You don’t know me. I only know you from the media – not a lot, but enough to know that you are the only person in the world I know who could help me with the problem that just hit us.
Before I get to the problem I need to tell you a little about why we do what we do. If you don’t have time – just skip it 🙂
Compared to a lot of our colleagues we are privileged compared to many others.
Still 2020 has been very tough – especially because our problems have been spread over Denmark, Nepal and Portugal with different cultures, different technologies, policies, Covid programs etc. But so far we have managed to solve them all.
Until the 28 December where we got hit by an unexpected problem from out-of-nowhere: 4 simultaneous and almost identical negative reviews on Google accusing us for not respecting the Portuguese culture and violating the Covid rules and suggesting travelers coming to Lisbon to stay at other hotels.
The door to Tings has been physically closed for months – the only people that have entered our door are the handful of guests we personally have locked in. Those who have booked a room with us, those whose passport information we have reported to Turismo and those who we have served home baked breakfast bread for. We know all of them – and can guarantee that none of the four reviewers has been among them.
I flagged the reviews immediately after re-reading Google policies and posted a reply on each of the reviews and waited for Google to remove them.
….content should reflect your genuine experience at the location says the first paragraph of Google’s Policies for reviews…. And as Google’s very friendly Chriss mailed me after I flagged the review: these reviews are being examined by our experts team and they will inform you regarding your reports, so you have nothing to worry about.
I was not worried at all – especially not now when I had a human being named Chris on the other end. …if you do not have an update three days after your report, please let us know and we will look into this as soon as possible – as he assured me.
On 1 January or four days after my first mail I mailed Chris for a status. I wasn’t worried – after all it had been a new year and as Google writes on our Business Site Due to Covid are operating with a Limited Team.
On 4 January I contacted Google again. This time I requested a phone call from Google My Business Support site. Sumanta who called back immediately was very understanding and promised to stress Chris for a status…
That helped – Chris mailed me right away. Before he could proceed with reviewing my request he wanted photos that proved that our “… business listing is compliant with our guidelines”. Not a word about the delay or any indication of the status – after 8 days!!! I took a few selfies in front of Tings and mailed them immediately.
The day after Chris got back to me: Thomas, I would like to be honest with you and inform you that only one of the 4 reported reviews was able to be removed. The other three reviews cannot be removed… he wrote, while at the same time referring to the same guidelines the reviewers without any doubt violated in my opinion. Not even ONE comment on my arguments.
I immediately replied to him with a (one more) detailed list of all reviewer’s violations according to my opinion and asked him to review the decision again. I also asked him how Google’s specialists could be sure that the reviewers have had a genuine experience at Tings Lisbon – and if their specialists could somehow document the situations where we have violated the Covid restrictions.
Then Chris mailed me again:
… I would like to congratulate you for that, since everybody that is seeing these reviews will also be able to see the things by your side. Very encouraging!
However…. the reported reviews have been examined by our expert’s team and they were not found to violate our policies. … Hmm – what kind of experts? What about the answers to my questions?
Absolutely NO information I can use. NO references to my views and argumentation. Only cheesy politeness. Then I got it… Chris doesn’t exist. He is a 100% AI thing.
I immediately mailed Google My Business to call me… This time Sumanth’s name was Bianca…. Very punctual, very patient, very understanding, very polite BUT absolutely useless. After 5 minutes of pleasant talk I ended up cornering her: No Thomas – I am afraid I can’t help you she was forced to admit. Neither she nor Sumanta have anything to do with Google. They work in a call center together with other young boys and girls where they are hired to please frustrated Google customers like me.
That leaves us in a surreal situation.
The whole idea behind the life we live right now is to make a difference. To get involved locally. Now we are being accused of not respecting the people that surround us – the same people we wanted to help???
The reviewers don’t have the genuine experience at Tings that is Google’s precondition for being able to evaluate us, our services and how we handle the Covid Restrictions. And we can prove it: They have never neither booked nor stayed at Tings.
Google doesn’t care at all about us – in their world we are all guilty without trials. Far from the principles we know from the offline world: That one is innocent until proven guilty.
But what’s worse: You do not have a person from Google you can address your proof of innocence. Someone that represents us accused owners – of hotels and other small businesses. You communicate with polite but powerless young boys and girls in call centers around the world and AI persons replying with the same sentences again-and-again, sentences that all refer to so called specialists-in-everything that makes decisions without contacting the accused about their opinion. We can’t do anything with our documentation.
After more than 10 days I was desperate. Our situation is surreal…
Don’t do stupid things Annette told me when I described how I wanted to harass all international Hotels in Europe by reviewing them with ‘our’ fake reviews that Google approves. An anarchistic way to open the world’s eyes….
Blog about it she suggested.
An ok idea – but after 10 days of communication with AI persons and useless call centers I need a person with body, speech and mind I can address my frustrations.
And that’s where you – Margrethe – enter the scene.
I need your help. A very small one – just a direct mail to one of the human real Human Beings at Google you and your staff communicate with. Someone I can present my ‘case’ to incl. documentation, arguments, witnesses etc. One who can correct things or – who knows – convince us that it’s correct of Google not to remove the fake reviews?! Because we are not against negative reviews – that’s part of the game. But obviously fake reviews from completely unknowns are very frustrating. For us the millions of hotel owners, restaurant owners and all other SMEs in the same situation as us.
I know that your focus is Google’s, Facebook’s, Bookings and other OTA’s money/tax side. But in many ways freedom of speech and the legal aspects of their monopoly are more dangerous – especially for the consumers and SME’s like ours without resources to go up against these giants. Its only because we don’t have any guests at all that we have time to go on…
We don’t know if this text will reach you. If it does and if you read it so far – then a million thanks for your time.
Looking forward to getting a useful mail address.
All the best and Good Luck with your battles.
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