March 26 2021

By Graeme Kemlo

Following up our story last week on the rental property services company that has problems with apparently intercepted emails sent to their clients who use Gmail: this is no conspiracy, just, most likely, artificial intelligence acting really dumb.

Emma Hinchliffe director of Alpine Valley Getaways (AVG), who represents about 90 properties for rent in the Bright-Harrietville area in Victoria’s high country, said the issue has been going on for six months.  Despite attempts to contact Google, there appeared to be no helpline and even the IT group who provide her booking platform have not been able to resolve the issue with Google.

While the email confirmation Emma sends out with each booking has correct details on each different property, clients with Gmail accounts all also receive an incorrect confirmation for a different property – Lauren’s Place, which AVG does not represent.

She explained that she once represented the property but had not done so for about a year.  And despite removing the property from her systems, she said it kept appearing “over the top of our confirmation emails right underneath our heading…we even had one client couple drive up to stay at this wrongly-listed property the top of the email and they couldn’t get in”.

There is nothing on the emails to readily identify it as a Google reminder, and it does not seek permission to superimpose itself over the top, effectively closing the incoming email before the recipient has read it.  But it does add this incorrect property name, dates and confirmation number to Google calendar.  If you use a different email client none of this occurs.

“It has been a serious timewaster for us and I believe it might be an indication of something to come like Google Hotels,” Emma said.  She would love to get to the bottom of the issue soon, “but fortunately we’re incredibly busy with visitors up here right now – the place is going gangbusters. We are booked out with no availability anywhere through all of April”.

And, no, she said the government vouchers have not had much effect. “Most people who want to use them had long established bookings, so it has not generated much in the way of new business.”