And what to do if your apartment suddenly comes up as Marijuana Manor
A few weeks ago I was driving through Brockton when I decided to grab some concentrates before heading back towards Boston. I pulled into a random parking lot, searched for “dispensaries near me” on Google Maps, and started to drive to one six minutes away—until I noticed that I was literally already less than 50 feet away from AMP.
As someone there explained it, AMP was flagged by Google for having alleged fake reviews and penalized via the loss of its business listing and map marker. In addition to being unfortunate since it’s a good shop with a solid selection from Nova Farms and some other products you don’t find at every rec spot, it’s also ironic considering how many dispensaries listed on Google Maps aren’t actual pot shops at all.
Forget about fake reviews—they’re fraudulent listings entirely.
I’ve run into these buzzkills on multiple occasions, usually when I am far away from home base and scrolling on the side of the road. They often have names that are too cool or too dumb to be real, like Wally’s Big Wide World Of Weed. I assumed that one was somebody playing a prank on a friend or foe of theirs named Wally by pinning a fake cannabis retail location to the poor bastard’s house. Other ones are more elaborate hoaxes, complete with photos (stolen from the pages of real dispensaries) and, of course, fake reviews galore. And they’re not just around Mass; here’s an excerpt from a report on ghost addresses from an NBC News affiliate in the DC Metro area:
Magic Nugh, Purple Nugh and Blessed Healing are displayed as the names of D.C. marijuana dispensaries shown on Google Maps — and they’re all fake. In fact, the addresses belong to private homes.
The listings show photos of purportedly available products, and they include reviews, street addresses, phone numbers and hours of operation. None of them are one of D.C.’s seven licensed cannabis dispensaries.
The highlight: residents of one posh Dupont Circle condo “put up a sign that reads ‘This is not a pot dispensary.’”
If you’re thinking this is a hilarious innocent prank, you’re only right about some of the addresses. In other cases, people who suck and like to scam those seeking legal weed use these dupes as part of elaborate scams that tend to involve getting prepaid online and then sending customers off on a wild grass chase.
If this happens to you, you will want to contact Google support as soon as you discover the listing, unless you like the idea of people turning up looking for prerolls. Judging from the experience of one dramatic poster who thinks cannabis users are drug addicts, it’s quite an inconvenience:
Some one has falsely listed a cannabis shop at my address on google maps. We’ve had drug addicts turning up at our home expecting to be sold cannabis. We have informed the police but there seems to be little they can do about the site it’s self.
I run a small business at home and have my family to protect. This false listing needs to be removed immediately for the safety of our home and neighbours.
They tried a simple course of action, but the algorithm wasn’t there to help them. In fact it made it worse:
Both myself and a couple of neighbours have clicked on the make suggestions link to report the building as non existent. We have also left negative 1 star reviews warning of this scam. However none of these reviews are displayed! Only the 3 obviously fake 5 star reviews [are displayed].
The complainant continued, “it would appear Google is working in their favour!”
It took 10 days from that initial complaint on the support page for the goliath to respond, reverse course, and finally remove the fake listing.