Is Google Maps the Portal to Bizarro World?

Do you remember Bizarro World from Superman?

A Wikipedia refresher: In the Bizarro world of “Htrae” (“Earth” spelled backwards), society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!”. In one episode, for example, a salesman is doing a brisk trade selling Bizarro bonds: “Guaranteed to lose money for you”. Later, the mayor appoints Bizarro No. 1 to investigate a crime, “Because you are stupider than the entire Bizarro police force put together”. This is intended and taken as a great compliment.

My current working theory is that Google Maps is a secret entrance to the Bizarro world of Superman although the bond scenario noted above is spookingly prescient of our world. My thinking here is buttressed by Google Map’s “System Error” message presented to those that have been banned for who knows how long from the Local Business Center for suspected spamming:

System Error
We’re sorry, but we are unable to serve your request at this time. Please try back in a few minutes.

It is one of the most bizarre, perhaps sadistic messages in all computing history. Asking the suspected spammer to check back in a few minutes is a very weird touch.

As further proof that Google Maps is a portal to Bizarro World, I relay this tale that was received yesterday as a comment on my post: System Error, Googlespeak for Banned?

Mike, We’ve run into a brick wall with Google. I’ve followed some of your posts and response on the Maps forums and your blog here. I agree with your conclusions on Google’s inane policy of banning. I believe we’ve been banned by this exact “System Error” since February (more than 6 months).

I’ve posted in the Maps help forum and I’ve filed 6 reinclusion requests – pretty much one a month. I’ve never heard anything back from anyone at Google. Our other Google services still work (including our non-profit-status YouTube channel), but we are banned / blocked from the LBC.

We are a regional health system, with 4000+ employees, two hospitals, a third medical campus, and many clinics, departments, facilities, physician practices, services, joint-ventures, medical offices, etc. Our facilities have a wide variety of names, but all are part of our health system.

Most of our facilities are in one of two towns – Town A and Town B. But, we often also have multiple locations for a specific service. For example, our seniors services has a building in Town A near Hospital A, and a second location in Town B in Hospital B. Our Rehabilitation Services has four locations, two stand-alone in Town A, one stand-alone in Town B, and one in Hospital B in Town B.

Because there are multiple services in one building (or campus), many have the same address. But, senior services, birthing services, and volunteers and the charity foundation are all very different entities that are in the same building (or 3-building campus) and the same mailing address. Before we started claiming listings, there were already over 100 listings for all of our services and facilities in Goggle Maps.

However, several were incorrect – wrong phone number, wrong location, old location, no street address (just the town), missing locations, etc. – and there were several duplicates. We don’t use any SEO company or anyone else – it’s just me, a one-man show for our web services. I started claiming all of those listings, which was its own monumental feat. I couldn’t verify most of them by phone, because I couldn’t get to all of those locations and talk to the employee who might answer it first.

We did postcards for most of them, but that took a concerted effort to try to get the mailrooms and all of the locations to forward those to me, as they had no idea what the post cards were. I was trying to clean up and simplify our listings, including removing any duplicates. That worked for a while, and then one day we were banned (I assume) with the “System Error.”

Now, all of those listings are gone and many items have been removed from Maps and I still have a stack of post cards that I’m ready to enter to verify the listings. I’ve read the Business Listing Guidelines several times, and we were not blatantly violating any of those, and none of them intentionally.

But, it’s possible Google thought we were based on their interpretation of our listings, even if their interpretation is wrong (such as multiple locations, as I mentioned above). Any ideas? We’re stuck, and meanwhile there are wrong numbers and addresses out there that patients and the public are calling or visiting, and I can’t do anything to fix it.

Author : Jeff Wiley
E-mail : jgw1 at the following domain –


I have no idea whether Jeff has sinned or been sinned against, no idea whether he is caught in Bizarro World or being properly punished for some heinous act.

I do know that he deserves a straight answer from Google as to what he did, what he needs to do to be reinstated and when he might expect that to occur.

I also am of the strongly held belief that Google should be capable of designing error messages that are honest and communicative, messages that are from this world and not from some alternative universe.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Is Google Maps the Portal to Bizarro World? by

9 thoughts on “Is Google Maps the Portal to Bizarro World?”

  1. The basic lack of human usability in Google’s error reporting is chronic. I don’t understand what Google could possibly think it gains by sowing confusion and misinformation in this way. And, I can’t believe they don’t realize this is what they are doing. It’s been months since I first heard you mention this specific problem. Google’s techs know it is there. Why do they not improve this situation?

    You know how its an SEO/Usability basic to customize a 404 error page which leads lost users back to some kind of on-site action they can take? Maybe this is the problem with Google. They don’t have a way to custom summarize the errors in a listing that are causing it to be banned, and in the absence of that type of in-depth reporting, they don’t have any other action to instruct the user to take…such as emailing customer support to discuss a banned account. So, there are no instructions for the banned user. But it is truly bizarre to make it seem like what is happening is a system error if it’s actually a penalty or banning. Why do that?

  2. Miriam

    You are assuming that they want to solve this problem.

    But if we assume (kindly) that they do want to resolve it, I have no idea why they haven’t yet developed a more structured solution to the situation.

    In the forums, person after person posts the same question and no one from Google even thinks they deserve an answer.

    In this case, where public health is concerned I think it is incumbent upon Google to look into the situation and communicate back out to the organization.

    As far as I can tell, PanzerMike received more consideration than this.


  3. Google Map has no customer service whatsoever. Ok, I understand it is a free service and I am one of those people who doesn’t feel entitled at all but what happens in Google Maps surprises me very, very often, and almost always it is a negative surprise.

    I have seen too many “algorithmic” mistakes and too much spam going unpunished.

    No, Google maps are not Bizarro World, they are Hell…

    End Rant

    Sorry for that


  4. Hi Mike,

    We recently saw the google maps in Houston all of a sudden go away alltogether for a specific search, then come back with only one company for that search, then come back with the 10 list, then change back to only list that one company. Do you have any idea why this is happening, and what can be done? Are they paying google to list them as the only company?


    1. There have been other reports of the Authoritative OneBox showing up more frequently on broad searches.

      No one is paying to achieve that position.

      It is algo driven. My current thinking is that for some reason (user logs?) Google thinks that the OneBox showing is what searchers are looking for…send me the examples so I can look at them

  5. Ok, the search is “home theater houston”. there is only one result and its a large chain store with deep roots on the internet. Any ideas?

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