Numbers game lucky for some

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 12:00am

Getting the right mobile phone number is becoming a pricey fad in once-impoverished Vietnam.

The country's small but growing nouveau-riche class are paying as much as US$7,000 to land a so dep, or 'beautiful number'.

Those with more modest incomes - the national average is about US$500 a year - pay US$25 to US$100 for a number deemed lucky, easy to remember, or both.

'It's been lucky for me so far because I've moved to a better working environment,' said Hanoi's Nguyen Duy Quynh, who paid a premium of US$95 a month ago for his 337 7993 number.

Repeated digits and numerological correctness are the main factors in a number's desirability. About one in 1,000 random numbers passes muster. Phone shops set the special numbers aside and slot them in price categories, provided on a list for customers to browse through.

'On average I sell four or five per month,' said Lam Tuan, manager of one of the growing number of small phone shops in the capital, Hanoi.

The fad has even become enough of a cottage industry to attract investment. Some phone users buy lucky numbers to resell at a profit.