Why Vietnamese are paying six digits for mobile numbers

By VnExpress   January 11, 2017 | 01:00 am PT
Just easy to remember or good luck charms? 

Earlier this month, mobile number 0989 999 999 sold for $664,000 (around VND 15 billion) in Vietnam, where the average annual income was around $2,200 last year.

While a normal SIM card can be bought at any Viettel store for $2.88, this lucky number was given a five-digit price tag in 2005 and sold for $221,000 in 2015. 

Celebrity model Ngoc Trinh, the current owner of the number, is planning an auction later this month and hopes to fetch up to $886,000 for the SIM, part of which she will donate to charity. “For charity and for its auspicious meaning, I hope people will be free with their money,” she said.


Ngoc Trinh (middle) bidding for the number. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Chau.

In feng shui, 6 means “smooth, well-off”, 8 is “wealth” and 9 indicates “long-lasting”. Repetition of these numbers is considered extremely lucky.

Vietnamese are die-hard fans of lucky numbers and 0969 999 999 sold for over $400,000 in March 2016. In 2015, the numbers 0986 666 666 and 0996 666 666 were also valued at a similar price.

Yet, in Vietnam, feng shui is not obligatory when it comes to lucky mobile number deals.

The number 0977777777, understood as “long-lasting loss” in China, was recently bought for nearly $400,000 (VND9 billion). Mobile number dealer Do Hieu explained that it meant “rising wealth”, considering 7 the Buddha’s number.

In 2010, VTC News published an article quoting feng shui experts saying that 0988 888 888 indicates hazards and bad luck, despite its seemingly perfect combination of eights. Indeed, not every Vietnamese person consults feng shui experts before forking out for their favorite number.

Nguyen Vu Tuan Anh, director of the Center for Research of Eastern Psychology, said in the article he would immediately sell the number if he was to even receive the SIM as a gift. Anh argued that the same combination of Bulgarian number 0888 888 888 had led to the tragic deaths of all of its owners and was suspended in 2010 for its bad luck. 

Nguyen Phuc Giac Hai, vice president of the Institute of Human Potential, said 0988 888 888 could be just a "convenient" number, although it might come with some hazards.

Dang Minh Duc, who bought the number for $57,000 (VND1.3 billion) at a Viettel auction in 2010, told VnExpress he wanted the SIM simply because he liked lucky numbers and wanted to contribute some money to charity. 

Despite experts’ warnings, the businessman, also the owner of a Mercedes with a 6666 license plate, said he had been blessed with good luck and felt more respected by his clients thanks to the SIM card.


Duc Dang and his Mercedes. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Ly.

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