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  1. #1
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    Forced Fake-Chat Window (LaptopsForLess and CellPhoneAccents)
    I've now encountered a second merchant with the "forced fake-chat window": I now suspect that CellPhoneAccents.com is actually the same company as LaptopsForLess.com.

    As I noted in a comment about this yesterday, which I accidentally posted it in the CJ forum for LaptopsForLess:

    When you attempt to exit either site, a pop-up window opens, encouraging visitors to engage in a "live chat." No matter what action the user takes in response to the first box, a second pop-up window opens, with the usual confusing wording; if the user closes that second window or clicks "cancel," they are sent to a "live chat window."

    But that's not the worst of it. In fact, the "live chat window" isn't live at all. It is an automated script that just keeps feeding standard marketing messages; no response is ever given to questions asked. If you read very carefully, you'll find that these morons describe this as a "virtual live agent."

    I've removed all links to both LaptopsForLess.com and CellPhoneAccents.com, and I encourage other affiliates to do the same. I will not do business with unethical merchants.

    Of course, lots of merchants have annoying "live chat" windows that pop up, and I don't normally write to complain about it. While I consider it to be annoying, and raises some ethical issues, I do understand that some versions of these "live chat" windows do significantly increase conversion rates. However, this one doesn't do anything helpful -- no consumer questions are answered, so there is no "benefit" to the consumer, who had already decided to exit the site.

    In short, this particular "forced virtual live-chat window" is both unethical and ineffective. Whoever is behind these two companies is clearly incompetent as well as unethical.

  2. #2
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    As a consumer I would tend to avoid sites like this after the first experience. It's amazing how many marketing managers never ask themselves "Is this a good experience for my potential customer?" Whoever thought this strategy up needs to rethink their career choice.

    -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

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the info Mark. They're off my list.

    It's almost as if they hired webmasters from the porn industry or something.

  4. #4
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    Mark, I think you need to be careful of tossing around words like "unethical". These merchants were sold on a bad service that they thought was of benefit to their customers. That makes them gullible, but not necessarily unethical.

    Did you contact both merchants with your concerns about how that makes their site look to consumers? If enough people bring it to their attention, perhaps they will take that into consideration and remove the application. If affiliates just leave without telling them why that won't fix the problem.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  5. #5
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    I don't throw around words like "unethical" or "incompetent" lightly. (I do probably toss around the word "ineffective" pretty casually.) Perhaps you didn't notice the link to my earlier post in the LFL forum? (I actually posted there in error, not realizing at the time that it was their CJ forum.)

    And yes, I contacted "both" companies; someone from LFL even posted a reply in the other thread (http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=99934).

  6. #6
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    You'd think that they would visit their site and see how stupid that thing is.

    I agree with Mark that unethical is a very good word for a merchant who traps a customer on his site and won't let them go!

  7. #7
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I think it's insulting (to our intelligence), annoying, somewhat deceptive and probably ineffective, but it's quite a stretch to call it unethical.

    FWIW, they're not the only merchants who use this software. One of the OPMs here has a client who uses it, too. I emailed the OPM when I first encountered it, letting him know how stupid it was. He had already talked to the merchant but they insisted in keeping it.
    Michael Coley
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    Mark, I think you need to be careful of tossing around words like "unethical". These merchants were sold on a bad service that they thought was of benefit to their customers. That makes them gullible, but not necessarily unethical.
    To me, owners are necessarily responsible and liable for their companies regardless, ignorance being no excuse. I sure as heck don't cut any cheques without first checking work done for me.

    It's very clearly parasite-like - using deception, exploitation, acting against people's will, etc. As Mark said, it's trickery, pure and simple. Visitors to the website are victims and must extract themselves.

    In the context of affiliate marketing I think all that matters is a) is it unethical behaviour, b) are they currently engaging in this behaviour. Their ignorance level and intentions don't come into play unless they stop engaging in this despicable behaviour or until they do it again. In this case we have what looks like two strikes and an open unwillingness to acknowledge it as despicable.

  9. #9
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Parasite-like? You have to be kidding. It doesn't overwrite any affiliate links. How is it like a parasite and how is it unethical?
    Michael Coley
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_C
    In the context of affiliate marketing I think all that matters is a) is it unethical behaviour, b) are they currently engaging in this behaviour.
    In the context of affiliate marketing what matters is does the site convert or does it piss off the people you send there? If it doesn't work and you pull your links and you tell the merchant why AND their sales tank AND customers complain AND traffic takes a dive, they will listen.

    As Michael said, it isn't parasitic. However it is idiotic and hopefully merchants will find that out before they go out of business.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    Parasite-like? You have to be kidding. It doesn't overwrite any affiliate links. How is it like a parasite and how is it unethical?
    I think several people in the parasite threads have observed how, if you click on an opt-out button, the parasite continues as if you hadn't opted out.

    I didn't say this was a parasite, I said it was parasite-like. In other words, this kind of popup shares some features in common with parasites. Not letting visitors opt-out, even when they expressly want to, is one perfect example.

    By unethical I mean not conforming to standards of conduct within our industry, engaging in unprofessional behaviour. Do you see this kind of thing very often on the web? How many honest websites do you know that do this? It's quite common in the porn/warez/serialz industry, which should tell us how sleazy this is.

    You're welcome to continue to think everything is hunky dory. I consider them sleaze.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    In the context of affiliate marketing what matters is does the site convert or does it piss off the people you send there? If it doesn't work and you pull your links and you tell the merchant why AND their sales tank AND customers complain AND traffic takes a dive, they will listen.

