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March 19th, 2008, 04:42 PM #1rrggghh: the bad guys
Rrrggghhh I don't want to name this program since they didn't do anything wrong and not sure naming them would be the right thing to do, either. I liked this merchant, tho and had links on a couple of pages for them. Just received this email from them:
"We appreciate the time and effort you put into our Affiliate Program and we will miss you.
However, we find it necessary to close our affiliate program. We have discovered that some affiliates used our name for advertising on Google & MSN and are sending emails using our name without our permission. We know that many of you are honest and hard-working and we appreciate your partnership with us. But, we do not have the resources to monitor the ones who obviously do not honor contractual agreements."
I'll go back to editing my site in a moment but am really starting to get quite annoyed by these type of affiliates.
I've corresponded with another small merchant who's program may not survive either. All of you affiliate managers know I love ya, but you guys should not have to spend so much of your time trying to find out which affiliates are violating your terms in regards to trademarks, cookie stuffing, posting other affiliates exclusive codes, etc.
I'll probably get myself in trouble with others but gonna say it anyway. There was another thread about a small merchant who found out affiliates were bidding on their name and took a lot of heat from some members for choosing to terminate them. (May not have been quite the prettiest way of donig things but it was done in an honest attempt to be fair to his other affiliates who were not doing anything wrong and an attempt to protect his family business. He volunteered to be the affiliate manager for his family's business and has been working very hard to make it a good progam and I think he's been very fair to his affiliates and has been communicating with them. He did attempt to talk with those he felt shouldn't have been doing what they were before terminating them. )
Maybe I am just too naive but I know the difference between right and wrong. If you're an affiliate and are in a program that obviously has a verrrry new affiliate manager who doesn't know all the things he or she should know yet or if there is no affiliate manager and it's just the merchant running the program and they obviously don't know about this stuff either (don't say they shouldn't be the affiliate manager or should hire somebody else. Everybody has to start somewhere and none of us start out knowing everything. People need time to learn and not everybody is perfect)....if you are one of the affiliates who are doing the trademark stuff (I realize if it's not in the terms you feel you are not doing anything wrong and technially you're not) but come on.....be honest....it's one of those gotchas. Can't you just email or call the person running the program and ask them if they have any objections to your bidding on their trademark?
There are plenty of programs out there that have no objections to bidding on their name or other words, which is fine. I have absolutely no problem at all with any of you doing that when it's done without violating any terms. I could do it if I wanted to, so not saying it's wrong. But, please can't those of you who do the trademark stuff, check with the person in charge first before doing so, (if it's a program where you know it's a case where it hadn't been put into the terms because they just weren't aware of the fact that they had to do that. Having an affiliate manager manage their program would obviously be the best thing for that merchant but evidently some just can't afford to do so) then if they do terminate those doing it they won't get attacked for doing so. Honestly feel there's a bit of taking advantage of their lack of knowledge on the subject by some people. Am definitely not accusing anybody here but do think some people are just trying to see what they can get away with and are kinda like pouncing on the weak ones cos they know they can probably get away with it cos they just don't know enough or have the resources or time to spend on it.
It's not right. (I know, a lot of things aren't right and things aren't fair) a small merchant should not be pushed outa this business cos of the bad guys and those of us who aren't doin anything wrong should not be the ones who end up hurting from it either. Not a real big deal for me, just changing a few pages of links, but between that and finding my coupons on more and more bad guy sites...they start to add up after a while. Along with the fact I'm seeing more of the bad guys ranking higher naturally in search results cos of unethical methods they're using.
Those who are doing the trademark stuff when they know it's not allowed.....rrrggghhh You not only are causing some smaller merchants to end their programs due partly to what you're doing, you're also making my poor little eyes glaze over having to read each of these new terms that have been sent now, people are revising their terms and making it more difficult for others who aren't doing anything wrong and in this case, smaller merchants are going under due to this. As to the exclusive coupon stuff....that would be a whole other long post.
Ok, I'm finished 'ng. Got it all outa my system now. And I just told somebody I don't log in here all the time cos I get sidetracked. lol Yeap, was minding my own business hard at work editing my site, get that email... then here I am. lol
Moderator: I'm sorry if this isn't where it should be. Thought about it first but couldn't figure where the proper place would be for it. Since it was about general unethical affiliates figured maybe here. You can move it or even delete it if you want since it's just my babblin on lol
ok, back to my site now lol
March 19th, 2008, 04:49 PM #2
- Join Date
- January 18th, 2005
- Nunya, Business
Avantlink has a setup that helps with that. Where they have it in the Terms that affiliates can't bid on the TM unless they have permission from the merchant. I think Eathan did a post on his blog about it, going thru the top list of merchants at SAS and documenting some stuff. That's why I've wanted networks to have it so merchants can't launch until they have a clear set of PPC rules in place. Cooking stuffing a lot of networks have rules against it, forced clicks, they seem to be ok with based on past threads of inaction from networks and leave it up to the merchants. Merchants just need more education up front before launching. Understanding the different issues, clear set of rules, then monitoring and they should be ok.
