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  1. #1
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    Exclamation We Are Puppets for the Networks and Big Merchants
    I have noticed that many of the affiliates that had a big voice on the forums and were advocates against Networks, merchants and affiliate unethical practices have all but gone these days. I do see a few older members here but not many of them are familiar to me and seem to be more of the super affiliates who survived the last few years just hang out here to moan about not making thousands of sales for their day or whatever.

    Recently I had some issues with a particular network and I'm partly to blame for some mistakes on my part which I will write about later. But all I could do was answer their no name emails and provide information for them. I contacted an AM with some questions as it was out of my hands what a customer orders or does once they click through to the merchants site. Even though I was a completely innocent party I felt like I was blamed.

    What happened was someone purchased multiple software items from a merchant over a month a go and the transaction looked very strange plus it was a large commission of over $900 for 90 something items and the total sale amount was slightly under the commission amount as their was a special promo.

    I had actually thought at the time that I should maybe consider writing about this on this forum but I thought maybe that is just making me a target for trolls and the like which I have experienced here many times In the past and on other forums. I also considered that I should contact the network and tell them I noticed an unusual transaction and what they thought about it but again I did not as I thought maybe I'm just opening a can of worms.

    Well my fears were realized when I got a heavy letter to say my account is now under INVESTIGATION because of those sales over a month and a half ago. Lucky for me I had checked my email as it had got lost in the multitudes of emails from advertisers as the networks sent it to that same email and not my preferred one although I probably need to sort that out somehow.

    Anyway, I also wrote to the AM but so far they have completely ignored my email. I wrote something like the following to them:

    Hello,

    (the network name) have contacted me to say that my account that I have had with them for over 8 years is now been investigated because you contacted them with concerns over the transactions that happened on the xxx day of February from my website (my website). I have told them that I have not promoted (merchant name) besides putting the links up on my website.

    Would it be possible that you could contact the customer who purchased these multiple items to find out more information from them as really it is out of my control what the customer does when they get to my website and place an order with you. In fact I was also surprised with the amount of items they ordered and I know now I should next time contact (the network name) or the advertisers if I see spikes like that.

    Would it be possible that a school or an organization has ordered multiple items?

    (my name & ph no)

    They never bothered to reply and maybe they will I don't know?

    The network, after listening to my reply replied back today and told me that I should block the user and that the AM has said they plan to reverse the commissions.

    I told them that I expected that anyway but I said I could not find the user but I would let them know next time if I see transactions like that.

    I was sort of relieved that this is probably over but after thinking about it today I think this is pretty unfair that I was basically blamed for these transaction taking place when I had done absolutely nothing wrong. Also. why would the AM not pursue the customer and find out why they purchased so many items? Why did they not communicate with me and DID the customer actually get the items they ordered returned or what happened to the transaction? I was completely left in the dark with all of that, the only part I was allowed to partake it was to defend myself and my website from having any understanding why the customer bought so many items. I got no apology or anything to say yes you are right and it was not your fault, NO Noting, only to say I would get ZERO commissions and I SHOULD BLOCK THE user, now how the heck am I supposed to know who the user is?

    I'm feeling a bit pissed off now with the network and the merchants but I know that I have little say in this industry as we don't have a voice anymore, we have become puppets for these big networks and for the bigger merchants to push and shove around anyway they want. I was a firm believer in sticking up fro my rights over the years and I still am but I'm hesitant to write anything about what happens in these situations as I have a family I support and I can't afford to risk losing my income from a network that I make most of my sales from. In saying that I had started to spread my eggs lately and work on other avenues and I'm now working even harder on that....

    The thing is this last year I had a terrible year and I had to rethink my whole business. So after the holidays I got to work on many new ideas and worked my butt off 18 hours a day some days. The problem though is the more sales you bring in the more chances you have of putting yourself at risk of upsetting the merchants or networks. I also had a another issue recently before this where I was promoting a merchant with coupons as they had in their basic terms that we could use coupons etc provided to affiliates. Unfortunately for me I missed the fine print in their other terms that said we could not promote coupons. So I was questioned about that and I told the network the same thing. I also asked them to send me a list of any merchants that don't allow coupons so I could not make that mistake again and only promote them on my other websites and not with coupons. again they completely ignored me as they got the reply from me but had no interest to reply to me or helping me get this list. I'm going to pester them though and ask them to provide a list for me.

    It's a very one sided battle these days, we as affiliates have no rights, we are seen as replaceable and disposable affiliates by the networks and merchants, even if you have been in the business for nearly 15 years like me,. it's a same most of the people that would have stuck up for their rights in the past have left and I don't blame them because if you make a fuss and point out issues with networks then you are putting your own livelihood at risk. That is why I have not named the merchant or network here as it is just going to put me at risk if I do. Two years ago I would have not had a problem with that but now days its a different story. We put up or SHUT up, we are puppets...... But I hope to change all that in the future when I can eventually just sell my own products full time.

