The air is too warm, it smells bad, and the lighting is so poor you can’t see.
Those are the complaints heard at the new O’Russei market, and not from customers. Instead, they are coming from the vendors.
Since the market opened Aug 3 while still under construction, many merchants have struggled financially. According to market chief Kean Lak, only 2,990 of 5,660 stalls are occupied.
Vendors are particularly angry about the daily fees they must pay: 800 riel for electricity, an extra 400 riel to keep a light on over the stall, 1,000 riel for night storage of goods, 3,200 riel to keep a fan running, and a 300 riel tax the city collects for future development projects.
“I feel worried when I open my eyes every morning, wondering how much I can make today,” said Ea Channa, a clothes seller on the second floor who says her sales are averaging about 30,000 riel per day.
Chan Davy decided to pay $120 a month for a second-floor stall where she could sell clothes and hair ribbons.
She said business is so bad she thinks twice before buying an extra piece of fruit in the market to eat during the day.
“If I can’t make 10,000 riel profit a day, I won’t survive,” she said.
The market still has a somber look, and many vendors are choosing not to pay for lights and a fan.
Downstairs vendors say they can’t play a radio or use a cell phone because the signal is too weak inside the building.
Keak Lak said he is working to improve conditions. He blamed the expensive electricity on the deal negotiated with the building contractor.
“We can’t turn on all the lights and fans because the generators aren’t good enough. [The contractors] are looking for replacements, and we hope things will get better within a month,” Keak Lak said.
He has also agreed to ask the building contractor if individual power meters could be installed to replace the daily electric fee.