In a society where people and their phones are rarely parted, the market for desirable digits appears to be growing.
On Craigslist Vancouver, a recent search brought up more than a dozen ads for unique phone numbers, ranging from combinations of lucky 7s and 8s, to memorable strings of zeros that roll easily off the tongue. A seller from Richmond was asking $900 for a coveted number containing 8s, while another was accepting offers for a series of six 7s.
But compared to the amounts paid in other countries, $900 might be a deal.
In 2015, a Dubai man paid the equivalent of US$2.2 million for 052-222-2222 — a number that may remind some in Vancouver of delivery pizza. In 2003, Sichuan Airlines paid $280,000 for a string of 8s.
Simon Fraser University marketing professor Dr. Lindsay Meredith said numbers that are considered lucky, like 8 in Chinese culture, are “priceless” to some people.
“It’s taken very seriously,” he said. “Hundreds of dollars is nothing compared to what a number says about you and your future.”
Eight is favoured in China because its pronunciation is similar to the word for wealth or prosperity. Seven is considered lucky in many Western societies, popping up on slot machines and in literature.
A man who answered the phone at 604-777-7777 said he got the number from B.C. Tel about 35 years ago as a second landline for his kids to use. When they moved out, he transferred it to his cellphone.
He said he’s never received an offer to buy the number.
“Unless you want to buy it?” he asked hopefully.
Another popular number — 604-888-8888 — has been sold at least once. It now belongs to Milani Plumbing, Drainage & Heating after being sold by a limo company.
Meredith said having a catchy number can help a company stay “top of mind.” There’s value in a number that is easily recallable, particularly in radio and television ads when there is limited time to get a message across.
“I want you to remember my taxi number when you need a ride home late at night,” he explained.
The demand for catchy phone numbers is steady, said Paul Dhindsa at O2 Computers in Surrey. The shop owns several “VIP phone numbers,” including some with four or more repeating digits. Prices range from $200 to $2,000.
In some U.S. cities, area codes are also big business. An 818 Hollywood area code is a status symbol, as is a 212 New York City prefix, with sellers getting no less than $75 for random numbers with those codes.
Telus spokesperson Liz Sauve said the phone company tries to accommodate local customers when they’re selecting a number and also recently provided a way to change a phone number online. But she warned people to be careful when buying a number from Craigslist, a practice she was not previously aware of.
“We would encourage our customers to be cautious online and not make financial deals with strangers,” she said.
It’s unclear if one of pop culture’s most recognizable phone numbers is still available in B.C. Contrary to the popular 1980s pop song, there is no “Jenny” at 604-867-5309. An automated message says the famous phone number is simply not in service.