【明報專訊】CRITICS have said the "ingenious" floor numbering of 39 Conduit Road, a luxury development that has attracted local and even world attention, may "mislead consumers". If unorthodox floor numbering becomes trendy and other developers vie with one another to adopt such systems, floor numbering in Hong Kong will be very confusing. The authorities should watch closely if that may affect fire safety and lead to other problems.
The floor numbering of 39 Conduit Road is clearly a marketing ploy. Handerson Land Development tries to draw buyers with auspicious numbers. Lee Shau-kee, its chairman, has frankly admitted it has adopted it to cater to customers' fancy.
We feel called upon to point out that the way of numbering floors at 39 Conduit Road is at odds with ordinary people's conception. Its developer has admitted it is a marketing gimmick. Whatever it may say by way of explanation, it has offered the public information that "may easily be misunderstood". It is therefore questionable whether this way of numbering floors is desirable.
In answering our enquiries, the Fire Services Department said such floor numbering would not make it harder to fight fire. If 39 Conduct Road is the only building in Hong Kong that has such floor numbering, the Fire Services Department's reply may be tenable. If ingenious floor numbering systems may greatly boost sales, developers will vie with one another to adopt them. Some might number floors very unconventionally. A developer may call a building's first floor its 18th, its second floor its 38th, and its third floor its 88th. If firemen are told that there is a fire on its 88th floor, can they tell it is actually its third that is ablaze? Will fire services not be affected? The Fire Services Department should have waited. It ought not to have jumped to its conclusion.
The Buildings Department told our reporters, "We normally accept a numbering system if floor numbers are in a logical sequence." It ought to elaborate on its reply. Is there any logic in the floor numbering system of 39 Conduit Road, which its developer has admitted to be a marketing gimmick? The Buildings Department should explain its reply more clearly to citizens so that society will reach a common understanding and know what to do.
Gimmicks developers use to sell their flats often arouse controversy. The saleable floor area controversy had persisted nearly ten years until a relatively reasonable set of guidelines that would give consumers better protection came out recently. Developers' marketing ploys have indeed made their public image even worse.
Though developers have used controversial marketing gimmicks, the government has rarely exercised its powers to protect consumers. Citizens disapprove of developers. Many are convinced that some government policies are excessively favourable to them. That is why the generality of citizens have the impression that the government colludes with businesses.
In our view, developers should sell their flats in an open and aboveboard manner. They need not rack their brains to come up with gimmicks to improve their image or change the public's perception of them. The government should put society's interests first. It must try to prevent officials from making ill-judged moves that may strengthen citizens' suspicion of government-business collusion and make it even harder for it to function.