The guys in #9 position have used special characters in their breadcrumb markup. They've got multiple navigation levels and each is marked with a special character number like ❶ ❷ and so on.
What it does, is really helping the listing stand out. Despite them being #9, it's the listing I clicked because it looked different.
It is a real-life example but I've fiddled with the page to comply with the T&Cs :) This is the code they've used on their site:
Now the only question is how does Google feel about this practice? I've tested some examples on the GWT's Structured Data Testing Tool and it validates ok. At the end of the day, it may be considered "manipulation" because there's no doubt this sort of practice increases CTR (especially considering I'm talking about a very very competitive niche here).
Msg#: 4626049 posted 2:34 pm on Nov 26, 2013 (gmt 0)
Google's algorithmically changing page titles in the SERPs to increase CTR -- I highly doubt they're going to mind someone increasing their own CTR via special characters in breadcrumbs.
Anything like you're talking about will likely be treated as a separator algorithmically, the same way – — and even - are, so my best guess, which appears to be verified by the SERP in the screen shot is: No harm done.
Msg#: 4626049 posted 9:06 pm on Nov 26, 2013 (gmt 0)
:: detour to look up ::
Oh, how interesting. 10102 (decimal) etc is the 2777 (hex) etc range. Technically those aren't numbers at all; they're dingbats* that look like fancy numbers against a black background (not to be confused with "Enclosed Alphanumerics", a different range). They come in at least three forms.
It seems a bit of a gamble, because it will only work if your system has the requisite font installed. Most of mine seem to be either cjk or third-party. Maybe everyone has Arial Unicode?
* I think this is the unicode range that was lifted entire from Zapf Dingbats, though I realize that this is more information than most people need.