(This story is by Derek Carson of the Bennington Banner, in which it first appeared April 19, 2017.)BENNINGTON — Most locals understand the difference between Bennington, population 15,764, and Woodford, population 424. Google, however, has been known to confuse the two, which the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce is saying could cause real problems.
The specific issue users face is that, for many locations in Bennington on the popular search engine, addresses incorrectly display as being in Woodford. The issue seems to stem from Bennington and Woodford sharing a ZIP code: A cursory search shows that several locations in Searsburg, which shares a ZIP code with Wilmington, and Sandgate, which shares a code with Arlington, are displaying incorrectly as well.
According to Chamber Executive Director Matthew Harrington, a task force spearheaded by Lynn Green, owner of the Four Chimneys Inn, has been working to address the issue. In late March, Harrington and Green made a presentation to the state attorney general’s office in hopes of getting the issue resolved.
Harrington said the AG’s office has reached out to Google and that conversations are ongoing.
On Wednesday, most addresses in Bennington were displaying correctly. But several, including the Bennington Battle Monument and Mount Anthony Union Middle School, are listed as being in Woodford.
In November, a Google spokesperson said the quickest way for users to correct an address was to select the “send feedback” tool. The chamber, operating off the same information, painstakingly submitted a correction for each member businesses, only to see the listings revert to Woodford in the following weeks. The chamber tried again, but the changes again reverted.
“You can’t just go in and change them, because they just change back,” said Harrington.
“We felt we didn’t really have a voice (with Google), as the chamber or as a town,” he said, which led officials to reach out to the attorney general, who they hoped might have more sway with the tech giant.
While the problem may seem to be superficial, Harrington pointed out that there could be serious consequences.
“If you’re a tourist coming here for the first time, it can be frustrating. If you’re trying to buy a home, you can’t get a feel for the area.” He said one chamber member business almost lost a major client who believed the business had moved out of Bennington.
In their presentation before the AG’s office, Green and Harrington also pointed out that, if someone experiencing an emergency looks up an address, and that address doesn’t match the 911 database, it could lead to confusion and potentially disaster. Mail delivery could also be affected if someone fills out an address based on a Google search.
Harrington said he plans to reach out to other chambers to see if they are experiencing the same problem. “We can’t be the only town in rural America that is dealing with this,” he said.