London Phone Booth Girls

May 1999

One of the standard features of any trip to London is the smorgasbord of "Phone Booth Girls" available in every red street-corner cubicle. This form of marketing has been documented on previous trips, and the practice continues to proliferate. I have categorized the entrepreneuses who were hawking their wares during this trip into the following categories:

But this great British tradition is in danger! According to a recent story, reprinted below, there are threats to these young businesswomen's livelihoods. Soon, perhaps, the cards of the phone booth girls will only be available in museums.

CRACKDOWN ON TELEPHONE BOX 'TARTCARDS'

By Political Staff, PA News 16 May 99 18:23 BST

A crackdown on prostitutes' calling cards in telephone boxes is to be unveiled this week, the Home Office said today. Its consultation paper will contain plans to prosecute those who leave so-called "tartcard" advertisements in phone booths.

Reports claim the Home Office document will also unveil new powers to enable phone companies to cut the lines of numbers displayed -- a move said to be supported by industry watchdog Oftel.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Leaving calling cards in phone boxes is a nuisance. In central London it is a real problem. "It puts off tourists and makes it difficult for people to read public service information."

But the English Collective of Prostitutes claims the measures will cause "serious" problems for colleagues. "Women have found a way of working without pimps and without being on the street," said a spokeswoman. "Some women will go back to that rather than go out of business. "It is 10 times more dangerous to work on the street and it is more of a public nuisance," the spokeswoman told The Observer.

BT tried to outlaw the phone box adverts three years ago, but the collective challenged the decision and the Office of Fair Trading found the action in breach of competition laws.

Only one in 20 sex card numbers is a BT line, following the company's policy to block incoming calls, but to allow outgoing ones. An estimated 13 million cards are placed in 1,000 London phone boxes each year.

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