Monday, 22 March 2021

What Happened Between Me and the UK Amazon Associates Programme: The Entire Story


(Warning: this post briefly references and details mental health problems (Depression/Anxiety))


Last December, I got kicked off the UK Amazon Associates Programme. 

I am so not happy.

I've tried pretty much everything to sort this out - but Amazon UK don't seem to care.

So I will do what I do in situations like this - I will put it all out there on the table, in it's full stalling-tactics, arbitrary, frustrating glory.


(This is a long one - feel free to bookmark it and come back, but I would really, really, appreciate you reading this. 💖)



'What Happened Between Me and the UK Amazon Associates Programme: The Entire Story' against a cardboard background



My darling dearest nerdlets, you don't get rid of me that easy. 

I don't just 'leave it,', not when I know I did nothing wrong. 

I will keep going, again and again.

And so here we are...



I really have to make 6000% clear that this only applies to the UK Associates Programme, and Amazon UK.

UK. United Kingdom. Great Britain.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (to give us the full title.)

I still have my Amazon.com US Associateship, and I've never been a member of any of the other international programmes.

So all that you're about to hear/read is related to the UK branch of the company only.



So what is the Amazon Associates Programme?

Well it's something that bloggers and other online creators use to try and earn some cash.

It's a programme which allows you to provide links to your audience (in this case, you, dearest nerdlets,) referring them to Amazon, usually linking specific products.



Each country's division of Amazon (e.g. UK, US, Canada, Japan,) has their own separate programme and agreement/contract/terms of service/whatever, but they're all interlinked -

you can use a universal link, for example (like I was doing, using my UK links to also link to the US,) so you can get money from more than one country without supplying separate links 

- and run on roughly the same model.



If you click the associate link, and buy something from Amazon (even something different to the linked product,) the Associate (content creator) gets a small but fairly reasonable commission from the sale. 

Because you went to Amazon because you clicked their link, and then remembered you needed to do some shopping. So the Associate has brought Amazon business, albeit in a casual kind of way.

You get money, Amazon gets money, the customer gets their industrial bag of dog biscuits, or whatever (that's a real example, FYI.) 

Everyone's happy. Right?



Well, kind of. 

They only pay out when you reach the payment threshold - which is reasonable, but means a lot of people will sit languishing with £7.50 credit, and never be paid.

(The current UK payment threshold is £25.)

Because there are payment processing fees which means Amazon UK has to pay a small amount simply to pay you.

For literally four or five years, I did not reach the payment threshold. It's possible - but it's Hard. Work.

So I had like £0.89 in my account for what felt like forever - but I didn't give up. Because I don't give up easy.

(FYI, I've never reached the US payment threshold - but, once again, they aren't included in these problems. This is UK only.)



Slowly, oh-so slowly and incrementally, I started to pick up more commission - more people were reading Dora Reads, and I pride myself on having readers (love ya!) who're interested in the stuff I write.

And people who're interested, or 'engaged' are more likely to click your commission links, and people who click the links are eligible to earn you commission. 

That's blog monetisation 101, or what you see on a lot of the money-making corners of the internet as 'the content marketing funnel.'



So it got to the point where I was reaching the payment threshold every two to three months.

Which, I'm sure, meant that they were having to pay a small transfer fee every time they paid me.

People who are more cynical than I am may reasonably have grounds to suggest that large companies may resent agents or affiliates who they have to pay relatively small amounts to on a consistent basis. 

I personally would hesitate to ascribe motives to a corporation with so many moving parts.

But it is interesting to see what people on this review site thought of various Amazon Associate experiences. 

These reviews are from various countries so I will again reiterate that my problem is ONLY with the UK programme. I'm not responsible for the content of other people's reviews.



I'm there, then, happily swanning along and enjoying my status as one of the few people who've managed to make some pennies while running a book blog, and then-

*sighs*

And then.

I'm going to use a letter I wrote to the UK Country Manager of Amazon in complaint, because it explains everything that happened up to the 21st of December, and I really don't have the energy to go through that again.

I'll also split it up and add some commentary, (because I'm nice to you,) and pick up the story at the end.



Here's my letter, then, to the UK country manager:



'Ms C___ [NAME] 

[ADDRESS]

[ADDRESS]

[ADDRESS]


21/12/20


Mr John Baumphrey
UK Country Manager, Amazon
1 Principal Place
Worship Street
London
EC2A 2FA'



The address is their registered corporate address and was something of a guess-timate -

...because the complaints policy for Amazon - especially for the Associates Programme as opposed to having a problem with your toaster - is clear as mud.




'Dear Mr Baumphrey:

Re: Closure of Amazon Associates Programme (UK) account'



Primary school English lessons at work right here.



