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  1. #251
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    Trust, couldn't agree more. Policing over a dozen programs is not easy and I take feedback from my affiliates seriously. If I get a complaint from FlamingoWorld that an exclusive coupon has been posted on RetailMeNot I am on that immediately. If it persists then I determine whether to terminate the relationship. I did terminate RetailMeNot for several weeks until I got the answers I wanted.
    You couldn't agree more but your actions do and they don't exactly help this business. So we're not actually agreeing on this issue.

  2. #252
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    they're supposed to know the rules and agreements they get into with merchants. You guys are just proving my point that the problem is with affiliate managers and how they let things slide.
    First, my work as an AM was limited to FQW and I don't believe I ever received a complaint about "letting things slide." Most of my experience in affiliate marketing comes from the affiliate end. Second, we don't disagree that it is an affiliate's responsibility to know and play by the rules.

    Here's where we disagree. Let's say we're both coupon affiliates of one of Chuck's programs. And the merchant of this program says, "hey, you can post any coupon you want, just not ones that are exclusive to other affiliates." We both subscribe to email lists, etc. and build up our database. All's well, right?

    Now let's say that you open it up and allow user's to enter in coupon codes for this merchant. How could you ever know if any particular code was, or was not, exclusive to me? This has nothing to do with knowing the rules of the game - you know those and you want to follow them. Accepting the fact that users might input codes exclusive to other affiliates, you implement a system wherein the merchant (or me as a competing affiliate) can tell you that a particular code is off-limits. Where is the problem? Did you act irresponsibly? Did you try to cheat me out of my commissions? No. You created a different interface and provided a means for the game to stay level.

    I am not saying that RMN has always, or is now, desirous that the game stay level. I have no clue. My point has less to do with RMN and more to do with the model.
    Chris Sturgill
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  3. #253
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    "How could you ever know if any particular code was, or was not, exclusive to me?"

    The not knowing a code is exclusive, doesn't hold up. You can ask any coupon affiliate out there, they know exclusives when they see them because it usually has the coupon site name in them, upper 90% of the time. I can go to their site right now and easily spot them just like other coupon affiliates. And since it's their model and if that is part of the agreement, then it's on them to police it.

  4. #254
    Affiliate Manager guinness618's Avatar
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    When I have affiliate only coupons, they are sent directly from me.
    IF an affiliate doesn't receive the code DIRECTLY from me, then they shouldn't have it. Period.
    And codes that are on forums, posted by users, are still on your site. You are responsible for the content of your site, so please do not feign ignorance and tell me that you didn't know it was there. If you can't regulate your forums, don't offer them. Or block user submissions for my brands.
    Dyan Carlson
    ["My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."- The Dalai Lama

  5. #255
    Affiliate Manager guinness618's Avatar
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    AND, if you see an affiliate with coupons they shouldn't have, please let me know.
    I can't look at every affiliate's site, so having another set of eyes is always helpful.
    Dyan Carlson
    ["My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."- The Dalai Lama

  6. #256
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    The not knowing a code is exclusive, doesn't hold up. You can ask any coupon affiliate out there, they know exclusives when they see them... I can go to their site right now and easily spot them just like other coupon affiliates. And since it's their model and if that is part of the agreement, then it's on them to police it.
    If I were working as an AM and an affiliate came to me and said they were going to allow users to submit coupon codes and they were hesitant that such might print out exclusive codes, I would work with them. Other AM's might choose that it isn't worth the time and exclude them from the program.

    But I have no problem with a person deciding on a particular business model (in this case, user submitted coupons) and then working with those that are willing to work with them in that model. If I were an affiliate jaded by exclusive coupons being on RMN, I would have a larger beef with the AM than with RMN.

    If your statements are accurate about exclusive coupons (I'm not a couponer and don't know), then I have no problem admitting that RMN should do more. Again, I just don't know - and have never tried to defend RMN. I just have no problem with the model.

    Though I will tell you this, if I managed a program of which RMN was a member I would monitor them closely and ensure they played by the rules just like everybody else. Merchants and AM's create the rules for a reason, and as long as they play fair I would allow them to make me money just like all the other affiliates.
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  7. #257
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Chris I had prepared a lengthy post in response to one of your posts above and in the time that it took me to type it I noticed several more posts were made all pretty much saying the same thing and none of them convincing you that your way of looking at this is incorrect.

    May I suggest another approach? Would you agree that it is the responsibility of all of us to live up to the agreements that we enter into and to honor the commitments that we make?

    Great if you answered yes, we have additional issues if you answered no. For the sake of this illustration let's assume that you answered yes.