March 19th, 2008, 05:14 PM #3
purplebear always good get it out of system, we need it once in a while as these cases frustrations will do it to ya, lol
Totally agree with you Trust and purplebear, the bad guys are making it difficult for you good guys/girls. I just declined 8 affiliates from EF. Two are still in non- compliance and doing ppc trademark. Even when programs are old they stil get in and do what they do without regard to any TOS so while I agree with you Trust that new merchants getting in to the network should have a clear TOS, the bad ones can try and want to get away with it three months or three years later even with a good TOS.
Agree with Avantlink too and very good idea by default that Avantlink has that in place not to allow affiliates to bid on the TM, unless there is a TOS in place from the merchant saying so.
March 19th, 2008, 05:23 PM #4
Yep, the bad affiliates hurt us all. How many programs have shut down because of bad affiliates? (Okay, probably not many.) How many don't auto-accept affiliates because of the bad apples? (Most!) How many pay lower commissions to compensate for the lower value that they receive from some affiliates? (Many?) How many cut back on the number of affiliates in their program at least partially because of the cost of policing affiliates? (A growing number.) Jason Calacanis had it right. The bad affiliates are polluting the pond.
March 19th, 2008, 05:41 PM #5
- Join Date
- January 18th, 2005
And it seems it's getting worse everyday. (Especially after each big affiliate meeting) Many "pseudo" affiliates should not be in that business. They get in for the money not to generate sales. They have it backward.
Over the years I saw a few good merchants obliged to close their affiliate programs because of bad affiliates and it hurts.
March 19th, 2008, 07:27 PM #6
" purplebear always good get it out of system, we need it once in a while as these cases frustrations will do it to ya, lol"
lolThanks guys for bein patient with me lol and lettin me
Trust, you're absolutely correct. I totally forgot and do remember reading somewhere Gary posting about that. Gary will have his little ears burnin lol but in a perfect affiliate world, I wish all the networks behaved like AL. I love them and can honestly say I can't think of a thing negative to say about them. Cept, maybe some of the tools are a bit tough for my little non-techie brain lol but I know if I asked either Scott or Gary they'd take the time to explain it to me til I did.
Am gonna have to go look up Eathan's blog and read it.
"That's why I've wanted networks to have it so merchants can't launch until they have a clear set of PPC rules in place.:"
Dummy question but why can't they just do that? I'm sure it's just a matter of the legal brainy ones simply writing one that covers it...probably would take all of 5 minutes for someone who knew how to do it.
The cookie stuffing frustrates the hockey sticks outa me, too. That doesn't seem so tough for me to understand either. Very few incidences where it's actually really questionable and agree with you, for whatever reason it's not enforced by quite a few affiliate managers and certainly not the networks. I definitely applaud the ones who do. Don't know if some of it has to do with people they may like who are doin some of it so they may be friends with them or maybe it just hurts them financially if the affiliate is a big enough one if they try to enforce it or what the reason is. Won't go off on that subject. lol
Totally agree about the merchants. I've even emailed a few I felt bad for cos I knew they didn't stand a chance of other affiliates joining their programs cos of their boo boos. It was just a matter of them bein really good at running their business but not having a clue about leaks, etc. that we affiliates don't take too kindly to. lol They thanked me but I was happy to let em know cos if no affiliates sign up for their programs and I like their program, it's not gonna stay a program for very long. Plus, kinda just like helpin people, too. Makes me feel good. They really should have even just a very basic requirement before they start or even post here under the new announcements.
psst.... Michael, when I've emailed them I've told em to look at your signature and to try to make the time to read those posts and I've given them the links to other posts here. There are probably some really good programs out there that just go nowhere cos the merchants just don't have a clue before they start. (Am not bein negative about them, they can't be expected to know about something when they don't know it exists. that sounds silly but think ya know what I mean. ) Agree with everything you said. I didn't attend the summit so only know the bits and pieces I've read here about what Jason said. So, can't really comment on him.
Jorge - think I already did thank you but will thank you again for strictly enforcing your terms cos that is good for us affiliates, too.
Michael - The bigger merchants it may not effect but I'm sure there are some of the little guys out there like the one I mentioned and I know of another who I've corresponded with.
