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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador
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    More Problems with Off-line Merchants
    This time it's a merchant I signed on for niche products needed for a site who shows high sales figures and high commissions - just recent, too. Last 7 days.

    BUT - this merchant is now off-line. Yet another one. This is a serious issue, it makes OUR sites look bad and not only that, who has the time to keep checking every site, every page, that has SAS merchants who are liable to go offline at any time so that there won't be useless, dead links on our sites.

    Sorry, but it isn't an acceptable situation. We need to be able to rely on merchants we partner with, and be putting up links for merchants with some degree of reliability so that our pages won't look like broken crud. It makes US look bad, and we can lose the confidence of the visitors to OUR sites because of merchants' irresponsibility. So it can cost us a lot long term, not only for possible loss of sales, but in terms of credibility.

    Sorry, but like Haiko tells us, this is a business and we need to treat it like a business. That means that we need to put our efforts into promoting for programs and merchants who demonstrate at least some minimum degree of reliability and stability.

    There's no excuse for this, it's too frequent an occurrence. It should not be allowed to happen; some measures need to be taken so that it won't happen.

    What are we supposed to do from our end?
    Last edited by webworker; August 7th, 2005 at 12:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Full Member jerseyjim's Avatar
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    I agree, this has been going on for years,not only the offliners,but others that jump from one program to another,having to earn a little extra income,due to age, and lack of work, we pick a good mix, then spend more time deleting ads,the big well known merchants have a bundle of affiliates,and compete with us in the media,merchants with retail stores give, at times a bonus to good sale people, we are out in the cold, too long.I can't afford 100 sites, shouldn't need that many,to promote the products that sell well.
    JJ

  3. #3
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    In this case I actually found myself almost feeling sorry for the merchant, figuring they're having a hard time of it - until I slapped myself and reminded myself that this is *business*.

    Actually, they've got a slightly different mix from a stable merchant I've got elsewhere (and just a few products I'm lacking) who I unexpectedly got a nice email from because of the sales that had been sent in July (brand new site, mind you). I'll make sure I have no links up to this one, at the most there would be two or three - because I went through and nuked every single one I'm signed with that's off-line.

    Luckily, I've not put links up to most yet. But I'm 100% without a merchant that there's some seasonal traffic for on another site, the one I was going to put up for that is at SAS and also one of the nuked off-liners.

    Added:

    Just thought of something. When there's never any communication from merchants, that adds to the issue. At least when you hear from them - at the very least an occasional newsletter or news about a promotion, just anything at all - it adds to the feeling of some kind of stability or sincerity. But no communication and then going off line - not good at all.
    Last edited by webworker; August 7th, 2005 at 06:32 PM.

  4. #4
    Full Member jerseyjim's Avatar
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    I find that the small independent programs, like clix galore, and Kolunba have the mix I want,and they offer us more,for less.Years ago, I went to the SMI, a convention of merchants from all over the country, for years it was in Atlantic City,i was on a panel for retail design, after the session, I was approached by Sam Walton,I didn't know him then, he congratulated those on the panel, and wanted permission to visit our corporate headquarters in Woodbridge,NJ, he wanted to learn how to treat his employees better, he had a few small stores in Arkansas, I got him permission, the first change was calling them associates,then benefits,etc. He didn't intend to get into food, since he didn't know it, or the buyers,Sam's Club was the result of his friend Jack, also, not to chase competion away, he learned competion was healthy for his business.From time to time I had a letter from him,he rode with trailer drivers, and improved his business, after he passed away, that all changed, now the staff in stores work overtime, without pay, the store near here has staff that don't know what they sell.I needed a new VCR fast,the salesman didn't know what they are, they give 90 day "warrantiies", as per others like J&R that give a 1 year warranty.So, many merchants in stores,Radio Shack and others pull the same long hours,no pay,or benefits, it is the "business" of one group will buy out another,and only know finacing, not retailing.This is the slow time of the year for shopping, lots of browses,little sales.Last year, my Xmas in July worked,keeping in mind we provide a service to the shoppers,they save gas,the hassle of crowded roads, and delivery direct, that's my 10 cents worht.I learned a lot from members of the forum, my friend in texas ia an angel, as well as others.Keep the faith, we shall overcome.I still can't type well
    JJ

  5. #5
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    webworker,

    if you send me the merchant name i'll have a conversation with them about it, and auto-deposit, etc...

