“Beauty on High Heels” The Story of Sales Promotion Girl

She has been standing on high heels for eight hours. Looked so hard, she is attracting people to buy. She has to stand on that way all the time, though she finds no people to buy. She must looked attractive as Sales Promotion Girl (SPG), completed with make up and mini skirt.



In a crowded shopping center in Yogyakarta, I notice a girl working hard offering product. She smiles to all costomer and tries to get their attention. Seemed work hard and passionate, she is burdened.

Her name is Sari (not her real name, ed.), 22 years old. She is presently working as SPG in one of shopping center in Yogyakarta. Why Sari become SPG? The first question delivered spontaneously to her. Taking a deep breath, she trying to remember the memory of few years ago.

“It all started when I had to drop out of a state university to find a job. My mother had just passed away, then my father remarried. But, he did not responsible to his children anymore. I was ignored,”she remembering.

At that time, she was 19 when her family fell apart. Finally,she decides to move to Yogyakarta after dropping out from college. She has to survive in the city. She has nothing with her, only high school diploma and her faith that someday there might be few jobs to be fought for.

The first fortune, she finally get a job in the retail clothing as Sales Promotion Girl. Surely, it’s easy for her to land that job. All pre-conditions listed in the announcement she owned. There are several requirements listed : female, attractive, communicative, maximum age 25 years old, an ideal height, no married as well as no pregnant during the contract period.

During her work, she get many problems related to overtime work as well as work shift division among sales partners. With a salary about IDR 350.000 paid per month, she could not guarantee her life in Yogyakarta. She finally resigned. Sari never give up, she tries others lucky. Once, she is employed as SPG on retail shop. She faces many challenges to work. Her salary is still below the provincial minimum wage (UMP), about IDR 750.000 per month. But, she has to work for 8 hours everyday. She only get a day to off in a week, but she has to replace it the other day for overtime work.

Even, she has to take overtime work until 03:00 a.m. But unfortunately, the company do not consider it as working hours and no compensation for her. Compensation and salary issues are often problematic, she admits. When she is checking goods at the end of the month and finding that some items are missing, Sari and also all the SPGs obligated  to compensate the missing items.

It is hard work as a SPG, especially for those with the status of contract workers. According to Sari, she sometimes has to be unemployed just because the store gonna be immediately closed. Evenmore, she does not get her complete salary as the employer has cut it.

“The problem is so complicated. I often get sexual harassment from the customer,” she acknowledges.

Sari’s story is telling us how hard women struggle in the workplace. This is not merely her own, there are many more stories which never surfaced. But once pushed in public, the facts were never taken into account. The SPGs have no bargaining power to get their own rights. They are eventually forced to survive into trouble. Both economic reasons and the complexity of life are two inseparable factors considered.

Sometimes, the rules in the workplace are twisted. However, Sari enjoyed her work. She revealed complaints while doing the job. But, she also openly tells positive things that come along. For her, working as SPG is a challenge to live hard and to learn many things. She is required to be able to use the optimum potential even though she had to face the hardest challenges anyway. Being SPG is an opportunity that she had to able to keep the mood under any circumstances. Thus, she could provide the best service. Honestly, the detail information about products and marketing, are two important things to learn.

Considering sales targets should be achieved in the work, she had became mentally forge as a hard worker who never easily gave up despite facing many obstacles. Every sales targets achieved are aimed to get additional allowance. Therefore, at any particular target she will get bonus. In addition, with regard to the achievement of the target is also useful for her to improve the position of suitable career path that has been ruled by the employer.

That is Sari’s story. For nearly 3 years, she has been surviving as SPG. Meanwhile, she is going to pursue her studies at a university. She expects to get her diploma. She keeps fighting for life and studying. The last thing I asked her, “would you remain working as SPG after finishing your study?” She replies, “I just want to be an office worker,” she says hopefully.


Under Social Construction

In many places, SPGs are employed to offer products that are mostly consumed by men, such as cigarette, beer, energy drink, and others. They are sometimes required to be attractive in  performance that the customer willing to buy.

The Girls with sassy style and talkative personality often succeed to make people interested. For sure, they communicate with them and promote product optimally. Frequently, male customers deliver teasing remarks. Neither they like it nor feel inconvenient, they still respond with all the risks might be abused. Male customers are amused by such kind of SPG. The point is not only an attractive impression to created, but also the ability to entertain sometimes also be a skill they have to master.

In Cambodia, SPG’s experience of getting sexual abuse as well as the problematic condition in the workplace faced by them was also got into account. A survey conducted in Cambodia to the existence Beer Promotion Girl (BPG). The result stated that the BPG that mostly young girls are often harassed while working. In fact, the condition of their low incomes becomes a major driving factor which force them to accept the invitation to date even to have sex with the guests. Then, many of them were forced into prostitution.

Why do some SPGs has negative image? It could be just a one-sided labeling given by some people. As the interviews conducted with SPGs, they tend to resist to what people labeled them as ‘naughty girl’. Despite people never aim to give a bad perceive, some SPGs would be attractive and entertaining in serving visitors. The way they interact with the customers does not meant to tease. It is merely as a way to get closer to the customer in order to sell products. And yes, their primary purpose is to sell products.

They were teased, abused, and no guarantee for their safety in the workplace. Work rules were agreed in the beginning, they inevitably have to obey. However, they could enjoy their job. Once, they are getting ’stuck’ for a classic reason: working to earn for living.

According to a study conducted by Yayasan Annisa Swasti (Yasanti), from the results of a survey of 87 people saleswoman revealed that they should be able to meet the demands of the entrepreneur or the owner of the store. Female clerk is required to look beautiful and attractive, but there is no allowance for makeup. They are demanded to be friendly, responsive, and attractive. They also must be prepared to take responsibility, control of information about the product, and discipline. Since the beginning they were recruited, employers already require the physical qualifications. Also specific qualification for banning pregnant or married and the maximum age limit. This studies presented by Martini, one of gender activist, in the discussion titled “Mapping the Clerk issue in Yogyakarta” which took place at the Center for Population and Policy Studies, Gadjah Mada University (UGM-CPPS), Wednesday (25/1).

Some notes about SPGs : Beyond Economic Matter

First, there are many women forced into informal works. According to Yasanti research, it is mapped as one of the causes of many entrepreneurs hire women to work because they are easy to get and sometimes low paid worker. In addition, for entrepreneurs, more women workers are also more resilient and easier to control. They are also more attractive to be employed as sales promotion.

Second, we need to identify the interest related to competition and competence. The increasing need for women to work sometimes is followed by inadequate competence. Thus, they are much absorbed in informal work which had little need of a high level of education. But, they sometimes do not understand that their rights are violated.

Third, the work regulation dominantly viewed from the calculations of cost and benefit, and it seems rarely the regulation made with the consideration of human rights. A number of women’s rights had indeed been protected by Manpower Act No. 13/2003. However, most companies should take attention to the specific problems faced by women. Among them, the problem of menstruation leave, hours of work, overtime, maternity leave, nursing opportunities, child care, and other.

It is needed a win-win solution. So, the rule accommodates the rights of the worker as well as the interest of the employer. The SPGs are often required for optimal in appearance, communication, and interaction with prospective customers. Ironically, there is no sufficient guarantee for the protection of their rights of sexual abuse or other commercial risks. Regulations that ensure the protection of the rights of women who work there, but entrepreneurs often have their own rules with all the cost-benefit considerations in business. That’s why it’s important for workers to be critical and able to negotiate their rights to the company. (Defirentia One)


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