Number-Crushing: When Figures Get Personal

Carl Bialik:

Everyone can agree that 1+1=2. But the idea that 7 is greater than 13 — that some numbers are luckier than others — makes no sense to some people. Such numerical biases can cause deep divisions.
And that is what happened earlier this month in Hong Kong. Property developer Henderson Land Development Co. made news for selling a condominium for $56.6 million, a price the developer called a residential record in Asia. But after that sale was announced, the property began making news for other unusual numbers. Henderson is labeling the floors of its property at 39 Conduit Road with numbers that increase, but not in the conventional 1-then-2 way. The floor above 39, for example, is 60. And the top three floors are consecutively labeled 66, 68 and 88.
This offended some people’s sense of order. At a protest Sunday against high housing prices, Hong Kong Democratic Party legislators expressed dissatisfaction with the numbering scheme’s tenuous relationship to reality. “You could call the ground floor the 88th floor, but it’s meaningless,” says Emily Lau. “When you say you live on the 88th floor, people expect you to be on the 88th floor, not the 10th floor or something.”