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Closed in error on Google Places, merchants seek fixes

In mid-August, Jason Rule learned some surprising news about the coffee shop that he owns in Hays, Kansas: The place had closed for good.

Not in the real world, where it is thriving. Coffee Rules Lounge was listed for a few days as “permanently closed” on Google Maps. During that time, anyone searching for a latte on a smartphone, for instance, would have assumed the store was a goner.

“We’re not far from Interstate 70,” said Rule, “and I have no doubt that a lot of people running up and down that highway just skipped us.”

In recent months, plenty of healthy businesses across the country have expired — sometimes for hours, other times for weeks — though only in the online realm cataloged by Google. The reason is that it is surprisingly easy to report a business as closed in Google Places, the search giant’s version of the local Yellow Pages.

On Google Places, a typical listing has a section titled “Report a problem” and one of the problems to report is “this place is permanently closed.” If enough users click it, the business is labeled “reportedly closed” and later, pending a review by Google, “permanently closed.”

—David Segal,
 The New York Times