Want to buy a bracelet?

Posted: September 9, 2012 in Travels

I was sitting down, chatting with the hotel staff over a coffee outside of my hotel in Phnom Penh and a young girl came up to me.

“Hey Mister, want to buy a bracelet? It’s four for two dollars, plus two for free.”

I saw that she had attended some local sales training. So I started to negotiate, first, establish a personal contact “អ្នកឈ្មោះអី?” [What’s your name?]


ខ្ងុំឈ្មោះ George [My name is George] – I could tell that she was’t very interested in my name, so I got down to the meat of our transaction, “You mean six for two dollars?”

She thought for a second, “Yes, that’s right.”

“How about ten for two dollars?”, I made my counteroffer. A small group of children now had gathered. “Ten for a dollar” one young boy yelled. Touch gave the boy a look of pure venom. I could sense that things were getting out of hand. I shooed away the other kids, but the boy kept on yelling “Ten for a dollar!”

“Ten for a dollar?” I asked Touch. She looked at me, burst into tears, and started to run down the street.

I gave a look at the girls I had been talking with, “Watch my things”, they looked at me in disbelief. Three block later, I caught up with Touch. “I don’t make any money if I sell you ten for a dollar.” she sniffled, a can of Coke in her hand.

“I’ll buy six for two.” I said to calm her down.

She followed me back to my table and selected the six she thought were the nicest, included a solid black bracelet for me. Bemused looks from the staff, not often clients go running off to buy bracelets I guess.

A few days later I met Touch by chance on the street. She remembered me, she had finished school and was getting ready to go sell bracelets. She selected six more for two dollars and we talked about her school, she gave me a report card. After reviewing it, it was probably better that I had it in my hands than in her parents’, she had not have a very good semester in math or English.

A few things struck me: (1) Many children have quite a good level of english, far better than European children of the same age. Have a problem communicating in Cambodia (rare), the nearest child is a perfect translator.

(2) After school, many are at work in order to earn some money. This is a necessity right up to University. During my travels, I spoke with quite a few young boys and girls that were trying to earn enough money to finish high school, learn english, or attend University. At Angkor Wat on the weekend, one is surrounded by children selling their wares. During the week, there is not a child to be seen, they are at school.

(3) The children are polite. They use different sales pitches, but all are non-aggressive and even if you don’t buy anything, they are smiling and will chat with you.


  1. Hook says:

    At the risk of sounding trite, it’s hard-working folks like you’ve described that get ahead, that make something of their lives. Around here, the story is generally told about somebody’s Polish grandfather or Mexican father, but it’s just as true in Ecuador and Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

  2. Just George says:

    It was just something new for me to meet a 5-6 year old out working after school in order to be able to afford an education in a English speaking kindergarden; not for an iPad, for an education.

    I can think of quite a few kids that could benefit from doing some volounteer work in a place like Cambodia.

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