A cell phone and bill.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Used to be, one of the big hassles of changing wireless phone carriers in this country was having to also change cell phone numbers. That was fixed a few years ago. In China though, they're still dealing with the issue. And there, changing numbers could lead to all kinds of bad luck. So the government's announced a pilot project that'll allow people to keep their numbers even if they change carriers.

Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz reports.


ROB SCHMITZ: There's a lot to think about when you sign up for a phone number in China: most people want an eight. It's synonymous with wealth. A nine's good too. It means longevity. Stay away from four. It sounds like the word 'death' in Chinese -- that's why many buildings here don't have a fourth floor. Having one-four in your number is even worse. The combination sounds like 'I want to die' in Chinese. When Wang Baoping first signed up for a number, she noticed a four, so she paid a little extra for a safer number. But she might as well throw in a horseshoe and a four-leaf clover to help her with her phone bill-rates have gone up, but she can't switch phone companies without changing her number.

WANG BAOPING: I paid for this number! There's no way I'm going to change it now. I've always had this number, and I love it.

The government's new program will give Wang what she wants. It'll make phone numbers more permanent. That's good news for everyone from Wang to a popular restaurant reservations line that has the number 57575777 in Chinese, that sounds like: I eat, I eat, I eat, eat, eat.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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