It's tough enough having a small business and profit margins can be very slim especially when you're just starting so all this bad stuff has to really eat at their profits. Some may survive but is a shame that so much of their time has to be spent on weeding out this kinda stuff (if they even know it exists) Owning your own business is a dream for a lot of people and it's just such a shame that all their hard work in the beginning with their programs is negated by a lot of this stuff.
I know I get defensive lol gettin a little better at it. when the couponers (have learned we vary quite a bit ) are lumped together, so agree that the bad guys are polluting the pond.
Zeus - I haven't been doin this but for a fairly short time compared to the rest of you, but in the period of time I have, it does seem like it's gotten out of control recently. That I guess or I'm just paying more attention to it.
Will publicly thank you, too. You were very nice earlier on when I asked you about some of the bad guy terms and took the time to explain quite a few of them to me. Probably don't remember, but I do and was very nice of you to do so.
Guess it goes back to what Trust said....why can't all the networks just make up very clear terms that cover all this stuff and then enforce it. It is soooo frustrating and demoralzing at times that they don't. When I said before about some of the bad guys ranking better than me for some keywords or phrases that I used to rank better for that's what I meant about it bein demoralizing. I'm not gonna do what the bad guys do cos I just couldn't live with myself (am not sayin I'm an angel or better than anybody, just to my way of thinking I couldn't.) When ya see the way they do things and then see them ranking well on top of it...rrrgghh. lol
Who rattled my cage today? lol
March 19th, 2008, 10:34 PM #7
I also have to chime in with my own kudos to AvantLink for having a network-wide policy against TM bidding. Their policy basically says "no TM bidding, unless expressly allowed by individual merchants". There's just a lot less animosity in a system where merchants are asked to make informed decisions to expressly allow well known questionable practices rather than to prohibit them.
As for my blog entry/entries, they aren't great, was just venting a bit of frustration at the ubiquity of the problem. Literally every program, regardless of their terms, has it happen sooner or later (usually sooner), and I wish more of the networks would address the issue rather than leaving it up to affiliates and merchants to play cops and robbers. They're the service provider after all...Eathan Mertz
Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment
March 20th, 2008, 10:24 AM #8
I'm going to buck the prevailing sentiment here a tad (though I don't disagree at all with what others have posted)...
Closing because of a few bad apples is weak, there's too much to gain by learning the ropes and enforcing your policies a tad better. My gut tells me this program has other troubles that have made them close.
An ethical OPM could be hired to handle things and educate the merchant along the way, not to mention improve recruiting among many other advantages. There are tiers of OPMs (at different cost levels) and I'm confident one can be found for even the smallest of programs where their business makes any sense at all in the online marketplace.
Their are many small merchants that I know who have managed to understand value and find ways to mostly get it while efficiently avoiding the trash Calcanis pointed to, it can be done and great things can be accomplished doing it.
If not this issue, something else would have sunk them... you won't miss them as much as you're now imagining.
March 20th, 2008, 10:54 AM #9
- Join Date
- January 18th, 2005
It can't always be done. Hiring an OPM is expensive and finding a good one is not easy. My last experience is with a small merchant, a leader in his niche. I signed up with them in 1996, then they joined LinkShare, left in 2001 to start again their own program. (Just to say I know them pretty well) They had to give up a few months ago. The owner was also the AM. He had so many problems with bad affiliates bidding on his trademarked company name, making exact copy of his website, using emailing (even if it was prohibited), using the wrong places, or promoting brands excluded from the program. It was not fun for him anymore. He spent a fortune in legal fee (to fight the bad affiliates and to repair the damages done by others). I've always been paid on time, every month all these years and I got my last check this month. The company don't have other problems. I'm not too happy, but I understand the guy.
March 20th, 2008, 12:19 PM #10
I've tried to avoid posting in this thread, but I just can't any longer. Purplebear, I'm not sure if you are referring to some of my recent posts or not, but I just felt that I needed to jump in here.
First, before anyone thinks that I am defending or trying to justify my behavior, let me point out that I do not bid on trademarks, brand names or domain names (with one exception, that isn't relevant here). I do not scrape merchants sites and I tend to think of myself as a highly ethical person. The three R's that I've always lived by are"Respect for myself, Respect for others and Responsibility for ALL of my actions".
I view affiliate marketing as a business first and foremost. Yes it is a business that I enjoy probably more than any other than I've been engaged in, but it is still a business. That being said, businesses have rules. Affiliate marketing is not on some parallel universe that allows it to exist outside of those rules. And ignorance of the rules has never been a good excuse for one not being able to do their job effectively in the real world.