    Oh yeah I have also deleted any websites in my sig as the networks are watching everything we do and write here very closely and would probably try to track us down if we write anything negative about them,
    Last edited by glittered; March 21st, 2013 at 07:30 AM.
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  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Hi glittered,

    Yes we are just Puppets for the Networks and Merchants, and that has always been the case nothing has changed.

    And yes I agree we have no control over what our visitors buy on our merchants websites. The fact that they went after the affiliate for a shoppers order is unreal and the network should know better. I know you do not want to name the network or merchant but was the network one of the bigger players (CJ, GAN, LS or SAS). The reason for asking is that these networks should know better then going after the affiliate. Unless it was a self referral which I know was not the case here (and it was against the merchants terms)

    I still do not know what the issue is for the merchant, they made a sale and got paid. If they did not get paid then void the sale it is that simple. From my understanding the sale was good and the merchant got paid??? If that is the case then you should demand to be paid as well.

    Now to talk about the coupons issue. Over the years on a few sites I displayed 3-4 coupons on either the top of the page or bottom of the page in a addition to the sites regular content, no real difference then say a text ads. And only coupon provided to me by the merchant/network. I by no means consider myself to be a coupon site and have asked several affiliate managers who I trust if they considered my site (in question) to be a coupon site. They all said no. However a lot of merchants (even some who were not listed on these sites) have penalized me because of these few coupons on my site. When i went back to them to state that they were not even listed on these sites they said it did not matter and reduced my commission anyway.

    So from my point of view unless you operation a 100% coupon site and that is you main bread and butter, displaying coupon on your site in addition to other content is dangerous. I have removed all coupons from all sites since some merchants and networks can use it against you.

    I had one merchant who did not like that I keep contacting them when they keep going offline at SAS changed their term to demote coupon sites and reduced my commission rate the same day!! And yes SAS allowed them to do it since it was in there terms.

    So to go full circle yes we are just Puppets.

    Kevin.........
    MERCHANTS: Start showing your coupons directly on your site, that way your shoppers will stop leaving your site looking for them!! If not then remove your Coupon Box!!


  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by kse View Post
    Hi glittered,


    I still do not know what the issue is for the merchant, they made a sale and got paid. If they did not get paid then void the sale it is that simple. From my understanding the sale was good and the merchant got paid??? If that is the case then you should demand to be paid as well.
    .........
    Hi Kevin,

    good points...

    yes it is one of the bigger networks as I mentioned earlier.

    I decided to email the network to let them know I wanted to reopen the support ticket and wait to get a response from the AM. I have also told them of this thread so they can take look at it from the affiliates side.

    I won't name the network or merchant though as I hope this will be of benefit to them, affiliates and merchants to be open about these issues..

    Yes I can understand with your own website that you are probably better off not offering coupons to merchants that don't want it.

    Working with a good merchant and just promoting a couple of merchants you know well looks like where it's at. It's getting too hard to work with many merchants these days with their changing terms etc. and high demands.

    I also want to make sure I only offer coupons that allow it but when you have thousands of merchants over many networks it's not easy to spot every detail in their terms especially you read other conflicting parts on basic terms. I would like networks to help us too and that is why they should be happy to help us and provide lists of merchants that don't allow coupons or other details we need to promote better and without upsetting anyone. The last thing I or I think most of us want is to get in trouble and do the wrong thing.

    I have a number of websites, coupons, blogs, shopping and reviews etc but I started off with a coupon site way back in the late 90s which has always been my main income site an has evolved over the years. Now days I'm working on providing good content sites and articles but these take some time to get a following, traffic and able to bring in an income.

    thanks
    Last edited by glittered; March 21st, 2013 at 09:03 AM.
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  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glittered View Post
    ........Yes I can understand with your own website that you are probably better off not offering coupons to merchants that don't want it.........
    Just to be clear and further the point I was trying to make on coupons is that I no longer display any coupons for any merchants on any site (unless the coupon is on one of the banners I use)

    I have been penalized by many merchants for display coupon on one of my sites (where they are not listed) for other merchants who allow coupons!!! I never posted a coupon for merchants who did not provide them via the network.

    Now to get back on your main point, Yes I think it is a good idea to get a better understanding from the network (and merchant) but you could pay in the long run for asking to many questions. Remember we are just affiliates and networks do not care about what we think!!

    Good luck
    MERCHANTS: Start showing your coupons directly on your site, that way your shoppers will stop leaving your site looking for them!! If not then remove your Coupon Box!!

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  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kse View Post
    Just to be clear and further the point I was trying to make on coupons is that I no longer display any coupons for any merchants on any site (unless the coupon is on one of the banners I use)

    I have been penalized by many merchants for display coupon on one of my sites (where they are not listed) for other merchants who allow coupons!!! I never posted a coupon for merchants who did not provide them via the network.

    Now to get back on your main point, Yes I think it is a good idea to get a better understanding from the network (and merchant) but you could pay in the long run for asking to many questions. Remember we are just affiliates and networks do not care about what we think!!

    Good luck
    yeah I see what you mean Kevin with your website.

