CINCINNATI -- Let's say you've heard a lot of good things about a particular shop or service in one of Greater Cincinnati's "hot" neighborhoods -- perhaps Oakley or Over-the-Rhine or Kenwood or Hyde Park -- where the atmosphere skews vibrant or younger or tony or the purposefully vague "better" or "nicer."
You drive and you find that certain spot -- and realize maybe it's not really there, it's here. It's not far from the part of town you were thinking it was located in, but is still not "in" it. The business may have even said it's in the "hot" area in its marketing and websites.
Is it a problem?
The inclination is to believe that the business is trying to cash in on a particular area's cachet -- and conversely trying to avoid the image of the town or neighborhood in which it's actually located.
The reality is a little more complex.
"I don't like it," said Mayor Thomas Williams of Norwood when asked about the practice. "That would be the understatement of the year. I don't like it." The city of Norwood is landlocked by six Cincinnati neighborhoods: Oakley, Hyde Park, Pleasant Ridge, Bond Hill, Paddock Hills and Evanston.
Williams can recall conversations with business owners and residents detailing confusion about where they are, and other times when a city service would be requested only to be told that it's Cincinnati's issue, not Norwood's.
"We provide the services, but if they want to say they're in Hyde Park, then call Cincinnati," Williams said. "It just drives me nuts. The taxpayers in Norwood are paying traffic and paramedic and fire and police and public works and salt and everything else."
As an example, CycleBar Hyde Park is in Norwood. Its website URL is hydepark.cyclebar.com. (Repeated attempts to reach CycleBar Hyde Park for comment were unsuccessful.)
It's not a new or isolated thing, said Williams, who's been Norwood's mayor for 13 years.
"The only thing that bothers me is that a lot of that time there were parking garages and public improvements that were made off of TIFs (tax-increment financing) that were accomplished to make it what it is," he said. "But, you know what, some of them are local managers or they're from somewhere else, and they want to impress somebody, I don't know."
3 Sweet Girls Cakery is located in Silverton, not far from Kenwood. Its website had listed its location as Kenwood. When brought to the attention of owner Lisa Ebbert, it was changed to read "Located in Silverton Ohio near Kenwood Ohio."
"No one's ever said a word about any of it to me, honestly," Ebbert said. "We drive a lot of business from the internet, and it's more people saying, 'Where are you?' So, we're like a mile from Kenwood (Towne Centre). More people know Kenwood, less people know Silverton.
"There's a lot going on in Silverton," she continued, "so that's probably the least of the things they're thinking about. We like Silverton, we like where we are. It's really just descriptive to help people know where we are."
The Better Business Bureau states in its Code of Advertising, "Advertisers have a responsibility to have substantiation for all claims made and should be able to provide that substantiation upon request. All advertising that may mislead or deceive consumers should be avoided."
But Sandra Guile, the Cincinnati BBB's community outreach specialist, says that at least for the cycle shop and the cakery, there doesn't seem to be a problem.
"It appears both businesses are transparent about their location, which according to the map could be interpreted as close to one neighborhood or another," she said. "When we pursue issues of a business who is not transparent about their location, it is generally related to an illegal scam or business obscuring their location so that consumers would be unable to address issues such as corrections to incomplete work or refunds for products and services not delivered. This doesn't appear to be the case.
"A business that is attempting to increase its sales from another area of town, while it may be across the street or a half-mile down the road in a different neighborhood, is generally not an issue BBB would monitor," Guile said.
Guile recommends contacting the BBB if there are complaints related to this issue or others.
For cities like Norwood, which is currently in a fiscal emergency and whose image is more industrial, it can still sting.
"I'll take my fiscal emergency over what Cincinnati's got any day. How's that for a trade?" Williams said. "If that's all I got to worry about, shoot, I need to find something to do. Boy, sometimes it makes some of our people furious. I just consider the source. I worry about something that really counts.
"The only thing you won't see us do," he added, "is put a sweater around our neck or put our sunglasses up around our head."