Friday, April 17, 2009

Deceptive Advertising about Geographic Location

Senator Julia Boseman has filed a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly to prohibit businesses from deceptive representation of geographical location in directories, print advertising or on the Internet.

Currently it is written for perishable products but she is being encouraged by DCVB and others to go ahead and make it applicable to any business.

No brainer, right?

Well I could hear the knees jerk in many businesses who take laisser faire and buyer beware to its extreme. They actually believe they can benefit from tricking customers about their location. And unfortunately that can work…but not for long. It is a very short sighted and customer hostile strategy no matter how many thin rationalizations are offered. Ugh!

There is a hotel near Hillsborough in Orange County that advertises itself as a Durham hotel. There is a hotel in the City of Durham that advertises itself as being in Chapel Hill and until recently there was a hotel in the city of Durham that advertised its location as Raleigh Research Triangle Park (RTP is based in Durham, four miles from Downtown and encompassed on three sides by the City of Durham).

There is a hotel in Cary that advertises its location as Raleigh Durham Research Triangle. The hotel is a good 5 miles from the airport and 10 miles from Research Triangle Park so using Raleigh-Durham is a stretch, but RTP is even more so since it’s based in Durham and even further away. Imagine the surprised guests getting on the I-40 west bound parking lot thinking they are going to an airport hotel or one in Durham at RTP. That’s quite a nightmare to face during rush hours.

Sometimes this is done out of ignorance or being geographically challenged and sometime folks are just plain greedy. Other times it is done by people who don’t understand that the post office can now give you address designations that have nothing to do with physical locations…also an action extremely unfriendly to consumers in the day and age of GPS and location based content.

RTP, NC is a Durham postal substation. It is a special county district for research, like a fire or water district but it isn’t a town or city and it doesn’t qualify as a dateline. The Board of County Commissioners have authorized businesses actually in the Park to advertise they are in the Park. Those within two miles can advertise their location as in Durham “at” RTP. Those further than two miles can only advertise the number of miles they are from the Park.

There are several reasons to support Senator Boseman’s bill. It is fair to consumers. It is fair to businesses that have paid higher prices for an actual location. It is fair to communities whose brand always depends on reinforcement at every touch point including assets based there.

As a friend of mine who runs a business in Durham near RTP often states….”At the very least, businesses have an obligation to not confuse customers.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can hear the 'regionalists' screaming that we are one big happy place. NOT TRUE! I live in Durham, I work in Durham - Not the RTP Region or Raleigh-Durham - just Durham. I visit Raleigh and Cary and Carrboro. I hate when a business provides an incomplete or misleading address. There was a restaurant ad that just said XXX Hillsborough Road. Which City? Durham, Raleigh and CH all have a Hillsborough Road. Guess we won't go eat there...