My husband and I went to run a few errands last weekend. I planned it all out ahead of time so we could be fast and efficient, checking websites for business hours and creating an itinerary.
The first place we went was closed. According to the company’s website, it should have opened half an hour before we arrived. But the store was closed, and the sign on the door indicated that it would open in 30 minutes.
I recently had to visit a government agency. I’d heard rumors that I would have to wait in line, so I decided to get there right when they opened in the morning.
I consulted the official website for hours of operation. The information on the website was wrong, so I arrived an hour before the office opened. I’ll never get that hour back. I’s gone forever and I don’t have time to mourn the loss.
At least twice in the last six months I have searched the Internet for items that I needed to purchase immediately.
I have discovered that even though I can find items on the website of a major U.S. retail chain — and they are listed as being in stock at the store closest to my home — when I get to the store, I usually find that the items are not in stock.
The store has never carried them. But they can be ordered for me. What a great way to get me into a store that I have managed to avoid for years.
There’s a website I used a couple of times to get information about senior housing options. They offer housing counselors and resources. It took me a while to figure out that the site is really a kind of directory and the “counselors” do not have to know anything about senior housing or the housing they recommend.
They work for the directory and the companies listed in it, but they don’t disclose that relationship.
I keep getting sent back to that site by well-meaning friends and social workers who want to give me “resources.” The site is hard to use and I am tired of people who have no expertise offering “resources.” Looking at the housing directory is kind of like reading the Yellow Pages. But instead of connecting me with the business directly, the contact information is for a third party, which adds a new level of frustration instead of help.
There are many third-party websites that are restaurant directories — basically compilations of data being used as a tool to sell restaurants a directory spot where they can put accurate information and advertising. The sites are sometimes useless, but they almost always come up first in the results I do keyword searches by restaurant name.
I have such a hard time finding the actual website with the menu for my favorite Chinese takeout place that I was delighted when I found a paper menu on the counter when I went to pick up my food. I now have it on the fridge for easy reference.
Lately I have been reading a lot about the accuracy of listing data on various third-party real estate websites. I’m pretty sure that most people will look at a home before they buy it to make sure it really is located at the address given, and has the number of bedrooms and bathrooms listed, so I don’t worry too much about that part of it.
However, the home might not actually be for sale — just as the items reported as being in stock on the huge national retailer’s website aren’t available when you go to their store.
It’s possible that the retailer’s website says the items are in stock at its store just to get me in the store. It’s also possible that homes that have been sold are still listed as being for sale on some websites because in the real estate business, listings are leverage. Getting a call is a good thing even if the call is about a home that is already sold, because it gives us an opportunity to sell a home that really is for sale.
The retailers and government agencies with the inaccurate hours of business are probably just sloppy. Or they have human beings entering data, and human beings are unreliable. They can make mistakes, and sometimes they do.
In general, the Internet isn’t about data accuracy — it is more about marketing. Having inaccurate information on a website is in no way unique to the real estate industry. Maybe we do data accuracy as well as any other industry.
I know I’ve left homes out there as being for sale on various websites even though they already have an offer on them. People will call me and I can usually find some other property to show them.
There are those in the industry who are righteously indignant about what they call “data accuracy.” To them I say, “Welcome to the real world.”
Data is generated by humans, and humans are not capable of 100 percent accuracy.
It sure would be nice if the Internet were more about accuracy. Maybe that will happen when companies and individuals figure out how to make more money with accurate data than they are making today with inaccurate or misleading information.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.