    Do you subscribe to the RSS feed for offline merchants?
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  6. #6
    Newbie 3636's Avatar
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    Hi:

    Relatively new publisher with Shareasale. Since the third week of July, I've signed up with 24 merchants. Today, four are 'Temporarily Offline' and two more are 'Low Funds'.

    Is this typical?

    An RSS feed telling me that I'm not going to get paid for ads I've got running isn't a solution - I've got to pay someone to change all the dead ads on our sites. And, there's no assurance that the ads we put up today will be any good tomorrow.

    How do other publishers handle this?

  7. #7
    Member Chocolate_Chicken's Avatar
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    At least when they're offline you know it.

    I'm far more concerned with merchants who have had their programs live for months or even years but with no EPC whatsoever. How do we know if we'll get paid for referred sales? There may well be some cases where the merchant forgot they even set up an affiliate program and don't have tracking pixels in place.

  8. #8
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    How do other publishers handle this?
    First thing is not to pay anyone to do something as simple as changing links. Whatever tech your site's using, learn how to deal with it yourself, or, if it's too complicated to figure out fairly quickly, redesign the site to use something you can do yourself already. If you can't do ANY site stuff yourself yet, google up an HTML tutorial or 2.

    But a hired link changer is really wasted money. It's like hiring someone to wash your dishes for you!

    Second, when some place goes dead, just start updating...or, if you expect them to be back online in just a couple of days, cringe and ignore it.

    There may well be some cases where the merchant forgot they even set up an affiliate program~ChocolateChicken
    That'd be hard to do at SAS, at least if they have a feed. The constant stream of incoming FTP Access Requests is a good reminder!

    Not that some crook wouldn't CLAIM they forgot all about it.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  9. #9
    Full Member jerseyjim's Avatar
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    I don't payone for website design, in fact I dropped 2 scams from canada.The 2 SAS merchants not showing recent sales from my sites are Big Daddy smokes, and the Irish elegance shop.I am located in a very large development, and many peole ask me to find and compare whatever they need, they don't have computers, or e mail, so I place the orders for them, those commissions go to various fundraising programs.
    JJ

  10. #10
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3636
    Relatively new publisher with Shareasale. Since the third week of July, I've signed up with 24 merchants. Today, four are 'Temporarily Offline' and two more are 'Low Funds'.

    Is this typical?
    Join affiliate programs of merchants that are on Auto-Deposit. They will not go "Temporarily Offline" because of low funds... They might (if they get off of the Auto-Deposit), but you have better chances when you sign up with them.

    Geno

  11. #11
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Whether you pay someone or do it yourself, it's a waste of time and money.

    If a merchant goes offline on me, they likely won't get a second chance.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  12. #12
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    Whether you pay someone or do it yourself, it's a waste of time and money.

    If a merchant goes offline on me, they likely won't get a second chance.
    Harsh, but just. After all, there a very slim chance to can your money from them (if they're gone for good)... A black-list of such merchants (those that have dumped their affiliates for good) might be helpful. Why not start it at ABW?

    Geno
    Last edited by Geno Prussakov; August 15th, 2005 at 11:01 AM. Reason: black-list proposal

  13. #13
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Do you subscribe to the RSS feed for offline merchants?
    NO!!!

    And, I don't even want to.

    That being the case, I have a big Idea.

    Instead of making everyone jump through hoops to get the information or do without, why don't you put up a simple HTML page, which I am sure most everyone remembers what those are, with a list of offline merchants. Surely, that is not any harder to update daily that an RSS feed. In fact, my guess is that it exactly the same amount of work. You delete data that is unwanted and add data that is wanted, then publish it.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  14. #14
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Ssanf,

    I personally feel that the RSS feed is a much better solution for notification. I am not sure what the benefits are of a flat HTML page? but I will look into it for you and see if it is as easy as it seems... I don't have a problem with doing it - but I am suprised that some of you seem to be against the RSS feed ... I personally subscribe to it and it has helped me a lot in the past few weeks to help merchants back online when they are off temporarily.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  15. #15
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Thank you. I will withhold getting myself really ticked off and in an uproar which I am on the verge of doing as you can tell.

