Closed on Weekends, Now Closed For Good
July 15, 2014
As the adage goes, ignorance is bliss. But, when it comes to technology, burying your head in the sand can have life-altering consequences. This story is a sad tale of what is surely more common place than we would all like to believe, and ultimately can affect every one of us.
Technology sometimes grows faster than people are able to adapt. As a developer and self-proclaimed mini-nerd, it’s implicitly part of my job to try to be aware of new technologies, apps, services, people, and places on the rise. Unfortunately, even when I think I’m up to date, or on the bleeding edge of the next “Big Thing,” I often stumble across “The Next Greatest Up-and-Coming Thing” in my newsfeed – which happens to already have millions of users and was released several months ago, possibly with an active development blog dating back yet another year. How did I miss it?!
While not necessarily bleeding edge anymore, a certain technology that has become commonplace to the majority of the tech-oriented population is Google Maps, and by association, Google Places. Combined, these two services give end-users a way to find businesses (both local and nationwide), information about locations, directions, and reviews from helpful1 fellow Googlers. Often, they act as a gateway to a business’ website.
However, whether intentional or not, the online persona for a business, if not properly maintained, can have a devastating impact on the livelihood of the business. Earlier this month, Wired.com ran a feature that perfectly showcases what can happen when someone has fallen behind the technological curve.
Rene Bertagna, owner of The Serbian Crown, was forced to close his restaurant as a result of a lack of patronage. At a glance, one might suspect that the restaurant had simply lost its appeal over the years, was poorly managed, or any other of the thousands of reasons why businesses fail.
It turns out, however, that Google Places stated that the restaurant was closed on weekends. Closing shop on the busiest days of the week might work in a densely populated location, but the Serbian Crown was off the beaten path. Admittedly, I personally would accept Google’s listing of hours of operation as fact and select a different venue rather than scour a business’s website or worse yet, reach out using the phone number2.
The article states that the owners admit to having heard of the Internet and Google, but did not actively use either. In this case, the owners of The Serbian Crown whose doors were definitely open on weekends, eventually hired an “Internet consultant” (not exactly sure what that job description entails) to resolve the matter. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and the business failed to recover.
Mr. Bertagna has opted to file a claim against Google for the failure of his business. Putting aside whether the restaurant was a victim of informational hijacking from disgruntled users or a competing entrepreneur, or whether Google should be accountable for misrepresentations on some of its services, whether paid or free, one fact is certain: the Serbian Crown was “behind the times” with regards to their online presence.
Whether it’s an overly-public Facebook account, an underutilized LinkedIn account, a misplaced Google Maps pin, inaccurate Google Places information (as with the Serbian Crown) – your future opportunities, the success of your small business, or perhaps even your personal safety (topic for another day!) could be at risk. You may not be able to track or fix everything, but being informed is the best way to stay safe.
While I can sit here on my judgmental pedestal and state that the owners should have been more aware of their online presence, it would be unfair. They were simply innocent bystanders of a world that is zooming by so quickly that it left them slightly behind (or unable to keep up), something that I’m sure everyone who has a grandmother (or perhaps a mother) on Facebook can understand.
1: Most of the time. Your mileage may vary.
2: Most businesses don’t respond to text messages, sadly. Maybe that should be a thing…
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