'I am writing to you today to object to the way in which my Amazon Associates Programme (UK) account was unfairly and unreasonably closed on December 3rd 2020.

This action was completed without offering reasonable opportunity to redress any perceived problems, and with an unfair and inconsistent rationale provided by the Programme. Additionally, I object to the lack of co-operation and efficacy regarding the appeals process, and the apparent lack of availability of a formal complaints process.'




Basically me saying 'not cool, Amazon; not cool. - And can we please have a goddamn complaints procedure?'



'As you are no doubt aware, the Amazon Associates Programme is a way for content creators to monetise referral hyperlinks in a way that is mutually beneficial for both Amazon and creator.
I have, for several years, participated both in the UK programme and its sister US programme. I run a book blog called Dora Reads (dorareads.co.uk), using the pseudonym Cee Arr, and until recently held the UK Associate ID [ID REFERENCE]

On 16th November 2020, I received an e-mail which asked for further information regarding my account. It was unclear as to whether this e-mail also constituted a compliance warning in its own right, or whether it was the precursor to a compliance warning. The code I was told to quote in my response was Issue Code [CODE] The brief time-frame which the Programme allows for a response after a communication such as this is 5 working days.'




That first e-mail was super-confusing. I didn't know whether there was a problem or not, to be honest.

And yes, it did drop into my Inbox entirely out-of-the-blue. 



'On 18th November 2020, I responded to the e-mail using the Contact Form as instructed, making sure to include code Issue Code [CODE] The requested amount of information was rather extensive, and also often unclear. I took each of the points asked for, and answered them to the best of my ability. Where I was unsure of, or did not understand, what was required, I wrote that the request was unclear, and asked, as is reasonable, for clarification. I also specifically requested, at the end of my communication, to be informed if my account was not in compliance, and how, in order to rectify it.'




What information did it ask for? Pretty much everything. Seriously, there was no reason for them to want to know most of this stuff. 

Take a look:


'During our review, we determined that you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, found here: [link] To complete our review, we need you to provide more information about how you’re referring customers to the Amazon Site. Within five business days please provide a detailed description of the methods you are using to refer traffic to the Amazon Site by providing: • A list of the Sites on which your Special Links or banner ads are posted, • advertising services you are using, • links to screenshots of your Site’s analytics tools that show your Site traffic and its sources, • the keywords you are using to drive referrals, • any plugins or browser add-ons you use, • live links to your Sites, • a sequence of links that allows us to duplicate the clicks the majority of your customers make to get to the Amazon Site via your Special Links, and • do refer to the Operating Agreement for more details'


Text: During our review, we determined that you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, found here: [link] .
To complete our review, we need you to provide more information about how you’re referring customers to the Amazon Site. Within five business days please provide a detailed description of the methods you are using to refer traffic to the Amazon Site by providing: • A list of the Sites on which your Special Links or banner ads are posted, • advertising services you are using, • links to screenshots of your Site’s analytics tools that show your Site traffic and its sources, • the keywords you are using to drive referrals, • any plugins or browser add-ons you use, • live links to your Sites, • a sequence of links that allows us to duplicate the clicks the majority of your customers make to get to the Amazon Site via your Special Links, and • do refer to the Operating Agreement for more details




Some of those points like 'the keywords you are using to drive referrals' were open to interpretation - like I wasn't sure whether they wanted a list of search keywords that Google linked to my site, or whether they wanted a list of words I had used to place my Amazon links, or what.

Also, that's a lot of info. to gather from my 6 years worth of posts, what time frame did they want me to use?

It's that kind of thing that I asked for clarification on.



OK, back to the letter:


'After a few days, the notification on my Associates online account dashboard had disappeared and, having no other indications of any problem, I assumed the information I had provided had been adequate.'



I had a brief problem a few years ago where I got an infringement notification, and fixed it, then let them know.

Once I'd let them know, the notification simply disappeared. 

So yes, I assumed the same thing had happened. They asked for information, I gave it, problem solved, right?



'On 3rd December 2020, and surprisingly and quite distressingly, I received an e-mail stating that my UK Associates account had been closed because: ‘We previously issued you a non-compliance warning regarding your Associates account. You did not respond or come into compliance within the specified time.’

I assumed this was a mistake, because I had answered the request for information. I completed the appeal via the Contact Form as instructed by the e-mail, and reiterated this fact. I once again asked that I be informed if there was any actual violation of compliance, so that I could be given the opportunity to remedy it.'


 Like, dude, I did the thing! Why would you say I didn't?!



