‘Knows how to please a man’: studying customers to understand service work

We can then see what demands a customer places on workers, understand where ‘his’ expectations come from and how ‘his’ judgements of good and bad service are produced in order to make sense of contemporary service work.

The paper then discusses Punternet authors’ readings of erotic, aesthetic and emotional labour in order to show how good (and bad) service is understood in a market structured by gender and sexuality, and hence to see the role played by the customer in judging and constituting the service encounter.

Because service work in consumer culture exists to facilitate the processes and practices of consumption, we must listen to the customer who engages in these consumption practices. The author argues that customers’ accounts of purchasing sexual services draw on ideas of masculinity and customer sovereignty to make sense of commercial sex encounters. The author uses customer (‘punter’) accounts of purchasing sexual services, as reported on the website ‘Punternet’ (http://www.punternet.com), to argue that customers expect a worker who engages in consumption practices and is and is familiar with norms of heterosexual femininity and so delivers an authentic experience.

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Lynne Pettinger