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Google Confuses Bennington With Nearby Woodford, Causing Headaches For Businesses

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce director Matt Harrington checks Google Maps in front of the Bennington Battle Monument. The app mistakenly locates the monument in Woodford, the next town over. Local businesses are struggling with a similar glitch.

If you use Google Maps on your phone to find a business in Bennington, you may end up in the tiny town of Woodford. That's because a glitch in the map app fails to recognize many locations in the largest town in southwestern Vermont.

Matt Harrington, the director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, is standing in front of the 306-foot-tall Bennington Battle Monument.

Harrington pulls out his cell phone and searches for the monument in Google Maps.

"Nothing should say 'Bennington' more than the Bennington Battle Monument, and yet it says it's in Woodford," Harrington says, staring at his phone.

Woodford is a tiny town of about 400 people, just up the road from Bennington.

The two municipalities share a zip code, and when Google Map helps you find a motel or a restaurant in Bennington, the address that pops up says "Woodford."

And Harrington says that's a problem.

"We actually had a member call us up a couple of weeks ago and say they almost lost their largest client," he says. When the client was Googling them, they thought they had moved to Woodford. And so we're seeing even some business implications of the error."

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Woodford is the next town over from Bennington, but it is much smaller. The two towns share a zip code.

Google Map has a self-correction page, and Harrington says he went in and changed the addresses of many area businesses — only to have them all revert back to Woodford.

And after a few months of trying to reach Google and fix the problem, some Bennington business owners are getting frustrated.

 "I don't know why they would pick the Woodford side of the zip code versus the Bennington side, but I think they just aren't aware," says Lynn Green, who owns the historic Four Chimneys Inn with her husband in Bennington. "I certainly don't  think there's any malice here. I just think they're not aware and we're having a very hard time making them aware."

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Lynn Green, left, looks over some invoices with her mother, Helen Little, at the Four Chimneys Inn in Bennington.

Green is no techie, but she's been learning more that she ever wanted to know about algorithms and web spiders and how so much on the internet is connected.

"It's all starting to feed other databases," she says. "Google rewards people whose name, address and phone number matches. And so if my name, address, phone on my website is incorrect on Google, they will penalize me accordingly in search results. And so that's a problem."

In an email message, a spokeswoman for Google said the company relies on third-party providers, public sources and user contributions when building baseline data for its maps.

She said they knew about Bennington's problem and hopes to have it fixed soon.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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