An analysis of the value of community-submitted POIs for major retail chains

Nov 29, 2010
Hello all,

I've spent several hours downloading and examining many of the community-produced chain-specific POI databases available through TomTom (e.g., Target, Trader Joes, CVS, etc.), and I've come to some conclusions I'd like to share. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts, since I'm new at this:

1. Broadly speaking, all the big retail, motel, pharmacy, restaurant, etc. chains (Borders, Coffee Bean, Target, Staples, CVS, Ralphs, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Motel6, etc.) are already included within the standard TomTom-provided database. Further, after carefully comparing several of the community-produced chain-specific databases with what TomTom supplies (verifying against the store locator websites for these chains) I found that, in general, to the extent there were discrepancies, the errors were almost always in the community-produced POI files. [Most typically, this was for stores that were recently opened or recently closed; i.e., the main advantage of the TomTom-supplied information seems simply that it is kept more up-to-date.] Thus, if a chain is already included in the TomTom-supplied standard download, it seems there is no need to (and it is perhaps best not to, in order to avoid being misled) additionally download a chain-specific database from the TomTom community (or at least, if the TomTom community database says there is a store but the TomTom database doesn’t, then you should call that store to make sure it is really there).

2. An exception to the above is for stores that are sparsely located, like Ikea and REI, such that the ones closest to you might not be close at all. So, while REI and Ikea are in the standard TomTom database, if I try searching for one using "POI near home," it will say there are none, because the closest REI and Ikea stores are 4.5 and 11.0 miles away, respectively, which puts them too far down the list. However, if you’ve separately downloaded the REI- and IKEA-specific databases, then they will indeed appear when you search under "POI near home.”

[There are ways to address the above limitation of the standard TomTom database, but they work only partially: First, I find if I restrict my search to the appropriate subcategory (in this case, "Shop"), it will find the Ikea but, surprisingly, not the REI. Second, I can find either store easily if, instead of searching under "POI near home," I use “POI in city” and specify Santa Monica for REI or Burbank for Ikea (I'm in LA, so they don't come up in my city). But of course that’s only useful if you know which city they’re in. It's certainly not helpful if, for instance, you’re driving back from a ski resort and want to stop at an REI on the way (say to replace the goggles you just broke), and want to know where the closest ones are; and searching for those using the "POI along route" option doesn’t necessarily work, because it may be that the one along the TomTom-suggested route requires a significant detour, but the one along an alternate route might require a minor detour. ]

It's too bad that, in cases where a POI search turns up no results, that TomTom does not give us the option of expanding the search to successively larger surrounding areas.

3. Another possible exception to what I've written in no. 1, above, could be if, say, you have a prescription with Walgreens, and you are traveling in a rural area where Walgreens stores are few and far between. Then, as with the Ikea and REI examples, you might only be able to easily find the nearest (but still distant) Walgreens if you have downloaded the community-produced Walgreens-specific database. I haven't tested this, though (it may be that, in a rural area, the "POI near you" search would have a larger radius than in a city; see no. 5, below).

4. An additional exception I found is for CVS, since the CVS-specific database, usefully, says which are the “24 hour” locations.

5. I wonder if the limitation on how close something must be to turn up in "POI near home" or "POI near you" is based on distance, or instead the number of POIs through which it must search. Hopefully it's the latter---in which case, in densely populated areas, limiting the search to the nearest x number of points of interest might limit you to a few miles. However, in a sparsely populated area, that same numerical limitation could mean it would be searching the nearest, say, hundred miles. The latter would be consistent with the fact that, in LA, one can pull up, say, Ikeas in "POI near home" only when you have a separate Ikea database---because in that case the closest (but still distant) Ikeas, while they may be far down the “Shop” list, are at the top of the Ikea-specific list. I.e., the search routine may limit it to searching down through a fixed number of items within each POI category.
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