Joe Kukura

Now that Macworld 2012 is over, the expo attendees who love them some Macworld booth babes are left with little more than memories, Macworld schwag and a USB flash drive full of images they'd prefer their spouse or significant other didn't know about.

Following this year's Macworld expo, though, a few online controversies have perked up regarding the appropriateness and general practice of using provocatively-clad booth models at trade shows.

Austere British publication The Economist expressed very mixed feelings about the practice in an article cleverly entitled "Silicon Implants." Reporting from the Macworld exhibition floor, The Economist's tech blog noted a little discomfort "when encountering a member of the gazelles with booth numbers or, most egregiously, 2D bar codes upon their derrieres and logos at their crotches."

The Cult of Mac site took a good, hard look at this phenomenon at Macworld and noted that the models don't actually like being called "booth babes." They also report that the ladies are paid differently according to their height. "Taller models make more money than shorter models," author Traci Dauphin says. "Most make between $30 and $50 an hour."

Overall, these promotional models do indeed earn that money. They are there to bring as much attention as possible to their client's product, and that is exacty what they do. When those booth models saw me with my conspicuously displayed media credential, they'd grab me and start chatting me up like I was Ryan Gosling with a pocketful of hundred dollar bills.

But it's all fun and games until someone gets called "The Saddest Booth Babe In The World."

In your standard pageview-pumping slideshow on ZDNet, tech blogger and sex columnist Violet Blue took a snapshot of one not-particularly-enthusiastic female product rep and quipped that she was "The Saddest Booth Babe In The World."

An iSh-storm broke out in the Comments section, with one commenter mistakenly identifying the allegedly-sad woman as NeoPlay communications director Piroska Szurmai-Palotai. Ms. Blue's further reporting showed that the woman was, in fact, NeoPlay producer Zsfia Rutkai.

Hey, I wouldn't know a Szurmai-Palotai from a Rutkai, so I'm no real authority on the matter. And Ms. Blue has written quite eloquently on the booth babe dilemma in the past.

But the whole hullabaloo indicates that most everyone has rather complicated feelings about this demonstrably effective promotional practice. When it comes to using live human women to market tech gear, we all seemingly have a different definition of what is appropriate, and how much is "too much."

To her credit, Ms. Blue appears to be pretty skilled at rebuilding bridges. "(Ms. Rutkai) is not upset about the characterization and has invited me to visit NeoPlay in Hungary," she wrote in a post-Macworld update.

See, she got an invitation to Hungary. All I got was this USB flash drive full of booth babe pictures.

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