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  1. #1
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    As I've read more and more posts in the CJ forum, I've noticed that the bulk of them are either complaining about CJ or about merchants who reverse transactions. The discussions tend to be one-sided since few merchants participate and CJ seems to be reading, but no longer replying. I understand the need to reach out to fellow affiliates and see if others are having the same problems, but at some point, you have to stop wasting your time complaining and do something about it.

    The complaints about reversals hit home because we've been accused of cheating by one particular member here who refuses to back up his claim with facts. He (or she) has an agenda to coerce all merchants to never reverse another transaction again. I've got thoughts about that, but I'll save them for another rant.

    The main point I want go get across today is don't just complain, do something! If you really think a merchant is cheating, work together as a group and prove it. If you can get proof, that can be taken either to the press or to law enforcement. How do you prove a merchant is cheating? Put your money (at least a little of it) where your mouth is.

    If each of you placed a real order with the suspect merchant and kept the merchandise, in theory, not a single transaction should be reversed. If even one transaction is reversed, the merchant is suspect. If more than one transaction is reversed, you've got a smoking gun.

    For this to work, though, you have to be credible. Keep good records of each transaction (when you clicked on your own banner/link, the time of the order, the items ordered, dollar amount, print the source code for the order receipt page, keep all emails from the merchant, note when the item was received, etc.) If even one member falsifies their results, it will ruin the whole test. When you identify a cheating merchant, one member should gather all the evidence from the others, make copies, and distribute them to the press and authorities.

    Somebody is bound to listen. If just one merchant is tarred and feathered in public, it might be a deterrent for other merchants who have been or were thinking about cheating.

    The beauty of this method is it spreads the financial cost around. Each of you only has to place one test order with the targeted merchant. You can use a private discussion to invite the members you trust to participate. Obviously, a public thread about an ongoing test could alert the merchant.

    If none of your test orders are reversed, though, it may not prove they aren't cheating, but it certainly makes it less likely.

    What do you think? Would this work?

    Doug

    HENRY & JUNE LINGERIE
    Fax: +1-775-825-8867
    nospam_partners@henryandjune.com
    http://www.henryandjune.com

  2. #2
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    It would work, and that type of system was discussed in the past, but not implemented.

    For now it is easier to just drop merchants who reverse a lot or have low conversions (I did drop H&J about a year ago for those reasons). There are good merchants out there. Some of the honest ones reverse a lot, but it is easier to drop them and move on to a good low-reversal merchant.

    I think the networks and merchants should take responsibility, and not keep dumping it on the affiliates to be the watchdogs.

  3. #3
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Super idea which I've preached since Y2001. The secret shopper service where a shady merchant is laid bare for all to see. Their spin efforts to undo the PR damage will be hilarious. Bad side effect would be the networks would pull sections of their reporting interfaces that give reversal information or hints on poor conversion ratios. I think Haiko plans to implement a merchant grading system that will factor in non-reporting, no cookies -payment history and reversals into report card image. A secret shopper section would draw consumer traffic to this site as they assume those who shaft their partners would shaft them too.

    Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! BBQ some Gator and remember to flush WhenU..

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador Akiva's Avatar
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    Doug,

    Ditto! I'm with ya - although we've never been accused of cheating.

    BTW Doug and I target two different markets.

    Akiva Bergstrom
    Business Development
    akiva@essentialapparel.com
    800-556-2937 ext 751
    www.essentialapparel.com
    6% PER SALE ~ RECURRING COMMISSIONS FOR 1 YEAR ~ ABW MEMBERS CONVERT AT LESS THAN 1/30 ~ DEDICATED AM WHO'LL DO ALMOST ANYTHING ~ TONS OF CASH WAITING TO BE TAKEN!

  5. #5
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    This isn't foolproof. Let's take things from the point of view of a merchant who wants to cheat publishers out of referrals.

    There's only one way to be caught; by reversing a valid transaction that a publisher put in himself.

    Will a publisher buy $500 worth of merchandise to see if a merchant is cheating? No, he will buy the minimum amount, or close to it.

    Therefore if the merchant merely reverses 10% of all high-dollar orders, they are virtually guaranteed to never be caught. If by some chance they do get caught, they can just say "whoops, we reversed that one in error because the credit card company raised a flag with us".

    Also, why should the publisher have to do this policing? Isn't that why CJ exists?