I also like to think of myself as a reasonable person (some may not agree). As a reasonable person I am willing to make reasonable allowances for the experience level of those that I choose to do business with. However, I do not consider it reasonable that I should understand the TOS of a particular merchant better than their own AM. Especially given that I am working with dozens of merchants and their various terms and conditions while the typical AM is only working with, at most, a handful. If they are working with dozens, I would expect them to devise a system that allows them to keep abreast of the various Ts and Cs in each individual program. There is accountability in business, and "I didn't know" isn't a very good excuse for breaking the rules of business.
And while I think that it is a shame that merchants need to spend so much time policing their programs because of unscrupulous affiliates, unfortunately that's part of the job. Frankly I'd rather they spent that time helping me make more money, but realities are that there will always be unscrupulous individuals that will lie, cheat and steal to get ahead. It's no different here than it is in the "real world".
Please also take note. I never defended any particular behavior. Actually, I didn't take a side for or against the behavior of the affiliates in question. What I did side with were the rules. Like it or not, life has rules. There were rules on the playground growing up, and there are rules now. The difference is that this is no longer a game. This is my livelihood and I can't afford to work with those that either don't understand the rules or make a conscious decision to ignore them.
If you've paid attention to my posts, you'll notice that I've been very consistent in my stance. I will always side with those that play by the rules, no matter how unpopular their actions. And I will always oppose those that break the rules, regardless of how much I sympathize with them.
We need to get away from the idea that allowances should be made because we all like each other (OK, some more than others). The saying "Good fences make good neighbors" applies here also.
-rematt"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon
March 30th, 2008, 04:34 PM #11
"Closing because of a few bad apples is weak, there's too much to gain by learning the ropes and enforcing your policies a tad better. My gut tells me this program has other troubles that have made them close."
That may very well have been the situation, don't disagree with that at all. The trademark stuff may have just been the last straw, don't know. My only point was and I don't live in la la land (altho at times it would definitely be nice, I don't know, maybe at times I do.) I just think it's a shame for anybody who dreams of having a small business, puts all of the money, time, effort and in many cases a lot of heart and soul into it has to have it go under (even if it's just a contributing factor) cos of people doin this.
I admit I don't understand all that's involved in it but looking at it, I don't like what I see. I do disagree with your point about hiring an opm. For a couple of reasons, trust could be an issue for them, some may just not want any outsider involved in their business and do think that there are financial issues, too. I believe there are a lot of really great opms (definitely have my favorites) and many would be affordable but still don't think some small businesses might be able to afford them. Don't think cos of that the little guy business should have to suffer cos of somebody doin something that I think is wrong.
rematt - I deliberately did not name anybody in my post cos I didn't want it to appear as tho I was singling anybody out. I haven't had the time to even read that entire thread but yeap, I can't help it. I do think that there were some remarks made in it that I believe weren't necessary. I'm very sorry if what I posted made you feel as tho I was singling you out. I do think some things as I said crossed the line but think it was probably due to strong feelings by some and maybe counting to 10 they may not have been said.
Am not quite sure if you think I was implying you were doin the bad trademark stuff? If so, definitely wanna make that very clear. I do not. I don't doubt your ethics at all. Don't personally know you, but from what I've read in your posts I think you are a very ethical person. I don't wanna turn this into a debate or anything but think we probably just have a difference of opinion on the trademark stuff and hmm not sure how to word it. Guess will just repeat what I said. In the case of the one merchant I was referring to, they didn't have any terms regarding that and have a feelin they didn't have a clue that they needed any. Can only say for myself that if I were to do any trademark bidding, if I didn't see any terms regarding it, I would ask the affiliate manager or merchant first before doing so. may be I'm just bein naive or whatever but that's what I'd do. That particular program......if somebody was in it, they had to have been aware at least in my opinion that there weren't terms cos they didn't know they needed it. This was a program being managed by the guy who made the product (wasn't an affiliate manager) then a family member who had never been an affiliate manager took it over. Again, just my opinion but I honestly feel that those doin the trademark stuff realized that and took advantage of the situation.
When he realized terms were necessary to have, he had them made up and in his emails to the affiliates said that he was willing to speak to those involved with it. I don't believe what he did was wrong. A family member (which had never been an affiliate manager before and only volunteered for it to try to help the family business) trying to look after their family business to me was not wrong in what he did.
I mentioned that thread in my post cos I guess when I made the post I was pretty frustrated trying to edit my site, reading another one of the emails revising the terms (been sooooo many of em lately) and then finding out I was goin backwards cos instead of placing things on my site I was gonna have to remove links then try to figure out where to find another to replace them.
