How do superstitions affect your industry? In the hotel industry it is well known, for example, that most hotels in the United States do not have a 13th floor. This is due to the superstition around the number 13, otherwise known as triskaidekaphobia. In Nathaniel Lachenmeyer’s book, 13: The Story of the World’s Most Notorious Superstition, he explains that triskaidekaphobia is “so ancient and its history so fragmentary that no one will ever know the truth” of its origin. None the less, the unlucky nature of 13 is recognized.
Of course, in reality, the 13th floor does exist in many hotels, recognized or not. Sometimes the floor is designated as floor M, since M is the 13th letter in the alphabet. More often the elevator keys simply skip from floor 12 to floor 14. There also exists conspiracy theories around the 13th floor. In government buildings that lack a 13th floor, for example, some believe that it is intentional; the floor is there, but it cannot be accessed by the public – perhaps high level secret activities are going on?
13 is sometimes a suspicious number in various Asian cultures as well, but this is only because it’s separate numbers add up to 4. ( 1 + 3 = 4). In many of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean dialects the word for “four” sounds quite similar to the word for “death.” As a result, numbers with a 4 in them, like 14, 34, 54, etc. are many times avoided due to the presence of the digit 4. In buildings from hotels, offices, apartments to hospitals, you will go from floor 39 to floor 50. As well, table numbers with a 4 in them are often left out in wedding dinners and social gatherings.
In cities where East Asian and Western cultures blend, it is possible that some buildings will simply skip floors 13 and 14, as well as all floor numbers with the digit 4 in them.
The Finnish telecommunications firm Nokia, observes this superstition “as a polite gesture to Asian customers.” They do not release any phone models that begin with the number 4, except in some rare cases such as the Series 40 platform.
Airlines are not immune to the superstition, on Continental Airlines there is no row 13. The same is true for Air France, AirTran, KLM, and Iberia.
The number suspicion trend is not, by any means consistent; if you pay attention you are bound to find a building that does not recognize the superstition. But it is interesting to note its prevalence.
Has a superstition ever affected your event and meeting planning? Have you purposefully not held a meeting on a particular day because it was Friday the 13th? Have you ever needed to book an Asian client on a different flight, because the flight number of the one you chose for them had the number 4 in it? Please share your stories with me!