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  1. #1
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    I would like to propose that Haiko, with the assistance of those at his choosing, undertake a letter writing campaign to expose UPromise's link hijacking behavior.

    Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey sits on UPromise's Board of Directors. Their investors represent the most stellar names in venture capitalists. See http://www.upromise.com/corp/aboutus...directors.html

    Their Advisory Board includes, among others, the Dean of Harvard Business School, the former Governor of Vermont, the former President of Stanford University, David Rockefeller and the former Chairman of Goldman, Sachs. In other words, a blue chip panel.

    Corporate sponsorship, both online and throughout our communities is widespread.

    UPromise funds are invested through The Vanguard Group and are subject to securities regulations. http://www.upromise.com/content/savi...dex.html?cx=l1

    I would like to propose a letter writing campaign to UPromise's board members, venture capital investors and the National Association of Securities Dealers making them aware of the source of some of UPromise's income. I would also propose that simultaneous to the issuance of these letters that ABestWeb issue a press release through the major media outlets.

    This could be our opportunity to get widespread exposure of parasitic behavior since UPromise is so well known. Hopefully, it will also put pressure on the networks to enforce their policies, which they currently are not doing.

    Haiko, what are your thoughts?

  2. #2
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    If toolbar users were given a choice to take your aff links or their aff links, which would they choose? I'm not understanding what is the problem. Maybe I don't know enough.

  3. #3
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    If the toolbar users could choose a price, everything would be free.

    Consumer's choice does not solely govern the decisions a business makes. Price is one such decision. How a business pays its commission based salespeople and traffic sources of other types, is also not something the consumer gets to solely choose. You are forgetting that a business benefits by paying for legitimate traffic - and that they have a contract or agreement in place regarding that, and it doesn't say that the end user gets to negate payment for the work a contracted party does for the company.

    Merchants need to be smart about things, paying people that do work of value for you, and not paying people who don't. That's how they get ahead in business, which is their goal.

  4. #4
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    And notifying UPromise won't be very effective in my opinion. They have signed agreements with these merchant companies to do what they are doing. The shame lies in the hype and confusion - the merchants think they're getting good value in all of this and their sales reports certainly show that. So who is to blame here - the BHO that isn't telling the whole story, the networks like CJ and LinkShare that promote these BHOs as great affiliate partners, or the merchants who don't understand what's happening and are being taken advantage of? My opinion is that all 3 share blame, the percentages of which we could argue over, pointlessly, for eons.

    What to do about it when it steals from you? Good question. My opinion is to work to get the merchants to realize what they're doing, their self-interest is on the side of the truth. The complicit networks and the BHOs themselves, couldn't be convinced to stop, we've learned that here from experience. Better chance of asking a criminal to go straight - banks know when they're getting robbed, the bank's transaction tracking providers aren't hype-sters, and the law says that your agreement with the bank has been violated when someone holds them up. In other words, everyone but the thief is on your side. But, in the case of adware, that's just not true.

  5. #5
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    I think the user has the right to remove or set whatever cookie he/she wants. I think the problem is the system and the way it is tracked.

    I mean who's to say your site actually was the reason why the user went and bought that item at store.com. Maybe uPromise was their main motivator, after all, they do get some of that money back if they use uPromise. So this tracking by last cookie placed is not an effective way to determine who should be credited for referring the sale.

  6. #6
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    You're entitled to think whatever you'd like. What you're not entitled to do, no matter what you may think, is to not be accountable for violating legal agreements that you are a party to. Or to interfere with the legal execution of the legal agreements of others. For instance, you can't take a car off the dealers lot because you think you can. You can't stop the mail truck and get alll the checks and say they're yours now because you think you deserve to have them. You can't force a merchant to pay commisions to undeserving parties - thankfully, only they can make that decision. One they often screw up, but it's still theirs to make, not yours.

    If they'd like the pay the end user, they certainly can do that. If they decide to do that, to pay the end user, instead of paying the commission based sales person... well, since you like to do the thinking... how hard do you think that salesperson will work for them to produce sales, since they don't get paid, but rather the end user does instead?