    Now let's assume that at least some of the merchant agreements that they've entered in to have some restrictions on what coupons can be posted (a fairly safe assumption). Now if I understand you correctly, you're saying that even though they've agreed to these terms that they shouldn't be held responsible because it's just too much work for them to determine which coupons are allowed or not. Is that what you're saying? If so, then what was the point of a merchant including the restrictions in their TOS if any affiliate can bypass the restriction by just claiming that they don't have the time or resources to comply? What about the affiliates that only do this part time? Should they be allowed to break the rules because it just takes too much time to police their sites and they have other things to do?

    As long as we've decided it's OK to break this rule because it's really just too hard to comply (by the way, it would appear that the majority of affiliates have no problem not posting unauthorized coupons) let's see what other rules are just too tough. There's that rule about cookie stuffing. Hmmnn. It really would be easier if I just fired off a couple of hundred cookies every time someone visited my site. Then I wouldn't have to spend so much time writing content, creating links and dealing with datafeeds. It's OK as long as a merchant doesn't catch me, right?

    Then maybe I really should consider my own toolbar. I'd never spend another penny on PPC. For that matter, who needs a site anyway. You write the content, I'll set the cookie.

    So do you get the point? Rules are rules. Contracts are contracts. And bad excuses are bad excuses. Why should anyone have to play by the rules if they don't. And if they've managed to get new terms from some merchants, more power to them, they still need to comply with the terms that they've agreed to with the rest.

    I'll agree, they have an interesting business model. I'll agree that it's a great business model when they can run it ethically.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  8. #258
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    Now if I understand you correctly, you're saying that even though they've agreed to these terms that they shouldn't be held responsible because it's just too much work for them to determine which coupons are allowed or not.
    rematt, the answer to this can be found in your sig line, included here for easy reference: "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

    To be blunt: you have misinterpreted me. There are no free passes for rules being too hard to follow. In general, I feel that a quality AM will make complying with the rules easier. Perhaps an example will help.

    Let's take PPC bidding. Many merchants have restrictions on the terms you can bid on for PPC. Can you imagine the confusion that would be in place if a merchant said, "You can not bid on any term that is also an exclusive coupon code of a fellow affiliate." I image most people would ask what the hell the AM was thinking writing such an opaque rule (opaque in that not every affiliate knows every exclusive coupon code out there).

    I am willing to give that certain codes should be obvious. But as an AM, I wouldn't want to rely on an affiliate to make those judgment calls.

    If the medium is ethical (and I think the concept of user-submitted coupons is just fine), then I would choose to work with the affiliate to make compliance affiliate-friendly. It is in no one's best interest to hinder growth or keep affiliates from pursuing new ways of reaching users. RMN has done a wonderful job of reaching a base of dissatisfied consumers. And I see little reason to throw out the whole model as flawed or problematic.

    Again, I am not condoning or approving of any particular business practice in place by RMN.

    If I were an AM, I might require that coupons be put on hold for X number of hours before going live to allow me to review. Do I have to do that? No. It would be easier to just boot them from the program. As an affiliate, you should be more upset with those AM's who put rules in place and then don't enforce them or who make enforcement difficult or obscure. Not those who are willing to work with affiliates one-on-one to improve their product and keep the playing field level.
    Chris Sturgill
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  9. #259
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Chris, the point that I'm trying to make is that they don't have to know about all of the exclusive coupons. All they have to know are the coupons that they are authorized to post. I understand that their business model makes it more difficult to ascertain which codes are allowed are not, but it is their responsibility to police their site. And if they are making millions a year then they should be able to hire the personnel for a manual process or the programmers to automate it.

    As far as being upset with AMs that don't enforce the rules, ABSOLUTELY. But that doesn't, mean that I'm willing to look the other way when an affiliate breaks the rules.

    I think we agree on a lot of things. However, I don't agree that RMN's abuse of the rules should be everyone elses problem. If I break the rules, I understand the consequences, no excuses.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  10. #260
    Affiliate Manager guinness618's Avatar
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    RMN represents the "catch me if you can" side of Affiliate Marketing.
    It shouldn't have to be this way when the majority of affiliates are willing to play by the rules.
    Dyan Carlson
    ["My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."- The Dalai Lama

  11. #261
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    "If the medium is ethical (and I think the concept of user-submitted coupons is just fine)"

    Maybe fine for shoppers but maybe not fine for the merchant and all the problems that come with user submitted coupons already mentioned above.

    Expired coupons, see the pfaelzer example above.

