Dream a little dream with me: a wholly honorable world, where people kept their word, always acted with intention, never lied, never got cold feet, and always showed up for their appointments.

Dream, too, of a perfectly orderly and predictable world: where people never fall ill, cars never break down, work meetings always end on time, flights always land on time, business trips never get rescheduled, and unexpected disasters never befall any of us.

Nice, isn’t it?

But we don’t live in that world, and that’s why sex workers often require deposits.

I’m writing this as a U.S.-based provider, discussing deposits in the U.S.

Overall, the industry has moved in the direction of requiring deposits, at least in some areas. Flaky behavior, no-call no-shows, and last minute cancellations have become so common that providers seek to combat them while protecting themselves, by requiring a deposit to confirm the appointment. 

Fake bookings and no-shows cost us. It’s also more expensive than ever to be a provider. All these factors have driven the rise in providers requiring deposits. Sex workers don’t require deposits because we necessarily want to; we do it because it’s a sanity-saving move, and we can’t afford to lose hundreds of dollars at a time chasing fake bookings and no-shows. Many of us finally start requiring deposits after being burned badly, experiencing a wave of cancellations, or getting no-called, no-showed one too many times. 

Reputable providers will have their deposit and cancellation policies spelled out and clearly listed on their ad and/or website. Before you contact a provider, read all of their policies, and be prepared to abide by their terms. 

Some providers will refund deposits in some cases, such as if you get sick. Some will not. Some providers may also charge cancellation fees. Others may simply keep the deposit if you back out of the appointment. Know what you are getting into, know that putting down a deposit is a reasonable condition for seeing many providers nowadays. 

How did we get here?

Deposits weren’t always the norm. Shifts in the adult market, and overall social and economic shifts, have driven their rise. 

First, the U.S. government’s war on sex work has made a distinct impact. Around 2017-2018, the U.S. government crushed Backpage, an immensely popular site that heavily contributed to an active and lively market for adult entertainment and services. FOSTA-SESTA was passed; this law is nominally designed to “fight sex trafficking” but in practice is squarely aimed at further marginalizing, impoverishing and killing sex workers by depriving us of resources.

Together, those two actions knocked many adult ad sites offline, making the lives of sex workers more expensive, precarious and difficult and destabilizing the industry overall. 

Back in the day, say pre-2018, sex workers could invest much less time and money into their online presence and still receive a flood of serious inquiries and clients who eagerly showed up and paid our rates. Providers could easily book a hotel room knowing they would earn a profit that day. A no-show here and there wasn’t a big deal. Those days are over, for many of us at least.

The U.S. government’s attempts to crush the adult industry has had many far-reaching consequences. The way we work has shifted; we are more likely to rent an incall space and often incur other expenses to see just one client. Thus, deposits.

The costs of hotels and other overhead expenses have also risen. Rents have spiked; it’s now extremely expensive, often prohibitively so, for many providers to rent a separate apartment for incalls, for example. 

Online advertising is now much more expensive. We also incur other expenses to see you: fuel and transportation, childcare, turning down other paid work and other appointments, and so on. Again, these costs are often tied to a singular appointment, so we need you to show up or to be financially compensated if you flake. 

Many factors, too, have led to the apparent rise in overall shenanigans. We may get a lot of inquiries, but a high percentage aren’t serious. Chalk it up to whatever you like – the overall erosion of trust and the social fabric amid a global pandemic, climate change, war, economic jitters, an overall culture of ghosting, etc, etc. But the vibes have shifted. Serious clients differentiate themselves by putting down a deposit.

Deposits have also become the norm across the service industry. Try making a reservation at a high-end restaurant, booking a tattoo artist, or making an appointment to get your stylish coif touched up at a nice salon: they likely require a deposit. 

Deposits are an imperfect solution to a vexing problem. It takes guts and privilege on the providers’ side to require deposits – by requiring a deposit for every booking, I am turning down potential clients who don’t care for them. Many providers can’t afford to do that. 

