Sex work has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the last few months, most specifically with the passing of the SESTA/FOSTA laws in the US, which significantly impact the discussion of escorting (among other things) online as part of an effort apparently trying to clamp down on sex trafficking – ironically, making sex work a more dangerous proposition for service providers.
Outside the US, however, there seems to be no change in the number of companies popping up to provide a new take on escort directory-like services, but with far better integrated technology to make both the escort and the client feel safer. Smooci is one such platform unaffected by regulatory changes.
“The total censorship of the likes of Craigslist’s casual encounters sections and Backpage in an attempt to stop the facilitation of sex trafficking, has caused confusion as the regulations have blanketed the entire industry. It has caused problems for those legitimately trying to work independently as an escort,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. “As a UK company, Smooci is trying to support those working in the industry, and truly believe that by not offering a platform, you make it more unsafe and drive it underground.”
While it’s hardly novel as an idea – we covered a similar service called Rendevu last year – others charge a fee for each booking or take a percentage of the booking cost. Instead of taking that same route, UK-based Smooci uses the approach that many dating sites take to monetization: there’s a free tier and a premium paid-for options that bring additional features for both clients and escorts.
“It was important to us that we didn’t take any part of the fees the escorts earned, and were motivated by creating the best possible platform rather than by generating as many bookings as possible,” Smooci’s co-founder Kal Kingsley told SEXTECHGUIDE.
For now, despite the business being based in the UK, Smooci has just under 600 escorts registered on the platforms in just four locations, none of which are in the UK: Bangkok, Singapore, Manila and Hong Kong. A “European” launch – no cities specified at this time – is scheduled for the end of the year, along with the launch of an iOS companion app for service providers, Kingsley says. There’s already an Android version available.
Keep it simple
For clients using the service, simplicity is the byword. You just choose a location, choose incall or outcall, select your requested time and booking duration, and a list of available escorts is returned. When a booking request is sent to the escort, they have just 10 minutes to confirm it so clients aren’t left waiting around for a response.
While you can do all this for free, if you want the ability to view escorts that are offline (but match your criteria) or to make a booking of one-hour (the minimum is two for free members), you’ll need to pay for a premium membership, which ranges between $9.99 and $99.99 for between a few days and a year. Premium clients also have the ability to track the location of their date when they’re en-route, and full access to reviews, rather than just the escort’s overall rating on the platform.
On the escort side of things, free users get the first three bookings with no restrictions, but after that they’re restricted to one booking every three days. To remove this limit, escorts can pay $25 for one week or $50 for one month to get the ability to take unlimited bookings. When bookings are underway, escorts hit the ‘start’ button to send their GPS location to the client (if premium) and ‘end’ to get a link to rate the client.
Currently, if the service provider doesn’t hit the ‘end’ button, it automatically ends at the arranged booking time, but Kingsley says the company is looking to introduce a feature that would automatically flag bookings where the escort hasn’t hit the the ‘end’ button so that someone can check in to see if they are OK.
Smooci, in its current form, doesn’t quite achieve what it’s setting out to do, at least not entirely. Yes, a transparent two-way rating system goes some way to improving escort safety, and having location tracking provides some assurances, but those new features mentioned above would really help make things safer still for escorts.