    If you have an affiliate program with coupon restrictions, sites like this are bound to violate them since users don't know those restrictions. So unless they're willing to monitor them, it's going to be a problem.

    Coupons that don't work, bad customer experience. You're going to have more of those type of problems with sites like this.

    Why this thread was started in the first place. Problems with your other affiliates when their exclusives are used on other sites and the AM doesn't do anything or allows it to happen. There are other AM's here that have let it slide as well.

    I can make up a coupon, call it CHUCK, 10% off any order for one of the Affiliate Crew merchants and it'll show up on the site. Now maybe after you have a customer complaint, it'll get removed.

  12. #262
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    All they have to know are the coupons that they are authorized to post.
    Agree. But when merchants don't make that clear (i.e., there is no one master list, but affiliates are to grab coupons from mailers, etc.) I can give places like RMN some leeway. READ: some.

    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    I think we agree on a lot of things. However, I don't agree that RMN's abuse of the rules should be everyone elses problem. If I break the rules, I understand the consequences, no excuses.
    I think we agree on most things. It is not a fellow affiliate's responsibility to police RMN, but I would expect my AM to do so (if the AM didn't boot them from the program). I just don't feel that the RMN model is in the same "throw the whole thing into the trash" group that parasiteware is. Again, I don't know how RMN practices business, and I might have problems with any particular aspect of their business operations, but I think the model is just fine and dandy.
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  13. #263
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    I could see RMN working just fine, if they weren't an affiliate program, just attracting loads of traffic by serving the consumer and simultaneously mucking up cross channels, exclusive coupon committments made to others, questionable cookie setting tactics and more (yes, more). If they weren't an affiliate, for example, the cookie setting question would be completely moot. They wouldn't be under a contractual obligation to respect end dates, follow other published affiliate rules or respecting cross channel canibalization either. But once they are simultaneously a rule breaker, problem causer, code stealer, toolbar provider and more, I find it interesting that they are valued as a "sales" producer in the affiliate channel. Yet again highlighting for me, how incremental sales have been relegated to nearly insignificant consideration and reported sales mean everything, to the exclusion of reason.

    And yes, this does come back to the well beaten horse, the value of coupon affiliates... when value isn't respected and rewarded, guess what the outcome is...

    More of the same road traversed for our industry, such a shame that the bulk of players (on all sides everywhere) have never managed to focus on the real value, incremental sales for the merchant.

    Incurable, conflicted, myopic quagmire speckled with bright freckles (aka 'ABW members') that manage to keep its incredible aggregate weight aloft with foundational, ethical, actual value marketing contributions. Imagine the soaring heights that could be reached if unladen. I have. I'm Icarus, and I'm working on the wax right now.

  14. #264
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    Problems with your other affiliates when their exclusives are used on other sites and the AM doesn't do anything or allows it to happen. There are other AM's here that have let it slide as well.
    That, I agree, is a bigger problem. I am fine with the model, but not with AM's looking the other way.

    A level playing field is the key. If the field is kept level, I am fine with user-submitted coupons. If merchants have a problem with customer satisfaction, etc., they should reassess if the business relationship makes sense.

    But I put most of this on AM's and merchants - while not excusing any poor practice by RMN. But a system that allows an AM to double check the exclusivity of a submitted coupon is just fine - provided the AM is willing to do the legwork. If the AM cannot or will not, this kind of site should be removed from the program.
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  15. #265
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    "And yes, this does come back to the well beaten horse, the value of coupon affiliates... when value isn't respected and rewarded, guess what the outcome is...

    More of the same road traversed for our industry, such a shame that the bulk of players (on all sides everywhere) have never managed to focus on the real value, incremental sales for the merchant."

    If you're talking about the value of coupon affiliates in general, that's a completely different topic, one that could have it's own thread, one that I would be glad to participate in and show you the great value in, very easily.

  16. #266
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    I could see RMN working just fine, if they weren't an affiliate program, just attracting loads of traffic by serving the consumer and simultaneously mucking up cross channels, exclusive coupon committments made to others, questionable cookie setting tactics and more (yes, more).
    I agree with you. From the beginning I've stated that my concern was less about RMN's particular business practice and a system that allows for user-submitted coupons within the affiliate channel. I am clueless when it comes to RMN's business practices, but am intrigued by the business concept. If they're dirty, they're dirty. But I don't think that is solely by virtue of user submitted coupons.
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  17. #267
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbsturg
    Again, I don't know how RMN practices business, and I might have problems with any particular aspect of their business operations, but I think the model is just fine and dandy.
    Isn't that pretty much the same with just about every business model? Toolbars aren't inherently bad, but affiliates that use toolbars to overwrite the cookies of others are.