  7. #7
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrischen
    I mean who's to say your site actually was the reason why the user went and bought that item at store.com. Maybe uPromise was their main motivator, after all, they do get some of that money back if they use uPromise. So this tracking by last cookie placed is not an effective way to determine who should be credited for referring the sale.
    That's my point, it is the merchant's who gets to say, not the end user.

    Merchants can decide to give all of their sale commissions and credits to who ever they'd like, that is their right.

  8. #8
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    Well the consumer who chooses to do this isn't legally bound to select the *last* referrer to give the commission to is he or her? Also the consumer isn't forcing any merchant to do anything. The cookie is set on the user's computers, so I believe the user has the right to set whatever other cookie he or she wants, especially if they're doing so by clicking on valid links. The user a can at any time go back to Upromise.com and click the link and replace yours anyways. It's the user's choice to use a tool that speeds that process up.

    "how hard do you think that salesperson will work for them to produce sales, since they don't get paid, but rather the end user does instead?"

    I'm not saying the current way it works is good. I'm saying you can't say Upromise is doing anything wrong (regarding letting users make sure their commissions go to their upromise account; I don't know about their other practices)

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    Upromise has a right to exist and to continue to supply the service its users are requesting, but not through the affiliate channel. Because when they do this within the affiliate channel, it's likely that they're overwriting cookies from affiliates who're not using the same tactics as them thus their efforts that bring the customer to the merchant's site are ending in commission-less transactions.

    Who's responsibility is it? The networks'. When Upromise and similar software affiliates use the networks' tracking system, they're undermining the networks' duty to credit sales to whom they are rightfully due.
    SomethingStore.com - Surprise and Delight!

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador Daniel M. Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrischen
    I'm saying you can't say Upromise is doing anything wrong
    Well, this should be interesting
    Daniel M. Clark
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by HecticDMC
    Well, this should be interesting

    If you only look at how they let you make sure upromise gets the referall so they can add it to your account.

    The other stuff Upromise does I have no idea, but for that thing they do I don't see what's wrong.

    I mean it may not be nice, but you can't just wish everyone would play nice. Now is Upromise breaking any laws (if they are tell me)?

    If Upromise was forcing the commission to go to them, and installed something that the consumer would disapprove of if you told them what was happening, then it would be wrong, and illegal too right? But with the toolbar the user knows exactly what they're installing.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Bay
    Upromise has a right to exist and to continue to supply the service its users are requesting, but not through the affiliate channel. Because when they do this within the affiliate channel, it's likely that they're overwriting cookies from affiliates who're not using the same tactics as them thus their efforts that bring the customer to the merchant's site are ending in commission-less transactions.

    Who's responsibility is it? The networks'. When Upromise and similar software affiliates use the networks' tracking system, they're undermining the networks' duty to credit sales to whom they are rightfully due.

    I completely agree. I think the affiliate networks should do something about this. You can't expect Upromise to just comply to complaining people who can't do anything about it.

    However at the same time isn't the point of paying affiliates to have other people encourage shoppers to shop at your site? But you see this is exactly what Upromise is doing (at least with their online portion).

    I think it comes down to this: The consumer chooses who they think referred them to the purchase.

    And in the case of the Upromise toolbar, the consumer chooses Upromise as their referrer, just like all those times when you register on sites and you type in or select your referrer.

    "Upromise has a right to exist and to continue to supply the service its users are requesting, but not through the affiliate channel. "

    This would mean all other incentive sites shouldn't be in the "affiliate channel." Even though they are helping to make sales like any other affiliate.

    If you had a content based site and you only provide an affiliate link then you take the risk that later someone else can replace the cookie say if the user clicks on someone else's link or if a toolbar does it for them. In either case you can't really say you deserve the commission. What if the user deliberately chose to click on someone else's link? I believe the user has every right to do so. You know that putting an affiliate link does not guarantee that you will be credited with the commission because even though the cookie is hidden away in some temporary files, the user has the ultimate choice.