    As Michael said, it isn't parasitic. However it is idiotic and hopefully merchants will find that out before they go out of business.
    Well said, but I think by your logic there are no ethical or unethical things in affiliate marketing? Something can be seen as unethical but not piss anyone off, drop sales, drop traffic, etc., and therefore as long as it's not doing any of these things it's ok?

    You can probably push that line of reasoning in some really wild directions and end up in places you definitely don't want to be...

  13. #13
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    If I put a product link on my site for merchant "A" and intentionally sent the visitor to merchant "B" when they clicked the link because I get a higher commission from merchant "B" on the same product, is that unethical? If you feel it is (and I definitely do) then you have to agree that what a merchant is doing with a phony chat is unethical too. It promises one thing, and delivers another.

    Now, is a merchant that employs this tactic unethical? In my book, yes. What's the difference between someone that uses unethical practices and someone that is unethical? There is none, the practice defines the label.

    -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

  14. #14
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    Hmm are they only doing it when you use an affiliate link? Becuase i just went to the site and didn't see any popup when I exited?

  15. #15
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    You have to go to the shopping cart before the action triggers.
    Michael Coley
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_C
    Well said, but I think by your logic there are no ethical or unethical things in affiliate marketing? Something can be seen as unethical but not piss anyone off, drop sales, drop traffic, etc., and therefore as long as it's not doing any of these things it's ok?

    You can probably push that line of reasoning in some really wild directions and end up in places you definitely don't want to be...
    You haven't paid attention to my past posts if you think I believe that statement. That is part of why I disagree that this particular practice is "unethical". We need to be careful what we label as unethical so that we keep the things that are truly unethical at the forefront. If we use too wide a brush the term loses impact and relevance.
    Deborah Carney
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  17. #17
    The slot machine that IS paid! Billy Kay's Avatar
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    If I put a product link on my site for merchant "A" and intentionally sent the visitor to merchant "B" when they clicked the link because I get a higher commission from merchant "B" on the same product, is that unethical?
    Depends. I have a rule. If a merchant is 2 months behind in paying... and they don't respond to my "When are you going to pay your affiliates for our November sales?"...

    then I simply redirect my links to their competitor

    sometimes, if I'm really ticked... I tell them "you were 2 months late on commissions, thanks for finally paying, I'll undo the redirects in two months!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    You haven't paid attention to my past posts if you think I believe that statement. That is part of why I disagree that this particular practice is "unethical". We need to be careful what we label as unethical so that we keep the things that are truly unethical at the forefront. If we use too wide a brush the term loses impact and relevance.
    Ok, I stand corrected. You do, in fact, believe there to be ethical and unethical behaviours.

  19. #19
    MasterMike HardwareGeek's Avatar
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    Lol I just go tit

    I told her to Go away and she said click the X and I called her a Stupid B word and the chat window went blank lol

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador simcat's Avatar
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    I think you broke it. I tried it and just goes to blank window (firefox).

  21. #21
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    i just went to the cell phone one (type-in), clicked a link on the page (don't remember what), then just typed a new url, and got the popup. I kinda like the idea, but its deceptive with the 'live' chat that's not live.. I tried to type, and they did not reply, except the canned crap.

    Instead they should just popup a window with the 10% discount, instead if disguising it as a chat, with the "agent typing" junk. It is a lie to decieve customers, so I guess I'll agree that a merchant who lies to customers is unethical.

  22. #22
    Moderator BurgerBoy's Avatar
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    She gave me a - lap - dance during the pop-up.

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  23. #23
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    At least she is honest...

    You: Are you human?
    Kelly Says: My name is Kelly and I'm a live virtual agent.

    I would think a product like this would either be plain about it's intention or include some sort of basic AI -- that shouldn't be that hard to do. At least make it more interesting than ELIZA to chat with.

    The company that sells the chat program is claiming to have saved their clients a lot of money...not that I'm endorsing the concept at all. I know we do very well with with pop-up chat in the right places, but it's all live human and our product lends itself well to actual discussion. (Of course ...chat pop-up is suppressed for affiliate traffic.)

    Oh, and hi everyone. I suppose this is my first post from a long time of lurking.

    -Rick

  24. #24
    More Cheesier Than Ever Cheesehead's Avatar
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    This just seems so much like "late 90's" internet marketing. It is enough to send just about anybody away from the site forever. When I just checked, the popup was no longer on the laptop site but it was still on the cellphone site.
    This World is Not My Home
    We're gonna go inside, we're gonna go outside, inside and outside. . . And then we're gonna go go go and we're not gonna stop til we get across that goalline! Quotes from the movie Rudy, 1993

  25. #25
    Moderator bibby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    Mark, I think you need to be careful of tossing around words like "unethical". These merchants were sold on a bad service that they thought was of benefit to their customers. That makes them gullible, but not necessarily unethical.

    Did you contact both merchants with your concerns about how that makes their site look to consumers? If enough people bring it to their attention, perhaps they will take that into consideration and remove the application. If affiliates just leave without telling them why that won't fix the problem.
    when this was brought to ABW's members in the CJ post, LaptopsForLess responded and defended their actions. Even after we voiced our objections and belief that that behavior coud be deemed to be unethical.
    They responded that they believed it would increase their revenue.

    So all they are concerned about is revenue vs. acting appropriately.

    Many of us responded that we didn't want our sites associated with such activity. Our sites could suffer if we send customers to a merchant who oeprates in that manner.
    LaptoopsForLess didn't say they would change that behavior. After bringing it to their attention and expplaining why that behavior could be unethical, they never changed their ways.
    This goes beyond being gullable to knowingly using tactics that annoy customers.

    Call it what you want but Gullable doesn't come to mind.

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