    Read the thread from the beginning to get a feel for the way RMN does business. See what happened when a merchant asked them to remove their coupons and then come back and let us know what you think of their ethics.

    The only reason a site like this can thrive is because not enough merchants have taken the time and trouble to enforce their TOS. And yes, I take it as a personal affront when I play by the rules and am put at a disadvantage when another site chooses not to and gets away with it.

    I also consider that the time that AMs spend policing RMN and other unethical sites would be time better spent helping me make more money. I know, I'm selfish, but at least I'm honest.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  18. #268
    ABW Ambassador Georgie Peri's Avatar
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    Thumbs up
    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    I also consider that the time that AMs spend policing RMN and other unethical sites would be time better spent helping me make more money. I know, I'm selfish, but at least I'm honest.

    -rematt
    Right on !

  19. #269
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    Isn't that pretty much the same with just about every business model? Toolbars aren't inherently bad, but affiliates that use toolbars to overwrite the cookies of others are.
    Agreed. Though I personally find them more obnoxious than helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    Read the thread from the beginning to get a feel for the way RMN does business. See what happened when a merchant asked them to remove their coupons and then come back and let us know what you think of their ethics.
    I actually read this entire thread before I began posting. Hence my comment to Chuck about his change of tone. The screwing people over cannot be excused, and blatant disregard for merchant requests to remove coupons are abhorrent.

    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    The only reason a site like this can thrive is because not enough merchants have taken the time and trouble to enforce their TOS.
    Eh, I think they could prolly do pretty well with other revenue streams (gAds, etc.). If they weren't affiliates of any of those companies I bet they'd still make a pretty penny.

    I would say the only reason sites like this try to screw over other affiliates is because they know that a good deal of merchants do not spend time keeping their programs clean. How many merchants do you think really take advantage of their email subscription monitoring service? If more merchants / AM's took care of business how they should, the site probably would have been designed differently from the ground up.

    But I still like the general model...

    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    And yes, I take it as a personal affront when I play by the rules and am put at a disadvantage when another site chooses not to and gets away with it.
    As well you should. When affiliates require AM's to play straight, and when AM's require merchants to play straight, I think a lot of the bickering will die out...

    Quote Originally Posted by rematt
    I also consider that the time that AMs spend policing RMN and other unethical sites would be time better spent helping me make more money. I know, I'm selfish, but at least I'm honest.

    -rematt
    No problem being selfish, but recognize we all are. I don't know what sites you run, but given RMN's volume, as an AM I probably would spend some time with them. Again, you've got to make sure the game is fair (and if the accusations against them are true, perhaps you've got to boot out of principle), but if they grow the merchant in meaningful ways there's nothing wrong with holding their hands a bit.

    Again, I only hold hands with those who wash afterwards, so to speak. Gotta' be clean...
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  20. #270
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    If hundreds of affiliates create websites that can be policed then AMs may not have the time to police all of them

  21. #271
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    I was looking a little closer at that Firefox add-on (second link) this past weekend, and noticed that it popped up a notification bar in the browser when you visited the website of one of SAS's toolbars-not-allowed merchants. I notified the OPM and looks like the popup doesn't happen for that merchant anymore.

    http:// charts.cdn.retailmenot.com/charts/extension.txt shows all the merchants for which the Firefox add-on will show the notification bar. There is still at least one other SAS exclusive merchant still on their list... There may be more, but I haven't looked through the list in great detail.
    --

  22. #272
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    There were numerous, haven't checked today. Brian is aware of them, yet they stay which doesn't speak well for the new policy or SAS.

  23. #273
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    cbsturg, RetailMeNot has a subscription service for each merchant page on their site that pings you with an email every time a new coupon code is added. When I get those I evaluate what should be allowed based on my relationship with that merchant. I have a personal contact there that removes or revised the code in 12-24 hours to my exact specification. This has been working to my satisfaction for six months and I am pleased with my relationship with this site.

    RetailMeNot is a consumer based community where sharing of coupon codes is a give and take relationship.
    Chuck, so I am guessing then you are aware they pop-up on other affiliate traffic with their toolbar? Since they keep you so informed, I can only guess that for your clients like register.com you support tool bars popping up on all traffic to register.com to convert free and other affiliate traffic into retailmenot traffic?

    Can you clarify that?

  24. #274
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Chetf, was not aware that they are pop'ing up on their toolbar, will investigate and post back here.

  25. #275
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    First round of testing does not show that it is stealing cookies from affiliate links. Need to do another level of testing to look deeper. Will post back what I find out.

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