Does this place have multiple businesses on site? Does it?!
July 5, 2022 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I often answer the questions that Google maps asks about local businesses, but one that kind of confounds me is "Does this place have multiple business on site?" I get the general gist, but what, exactly, does Google mean by that?

It seems obvious when the question is about a mall or a strip mall where clearly there are multiple businesses on site. Say, for example, "St. Laurent Plaza" has several stores in it, including a large grocery store, etc, so yes to a question about St. Laurent Plaza. But it gets murkier from there:

Here are some scenarios I could imagine being described as 'multiple businesses on site'. Which does Google want me to answer yes for?

The question is about a specific store within a mall or strip mall, like the dollar store in St. Laurent Plaza. The dollar store is just a dollar store, so no, but it's in a site with lots of businesses in it, so maybe yes?

The question is about the grocery store that also contains a smokeshop, a wine sales kiosk, a lottery ticket kiosk or similar. Those are sometimes separate businesses and sometimes just convenient counters for buying specific things, but it doesn't seem likely Google cares about the legal relationship which I couldn't know about anyway, just the existence/appearance of separate little kiosks with separate functions.

Does the answer change if the question is about the wine sales kiosk rather than about the grocery store? The wine kiosk is in the grocery store, but the grocery store is not in the wine kiosk.

The question is about the card and gift shop or pharmacy that also contains a postal outlet? These are common in Canada, and staffed by employees of the store and not employees of Canada Post, but somehow seem slightly different than the above example, but maybe they are basically the same.

The question is about Costco, which also has a Costco tire centre and a Costco gas station. These are all clearly elements of most Costcos, but are they what Google thinks of as separate businesses?

Two businesses share a parking lot, like a movie theatre and a restaurant, but are not the same building and the question is about one of them. Are they on the same site?

The question is about a Canadian Tire and there is a hot dog truck or chip wagon in the parking lot because there is always a hot dog truck or chip wagon in the parking lot of a Canadian Tire for some reason? The hot dog truck is on the site, and is clearly a separate business, but does Google mean 'inside the Canadian tire itself'?

The question is about a Canadian Tire and there is pay-for-use charging station in the parking lot? These seem to have third party branding. Is a charging station a separate business that is on site?

I know I can skip this question or not answer these questions at all, I'm just trying to figure out what the right answer would be if I was going to consistently answer them.
posted by jacquilynne to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
The right answer is whatever you think the right answer is. Google isn’t trying to categorize a specific situation, they’re asking what you think. If you answer truthfully, there’s no wrong answer.
posted by bowbeacon at 8:27 AM on July 5, 2022 [11 favorites]

The easiest way for a customer to know is by observing the employee situation. Can the Canadian Tire worker go out and fix the charging station? Can the person who stocks greeting cards ring up your postage? If they can, same business. You don't always know this, but often it is obvious.
posted by soelo at 9:00 AM on July 5, 2022

I know that I have friends that have registered multiple LLCs for the same address. They may have an import/export business and a consulting business at the same office. That is clearly more than one business with the same address.

I would say it is one grocery store. As for Costco example, you have no way of reasonably knowing the corporate structure of Costco so, one business. Two businesses that share a parking lot would be no if they have different street (number) addresses. I am not familiar with the actual example of the charging station, but I would answer it depending on the mailing addresses or the street addresses for the two businesses. If they are the same address, then , yes, more than one business.

I just answer to the best of my ability to know or ignore it all together.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:54 AM on July 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

It seems most logical to me to treat it as, are there multiple listings? In your grocery store/wine kiosk example, does the wine kiosk have its own listing on Google? If so, that's probably multiple businesses. Then again the listings are generated from (among other things) user input, so who knows, but there has to be a line somewhere.

You could also draw the line at addresses. The wine kiosk probably does not have a unique address (if the grocery store is 123 Main St, the wine kiosk is probably 123 Main St, Attn: Wine Kiosk, if it even gets mail at all), whereas businesses in a strip mall do, as do two unrelated businesses that merely share a parking lot.
posted by tubedogg at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2022

Response by poster: It seems most logical to me to treat it as, are there multiple listings?

I suspect, but do not know, that Google is trying to figure out whether the wine kiosk (or whatever) *should* have its own listing on Google, so looking at Google to see whether it does seems a bit like begging the question. The info would be useful, potentially, for disentangling data that might be getting mixed up among multiple businesses operating in close proximity. But then I don't know that's what they're using it for, either.