  13. #13
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Sidebar: Snowman's post is from 2003.
    Kevin Webster
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  14. #14
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    It says his join date is 2005. And no one replied in 5 years?

  15. #15
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    Sidebar: Snowman's post is from 2003.
    Thanks for pointing that out.
    I think it comes down to this: The consumer chooses who they think referred them to the purchase.
    The average consumer knows nothing about referrer or affiliate marketing.

  16. #16
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    Maybe not but they know that using the UPromise links will get them what they want. It's also still their choice whether they know about it or not. They decide what links to click. You can't say "You have to click my link since you read my article and I need to be compensated for it." Using affiliate links is no guarantee (and not a legal contract) that whoever reads your article and buys the product mentioned in it should give you a commission.

  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    Using affiliate links is no guarantee (and not a legal contract) that whoever reads your article and buys the product mentioned in it should give you a commission.
    This is true, and I think you would have a hard time to find an affiliate who thinks that because someone read their aticle that they should get a commission - unless the shopper clicked on their links. If a shopper clicks my links and makes a purchase they have made a conscious decision to buy, right then and there. I have completed my agreement with the merchant by sending them a buyer and yes, I should be paid as per our agreement if the shopper proceeds to place a valid order. Is there some reason that you think I should not be paid in this scenario?

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrischen

    I think it comes down to this: The consumer chooses who they think referred them to the purchase.
    Well, this sounds like you're saying the consumer is making a conscious decision about this. They're not, they're only choosing a convenient way to get cash back, rewards, points or whatever.
    SomethingStore.com - Surprise and Delight!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2busy
    This is true, and I think you would have a hard time to find an affiliate who thinks that because someone read their aticle that they should get a commission - unless the shopper clicked on their links. If a shopper clicks my links and makes a purchase they have made a conscious decision to buy, right then and there. I have completed my agreement with the merchant by sending them a buyer and yes, I should be paid as per our agreement if the shopper proceeds to place a valid order. Is there some reason that you think I should not be paid in this scenario?
    I think that the agreement between the merchant and you is that you must send them a shopper through a link, ideally by referring them legitimately. However since you cannot prove to them each time that that shopper really was encouraged by you to buy something, the affiliate link is the only definite proof that you sent them.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Bay
    Well, this sounds like you're saying the consumer is making a conscious decision about this. They're not, they're only choosing a convenient way to get cash back, rewards, points or whatever.
    Yea, that's the choice they're making. Think about it this way. Lets say the consumer was educated about how the affiliate links work. They know the last cookie set gets the commission. They read an article on website about a camera with a buy link. He/she clicks on that link but then remembers he can get rewards by clicking on the Upromise link so he goes back. He/she has every right to do so right? The article may have encourage him to shop online at that merchant but Upromise might have equally if not more-so encouraged him. You can't claim one deserves commission and the other doesn't. So it's left up to the consumer to decide.

    Now lets take a normal consumer. He/she understands that installing the Upromise toolbar will make sure that he/she receives his or her college savings. The user chooses Site A over Site B because Site A participates in Upromise. He reads an article about a product linked to Site A. Who deserves the referral credit? You can't say because both parties encourage the user to buy at Site A. The user however has already chosen Upromise by installing the toolbar, which he was informed would make sure he would get college savings if installed. If the user ever finds out that going to the site with the article and clinking on that link last would take away his college savings, he would probably choose Upromise over it.

    The content website may be unfairly compensated for its work, but only one party gets to take the commission. It was either some random website owner or Upromise/shopper.

    I personally think Upromise would be a better incentive for a shopper to buy something at a particular store. No matter how well an article is written, I think being able to get some cash back would move me more towards buying something at a particular place.

    So I don't think Upromise is stealing anything. It just has a nasty good incentive and unfortunately only one party can get credited.

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    chrischen, I'm not certain where you're coming from, but it appears you're just trying to find out what the beef is with UPromise and similar business models. You're correct, that business model is not illegal, and some would argue that it's not necessarily unethical. Here's the beef from the affiliate's point of view; the affiliate expounds a lot of time, effort, and expense into developing an appealing and persuasive pitch to deliver paying customers to the merchant. In return [and as reward] for the effort the affiliate is paid a portion of every sale they produce.

