of the major clubs sometimes come here to get away from the hustle. (Full club review)
Chicas Bonitas: A beloved Hispanic neighborhood club in North Las Vegas that serves a blue-collar crowd of regulars. It’s wild, high-mileage, and fun, with all lap dances priced at $10. There’s just not that much money in the customers’ pockets, but nobody here seems to mind. Hustlers look for richer veins of cash. (Full club review)
Deja Vu Showgirls: This is a major Las Vegas strip club (one of my best-of-Vegas picks) but it’s a smaller, more intimate club than some of the giant lap dance palaces. The club treats dancers right, the dancers make good money, so the hustle factor is low and that keeps customers happy. (Full club review / Club website)
Foxy’s: This is an urban topless club with a local following and a friendly crowd of sociable regulars, male and female. The club has one small VIP room and friendly black dancers. (Full club review)
Sapphire: Sapphire is a premier club (one of my best-of-Vegas picks) and the largest strip club in Vegas with 200-300+ beautiful dancers at peak hours, but unlike other Vegas strip clubs of its size and quality of dancers the hustle factor is low. I think it’s because the club draws a big enough crowd to keep its dancers happy and busy. A great place to get a lap dance, but also a great place to nurse a drink and girl watch for the evening. (Full club review / Club website)
Little Darlings: Vegas’ premier nude club with a lot of 18-20 year old customers and lots of female customers. It’s a major Vegas strip club (one of my best-of-Vegas picks), but with an exceptionally low hustle factor, partly because of the party atmosphere and partly because the 60-70+ gorgeous young dancers just aren’t old enough to have acquired sufficient meanness for a hard sell. (Full club review / Club website)
Palomino Club: The only full-time Vegas nude club that serves alcohol (one of my best-of-Vegas picks), with 60-70+ beautiful young dancers kept too busy by customers to have to hard sell. Top dancers here will often ask for (and get) top prices for private dances, but they are generally willing to negotiate and I have never found dancers here to hard sell or be rude. (Full club review / Club website)
Talk of the Town: A small downtown dive with a half-dozen nude dancers, no alcohol, where the cashier doubles as the DJ and drink server. The place rarely has much of a crowd but the dancers are young, pretty and sweet. They’re just local girls, dancing for local guys, and I don’t think it would occur to them to try to hustle their neighbors. (Full club review)
Urban Nights at Lacy’s: A part-time North Las Vegas urban club with a fun neighborhood feeling, not the kind of place hustlers are attracted to. (Full club review)