Why I cheat at Foursquare

Foursquare is a mix of social media technology, mobile technology and GPS technology, resulting in a service that is broken and difficult. It is the best example I’ve ever seen of making lemons out of lemonade.

Special note: This all may be true of the other social check in service Gowalla, but I haven’t used it since I have an Android phone. So a lot of this complaining may not be particular to Foursquare – it’s just the only one I have access to in order to complain about it.

Examples of Foursquare's meaningless baubles - er, badges.

Foursquare cheating is a major problem for… well, people who like to use Foursquare. What’s Foursquare? The latest social media fad, which allows you to “check in” to locations through your mobile phone, so people can know where you’re having lunch or getting gas – because that’s seriously important stuff to know.

And what’s cheating in this sense? It’s doing any number of things to elevate your non-existant Foursquare status. See, there are points and mayorships on Foursquare that you get by using the site – the points are meaningless, and everyone’s still trying to figure out why they issue them.

The mayorships are more about bragging rights, though some of the more ambitious businesses give prizes or specials to their mayors as a carrot on a stick to get more people coming in.

Which is smart – if you have that many dummies going to a business just so their phone can tell them “good job,” by all means get those suckers to come in!

So you can gain points and mayorships by checking into places you aren’t at, checking into places multiple times, or doing any number of other things that misrepresent where you are. I actually came up with a couple on my own, which I think are, frankly, ingenious.

You see, I have a problem with Foursquare as a concept. First, I’m not all that wild about letting complete strangers know I am not at home right now, so please feel free to come on over and rob me. Some Foursquare maniacs actually check into their home address using Foursquare, so they can become the “Mayor” of their own homes.

I often think about going over to these people’s places, parking on the street and “checking in” to their homes. What a thrill it would be ¬†for them to realize I’d become their mayor when they weren’t paying attention!

The second problem I have with Foursquare is the technology is ass. Not just Foursquare’s, but my phone’s. Foursquare uses my GPS location to determine if I am really where I say I am. As a result, when I try to legitimately check into my local Target store, Foursquare tells me I am actually 500 meters away. I’m standing in the middle of the store, and my own phone is telling me otherwise.

There are many times I’d like to send a picture to Foursquare and say, “No! Really! I’m right here! Check me in you bastards!”

Finally, there are a number of people who go crazy when you cheat on Foursquare – a service they do not pay for, that they have no stake in.

Bottom line: Foursquare is a buggy service with inherent security flaws, used by whining bastards who, ostensibly, want to socialize with me so I can see their fake accomplishments.

I know what you’re saying: “Where can I sign up!?!”

Therefore, I fully intend to keep cheating at Foursquare, not because I’m in it to earn bragging rights or a false sense of accomplishment. That’s what the actual users of Foursquare use it for.

Instead, I will continue to do this because it is the best way to show my discontent. I will not shrug my shoulders and say, “oh well” when their server is busy, or they get inflexible about my GPS location. I will not not cheat just so other users don’t have their day ruined.

If and when this service ever works correctly, I’ll play along. Until then, the gloves are off.

And if I get kicked off of the site, so be it – I’ll take that as a response in itself: “Sorry, but it’s just easier for us to get rid of you than to improve the way our site works.”

Whatever – I’ve still got Brightkite, which has the virtue of consistently working.


    1. Your phone tells you that you’re so far away because GPS can’t be tracked unless you’re in open air, and instead, your phone is going off of towers, which is a much less accurate measurement. So, not Foursquare’s problem at all. The only way for them to make it fool proof is to only allow QR or NFC check ins. But then again, people could always take a picture of the QR code, and check in with that picture forever, from wherever.

      1. Thanks – fair point. But however it falls, it’s a drag and definitely diminishes my 4sqr experience.

        Perhaps that should be my next complaining post: Cell phone companies should stop saying they have “GPS” when they really don’t.

  1. I know this was posted eons ago, but I do get a little rattled about some cheating. I tell businesses about 4sq and get on an average $20 a week in free or discounted stuff, one week I got a free dinner at an expensive restaurant for maintaining mayorship for a month. So cheating does irk me when it takes away a chance I legitimately earn to get freebies for being a loyal customer. My husband’s ex checks into my bank, where she doesn’t have an account and checks into my city hall, and she doesn’t live in the city therefore has no business being there. She’d check into my work if she could find it, she stalks all of my mayorships, some she manages to take while she’s at work and miles away (???). Stealing my mayorship of the dog run, whatever, you can manage the poo that doesn’t get picked up. Cracks me up that there’s a kid in my town that changes stuff and she always accuses me of doing it (he created the venues she grabs mayorships of and he renames them). I guess it’s paybacks for me not getting that free Dairy Queen ice cream cake for my son’s birthday, huh?

    1. This is an old post, from before Foursquare learned how to monitize their site. So bear that in mind while reading.

      That having been said, if gaming a system is as easy to do as Foursquare is, the only thing keeping anyone from doing it is being a nice person. Since I am not a nice person, that means it’s Foursquare’s job to keep their system from being abused by the likes of me.

      In truth, I don’t think I’ve even installed the Foursquare app to my phone since I wrote this piece. While it’s still popular to a certain extent, it’s not what it was. It’s fallen down to the level of other quasi-social apps like GetGlue. (Other services like Pinterest and Instagr.am will be there soon.)

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