I spent some time today exploring a number of merchant programs (all at SAS), for a personal project, and I'm really getting frustrated.

Just now, I found another merchant, this time a magazine retailer ("Magazine Master"), which prominently displays a message (to click for coupon codes) on every landing page -- but clicking on that message redirects consumers to a page with two coupon codes, urging consumers to "Hurry, offer expires end of September 2006!" I don't know if the coupon codes still work, but I'm certainly not sending any customers to this merchant, since I'd expect a very high abandonment rate.

What I was looking for this evening was a magazine merchant that doesn't use "tricks and traps" as part of its offers -- not sites where the advertised subscription rate is only available if accompanied by other transactions. In this case, the merchant's use of a coupon code that consumers must manually enter seems like an obstacle to me, even if it didn't say it expired five months ago.

Earlier today, I found that another SAS merchant's web site ("Unbeatable Sale," which proved to be very false advertising), has a web site that was coming up 404 (robably due to a Yahoo Store problem reported elsewhere on ABW today). But now that the site is visible once again, I see a TOLL-FREE NUMBER in HUGE lettering at the top & bottom of the home page, with no visible method to track the sale back to an affiliate. In the end, that proved irrelevant, since the merchant's prices are absurdly high.

It's really annoying to look through dozens of programs and find so many (so quickly) that are so disappointing. (These were the only two programs I actually tried to test today, though I applied for quite a few more.)

I'm starting to worry that the "dud rate" is going to be very high, meaning I might spend hours just to identify each merchant that I consider to be "valid," before doing any affiliate "work."