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City Hall to bin bargaining

Clothing for sale at a Central Market stall in Phnom Penh today.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has urged the city’s market vendors to make their stalls more welcoming to foreign tourists, including by putting price tags on their goods in a bid to prevent gouging by sellers.

In a city meeting on January 4, the contents of which were released on the municipality’s website this week, Kep Chuktema said every district must “advise the market owners to put prices on goods, and avoid prices being set by the sellers”.

He added that city markets “must guarantee security, order and sanitation because foreigners like visiting simple markets”.

It said they should also take action to prevent pick-pocketing and other theft.

Som Sovan, governor of Prampi Makara district, said price tag requirements have been in place for years, but haven’t been successful because goods’ prices change and vendors can get “lazy” in attaching updated prices.

“Now we’re starting to reinforce the measurement again … so that vendors can’t set the goods’ prices as they want,” he said.

Som Sovan said most private and state-owned markets received the governor’s order last week. Vendors at City Mall and O’Russei Market – both in his district – are generally good about using price tags, but some vendors have been holding out on the idea, he said.

However, the city’s bid to introduce fixed pricing runs counter to the customs of shopping in Cambodia’s markets, where the price of virtually every item is open to negotiation.

Som Sophean, a 26-year-old clothing vendor at Russian Market – a popular destination for Western tourists – said she had been tagging her products for more than a year because it’s good for business.

“I regularly put price labels on the clothes so the customers can compare their price and quality before they decide to purchase,” she said.

“Some places demand double the price … and that can cause an argument.”

Still, Som Sophean said that people continue to bargain with listed prices, and she allows slight discounts on her goods.

Un Sokha, a 26-year-old cosmetics vendor at Boeung Keng Kang Market, said customers continue to bargain with her prices, even though she’s been tagging her products for almost two years.

She said that if she’s unwilling to bargain, her customers will go elsewhere.

“I’ve been unsuccessful in putting on price labels because when I tagged [the products], not many customers buy my goods,” she said.

“[The customers] always wanted to bargain.”

Som Sovan said today that local officials have opted for education in their tourism-friendly plan, telling vendors about the benefits of fair pricing.

Thus far, he said, the city has not handed out punishments to vendors who refuse this practice.

However, Kep Chuktema said in the January 4 meeting that older market vendors who aren’t able to comply with the new regulations “should be removed from his or her post and replaced”.



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