    So, the scenario is that a potential customer searches for an automatic whatsit and finds just the right one at the right price on your website that you spent so much time and effort in developing and promoting. They click your link to visit the merchant where the product can be purchased [cookie set]. They're about to order when it suddenly occurs to them... Hmm, where is that button I installed a while back that gets me discounts on Internet purchases[?]. I wonder if that works here[?]. Click, and whadoyaknow, new cookie written, original cookie for the affiliate that did all the work to deliver the customer, GONE!

    Sure, just another one of the hazards resulting in cookie demise. But it's also tantamount to someone else taking the credit and getting paid for work that YOU did.

    And from the merchants point of view; the merchant ends up paying a lot of commissions for sales that were not delivered through affiliate marketing, and should have been non-commissionable.

    So, illegal? No. Unethical? Seems so. Infuriating? Most certainly!
    Last edited by Boomers; July 31st, 2008 at 03:30 AM.



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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrischen
    If toolbar users were given a choice to take your aff links or their aff links, which would they choose? I'm not understanding what is the problem.
    I would compare this to a shopper offline who is in a store and makes their final choice at checkout as to which credit card to use to pay for their purchase. If they are signed up for points programs, and most are, they will choose to use the card that gives them points towards what they are saving up for, whether it is airline miles or that new ipod they are trying to get enough points for.

    What the consumer does not do, is base that decision on whether Mastercard or Visa gets the transaction fee at the time of the purchase. They probably didn't even make a "who gets the commission" decision when they decided to get the card.

    While some consumers probably would like an extra dropdown that said "You visited four sites, which one contributed most to your decision to buy?" I believe that most consumers are in the what's in it for me mode rather than the what's in it for the salesman mode when they are making the purchase.

    The problem, as I see it, is the system and the networks and the affiliates as well. We (as affiliates) are competing not only against other salesmen (read websites) to get customers to a merchant, but are also competing against those in the final decision to get points or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    Merchants need to be smart about things, paying people that do work of value for you, and not paying people who don't. That's how they get ahead in business, which is their goal.
    Oh, the merchants are! They have been able to take advantage of an affiliate marketing system that saves them from additional layers of cost. This industry has grown so large that it now encompasses what offline is accepted as additional costs to make a sale.

    Using the offline example above again, in an offline world the points provided by the credit cards are separated into a different layer of cost to a merchant. It costs a merchant an additional fee to let a customer use a credit card on top of the salesman they pay at the store and on top of the advertising they pay for to get customers to know about their sale, store, etc.

    The merchants must love that affiliates are battling over each other for that one cookie and that one commission instead of paying layers of costs.

    Im my mind, instead of focusing on the overwriting of cookies, why have we not pushed towards the separation of the layers?

    The salesman (website) may have got them there, the cashback may have given an additional push towards a sale and the Visa or Mastercard points give them even a third reason to but the product. Hey, you guys! 2 of those three are competing against each other while the third gets paid regardless.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boomers
    So, the scenario is that a potential customer searches for an automatic whatsit and finds just the right one at the right price on your website that you spent so much time and effort in developing and promoting. They click your link to visit the merchant where the product can be purchased [cookie set]. They're about to order when it suddenly occurs to them... Hmm, where is that button I installed a while back that gets me discounts on Internet purchases[?]. I wonder if that works here[?]. Click, and whadoyaknow, new cookie written, original cookie for the affiliate that did all the work to deliver the customer, GONE!

    Sure, just another one of the hazards resulting in cookie demise. But it's also tantamount to someone else taking the credit and getting paid for work that YOU did.

    And from the merchants point of view; the merchant ends up paying a lot of commissions for sales that were not delivered through affiliate marketing, and should have been non-commissionable.