    The benefits of an HTML page are; you do not have to download anything, you do not have to subscribe to anything, you do not have to give information about yourself to anyone new, you do not have to learn any new skills. It is simple, staightforward and any fool can access the information.

    Comes under the heading of KISS. Which is ALWAYS the best policy when you are dealing with people of varying skills, abilities and interest.

    And, remember, just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you!
    Last edited by SSanf; August 15th, 2005 at 12:35 PM.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  16. #16
    Affiliate Manager PaulS's Avatar
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    I can actually see this happening with a new affiliate... I guess they underestimated the sales they were going to generate in the first 7 days.

    It almost happened to us with the CJ update... no sales were tracking, so we had no idea what was going through. Suddenly, the system is live again and just under $5,000 in weekend sales posted. That can make quite a dent in what's on deposit.

    I'm hoping that they wouldn't have taken us off-line, since there was no way to deposit funds over the weekend either, but you never know.

    Next time... deposit large amounts of money just before the weekend.

    Paul

  17. #17
    The Eternal Optimist zimmy's Avatar
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    I think it is a good idea if we could have a page where we could just see a list of offline merchants.

    I subscribe to the RSS feed and have it set up on my start page but if I miss seeing a particular merchant when they first go offline, then I won't know about it. (Unless there is a way to see the history).



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  18. #18
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Thanks SSanf - I'll look into it...
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador Nature Boy's Avatar
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    Brian,

    Check out Rss2html. You can take your RSS feed and create a .php page that you can host.

    After a bit of tweaking, it might fit the bill
    Scott
    If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with bulls#!t
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  20. #20
    Newbie 3636's Avatar
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    Guess this topic has been around a while, eh?

    My first inclination was to follow Michael Coley's advice. If the merchant I'm counting on doesn't show up, one of his competitors will step up to take the business.

    The whole idea of RSS vs HTML (BTW, my vote is HTML) seems to be a bad work-around. The idea shouldn't be to tell publishers what's broken, it should be to make the partnership work. Publishers, what would it cost you to get 30% more traffic next month? With 25% (6 of 24) of the merchants I signed up with either off line or in danger of going off line, I'd need to increase traffic 30% to get the same number of (working) impressions as I'd get now if 100% of my ads work.

    Paul S - if you'll send me $5k worth of business each weekend, I'll gladly cover you a few days

    Leader, while I'm a resident, but certainly no Genius, the Free Marketer in me ('Capitalist' was Lenin's term to belittle those of us who believe Adam Smith) thinks that hiring someone to update links is worth sending out. I can bill my time at a far higher rate than it costs me to hire a couple kids from the University just down the street. There's a never ending supply of computer science guys thrilled with the idea they can work where they want, when they want for $20/hr.

    Thanks everyone!
    Ian

  21. #21
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    3636,

    You may want to read through the threads "Things we need to fix" and "Solutions: Things we need to fix" as we are working hard on the issue of offline merchants and how to best handle them.

    We acknowledge the problem and are working on it - the RSS feed was a way to keep affiliate notified of these occurrences.

    A merchant receives 2 emails from us prior to going offline to warn of the condition - at some point the responsibility needs to be on the merchant to run a quality program and to maintain a balance. We do offer an auto-deposit tool so that conditions are covered when they are either out of the office, weekends, etc... and there are many affiliates here who will only promote auto-deposit merchants which makes sense to me. We stress all of these points when a merchant signs up, especially the point on auto-deposit... but like I said - some merchants prefer to learn the hard way... Again - there are some additional things that we are working on that are mentioned in the above threads which I encourage you to go take a look at (and maybe even add some things of your own that you would like to see fixed.)
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  22. #22
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSanf
    The benefits of an HTML page are; you do not have to download anything, you do not have to subscribe to anything, you do not have to give information about yourself to anyone new, you do not have to learn any new skills. It is simple, staightforward and any fool can access the information.

