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Natalie Khairallah 03 Aug 2015

The Ridiculous Quest for the Perfect Phone Number in Lebanon

The truth is we all like to indulge in a little extravagance from time to time. But a specific portion of the Lebanese community can be over self-indulgent. They can be excessive, extreme, and quite frankly, ridiculous. I knew this coming to Lebanon, but I didn’t really know this. Because when I first saw it, I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

Annoyed with the difficulty of your eight-digit number? Unsatisfied that your professional network may realize you’ve paid just fifty dollars for that undesirable phone number? Want to quickly increase your prestige but unsure how?

The Ministry of Telecommunications may just have the ideal solution for your status woes: just purchase a platinum number.

Both MTC and Alfa, the Lebanese cellular phone networks owned by the Ministry of Telecommunications, have held auctions in the past to sell these platinum numbers. For example, Alfa’s 2011 auction raised over one million dollars. The top five priciest bids?

1.71-000000 at $140,000
2.71-777777 at $80,000
3.71-717171 at$65,000
4.71-700000 at $50,000
5.71-888888 at $50,000

Similarly, MTC’s 2011 auction raised $835,750. Numbers like 76-000000 were sold for $75,000 and 76-666666 for $65,000. From 2008 to 2011, MTC auctioned off these platinum numbers, raising over $5,536,391—for who or what exactly? The Ministry of Telecommunications—in order to “upgrade the cellular network in Lebanon.”

Unable to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for your precious eight digit platinum phone number? The bronze, silver, or gold lines are “sold by both MTC and Alfa for $220, $330 and $550 respectively. Regular fixed mobile lines go for $55,” reported NOW News. Furthermore, from the high demand, a new market had emerged where regular users may advertise via new media channels, such as Facebook, for what would be known as “regular” numbers at a higher price—due to its “catchy” digit pattern.

According to a young man at the auction, “everything changes” once you hold a platinum phone number—from your social life, to your business contacts, and even down to the ability to reserve a table at a restaurant or club.

No luck in your love life? Invest a little more money in your phone number and your chance with a beautiful woman may miraculously increase. Just ask the auctioneer. According to NOW News, when he saw the lack of high bids, he encouraged the male-dominated audience: “Come on, whoever gets this number will get 107,000 women.”

My only question is: Who the heck are these bidders? And how can I get my hands on the type of money they are making?

[Images via here, here, and here.]