    I think that the goal should be that no transactions are reversed fraudulently, or that CJ can do audits on merchants in some way. I don't know if this is even achievable, but if there is some slack in the system, the bad merchants will use it.

    http://www.hockeydb.com

  6. #6
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    quote:
    if the merchant merely reverses 10% of all high-dollar orders, they are virtually guaranteed to never be caught.


    True, but I think you're stating the extreme case. I've been reading posts where affiliates are saying most or all of their transactions are being reversed. Are they all high dollar amounts?

    quote:
    If by some chance they do get caught, they can just say "whoops, we reversed that one in error because the credit card company raised a flag with us".


    Under what conditions can a merchant explain away the reversal of a good order that was shipped and not returned for a refund? The whole point of this is to have proof that a merchant is cheating. Sure, they can deny it, but that's what evidence is for.

    quote:
    why should the publisher have to do this policing? Isn't that why CJ exists?


    This is a common complaint, and while I'm not here to defend CJ (I have lots of issues with them, but being a merchant, they're different from yours), I disagree that it's their responsibility. To use an analogy, if a store in a shopping mall is cheating customers, the customers aren't going to file a complaint with the mall owner, they're going to complain to the police. However, to the extent that CJ can provide tools (i.e., reports) to help identify fraud, they should. In addition, when given proof that a merchant is cheating, they should terminate the merchant immediately. Ideally, we should all work together to solve this instead of pointing fingers. Hey, I'm willing to place test orders!

    Doug

    HENRY & JUNE LINGERIE
    Fax: +1-775-825-8867
    nospam_partners@henryandjune.com
    http://www.henryandjune.com

  7. #7
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    quote:
    For now it is easier to just drop merchants who reverse a lot or have low conversions (I did drop H&J about a year ago for those reasons). There are good merchants out there. Some of the honest ones reverse a lot, but it is easier to drop them and move on to a good low-reversal merchant.


    I'm sorry we didn't work out for you, jimbo2002. Some affiliates do very well and others don't. We're a niche business and our products aren't for every audience. If another merchant (lingerie or non-lingerie) works better, I would do the same thing if I were in your shoes.

    When we offer products in our store, we're faced with a similar dilemma. Some products have high return rates, but they sell like crazy. Ultimately, all that matters is are we making a profit on that item? If so, the high return rate isn't relevant. Likewise, affiliates should factor in how much their net take is, not just on the raw reversal rate. When it comes to network earnings, we're second only to Frederick's ($$$$ versus $$$$$) amongst pure lingerie retailers.

    I'm certainly bothered by our low EPC, though. Part of that is due to the way CJ handles product links (are we the only sexy lingerie merchant that offers product links?). If the same shopper visits your site and clicks on 10 different product links before finally placing an order, CJ says the conversion rate is 10%, which is misleading. Conversion rate should be based on orders to unique visitors, not orders to clicks. Another part of our low EPC problem is high click/low conversion affiliates. Last week, somebody sent us 15,000 visitors in one day, but we only got 3 sales. We had to terminate them. The final part of our low EPC problem is us not doing enough to close the sale on our site. We have plans to address that this year.

    Doug

    HENRY & JUNE LINGERIE
    Fax: +1-775-825-8867
    nospam_partners@henryandjune.com
    http://www.henryandjune.com

  8. #8
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    I'm probably the one mentioned about complaining.

    My complaining is done.

    The forum here is a place to share with other afiliates (and a few merchants) our experiences with CJ and their merchants.

    Nobody is forced to prove their claims or to give personal identifiers that could result in retribution.

    I never said H&J was cheating, although that possibility always lingers in one's mind when prompted to share with other's our unusual reversal experiences for a particular merchant.

    Neither have I told others not to participate in the H&J affiliate program, and others have shared how they are presently doing fine with H&J. You've got both sides of the coin going here.

    The forum is really a small place compared to all of CJ's affiliates. If I personally knew a merchant was in reality cheating, I would blast that information in a much broader way, in Newsgroups, our many websites, and such.

    Thank you for being one of the few merchants who participate here where things are not promised to always be pretty for you.

  9. #9
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    quote:
    Nobody is forced to prove their claims or to give personal identifiers that could result in retribution.


    Kelly626, your post above is very fair and I appreciate your clarification a great deal. I'm new to the forum, so I understand I need to earn everybody's trust. Hopefully, over time, you'll discover that I'm not interested in retaliation, but simply improving our program. Any of our affiliates are free to contact me either through email or the CJ message system to inquire about particular reversals.

