Last Monday, the NY Times ran an article about how easy it was to mark businesses as either “reported to be closed” or “permanently closed” in Google Places. There had also been reports at the time that Google was actually sending out an email to claimed businesses that were marked as “permanently closed” although not to businesses”reported as closed”. The article in the Times occurred after months of reports of businesses being closed by competitors. Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry and Google in Mt. View both suffered the same fate (although for different reasons ).
Shortly after the article appeared in the Times, Google apologized and noted that a fix was imiminent saying “These improvements will be implemented in the coming days”.
I was curious what “coming days” meant. This time, rather than experimenting on Google’s Places Listing, I experimented on my own listing at our main office in Bradford Pa. Yesterday at about noon
and five, my listing was reported as closed. The first click was from my desktop in Olean and the second was from the DC area. Neither click was local to Bradford as my IP shows as Buffalo which is 70 miles away. (Update 11:30 I have just learned that my DC connection was asleep at the wheel and clicked the wrong business.) It turns out that this business was “permanently closed” with ONE CLICK.
Within 12 hours of the second report that the office was marked as “permanently closed”.
It was not just marked as “reported to be closed” but “permanently closed” and no email notification was sent to the claiming business owner (me).
Things seem to have gotten worse NOT better. The listing did not enter an intermediate state of “reported as closed” and the business received no notification email.This is a business that has been claimed and active on Google Places long before it was known as Google Places. It is a business that has been at the same address since our founding in 2001.
Because I had been receiving so many media inquiries about the problem, I contacted Google last weekend to see if the problem had been fixed yet. I was hoping to be able to tell the media that Google had responded in the promised timeframe.
Here is Google’s response (bold mine):
I heard from Ethan that you’d inquired about the changes being made to our system to prevent malicious or incorrect labeling. We’re still working on the labeling improvements regarding this issue, and are constantly working on ways to improve our system on an ongoing basis.
Thanks for following up, and have a great weekend,
I thought “coming days” meant coming days. I understand that PR folks play with words but when a Senior Product Manager, signs a blog post saying “coming days”, I assumed he meant less than a week. It has now been more than a week. In fact it has been almost 9 days. Obviously the problem still exists and is at least as bad and perhaps worse. And now all that Google is promising is a fix no more substantial than “labeling improvements”.
Is three and a half weeks from when Google learned about the problem adequate to fix a problem of this magnitude?
What does “coming days” mean? Not coming weeks, not the future, not next month but “coming days”. Was it an intentionally vague phrase that was meant to imply one thing but actually mean another? Is that acceptable?
For that matter did Google really find out about this problem just “two weeks ago, [when] news in the blogosphere made us aware that abuse… was occurring”? Was their fist inkling when I reported on it? Really?
And the final question. What does it mean when Google says We’re still working on the labeling improvements regarding this issue? Labeling issues? Hello?
I come from a world where people say what they mean and mean what they say. Maybe I am just naive but I am having a hard time reconciling these events with reality. Is Google clueless? Or are they just no different than any other corporation before or after and they will just say what is expedient when in the spotlight?