I don't think that in amongst a whole bunch of very concrete yes/no questions like 'Does this store sell product X?' and 'Does this store have parking?', Google is throwing in a more impressionistic kind of question. I hoped there was a FAQ out there that answered this that I just haven't been able to find, but it seems like no one really knows for sure and we're all just trying to parse it out ourselves.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2022

In NYC, something that’s been happening a lot lately is that a restaurant will list itself under multiple names to game the algorithm. For example “Joes sports bar” might be listed as if it were 3 different restaurants: “joe’s” “the wing shop” and “burger palace” or something like that. All with the same address and all actually the same restaurant and business. Anytime I see a new restaurant on seamless I have to look up to see if it’s actually a new restaurant or the same one under a fake name.
posted by ohneat at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2022

(The algorithm on the food delivery apps, I mean)
posted by ohneat at 11:16 AM on July 5, 2022

Maybe "should Google have multiple listings" is a pragmatic way to answer it.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2022

In the local grocery store there's a Starbucks. It has its own branding and if you search, you will find that store. Similarly, there is a CVS Pharmacy in the local Target. If I were looking for either of these stores, I would react to be able to find them separately from the store they're in.

The local grocery also has a sushi concession. They are a separate company but not conspicuously branded as such. Furthermore, different outlets of the store use different sushi vendors. Nobody chooses a store because they like that vendor's sushi, and the vendors don't seem to have any outlets of their own. Here is a case where to the customer, QFC has sushi, they don't have a separate sushi business. (When though, technically, they do.)
posted by kindall at 11:27 AM on July 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Something I recently discovered: my local Staples office supply also maintains a desk for the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA person accepts and processes "pre-check" applications, which is sort-of business-related I guess. If you were Googling for "TSA services near me," it might be helpful to know that the TSA has a desk just down the block rather than all the way downtown.
posted by SPrintF at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2022

"Multiple businesses" could also describe an office building where the first floor is an Old Navy, the second floor is a dance studio, the third floor is split between a couple talent agents and a genealogist, etc.

But I don't think Google has any "one right answer" as such, so I would go with what feels like the most useful information for them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2022

I think you're overthinking things.

Basically, they want to know if multiple businesses share an address. Stores in a strip mall do not share an address, each place in the mall has its own address. However, it's possible for a Starbucks to be inside a Whole Foods and they would share an address.

The situation you're describing is the result of multiple people carrying their phones into an address Google thinks is Business A when Google knows that the person is actually shopping at Business B or C. Google is confused as to why the person who walked into Whole Foods bought a coffee at Starbucks.

I used to own a record store that was inside another business. Basically, I rented 300sf of another store and ran my own store out of it. We both had the same address and the same front door. People would have to walk through the other store to get to mine and did not have to walk through mine to get to the other. Why are so many people giving Dobbs' Record Store 5 Star Reviews while standing in another business?! Lets ask them if there are multiple businesses at this address!

Further, to my knowledge, Google does not "create listings". Businesses create listings. When you open a store/business, you go to google and you log in and create the listing. They snail mail you a confirmation code to the address which you then have to punch in to confirm the address is "yours". You then are able to control things like the hours and other details that are involved in a Google Listing (respond to reviews, etc.).

Sometimes, other people can create a listing. Suppose they frequent a store that does not have a Google listing. They can create one, but they cannot log into that businesses account because they never confirmed the address because they don't have access to the snail mail. This is why you sometimes see, "Do you own this business?" on a listing. If you click that you do, it will ask if they should send you the code. You cannot change the address of the listing until you punch in the code.

For instance, for a time I managed a beach property in Vanuatu. It wasn't on Google which made it hard for guests to get home when they were out and unfamiliar with the neighborhood. So I added it to Google. However, Vanuatu doesn't have snail mail in the traditional sense so it was impossible to get a code. So, the listing exists, but the business owners cannot alter it.

Currently, I run a store that I want to be somewhat private because I run it out of my loft. There is a Google listing for the store but that listing does not have an address. This is because I have not provided it and never will. As a result, people can see there's a Record Store in the neighborhood but they have to contact me for the address. No one can randomly stop by because it's my home and I don't want anyone here without an appointment.

Another reason I do not provide the address is because Yelp does not allow businesses to have listings without an address. I hate Yelp and think they're a bunch of extortionists. By withholding my store address from Google, Yelp refuses to have a listing for for my business, which means my competitors can't leave me bad fake Yelp reviews, which means Yelp can't call me and try and extort money from me to get those reviews "dealt with," something they did with my two previous stores that had listings.
posted by dobbs at 12:39 PM on July 5, 2022

Further, to my knowledge, Google does not "create listings". Businesses create listings. When you open a store/business, you go to google and you log in and create the listing. They snail mail you a confirmation code to the address which you then have to punch in to confirm the address is "yours". You then are able to control things like the hours and other details that are involved in a Google Listing (respond to reviews, etc.).
This is my experience, exactly.

Like others, I say don't overthink it. You get asked about a business because you've been there (or Google thinks you have) so, in theory, you're in a good position to answer questions like 'are there two businesses here?'. If you, as a consumer, would perceive there are two businesses or if you would search for one but not the other, say yes. If you're not sure, skip the question. Your Costco example is a good one - people would not search for a grocery store to find tyres, so it may be useful to have them come up when someone is on the side of the road somewhere and searches 'tyre stores near me'.
posted by dg at 10:59 PM on July 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

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