    So, illegal? No. Unethical? Seems so. Infuriating? Most certainly!
    Like I said, it's not a fair system, but if you should complain to anyone it should be the affiliate networks. But I do not think it's completely stolen commission, since Upromise probably motivates the shopper to shop online at that store at least to some degree. Unfortunately using the Upromise link is just more appealing.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Campbell
    While some consumers probably would like an extra dropdown that said "You visited four sites, which one contributed most to your decision to buy?" I believe that most consumers are in the what's in it for me mode rather than the what's in it for the salesman mode when they are making the purchase.
    I believe the "what's in it for me" part of the purchase is just as legit a motivational factor as say a great pitch towards buying a certain product. The cashback reward is specific to the merchant, although a pitch is usually directed at a product.

    Merchant A paid two salesman to see who can get someone to buy a product from there store. Salesman A tells the shopper that Product A is top of the line. The customer is convinced but thinks about it. Salesman B tells the customer that he can get $10 off if he buys with Merchant A. I personally would say that the $10 is why I bought at that specific store, thereby making the decision to purchase at Merchant A largely influenced by the "what's in it for me." Now lets say Salesman B tells me that next time I buy from this store if you tell them I referred you I'll give you another $10 dollars, I would choose Store A no matter who convinces me to buy what where. If I was not told that, would I necessarily buy the product from Store A anymore even if I had a convincing pitch? Not necessarily. In the online world it is much easier to compare prices. I would think not very many people would read an article and click on the link and make the purchase like that. He/she would probably at least make some effort to look around for the lowest price. Here's where Upromise can be another motivational factor. Different merchants have different commission rates, there different amounts of cashback for the shopper. This can be the deciding factor for which store the shopper chooses, which is ultimately why the merchant wants affiliates right? So an article might promote a product, but Upromise does the merchants more of a favor (unless the article specifically promotes a product and a specific merchant, but even then, a cashback is more motivating than a good review of a store).

    They're about to order when it suddenly occurs to them... Hmm, where is that button I installed a while back that gets me discounts on Internet purchases[?]. I wonder if that works here[?]. Click, and whadoyaknow, new cookie written, original cookie for the affiliate that did all the work to deliver the customer, GONE!
    I think it would be the other way around. I don't understand why a shopper would look at an affiliate site for the price (unless it's a comparison engine). I think the shopper would look at the article, then look around at stores for prices, ultimately choosing the cheapest one with the Upromise discount factored in .

    I believe Upromise's strategy is a good marketing strategy. It's toolbar is just a tool that simplifies a process for the user. A tool that the user chooses to install him/herself.
    Last edited by chrischen; July 31st, 2008 at 09:38 AM.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for writing back, crischen. I agree with you entirely, the cashback strategy is a great one and deserves it's due respect as it closes many sales that may have gone to a different merchant.

    You and I also agree that a great pitch for a product is just as legit a factor as the cashback.

    The system and having the methods separated is where my issue lies, not with the cashback programs. I do not believe they belong together, nor competing for the same commission. I do not believe one is Salesman A and one is Salesman B, but rather two forces that work together (in some cases) to complete a sale.

    As I noted in my offline example, in an offline store, the salesman is paid, the advertising company is paid and the credit card company who offer the points is paid. Each step of the process that leads a customer to buy is rewarded for their part of getting that money in the cash register.

    Not only is that not a choice in this online system, but the system forces a situation where the different parts of the process, pitching the product and pitching the merchant, are chosen between as if they were the same when it comes to paying a commission.

    In the same light of product vs merchant, the other part that is unlike an offline store, is that if I (salesman a) were to have a store on Main Street where I had products on the shelf, the person from the store on Oak street (salesman B) would not be running in my store and putting his advertisements on the shelf above the products to tell people to come down the street and buy it there, as a toolbar does.

    In the offline world they combine their efforts rather than compete and both are rewarded, as I believe it should be online. There just needs to be a system where both can exist, work together AND get the customer the best deal at the same time while not giving a cookie that is last set be the determining factor of who gets paid.

    When affiliate marketing began, there really was no way to track more than one referrer, but the industry and technology have grown well beyond that point and the new technology should be put to use to credit all the factors that contribute to a purchase. Don't you agree?

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