'On 7th December 2020, I was stunned to receive an e-mail which not only told me that my appeal was not successful (with no opportunity to appeal further,) but also provided an entirely different reason for the closure of the account. According to this e-mail, the reason was that: ‘The information in your application, such as your email address, mailing address, and/or the list of Sites you are using to drive traffic to Amazon is not accurate.’

As far as I’m aware, this was not the case. But as the account was closed, I have no way to check this. Regardless, if I had been told of this prior to the account’s closure, I would have checked that the details required were up-to-date, and rectified anything which needed attention. It is entirely unreasonable to both change the reasoning behind the closure, and to not allow me any opportunity to rectify the accused violation.'


*Confusion intensifies*

This... this is a different reason, right?


'Additionally, I was informed that the commission outstanding on my account would not be paid to me: this is commission that I had earned through purchases which ultimately still benefited Amazon UK. Though it seems an exceptionally unlucky coincidence, the timing of this – with my account only being closed after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales – may very well appear from a reasonable outsider’s perspective to be designed to be of advantage to Amazon UK, at the detriment of myself.'


...that's all I'll say about that.


'I now also have to remove all Amazon UK links from my lengthy blog archive. At the time of writing, I have over 1200 published blogposts written over a period of several years. Many do not have links, as not all discuss specific books or media products – but a large proportion do. Accordingly, removing these links is something of a long-term chore. I’m also aware of the fact that customers who click on my US links may still be referred back to the UK site, potentially earning income for Amazon UK with no commission awarded to myself.'


Does this seem fair to you? Really?


'I complained to both the Amazon Associates UK Twitter account and the main Amazon UK Twitter account regarding this issue. The Amazon Help Twitter account answered – though they were ultimately unable to help me. I asked, (at least 3 times,) to be advised of the formal complaints process, also tagging the main Amazon UK Twitter account, and received no response. It’s hard to believe that a company such as Amazon UK has no formal complaints procedure, but I was also unable to find one through conducting my own searches.

Though the income I received from this Programme was relatively small – for the past year or so I reached the payment threshold of £25 roughly every 2-4 months – being self-employed, I rely on multiple supplementary income streams; this is more important than ever given the effects of Covid 19 on small businesses. To lose this particular income stream in such an apparently uncaring and unreasonable manner was deeply distressing.'




Because I'm always honest with you dearest nerdlets, I will explain that the 'deeply distressing' here refers to Anxiety attacks at pretty much every step described, and enough tears to sink a small flotilla.

This mattered so much to me, because - and some people will know exactly what I mean, while others will struggle to relate - I earned that money. 

Me. I earned it. Every effing penny of it.




'Accordingly, I would like the following resolutions to be made regarding this complaint:


  • A formal apology for the closure of the account, the unreasonable treatment afforded, and the inadequate appeals and complaints processes

  • Restoration of my Amazon Associates Programme UK account

  • Payment of any outstanding commission I earned prior to 3rd December 2020; I know that there was an unpaid amount of £11.55 credited to the account as of 19th November 2020, so expect at least this amount in payment.

 


I expect a response to this letter by 31st January 2021. Failing receipt of such a response, or in the event of an unsatisfactory resolution of this issue, I feel it would be in the interests of the public, (and specifically of interest to the blogging and influencing communities online,) to further publicise this complaint. I trust this matter will be dealt with promptly and professionally.


Yours sincerely,

Ms [NAME]'


...I feel like those aren't unreasonable requests?

Because this whole sequence? It's not OK.



Let's pick up the story after I sent the letter, then.

(I sent the letter by registered post, btw, because that way they can't claim they never got it #TheGirlsGotBrains)

I have no idea whether the letter made its way to Mr Baumphrey himself, or was picked up by an intermediate layer of underling, but, eventually, I did get a response.

...sort of.



It didn't acknowledge my letter, or my requests, but I got an e-mail from the UK Associates programme on the 9th of January.

Asking for info. I'd already provided to them:


