Sales techniques of Cambodian children

Having recently returned from a holiday in Cambodia, I’m amazed at the advanced selling techniques of the children there.

Over half the Cambodian population are under the age of 16 and many of them spend their days working in the tourist industry – selling bottles of water, books, bracelets etc. Here are some of the techniques they’ve picked up:

– Artificially inflating prices in the expectation of being bartered down – but still end up selling at extortionate rates (in their eyes). This is an obvious one.

– Giving presents – anecdotal evidence shows that if you give a present or do someone a favour, they will feel compelled to do something in return, often of greater value. One girl trying to sell me water changed tact and attempted to give me a bracelet as a present. I refused but she swiftly balanced the bracelet on my arm and dashed off leaving me to either drop the bracelet or take it. I took it but then knew this meant a commitment to buying a bottle of water from her on my return route.

– Fending off competition and increasing spend per customer – at the start of a trek up a mountain, we bought a bottle of water from a girl. She was competing against another 10 girls selling the same water. Her tactic was to refuse payment for the water, requesting that we paid her on the way back. She knew that we had to return by the same route, would require another bottle of water by then and therefore buy a second from her when paying for the first.

– Showing value for money – many of the younger children sold postcards in packs of 10. They would attempt to convince you by counting out their postcards – ‘look what you get for $1, 10 postcards – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 for $1’ – they show you each of the pictures hoping one will grab your attention.

– Offers – younger children also run alongside you, selling bracelets out of baskets – 4 for $1. The longer you held out, the more bracelets they offered you for $1 – it goes something like this: ‘you want bracelets? 4 for $1 – you can have this 4. What about this 4? Only $1…Ok 5 for $1. You can have this 5 etc’

– Using persuasive language – they never shouted ‘you want water?’. It was always ‘you want cold water?’. That instantly evoked positive feelings about the water. Even if you weren’t thirsty, you would always want to be cooler in 38 degree heat.

– Creating a rapore / false sense of friendship – some children would ask your name as you passed by. They’d remember and call your name out next time they saw you. It’s amazing the effect this has on making you feel like you have committed to purchase something from them.

– Demonstrating knowledge – I never quite understood this one, maybe they were going for cuteness or the friendship thing again but they would recite information they knew about your country – ‘where are you from? England? The capital city of England is London. Your prime minister is Gordon Brown etc’ (I bet there’s American kids that couldn’t tell you that much!)

I managed to resist most of these attempts, sometimes with great difficulty, but it was interesting seeing just how many different techniques they’d developed for convincing tourists to buy off them and no one else. Get these kids over here, stick them in a car showroom and there’d be no crisis in the car industry.


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