Guess it's in my nature to try to stick up for the little guy maybe, too but I had read some of that other thread, and yeap took a lot of restraint on my part to stop myself from commenting in it. I'm not a confrontational person at all, but as I said (am not sayin what they were cos I don't wanna single out anybody) some things that were said about him, I just don't think were fair. Opinions are fine and disagreements are fine but when they start to take a personal tone to them to somebody that I don't think deserved to have it coming ....guess I shoulda maybe kept my mouth shut but since I was already frustrated....out it came.
I'm gonna stop my babblin and will just say that I am very, very sorry if you feel I said anything that singled you out. I don't doubt your ethics at all and if you took it that way, it certainly was not my intention. I respectfully disagree with several of your opinions stated on this and think we just think a little differently bout some things but in no way was I attacking you. I wasn't for a minute saying anythig about not following rules, guess we just have a difference of opinion on what he was doin. I don't think he was violating any rules. But, I don't wanna debate this. I think you have nothin but the highest of ethics and think I do, too. We just maybe look at things a little different at times. Definitely am not questioning yours and very sorry if you felt I was.
March 31st, 2008, 12:41 AM #12
Purplebear don't worry, I very seldom take anything personally unless it draws blood. I have absolutely no problem with you, you're one of my favorite people here. I've stated plenty of times that it takes a number of different opinions to get a clear picture of any issue and there is very seldom a single correct answer.
I know that it seems that I've been taking a very unpopular stance on a very unpopular topic. But in actuality I'm not. I'm just saying rules are rules. I feel for the merchant that you are referring to, but I have to temper my feelings with the realization that I am also a small business owner. And as a business owner, contracts and the law are really all that I have to protect me. The merchant that you speak of had the same protections whether they effectively took advantage of them or not.
I'm not being sarcastic when I say that I wish this were a world that didn't require contracts. Believe it or not, I'm an idealist. I think it would be great if everyone knew, understood and played by the rules. But as you can see from all of these different posts, and the amount of dissension in various threads, we can't even seem to agree on what the rules are, much less how they should be enforced. One merchant's preference is considered distasteful by another. One may allow a particular practice while another may be adamantly against it. That's fine as long as they clearly outline their preferences and adhere to the rules that they themselves create. Remember, as affiliates, we don't write the TOS, we can accept it, we can reject it, we can attempt to renegotiate it, but we never initiate it.
What distresses me more than anything else is the blatant disregard for the rules by some affiliates, merchants, AMs and OPMs. History has always shown that wherever there is an opportunity there will be those wiling to break the rules to capitalize on that opportunity. But there is absolutely no excuse for a merchant or their representative to disregard their own rules. They wrote them. And if they neglected to write the appropriate rules for their program it's really hard for me to sympathize. It's difficult enough to keep track of what they DO say in their TOS, it's impossible to adhere to what they DON'T say.
I have been particularly angered and annoyed by a couple of AMs that have made unwarranted accusations against affiliates based on a lack of understanding. In one case the AM referred to his other affiliates as "honest" insinuating that this particular affiliate was dishonest when the affiliate broke no rule. As it turns out the AM was too - new, stupid, ignorant, unknowing, green, naive - (pick the phrase you like) to include a rule against the practice. And in this case the affiliate was apparently supposed to know the AM's job better than the AM.
I am equally angered by affiliates that use techniques that are not only against network and merchant TOS, but couldn't be justified ethically even if there were no prohibitions against them. Theft is theft and what they are doing is stealing from the merchant as well as their fellow affiliates.
And then we're no better. We've somehow acquired a lynch mob mentality without knowing or understanding all of the facts. We attack and condemn solely on the word of an AM that admits that they were too new to include desired terms in their TOS. Businesses have been ruined and reputations damaged on much less. Let's at least know the facts before we choose sides.
As I've said before, affiliate marketing doesn't take place outside of the rules of business, making up the rules as we go along just isn't acceptable.
Or perhaps this IS the wild west, and the rules really don't apply.
-rematt"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon
April 8th, 2008, 11:47 AM #13
- Join Date
- September 28th, 2006
As an AM, I think it is important to partner with the affiliates I know There's a level of trust there. I think the industry has taken a turn for the worse with the invasion of the bad apples.
I see the industry like eBay. It was great in the beginning. Then the bad people started scamming everyone, but there are still good people out there. Many people are leaving eBay because they don't want to deal with all the "overseas buyers and sellers".
It is true, I do let in fewer affiliates because you never know who are the bad apples. I don't want to do that, but it's a reality.