How Google Maps Sponsored Links Almost Ruined a Wedding

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Okay maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but this insertion of sponsored search results sure did lead to a lot of confusion on a day where it’s pretty important that people be able to find the venue. You see, my best friend of 25 years was getting married at this adorable little B&B, tucked away in a wooded area, just off of a small county road. A place that doesn’t show up in Google Maps when you search by name, but does when you search by the exact address. That is, unless your search results are hijacked by a Sponsored Link.

As most of the wedding party and attendees used their smartphones to look up directions, they found themselves taken to a Montessori Academy about 10 miles south of the actual venue — completely confused. Unfortunately I didn’t think to grab a screenshot while I was in Austin, but the promoted link looks like this:

Only in our situation, the sponsored link was so far south that the red pin didn’t even show on the screen — if you’re not paying full attention, you’re just going to go to the big, shiny thing that popped up on your screen. While I admit there’s a certain responsibility on the user to verify the results match their search, at the same time you kind of expect Google to do its job when you type in the EXACT FUCKING ADDRESS. As a result, the officiant almost missed the rehearsal, family members got very lost, and at least a third of the guests missed the actual wedding.

In the end it wasn’t a disaster, all of the important people were in their spots on cue for what turned out to be a beautiful ceremony. It’s just frustrating when a technology that people rely on and blindly trust bites you in the ass, especially during an already stressful time. You can do better Google.

Lala Shuts Down, I Pout Indefinitely

Lala’s been gone for a week now and I find myself sadly music-less when I work from my laptop. It’s departure has left a gaping hole in my music flow. No longer can I listen to an entire album when I discover a new band. Hell, sometimes I can’t even find single songs that aren’t poorly filmed, live videos on Youtube. Lala made exploring music easy and fun, and as a result I happily paid money to buy more music and support the service — something you’ll rarely hear someone of my generation say. Of course, it helps that you could get web albums for under $1 and song downloads were just $0.89.

All of the above combined with a nice recommendation system, better sorting options, and the obvious streaming libraries made Lala my ideal music site. I’ve tried replacing it with Blip.fm, Last.fm, and Pandora in the interim, but none of those quite fill the void. Thanks Apple, you suck.

Yes, I know the rumors about iTunes.com and, no, I’m not holding my breath. A cloud-based service will be great, but I doubt they’ll adopt much else. Rather than a Lala-fied iTunes, I see a crappier, iTunes version of Lala in our future. If I sound bitter that’s only because I hate iTunes and simply adored Lala. I’ll go back to my pouting now.

Customer Service: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let me preface this by saying that I am extremely picky when it comes to customer service. I’ve done it all: concessions, barista, waitress, bookseller, music-seller, tech support, and community management. I’ve always followed the golden rule and, being as picky as I am, this means I do the best I possibly can for the customer/user. Because of this I expect no less in return from the people that are there to service me..oh don’t be dirty, you know what I mean.

Most of the time it’s pretty depressing, but thankfully there are still some companies out there that are just plain impressive.

The Good

I’m addicted to t-shirts. Love ’em! I order from a number of sites and decided to give Busted Tees a try during a pretty sweet sale they were having. I ordered four shirts..that sadly never showed up. I had been so busy I’d actually forgotten about them, and when I checked the UPS tracking it showed that it had been delivered to my home address a week earlier. Umm, no it hadn’t.

Prepared for a huge hassle, I ping Busted Tees on Twitter and say something along the lines of “order said it was delivered a week ago and we never got it, assume we have to file a claim with UPS?” I then call UPS and speak with one of their reps. I tell her the situation and she admits she’s embarrassed before reluctantly telling me that it’s common for the drivers to mark packages as delivered and just leave them on the truck. No joke. Then she tells me that I’ll have to contact the shipper and they will have to file a claim so UPS can start an investigation. I let out a sigh, call it a night and figure I will just contact Busted Tees in the morning to tell them what happened.

The next morning I wake up to an email from Busted Tees in my inbox.

Holy shit. I didn’t even have to contact them, they found me based on my tweet and offered to reship my order. I was dumbfounded then and even now I’m still wowed by this. They didn’t have to eat the cost, it wasn’t their fault, but they went above and beyond and turned me into a loyal and extremely happy customer. Love those guys.

The Bad

Now, where Busted Tees still has me wowed…Disqus on the other hand, still has me pissed off from an email exchange I had with them back at the beginning of the year. We had an immature commenter on our blog that set his username to “fuck off” and we really wanted his comment and his name gone. With Disqus you can moderate comments, but deleting doesn’t actually delete — it removes the comment, says the comment was removed, but leaves the username and everything in the thread. Why? I don’t know, but that’s how it is. So I contact their support to ask if this username can be removed from our comments and the conversation goes:




Arghs! Still. Pissed. First off, It was two full days before they responded. Second, I know that he did not go to this page at all and view the comments before he responded to me, he just shot me back some canned answers. Had he looked at the comment thread he would have noticed that this person commented as a guest, which means there is no profile for me to go to and report him. I just gave up. You win Mr. “fuck off.”

