As long as we remain alive, we must trade with others in order to feed and clothe ourselves. But in Cambodia, where prices are never fixed in the markets, the relationship between buyer and seller is often sour. With the sellers inflating the price of products above the reasonable price, the buyer is expected to compromise.
Oul Srey Mom, 35, who has spent years bargaining in the markets daily to buy necessities for her family, said that she sometimes feels cheated while shopping.
“If I can buy a product which has a similar price in other places, I am not disappointed,” said Mom. “The thing that makes me fed up and frustrated when I go shopping is when I buy the same product with the same quality at a higher price than the other places. I feel cheated.”
Even when buyers manage to lower the prices, they still often feel that they paid too much. Mol Channa, 21, said that she once persuaded a vendor to reduce the price from $22 to $13, but still was not happy with what she paid.
“It really makes me hesitate to buy and compromise with the seller,” said Channa, who added that she felt cheated after she realised that her friends were able to get the same product for even less.
“I liked that product, but I don’t think the price fit the product.”
In Phalla, who sells clothes at Pochentong Market, admits that she inflates the price beyond what most would be willing to pay.
“It is usual that the sellers put the price for the product higher than the sold price. Therefore, the buyers or customers need to compromise or bid the price before they buy it.”
Phalla said the culture of bargaining demands that sellers initially ask for high prices.
“If we do not do this, the customer will try to lower the price of the product because it becomes a tradition of bidding.”
This problem, of course, does not exist in supermarkets where all prices are fixed by a single manager. Phalla said that in traditional markets, where many vendors set different prices, all vendors must ask for high prices.
“All sellers in the market always do this, so I am supposed to follow this norm.”
This is especially true during holidays, such as Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben, when vendors grab the chance to profiteer from customers by almost doubling the normal price.
Chea Moch, who is a chief at Pochentong Market, said that it is not his place to prevent vendors from cheating customers with high prices.
“What we can do is control the security and keep the market tidy, but for the price, it depends on the sellers themselves to decide.”
Consequently, the responsibility falls on the sellers to provide fair prices. Trust is among the most important things that the sellers can provide in order to win over and keep customers. Therefore, sellers should limit the average price of their products in order to build positive relationships with the customers. Reliability is the best way to make the customers support a business.