Google Maps at the Gas Station? No, Thanks

Filed in Local Search by Matt McGee on November 7, 2007 15 Comments

Google Maps logoYou’ve probably seen a lot of talk this week about Google Maps being available at gas station pumps. As usual, some of the local searcharati think this is another game-changing move on Google’s part.

As usual, I think it’s not. :)

Let’s think this through

1a.) According to the story, the Maps display will show local businesses and landmarks chosen by the gas station owner. “Eventually” the hope is that a motorist can just type in an address and get directions. So, if all I can do now is see the gas station owner’s favorite restaurants and fishing holes, this product is dead on arrival.

1b.) With all due respect to gas station owners, when did they become the arbiter of what businesses and landmarks are most important?

2.) Have you seen gas stations advertising on TV lately? I have. Do you know what they’re advertising? How quickly you can get in and out and back on the road. Think about it: Every gas station advance in recent years has been aimed at speeding things up: pay at the pump, pay with a “speedpass” (or whatever they call it), etc. Sitting at the pump and doing some local searches will do nothing but slow people down. I don’t know about you, but the minute I see the guy in front of me playing on Google Maps while I’m waiting to fill up will be the last time I use that gas station.

3.) The great thing about asking for directions at a gas station is that I can walk in and ask a human without having to spend a dime. What if I don’t need any gas? Will Google Maps still work if I’m not using the pump to buy gas? And see #3 above — how will the guy behind me feel if I’m taking his spot at the pump even though I don’t need gas?

Bottom line: Using Google Maps at the gas station will be more of an inconvenience than anything.

Conclusion

I’m sorry, but this seems like another desperate attempt to get more traction for Google Maps, not unlike the Local Business Referrals program announced a few months back. Google has done some smart things in marketing Google Maps — like getting on the iPhone. That’s what will help Google Maps pull away from the competition.

Comments (15)

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  1. st0n3y says:

    I’m with you on this Matt. I so hate even having to stop to get gas that anything that slows me down just drives me mad. We have certain gas stations that pump gas out slower than others. Guess which station I never go to anymore? Jerking around with Google while people are waiting? I don’t think so.

  2. davidmihm says:

    Could not agree more, Matt. Hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll be charging our own cars at home, anyway. Then WE can decide what landmarks to look at while we’re screwing around with Google Maps.

  3. I have a hard time believing many people would stand in 10 degree below zero weather here in Minneapolis and play around with a Google Map at the gas pump.

  4. This idea is almost as bad as refrigerators that have monitor screens and Internet access built in to their doors.

  5. I agree with Patrick, though here it’s more standing in 115 degree heat that will deter users. And thanks Matt for pointing out that it’s gas stations who will decide what’s mapable. I’d missed that key point when skimming the various reports.

  6. I’ll admit that my first reaction was “hey that’s cool, I’d totally use that if I didn’t already have GMaps on my Blackberry…”

    Once that thought sunk in a little, the clouds parted and the light went on…

    I would use it because it’s cool (ie: geeky), 90% of people won’t use it. From the remaining 10%, subtract those who already use GMaps on their phone (like me) and you’re left with zero users.

  7. Adam Snider says:

    I’m with you on this one, Matt. I don’t want to have to wait 10 minutes to fuel up while the guy in front of me tries to figure out how to work “the damn computer map thingy.”

    And, I agree with Patrick. It would not be very effective in large parts of the world. How many people are going to use this sort of thing during the winter? I know I wouldn’t. The faster I can get back into my car where it’s warm, the better.

  8. Matt McGee says:

    Wow, look at this — everyone actually agrees with me! Too cool. I love you guys! ;-)

  9. And the worst thing is when your lost in the middle of no where, and you try your query and it then it tells you “The query have preformed appears to be from a Robot. Please try again later.”.

  10. Bill Slawski says:

    There’s too much agreement here, Matt. You need someone playing Devils Advocate. :)

    I think that this is one of those instances where we’re only seeing part of the whole picture.

    The idea of Google kiosks in a number of different places is interesting.

    Think about one in a shopping mall that tells you where the different stores are located, and will give you coupons to shop at some of them, or tell you how long the wait is at the Ruby Tuesdays, or other shopping mall restaurant, what movies and showing times for them there are at the mall theater.

    Or consider Google Kiosks at different locations in Las Vegas that tell you which shows are playing where, where you can find different kinds of food and make reservations for restaurants, and provide information about other services that might be available in Vegas.

    I’m guessing that the gas station kiosks are only the first step. I suspect that they could be as ubiquitous at ATMs in a few years.

  11. Matt McGee says:

    You make a good devil’s advocate, Bill. :)

    You’re right that this is only part of the picture, and if Google ends up putting Maps Kiosks in other locations that make sense — like a mall, as you suggest — I’ll be the first one to say how smart it is.

    But strictly in terms of gas station pumps? Bad idea, I say.

  12. Joe Martino says:

    I agree, i dont think Google maps will be all that helpful at the gas pump, although it would help past time while you wait. It is a great branding strategy for Google.. Most people already have a GPS in their car or google maps on their cell phones..

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