    I think we should be able to split up sites and accounts easier in Networks. They don't make it that easy for us to manage more than one website and to show the advertiser the websites we are using etc.. I would like to be able to have options when we apply for a merchant to tick a box next to each website we will promote but as far as I know still not one network has basic features like this provided.
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  7. #6
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glittered View Post
    I think we should be able to split up sites and accounts easier in Networks. They don't make it that easy for us to manage more than one website and to show the advertiser the websites we are using etc.
    Agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by glittered View Post
    I would like to be able to have options when we apply for a merchant to tick a box next to each website we will promote but as far as I know still not one network has basic features like this provided.
    Closest is LinkShare using "Marketing Channels"...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  9. #7
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glittered View Post
    I have noticed that many of the affiliates that had a big voice on the forums and were advocates against Networks, merchants and affiliate unethical practices have all but gone these days.
    +1

    Have said it before, affiliates lack a "rallying cry" to bring the community together...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  10. #8
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    Honestly, this is one of the reasons we started our company. We were affiliates for over 10 years and got tired of being pushed around. As an individual publisher, a merchant screws you and you are out of luck. You get to the traffic numbers we have and people listen. You can check our forums, I've called out several networks and merchants in the past. There has to be checks and balances in any industry. Right now i'm working with networks on better datafeed standards. I'm happy to speak up on other issues as well.


  11. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    It's a very one sided battle these days, we as affiliates have no rights, we are seen as replaceable and disposable affiliates by the networks and merchants, even if you have been in the business for nearly 15 years like me,. it's a same most of the people that would have stuck up for their rights in the past have left and I don't blame them because if you make a fuss and point out issues with networks then you are putting your own livelihood at risk. That is why I have not named the merchant or network here as it is just going to put me at risk if I do. Two years ago I would have not had a problem with that but now days its a different story. We put up or SHUT up, we are puppets...... But I hope to change all that in the future when I can eventually just sell my own products full time.
    If you work closely with a small merchant AM or an OPM agency then you can get the respect and defense you deserve. I realize that big brands attract more attention and carry better conversion. That said, its all about them and they DO treat affiliates as barnacles attaching themselves to the sides of the brand. I got that from a big brand I managed for six months before we broke our contract with them for the way they treated affiliates. Damn near had a heart attack over that merchant.

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  13. #10
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    If you work closely with a small merchant AM or an OPM agency then you can get the respect and defense you deserve.
    With us the problems with datafeeds are often the killer. They just are not done properly. Smaller brands don't have the manpower to properly create feeds. Would LOVE to work with more smaller brands, but without a good feed, they often get relegated to a few text links and/or banners. Which just doesn't convert as well as a detailed product page...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  15. #11
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Ya and it goes both ways. Merchant wants to know what they will get for the development time and cost. Hard to sell on a performance model. I have to make a business case as to what we will get for the added cost. Like any other affiliate model, if I have a producer who is asking for more design time and they have a track record, then its easy to get. Other problem I face is that many of the fields are not available for a pure online merchant which degraded the datafeed. Finally, product images are not as available and needed so its tough to provide those for all products.

  16. #12
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Ya and it goes both ways. Merchant wants to know what they will get for the development time and cost. Hard to sell on a performance model. I have to make a business case as to what we will get for the added cost. Like any other affiliate model, if I have a producer who is asking for more design time and they have a track record, then its easy to get.
    Ah, but it may be ONE affiliate asking for the feed - but far more than that one affiliate will benefit from it. The more affiliates that have access to a feed - the better it is for the program and THE MERCHANT.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Other problem I face is that many of the fields are not available for a pure online merchant which degraded the datafeed. Finally, product images are not as available and needed so its tough to provide those for all products.
    If the products are on the merchant's website, they should already have pictures, model numbers/SKUs, descriptions, price, sales price, and SUB-CATEGORIES (Shoes is not a sub-category. Furniture is not a sub-category.) Pretty much the bare necessities. (Talking retail products and not services such as h0sting). Yes, MPNs, UPCs, and other attributes are a plus - but the bare necessities is what is needed to get going.

    The merchant should already have a method for exporting all these items from their database. If not, a little research will provide the tools to do so...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  18. #13
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Yes, MPNs, UPCs, and other attributes are a plus
    A merchant doesn't get any sales from my site unless they have either MPN/Manufacturer or UPC's. I promote aggregate product pages. Without unique identifiers a merchant won't appear on the "money" page. This is true of most price comparison websites.

    Also... If a merchant sells items that are popular Holiday gifts, they don't need low prices, they just need to have a decent feed with MPN+Manufacturer or UPC and patience. Some items sell out every year. At some point, a well structured datafeed will help you clear your inventory and make some bucks, assuming you have in-demand items.

    Getting around to the OP's topic. Yeah, we are all pawns in the game. I've asked two questions in the past day on two different affiliate networks. One rep is ignoring me due to my question (company policy) and the other said, "If you don't like it, tough". (paraphrasing) And yeah, I still have to work with both of these merchants because they bring in money, so I won't call them out.
    Last edited by isellstuff; March 21st, 2013 at 07:44 PM.

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