    Thanks again!

    Doug

    HENRY & JUNE LINGERIE
    Fax: +1-775-825-8867
    nospam_partners@henryandjune.com
    http://www.henryandjune.com

  10. #10
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    I for one am pleased at this interaction. I give a big thumbs up to H&J for sticking up for themselves and clearing the air a bit.

    We need more of this give and take between affiliates and merchants. Together, we could solve a lot of problems and sale a lot more stuff.

    I like the fact that they admit they could do more to close the sales. If they need ideas about how, I am sure this is as a good resource as can be found.

    The Wolf Credo: Respect the elders. Teach the young. Cooperate with the pack. Play when you can. Hunt when you must. Rest in between. Share your affections. Voice your feelings. Leave your mark.

  11. #11
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    quote:
    Originally posted by Doug - Henry & June:
    The discussions tend to be one-sided since few merchants participate and CJ seems to be reading, but no longer replying.



    The silence IS deafening, isn't it?

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador webmarm's Avatar
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    quote:
    Likewise, affiliates should factor in how much their net take is, not just on the raw reversal rate.


    Not sure I agree with that.

    There are other factors which go into my decision of where the line in the sand is drawn for reversals.

    I had one merchant at first I netted a decent amount and had a lower than network wide reversal rate. I increased my marketing of this merchant, and grossed far more, but netted the same after reversals. Now, that would be one thing not to like, since it was my TIME that went into building all the xtra pages. Next on the list of why I dropped those pages to the bottom of anyone's search results was that the most common reason for reversal went from invalid cc to "cannot ship/out of merchandise" -- up to a month after the transaction.

    I don't think they were cheating on the reversals. I think they didn't have their site set up properly nor their shopping cart, so folks were ordering items that were no longer in stock. I have no idea when the customer was informed. This is not a business I can promote, net earnings or not.

    Another merchant I market has a higher reversal rate than I might like, but because it's a niche I enjoy, the reveral reasons seem so far to be legit, and my net take is okay, I continue to market them. Even built a new site around them.

    I agree that raw reveral rate is not the be-all end-all of decision making factors, but there are more factors than just net earnings to add to the equation.

    Certainly I would also look at EPC and CR for my sites as well. Net earnings is only part of what makes a good ROI for marketing any given merchant.

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  13. #13
    ABW Adviser Panel Dynamoo's Avatar
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    We already have the merchant test purchase reports, but it's a little informal.

    The frustrating thing with CJ is that I have a merchant I am pretty sure *is* committing fraud, I carefully gathered together evidence and references, and then the CJ investigation just seems to have petered out.

    Some merchants actually prohibit buying through your own affiliate link.. there are legitimate reasons for this (such as not joining a program purely to get a discount) but it could be used to hide fraud issues too.

    Maybe we need to look at ways of making the test purchase reports at ABW better so that we can identify good and bad merchants more easily than at the moment - this might involve some coding though.

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  14. #14
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    I think the system we have is fine.

    If a merchant does a lot of reversals, affiliates can come here and let off steam. They can also use these forums and other sources to find other programs to work with that have policies more to their liking.

    If merchants and the networks don't want to have an open discussion because they are ashamed of their inability to deal with the issues important to the affiliates (or because they just don't have the time), then that is fine. If they want someone else to police their programs, they should put together an offer.

    This is what we have, and it works for me.

  15. #15
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    The networks and merchants have come a long way since 1998. Why? Because of boards like ABW exposing the injustices of deferred income marketing. Trust is the biggest factor which took a real beating over the .com bombs and last year with the BHO theftware. You promote a merchant because you trust them to pay you if your efforts lead to sales. The merchants, above all others, should demand their "trust building efforts" do not get diluted by any outside enity. That same trust is the key to getting shoppers to hit the final checkout button.

    Reversals are part of a merchants report card scored by dissatisfied customers. The customers rule the internet by their mouse and credit cards and in all matters have to be part of the equation of online success. The Ad agencies forget this and actually spit in the customers faces with popups -spam- adwarez and hidden privacy data mining.

    Reversals are a responsibility that is 100% in the merchants ball park and need to be watched the moment they exceed their verticle markets averages.

    Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! BBQ some Gator and remember to flush WhenU..

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