The Ugly

Oh Frontier. I used to love you, but now it seems you’re trying so very hard to make me hate you. Honestly, it’s starting to work.

Last week I was in San Francisco for Web 2.0 Expo and I was scheduled to fly out Thursday night at 8:00pm. Of course that’s the night that my company is sponsoring Ignite Boulder and I really wanted to be home in time for that, so I figured I’d try to catch an earlier flight. The night before, I call Frontier’s 1-800 number and see what the cost is to switch flights. $240. Umm, no thanks..what about standby? I am told bluntly that they do not offer standby. Apparently they did away with it a while ago, but since I’ve never had to fly standby I was not aware of this baffling change. Although, after doing some research online, they do in fact offer standby — it just costs $100. Whatever, $100 is better than $240 so I go online to see if there are any more seats available on the morning flight. The website says that half the plane is empty. Sweet.

However, being the worry wart that I can sometimes be, I wake up at 4:30am and call the 1-800 number again just to make sure that there are in fact seats and that I won’t be stuck at the airport for 11 hours. The agent on the phone tells me that there are 16 seats still available on this flight. Whew! I go back to sleep and then head to the airport after a few more hours. En route I check the seat availability on my iPhone, they were down to four seats and I was starting to sweat. We get to the airport and I rush to the counter to talk to someone only to find out that the flight is sold out..and has been for over 24 hours. Say what now?

I explain to the (very nice) woman behind the counter, as calmly as possible, that the website and an actual person told me there were seats on this flight and that’s the only reason I came to the airport. She apologizes and adds me to the standby list, but she’s honest and tells me that it doesn’t look good. Now, totally stressed and pissed that I will potentially be at the airport all day, I go sit at the gate and pout. Shortly before boarding I check with her again and she, once again, tells me it doesn’t look good. I turn around, still pouty, and run into two friends of mine on the same flight. I grumble about the situation to them as people start boarding and just before I give up hope, I hear my name called. Score! She gets me a seat, in stretch seating no less, and I make it home in time for Ignite. I don’t remember her name, but I owe her a hug.

Sadly, her effort doesn’t make up for a company that very obviously does not care. A company whose website has completely wrong information, whose agents also have completely wrong information (maybe looking at the same website?), and a company that doesn’t take the time to update flight information when you’re delayed an hour due to a medical incident on the plane (long story). Boo, Frontier, boo.

Missed Opportunity

So I was in Austin for SXSW last week. It was awesome, and exhausting. Unfortunately most of the food I had while I was there was mediocre at best, but then someone told me about this BBQ place called Franklin BBQ that was not to be missed. It was a bit of a drive, but apparently totally worth it. Of course, once I heard “espresso BBQ sauce” I was sold.

Cut to the next day where my cohort, Michelle, and I drive through rush hour traffic to find this glorious caffeinated concoction. When we finally get there, which was no easy task, it looks a little..empty. There’s a couple people inside, so we poke our heads in to find out what’s going on. Sure enough, they are closed. On a Tuesday. During SXSW. Boo.

We mention that we are going home the next day and that we were really looking forward to their espresso BBQ sauce. They just shrug and apologize and send us on our way. Not even an offer for a bottle of their famous sauce, which we would have happily paid for. Just disappointment. They could have turned the situation into a happy one, one I could have shared with my friends along with my allegedly awesome BBQ sauce. But they didn’t, so all I have is this little rant.

Instead of ending my trip with delicious BBQ, I ended it with dinner at Guero’s and what is hands down the worst Mexican food I’ve ever had. If you can help it, don’t eat there. Seriously.

Reason #52 why I hate Facebook

Frustrating shortcomings in basic functionality. Take this friend request for example. It has a message attached to it.

There are three actions I can take here: Confirm the request, Ignore the request, and Send a Message.

However, clicking on the Send Message link doesn’t actually give you the option to message this person back, it just opens a blank message window where it’s also impossible to enter this person’s name. If I go to their profile, there is still no option to message them.

I realize this is likely due to this user’s privacy settings, but the thing is — they initiated the contact, and I should be able to reply to them. It’s incredibly annoying that I have to confirm this request in order to have any chance of responding to this person. While this respects their privacy settings it infringes on my own privacy because I have to friend this random person in order to reply to a work related question. Thanks for thinking of me Facebook.