SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash, -- Michael Marigny never thought he would become the small business owner of Lube Tube auto repair shop in Spokane Valley.
"It's a dream I kind of fell into," Marigny explained, while tuning up a car inside his shop. "I just always loved working on cars."
Marigny took over the Spokane Valley Lube Tube three years ago.
"When I took it over, it was right when the economy took the drop," Marigny said.
In a cold economy, Marigny had to work day in and day out to drive business up, both in the shop and online. Since the Spokane Lube Tube doesn't have it's own website, Marigny said he counts on listings for customers to connect to his business, find coupons, and reviews.
There was just one problem: the top business listing for Lube Tube Spokane linked to a pornographic web site.
If you type in "Lube Tube Spokane" into Google's search engine, the top listing that pops up is www.lubetube.com. Immediately below the link, you'll find what looks like legitimate information that corresponds to the Lube Tube in Spokane. There is a local address, a local number, local reviews of the business, even a picture of the South Hill Lube Tube, located on 2815 East 30th Avenue.
But if click on the link, it will bring you to a raunchy pornographic site.
Google's Global Communications and Public Affairs Spokesperson, Deanna Yick, said www.lubetube.com shows pornography because porn businesses own the website URLs. Google mistakenly linked Marginy's business listing to www.lubetube.com.
Yick explained, "Our system algorithmically groups (or clusters) information about a business from many sources across the web, and was over-aggressive and incorrect in grouping these two distinct, but similarly named, businesses together in order to reduce duplicates in results."
Unfortunately, Marigny said, the mistake has cost him business.
"It hurts us a lot," he said. "We don't know how much countless customers we've lost and income that we've lost."
Many business like Lube Tube use online listings as a vital tool. Google.com and Google Maps are popular sources for some of that local data. But with millions of listings, Yick said, there may be an occasional error.
But Marigny argued, that error kept happening. Marigny said he repeatedly contacted Google for help to change the listing and said the search-engine-giant temporarily fixed the problem. But every few months, Marigny said www.lubetube.com would pop back up as a listing for his Spokane business.
"They're just messing over the little guys here," Marigny said, clearly frustrated. "It just have been taken care of the first time, for how big Google is."
While Marigny continues to fix cars, he said he'll stay on top of Google to fix his company's good name.
After KHQ contacted Google, the team fixed part of the problem. Google modified Spokane Valley's Lube Tube business listing to make sure it links to a Facebook page URL for the local Lube Tube instead of the pornographic site. At this point, Google still needs to modify that business listing for Lube Tube's South Hill location. Yick said the team was working on this request.
Google's First Statement to KHQ:
"Thanks for getting in touch about this. It's certainly our team's ongoing goal to provide both users and business owners with listings that are accurate and up-to-date. We know that these listings are a vital tool for many business owners, and we take these reports seriously.
In general, it might be helpful to know that the information in business listings come from a combination of sources. We work with third-party and publicly available Yellow Page directories, and we also look for business information from our web search results. Google.com and Google Maps are popular sources for local data, but we recognize that with millions of listings, there may be an occasional error. We encourage users to let us know when something is incorrect by using our "Report a Problem" tool, found at the bottom right corner of the map, or by contributing their local knowledge and updates to the map using Google Map Maker<http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2011/12/mapping-made-easier-with-new-google-map.html>. Business owners can also use Google Places, found at <http://www.google.com/places>www.google.com/places, to verify their listing and the ability to ensure that their business information is accurate and up to date.
In this case, I've shared the information you sent along to the team to investigate, and I believe the issue with the URL has now been corrected. Our system algorithmically groups (or clusters) information about a business from many sources across the web, and was over-aggressive and incorrect in grouping these two distinct, but similarly named, businesses together in order to reduce duplicates in results."