The Art of Manipulation


When you read this title, what comes to mind? Do children come to mind? Tricky, relentless, driven little individuals? Probably not. I have come into contact with some of the most manipulative little people I have ever seen. Kiddos that will say anything without giving up to earn a buck . . . or five.

First they must make a connection with you. Whether you lock eyes or the straight up approach and charm technique, they have spotted you for target. Begging you to buy products. A very popular product were the bracelets. Simple strings spun together in varieties of color.

Next is being baited. They start to create a relationship with you. Closing the gap of space. Becoming comfortable with you. This can happen before or after being asked to purchase a good.

“You want bracelet?”
-“No thank you.”

“Where you from?”
“How long you here?”
“First time in Cambodia?”
“Where you go next?”
“What’s your name?”
“What’s up man?”

Once you partake in this simple conversation they sit down or approach you even closer trying to hand you a good to buy. After repeatedly saying no you either choose to ignore, or you just keep repeating yourself senseless. Trying not to be rude.

During the “No” process, you begin to be told things like this:

“School not free.”
“Need money for school.”
“You have money or you no come.”
“Why not buy?”
“Need food.”
“You scared? Be a man!”
“You lie, you die!”
“You no buy, no one loves you.”
“Cheap cheap, very good.”
“Is this your wife? She won’t love you.”
“You cheap man.”
“Don’t be cheap.”

Yes, it escalates quite quickly. They will just keep talking and repeating themselves. If you do get it through their head that you don’t want to buy anything, they will leave you with a promise.

“If you buy, you buy from me okay? Pinky promise?”

They can’t believe you will really promise them your business if you find your desire to purchase eventually, do they? I have no clue. Sometimes they will just stand there. Hoping you will come around, while scoping their next victim. It can be quite humorous to see their lack of English skills greatly improve when they are closing in a sale with another individual. They don’t need schooling for English, that is for sure. The tourism brings them all the English to learn, as well as geography.

There aren’t just a few children and teens selling here and there. No. There are whole families working together. Whether they are collecting recycle or begging or selling. But it is all the same conversation everywhere. Sometime there is no conversation, they just stand there waiting for you to give in so the can just leave already. Not only are the children bad but the adults as well. They are a little more polite and less sassy. Maybe a little less resilient. After you speak with them and agree for no services or goods, you will be parted ways. Granted never right away, but in a shorter time than the children or disabled. Sometimes with a smile. Other times with a grunt and all their chivalry down the drain. Again, sometimes with a pinky promise . . . haha, oh the pinky promise. Slightly endearing. Another manipulation trick.

Many disabled people who beg and pray to you for money or food can make quite uncomfortable. But that is what they hope for. They want you to give in. It may sound heartless, but it isn’t. You truly can’t help everyone that approaches you unless you plan to turn into a beggar or salesman yourself.

Last night I was lounging on the beach under the stars and party lights over the sand. My head was turned while speaking with a friend. I felt a weird energy and sat up with my feet still on the table. I looked to my left and I almost instantly kicked a man in the face from my fight or flight reflex. There, kneeling right next to me hands in prayer, a dirty man in a camo jacket smoking a cigarette. No words just silence, slight mumbles, and the saddest eyes you’ll ever see. We all chose to pretend like he didnt exist. This is hard. When you have a compassionate heart, it is difficult to pretend a human doesn’t exist. Like the words are just winds whispering through the breeze. He toughed it out for at least five to ten minutes. Just kneeling in prayer motion alternating looking at each of us three.

The thing is, you know you want to help these children but if you gave everyone a dollar you would be broke in a day.

Some of the children are taking on the gamer approach.

“We play Rock, Paper, Scissors. You win, you get one for free. You lose, you buy. Okay? Go!”

No no no no. I do not agree to play. But, this was quite entertaining when watching others play their luck. Other times it may be Tic-Tac-Toe. Collectively we began to attempt to beat them at their own game. One man in our group is from Iceland. He already had bought two bracelets in Siem Reap. At dinner in Shinoukville, a girl came up to him about eight years old asking him to buy. Of course there is seller’s choice. Two bracelets for five dollars or one bracelet for two or three dollars, it always varies. He stated he already had bracelets. She suggested Rock, Paper, Scissors. He declined. She began to ask where he was from. He let her guess. She named off about eight countries: England, the U.S., Germany, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, etc. Then we told her you have two more guesses, if you lose he receives a bracelet. If you win he buys . . . the odds were in our favor on this one! I mean, who would guess Iceland? Meanwhile her little friend joined in on the event, even younger and more feisty. Let’s just say when she lost she was torn on what to do. She didn’t want to give up a bracelet. You could tell she was thinking of ways to get out of it. He refused to tell her until he received his bracelet. Her little friend was trying to change the rules. But we knew how this one would go. If he did not receive his prize before his reveal he would be scammed. She finally gave in after we started to feed them back their insults.

“You lie, you die! You agreed to play. Don’t be cheap!”

One could see she has never encountered this situation before. She began to hand over the bracelet after one of her friends snatched her supply off her arm and began to run. We thought, well that is the end of that. To our dismay, she came back with her supply and handed him a bracelet. He told her he was from Iceland. She gave him a big smile, slugged his arm, and left in a huff.

A win for the tourists!






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