O M Chhen, better known as "Hollywood" or "Mr Number One", may
be the world's only government accountant-turned condom salesman.
After three years as a Ministry of Industry accountant, he retired his calculator
in favor of a box of condoms, which he sells for Population Services International
Nearly every day and night for the past year, Om Chhen has made the rounds of Phnom
Penh and provinces. His customers are what he calls the "big fish" - brothels,
nightclubs, hotels and pharmacies that buy hundreds of condoms each week.
He does a brisk business, leading a group of five other Khmer sales people to a banner
first year. This month, they announced they had sold four million condoms since December
1994, far exceeding initial sales projections of 1.3 million.
In just an hour and a half one night recently, "Hollywood" sold all of
the 5,000 condoms he loaded into his jeep earlier that evening. He sells a box of
four condoms for 100 riel, and PSI encourages vendors to sell them at an affordable
200 riel. In practise many vendors charge more. Embarrassed customers, they say,
tend to pay more to avoid the anguish of haggling.
One beaming and burly man, Mon Ma No, bought five cartons for his condom stand. Mon
Ma No is a policeman by day, but for the past two years he has moonlighted as a condom
salesman for extra cash. He does a good nightly business, and that night had sold
an entire carton of condoms in a few short hours.
At a nightclub nearby, a security guard bought another five cartons. He said he usually
makes his sales when customers park their cars. As they pull into the club, he tells
them he is selling condoms.
While we talked, the night receptionist of the attached hotel dashed up to Om Chhen
to stock up on condoms. In the few short hours in front of the club, he had sold
another 1,000 condoms.