So where did we leave off? Oh, yes …
It’s not like you can call Google and tell them what’s what. A common thread amongst websites these days is the inability to talk to customer support via the telephone. Sure, they have a phone number, but unless you’re interested in filling their pockets with advertising coin the phone number is irrelevant. And this makes sense … for a couple of reasons. First, for companies in the internet business, what better way to promote the efficiency of internet communication than to communicate exclusively through it? Secondly, and most importantly, it keeps people from annoying them.
The only way to correct an error on Google Places is to either report the problem, or edit the information directly on the page. In an attempt to cover all of our bases, I did both. I explained in my edits and my report that the phone number in the listing was not the correct phone number for the company it’s listed under, and I requested they change the telephone number to reflect the correct information. These edits then have to be scanned, reviewed and approved by the Google office.
Now, I know Google is a busy place. They have Chinese censorship issues, and the release of the Samsung Galaxy IV (and IV S), and I doubt correcting misleading information about a small business in San Antonio falls anywhere in between. So, I wasn’t expecting an immediate response. Despite this realistic approach, I continued to check Google places incessantly for any changes. I checked Google so much that I began wondering if I was single-handedly responsible for all of its traffic.
Weeks went by, and Google had yet to change the information. Fall turned to winter, and winter turned to spring, yet still no change. I envisioned my report and edits being lost in the infinite digital scrapheap that plagues large businesses. Just as I was losing all hope in Google (and the human condition) I received an email from Google saying they fixed the problem. Hope after all!
Excited and relieved that Google had finally corrected this mistake, six months after I initially reported the problem, I Googled the neighboring business to my father’s and found their information was corrected. However, the onslaught of negative reviews that adorned the page before had suddenly disappeared. How could this be? Why would Google take away the reviews simply because of a change in telephone number? People have a right to know what a shady, unfriendly business they are, don’t they? Well, those reviews didn’t disappear.
Upon further inspection, I realized that Google created an entirely new page for the business next door and changed the name of the current page to my Dad’s business, which had previously not been on Google. In other words, the unrelentingly severe, berating reviews that were directed at the business next door were instead applied to my Dad’s upstanding business. That’s right, my Dad’s business was now on Google, and within its first second of internet existence it had horrendous remarks all over its review page for the whole world to see. To throw gasoline on the fire, the address and website information were still incorrect! My simple request to correct the phone number of the business next door led to unimaginable consequences.
I thought my report and edits were fairly straightforward: please correct the phone number on this page. Somehow, someway, someone working late on a Friday in the un-air-conditioned basement of Google’s glass tower, running on the final fumes of his raspberry mocha, decided to compile these reviews that were left for another business and apply them to my Dad’s business.
Irresponsible, unacceptable, libelous, and law-suit worthy are just a few of the words I’ve heard from people whom have listened to this story. Regardless, I have no choice but to get back to the end of the line and try again. I have since requested the reviews be removed via “report a problem,” and wrote Google a letter. Yet, at press time, the terrible reviews remain.
What compounds my anger and fear is how much Google is trusted. Google has become the median by which people make important decisions. People decide where to eat, buy a car, shop, bank, what books to read, what music to listen to, etc. based on what Google tells them. Google has a monopoly on information cloaked in a quirky, cheery exterior that makes you want to trust it as if it were that Uncle who gave you a sip of his beer when you were eight and never told your Mom and Dad about it. Suddenly, I’m remembering that beer was an O’Doul’s.
It’s not that I had some personal vendetta against Google. I love Google. I’m an avid user of their search engine and have been using Chrome as my default browser (poor Internet Explorer just can’t hang with the comp these days). I also love their “internet for the masses” attitude, their quirky sense of humor (the fact that a company can have a distinct personality or sense of humor at all is a breath of fresh air), Gmail, and Google Plus … well, maybe not. But if they want to be as great a company as they advertise while maintaining control of all these facets of the internet, they have zero room for error. Such a mistake as this should be a warning to businesses, don’t blindly trust Google with your information.
In summation, brands must guard their reputation online as fiercely as they do in real life. Never turn your back on information about your business simply because you “trust” that Google’s got it.