Deposits are also extra admin work (ew!), managing multiple payment apps and portals is a pain for both me and my clients. Deposits require clients to trust me, before they have met me. I am immensely grateful to everyone who has put their trust in me, and continues to put their trust in me. Ultimately, I hope this article helps show that we don’t require deposits just for funsies or to punish you. They are simply a necessary response to shifting circumstances in the wider world.

I thought I’d end with a FAQ about deposits, to dispel some myths and share best practices.

Deposits FAQ

If a companion requires a deposit, does it mean they are legit? Is the opposite true? How can I be confident when sending a deposit?

Ultimately, the onus is on you to be an educated client: for you to do your research beforehand to decide whether a provider is legit, dependable and likely to be a trustworthy steward of your deposit. 

So, when booking: 

  • Be an educated client. Know who you are booking, rather than booking a provider on impulse and without researching them first.
  • Read the provider’s deposit policy, and other policies, just as you would for any professional you are hiring for a service. Before you contact them, understand their terms and be prepared to abide by them.
  • Be prepared for the provider to verify you in some fashion before asking for a deposit. In other words, if a provider asks for a deposit before you’ve even given your name or booking info, that might be a little suspicious.
  • Look at the provider’s offerings, rates and deposit policies. Do they make sense? Do they feel too good to be true? 

Yes, there are scammers and catfish accounts that use stolen photos (often of popular Instagrammers) and steal deposits from clients who are — how can I put this delicately — who are thinking less critically than they ought. Don’t fall for it.

Some providers don’t require deposits. Why?

They may be just starting out as a provider, and maybe can’t afford to turn away clients who refuse to pay a deposit. Or they are in an area where deposits aren’t the norm. Maybe they’ve been browbeaten by people who just don’t like paying deposits. Or they prefer to deal with cash only, and/or don’t like using payment apps.

Or they may not see a need for deposits; they simply prefer to work without them. For example, they may prefer to work in a more flexible fashion. They may prefer to easily cancel appointments if they wish, without the hassle of having to return deposits. Double handling money is annoying. They may just prefer to work in a fashion that favors short notice, same-day appointments, and deposits are an unnecessary speed bump.

What’s the deal with hybrid and flexible deposit policies?

Every provider is different, and everyone’s deposit policy is slightly different, though certain areas may have norms.

Providers may require a deposit for incall, because they rent the incall space for the booking, but not for outcall. Some providers have flexible deposit policies: for example, a deposit may be required to lock in a specific time and day, but if you’re not sure your schedule/prefer to book last minute, you can contact the provider, see if they are free and then simply head over if they agree to see you.

In short: know who you are booking, and read the providers’ policies upfront to understand what you are getting into, and to know in advance if it works for you.

I’d like to see a provider who doesn’t require a deposit. Can I offer to pay a deposit anyway?

You could, though the provider may not accept your offer, for any of the reasons I detailed in the previous question. 

If you’re able, it’s a wonderfully kind gesture to send a tip to a provider before you see them, using whatever methods (wishlists, etc.) they use to accept tips. The tip will not be applied toward the total cost of the session like a deposit would, but it’s still a lovely gesture and will make the provider particularly excited to see you.

I refuse to pay a deposit. What should I do?

Only contact providers that don’t require them; then show up for the appointment 100% of the time. If all clients did this, providers would not have to ask for deposits.

What is good deposit etiquette?

  • Generally, the time to send the deposit is when you and the provider have agreed on a time, date and location for the session.
  • Wait for the provider to tell you how to send the deposit, and how much to send. Follow their instructions carefully, and don’t jump the gun – it just creates confusion and frustration for both parties. Providers have carefully developed protocols, so let them take the lead.
  • Send the deposit as soon as possible, once you get instructions for what to send and how to send it. Do not wait until the last minute to send the deposit. 
  • In the U.S., Venmo and Cashapp are popular options for deposits, so setting up those apps and knowing how to use them will be a boon to you. Set your Venmo transactions to Private to stay discreet.

Are you a sex worker or client with tips or experiences to share? We'd love to hear from you!

The Good Client Guide destigmatizes sex work while providing guidance on how to be a better client and ally. Better experiences for workers mean better experiences for clients! To make this happen, we’re welcoming submissions from both providers and their customers.

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