    Comes under the heading of KISS. Which is ALWAYS the best policy when you are dealing with people of varying skills, abilities and interest.

    And, remember, just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you!
    Ditto!

    ...

  23. #23
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    Do you subscribe to the RSS feed for offline merchants?
    Like Sandra, no and I don't want to even get started with that.

    if you send me the merchant name i'll have a conversation with them about it, and auto-deposit, etc...
    Brian, they came back on in the interim after 8 days off-line, but now I'm having second thoughts about several merchants after doing some more looking around.

    I'm suspecting that some sites aren't what we'd call "serious" about establishing affiliate partnerships, but are more likely run by SEOs with private deals going just using affiliates to pull in some traffic until they build up enough steam (and links) to get rankings on their own, then either the existing affiliate force is third and fourth fiddle or they'll just drop the program altogether once it's served its temporary purpose.

    There were one or two that looked that way last year and sure enough they're long gone, and there's a few that look that way right now. At the slightest hint of it I'm checking them out, including their links (and in fact, connecting the dots with whois info in a case or two).

    There are some tell-tale signs that signal the need to check further, a few of them being that the domain is fairly new and very heavily SEO'd (you can easily spot that), they connect via links to other "suspects" and firstly, they either don't have any product links or what they do have is in obvious neglect or just enough to make some kind of a show of it.

    I'll use them if I need them for pages already up and there's no alternative, but no way are product links going up unless it's just unlinked images sitting on my server with one text link that's easily replaced if they end up flaking out.

    It isn't just SAS that gets those, there's one blatantly so at CJ that's the leakiest program in existence and another that's the scammiest I've seen yet, even blatantly running their own affiliate site that you can spot in a New York minute, and another at LS that I can think of right off-hand at the moment. But we're not in it to give some SEO or uncommitted merchant branding recognition with our work and site real estate, it's only the ones who show commitment that are worth effort, else might as well stay with a link or two to the big retail chains and crowd it all out with AdSense if they don't convert for us.

  24. #24
    Troll Killer and best Snooper!
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    Brian, I'd like to cast my vote for an html notification, email notification, anything that I don't have to drop what I'm doing to learn a new piece of software that I otherwise have no use for.

    I have one pretty reliable merchant that has lots of products I can use. They're not on auto-deposit and every once in a while they disappear off the radar for a few days. I'd like to be able to keep track of that so that I can make a reasonable decision if it seems time to pull the plug on them. Frankly I have no idea how many days I've sent them free traffic.

    I'll take this a step further. Perhaps the stats for a merchant should show number of days offline out of days since going online with SAS. That might serve as a strong incentive for merchants to opt for automatic deposit or keeping their balance topped off at all times.

  25. #25
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Another solution is to just make a downloadable spreadsheet with ALL the SAS merchants. There could be a column for the status, online or offline. Then, there could be a column for each month which tells how many days they were offline that month. Have it cover a 12 month span with n/a in the months when they were not participating in SAS. This way we could tell how long they have had their program and how steady they have been at a glance. Also, we could sort it to see who had the fewest offline days and so forth. For fun, you could also add the commission paid in a column and conversion rate for each month, too. We could get a lot of information from such a spreadsheet. Good merchants would be very apparent after we look at a couple of sorts. A column for what they generally sell like they are listed in the directory is also useful if we are looking for niche merchants. Add a column that tells wheather they have a datafeed or not. Tell if they have automatic approval.

    This has so many possible uses that I think you should really think about it. Put ALL the relevant information about ALL the merchants into a downloadable spreadsheet! Once it is set up, all you need to do is keep it current.

    It would beat the heck out of finding merchants by guess and by golly and having to go to each of their pages to check them out.

    It will help us find the neglected gems!

    The more I think about this, the better I like it! Please,give some real thought to a summary spreadsheet!
    Last edited by SSanf; August 22nd, 2005 at 02:06 AM.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

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