Tucked away in Great Falls, Virginia, used to be a unique restaurant called Serbian Crown. For 40 years, the restaurant had proudly served lion meat along with other French and Russian cuisines, according to Wired.
But now the restaurant has been forced to close its doors after a steep decline in business, and Rene Bertagna, the restaurant’s owner, claims Google is to blame for its hardship.
According to Bertagna, someone hacked into his restaurant’s Google listing and wrote that the Serbian Crown was closed on the weekends, Bertagna’s busiest hours. As a result, Serbian Crown saw very little walk-in traffic as so much of its business depended on the ability to Google “French cuisine” and end up on the restaurant’s listing. But if the listing was feeding them incorrect information, Serbian Crown was doomed.
Around the time Bertagna realised that someone had hacked into his Google listing, Serbian Crown was seeing a 75% drop in customers over the weekend. And the slump continued, despite Bertagna’s attempts to contact Google and get the listing changed.
Eventually, Bertagna hired an internet consultant who was able to get back into the Google listing and change the hours. But it was too late. Business was already too slow, and Bertagna was forced to shut Serbian Crown’s doors last April. And now Bertagna is suing Google in federal court in Virginia.
Bertagna’s lawyer claims another restaurant messed with their Google listing and that Google should have done more to intervene. Google, on the other hand, is shrugging the case off and giving it little attention.
“The Serbian Crown should not be permitted to vex Google or this Court with such meritless claims,” Google wrote in a filing.
But while Google is trying to make it seem like Bertagna has zero claims, the Serbian Crown isn’t the only business that has had difficulty with Maps and Places listings. Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry also had its hours messed with on Google Maps. And a number of hotels were hijacked in Google+ and hac their links replaced with third-party booking services, according to Search Engine Land.
The problem is that Google Maps’ data is mainly crowdsourced, and while companies can claim ownership over their listing, if they fail to do so, someone else can take control and mess with the listing. And since Google is definitely a Goliath compared to many of these small businesses, they are unlikely to have any success in court.
The sad truth is small businesses need to play by the big players’ games. They need to pay attention to their Google Maps listings and avoid all the trouble Rene Bertagna has encountered — before it’s too late.