The Amazing Uber-Efficiency of Ze Germans (Or How to Tax your Local Sex Worker)


If you do your research diligently, as the staff at Last Exit to Reality always do, you will find that there are many articles, blogs and rants about how German efficiency is a myth. However, the vast majority of those were written by Americans or Brits.  The truth is though that the Germans work fewer hours and get more done than the British or Americans. The trains run spot on time, all of the time (and always on the same platform). The streets are clean, houses are properly insulated and when a German builder says he will turn up to do some repairs at 8, you had better be ready at 8, as he’ll not be a minute early or late. But be aware he won’t work 10 seconds past 5, even if there is only 5 minutes left for the job to be finished. (For this he’ll return tomorrow, promptly at 8am) The Germans get stuff done. In fact your average German works 256 fewer hours a year than their British counterpart and yet get a lot more done.

Of course this comes at a bit of a price. You have to follow the rules and question nothing. There is no point waving madly at the bus driver to let you on after he has closed the doors as the timetable leaves no time at all for compassion. And if you hold the doors of an S-bahn or train, then expect a hefty fine. But it is your own fault for arriving late.

The truth is, everything works, all of the time. From the individual hot and cold water meters are inside nearly every apartment conspicuously reminding what energy is being used to the parking garages where your car is deftly placed on a shelf, Ze Germans are always coming up with a new way of doing things. Now they have come up with a fair way to tax street-walkers. Prostitution is legal in Germany and the women that work in the bordellos and sauna clubs already pay income tax but now the Uber-Efficient tax man has caught up with those working on the streets.

The city of Bonn has begun collecting taxes from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter, proving again that German efficiency knows few if any bounds. The pay station is manufactured by Siemens, which itself is beyond ironic. The workers pay a nightly flat fee of 6 euros for the privilege of street-walking. The city estimates that it has 200 sex workers, of whom about 20 ply their trade on the street. The Bonn government spends more than €82,000 a year for a private security company to guard the area (yes, they are limited to one area of town) and to provide security for the sex workers.

Street prostitution as practiced in Bonn, once the capital of West Germany and a town better known for sleepiness than sexiness, would be unfamiliar to many people outside Germany for its unusual degree of organization and institutionalization.
The women wait for customers on a stretch of the Immenburgstrasse in a largely industrial part of the city. In addition to the Siemens-built meter machine, which cost €8200 including installation, the city has built special wooden garages (known as “performance areas”) nearby where customers can park their cars and have sex.

Under the new meter system, street prostitutes must purchase the tickets to work between the hours of 8:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. Leaflets explaining the system, translated into several languages, are handed out to the prostitutes. After one warning, a sex worker caught working without a ticket would be fined up to €100.

However, the implications of such a tax have already been felt by some of the workers there. One has to buy the ticket before even going to work, so if no clients come to see you, then you have just paid to stand on a street. “The other night I worked all night but didn’t get any work, but I still had to pay it,” said a young woman from Hungary who gave her name only as Monica. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn that pink wig.

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