Are young South Africans really renting bottles at top night clubs around the country?

A bar fully stocked with premium liquor
A bar fully stocked with premium liquor

Living in a time of internet hypervisibility means that sometimes things are done purely for the 'gram. We have perhaps all dabbled in this at least once (some maybe more than others). 

And by that I don't mean in extreme forms, but for example, creating a fragrance flat lay captioned "today's scent" when you really didn't even leave the house that day. A harmless white lie that didn't cost you a thing.

But as the viral 2017 ad campaign #DitchTheLabel revealed, thousands of social media users are living under pressure to portray a certain agreeable, aspirational lifestyle on Instagram, resulting in a cycle of Insta lies for Insta likes. 

The campaign highlighted one the most common Insta lies; "Going all the way to Starbucks, buying a coffee and opening up your MacBook - taking a photo of your #WorkSpace, closing your MacBook and then going back home."

Watch it here:

However, social media pressure and the general pressure to peacock to strangers can manifest itself in more financially fatuous forms. This is especially if the environment you are constantly exposed to triggers the need for you to live up to a certain unsustainable standard. 

In this particular instance those environments would be night clubs - Gatsby-esque establishments known for a culture of superfluity, revelry and the strategic "product placement" of the female form.

READ MORE: This smart dress experiment shows how often women are harassed at night clubs and the results are alarming

It's not unusual for people (heterosexual men) to spend up to a decent salary's worth of money on unreasonably marked up alcohol, buying premium liquor that retails for about R500 to R900 in-store, for quite literally quadruple the amount. 

We spoke to a former club promoter/music video model *Lisa who used to work at NYC, Harem, Kong and Booth in Joburg. She broke down the whole phenomenon of encouraging willing patrons to spend mega bucks in night clubs. 

Hey, big spender!

This is what Lisa shared:

Club managers hire around 10 to 15 girls who are called 'hostesses' to work in the VIP and the VVIP sections in the club (this is where you typically find “big spenders”). 

Basically the hostesses generally hang out (dance or “look sexy”) in these sections and are then accosted by the big spenders.

"It's the kind of job you have to be drunk for," Lisa explains chuckling.

The girl will then spend time with the keen customer in question and play into the male ego's need to buy expensive bottles of [alcohol] to impress women. There are no sexual favours involved in this process. Generally, the spender (who is usually a guy) will offer to buy the girl a drink, so her job is only to choose an expensive drink, which is usually champagne.

Of course, she would have to entertain the guy's conversations and sometimes even dance with him, but there is no sexual touching or forceful behaviour involved. There are almost always bouncers in close proximity should the spender become forceful or touchy.

These guys are sometimes unaware that the girls job is actually to get him to spend his money, so he usually tries to impress her by spending a great deal of money.

Lisa goes on to divulge that the bills can "go pretty high, hey -  between R15 000 and R100 000." 

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A post shared by HAREM ®? (@harem_sa) on

And well, for those who don't have that kind of disposable cash on the ready every weekend, they have three options - stay at home, live beyond your means, or rent a few bottles for the night just for the aesthetic.

Is it any surprise then that those who cannot keep up for various personal reasons are suddenly feeling the urge to emulate this lifestyle for a couple of hours by renting out two or seven bottles?

"Popping" bottles like Cinderella

Yep, there are new speculations in town - clubgoers are allegedly renting bottles to create the impression to onlookers that they are "balling out." 

The same way Cinderella had to be back home by midnight after the ball, well bottle renters supposedly keep a certain amount of liquor at their table until the night's over when they then return them to the bar.

There's no doubt that this is the kind of night out one would share on Instagram and the like to unsuspecting followers who under the impression that you're "living it up."

Social media has been abuzz about this new phenomenon this whole week, with one Twitter user explaining the process as follows:

Another user commented on how intense the pressure to appear "affluent" on social media has become:

READ MORE: Would you rent a wig for your next special occasion or emergency for as little as R100 per day?

Banter about Cubana Lounge (the club mentioned in the tweet) has since made its rounds. This venue is already well-known for its large appeal to a demographic that loves the good and the high life (political figures included), but we had to hear from the national franchise directly. 

Clubs respond

W24 reached out to Cubana Fourways in Joburg as well as Cubana Greenpoint in Cape Town. The Fourways branch declined to comment, while the Greenpoint branch in Cape Town was not aware of this service and further advised that we reach out to their head office.

*The Cubana head office could still not be reached at the time of publication of this article.

We broadened the investigation to another popular Johannesburg night club, Taboo in Sandton. 

The club manager Hloni Maniers, informed us that Taboo does not do bottle rentals and will not be doing so at all. 

"It doesn't make business sense to rent bottles out," he told us.

And given the fact that the primary goal for night clubs is to drive profits through bottle sales, this manager's comment is fair.

But in the same breath does not negate the reality of the current social climate that has created an environment in which people feel like they need to have something on display as memorabilia of a "good time."

What are your thoughts? Do you think social media or general social acceptance are to blame?

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