Text: Hello, This is [NAME] from the Amazon Associates program. Please accept our apologies for any distress caused due to the action on your store. We received your appeal regarding the termination of your Associates account. A specialist has reviewed your account and the decision to terminate your account. We request you to provide more information to complete our review:• A list of the Sites on which your Special Links or banner ads are posted. Please include all websites and social media applicable.• links to screenshots of your Site’s analytics tools that show your Site traffic and its sources. Please ensure that the google drive link is not password protected or provide password if applicable.• live links to your Sites,• a sequence of links on your website that allows us to duplicate the clicks the majority of your customers make to get to the Amazon Site via your Special Links.• Any other information that you would like for us to know. Please send the requested information to us as soon as possible using the Contact Us form available here: . Please choose the subject Warning/Information Request Response from the dropdown menu, and be sure to reference Issue Code [CODE] in the comments field. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Regards, [NAME] Amazon.co.uk
Text: Hello, This is [NAME] from the Amazon Associates program. Please accept our apologies for any distress caused due to the action on your store. We received your appeal regarding the termination of your Associates account. A specialist has reviewed your account and the decision to terminate your account. We request you to provide more information to complete our review:• A list of the Sites on which your Special Links or banner ads are posted. Please include all websites and social media applicable.• links to screenshots of your Site’s analytics tools that show your Site traffic and its sources. Please ensure that the google drive link is not password protected or provide password if applicable.• live links to your Sites,• a sequence of links on your website that allows us to duplicate the clicks the majority of your customers make to get to the Amazon Site via your Special Links.• Any other information that you would like for us to know. Please send the requested information to us as soon as possible using the Contact Us form available here: . Please choose the subject Warning/Information Request Response from the dropdown menu, and be sure to reference Issue Code [CODE] in the comments field. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Regards, [NAME] Amazon.co.uk





If they wanted to brush things off, I was fine with them doing so - so long as they followed through on their end, ofc.

So I filled in the contact form with all the info., again, and tbh I went into overdrive this time just to make sure they couldn't claim I hadn't provided enough information.

I gathered everything together and submitted it on the 18th of January, about 9 days later (there was a lot to gather - even though I had it before, because I had to submit it via their forms, I had no record of it.)

Here's the screenshot of my confirmation after filling out the contact form on the 18th:


Screenshot, Amazon Associates (UK): Thank you! Your e-mail has been sent. We will reply as soon as possible, usually within 24hours.



And so I waited.

Cos, I mean - the confirmation says I'll hear back within about 24 hours, right?

Nothing the next day. Or the day after.

So I waited some more.

And still nothing.




On the 1st of February, I sent them another e-mail, just because I'm kind enough to give people the benefit of the doubt.

More cynical people than I may believe that they were stalling in the hopes that I would give up and stop bothering them.

But those more cynical people don't realise that it would have to be a very naive company indeed to believe that you'd get rid of me that easily - and I hardly think Amazon UK can be considered naive. 

So my response must have been lost in the undoubtedly large volumes of correspondence they receive. That's fine, a reminder would, surely, prompt some action.

So I sent this:


Hi [NAME] I provided the information requested via the contact form on 18th January 2021 and have still (as of 1st Feb 2021,) had no response or further communications from Amazon Associates.    This is beyond the date I set (31st January 2021) in my letter to Mr Baumphrey as my deadline for the resolution of these issues.    I am willing to give you another week (until 8th February 2021,) to resolve the issues with my account, as a gesture of good will. After this, however, I feel I will have no other option but to further publicise my experiences with the Amazon Associates UK programme.
Text: Hi [NAME] I provided the information requested via the contact form on 18th January 2021 and have still (as of 1st Feb 2021,) had no response or further communications from Amazon Associates.    This is beyond the date I set (31st January 2021) in my letter to Mr Baumphrey as my deadline for the resolution of these issues.    I am willing to give you another week (until 8th February 2021,) to resolve the issues with my account, as a gesture of good will. After this, however, I feel I will have no other option but to further publicise my experiences with the Amazon Associates UK programme.




What do you think happened, dearest nerdlets?

That's right, a big fat nothing. I never heard back from them.

So, I went to Twitter to vent (just a touch) and let you all know that this very post would be happening soon:




As a result, Amazon's help account picked up that I'd said something potentially damaging to Amazon UK's stellar reputation.

In fairness, the poor person operating the help account was clearly trying their best. 

They gave me a different contact form (a social media-related one; which it's interesting that they have,) I gave my details. There was a message that said they'd be in touch within about 12 hours-ish, it might've been 8 I can't remember; it was less than 24 though. 

I went back to Twitter to let the person operating the help account know:


Amazon Help: Please allow us an opportunity to personally escalate your issue by providing us with additional details using the following link: [LINK] ^FJ. Cee: Have now done so. Amazon Help: We can confirm we've received your details and we'll be reaching out shortly. ^FJ


Narrator: but they did not reach out shortly. In fact, she never freaking heard from them again.

So, yeah.

That's where we end.



I figured since Amazon UK (again, UK only!) is such a huge company, and I know a lot of people use the Associates programme to earn some cash, it was kind of important that I write this post.

...as exhausting as it was to lay out all of the mind-numbing bureaucracy and stalling tactics employed here, I figured this was something I needed to go public with, to warn other people if nothing else.



Also, y'know, it's the principle of the thing!

It might not be a whole lot of money, in the grand, corporation, scheme of things, but I don't sit there and let large companies treat me like I don't matter.

(Only I get to treat me like I don't matter... and I'm attempting to stop doing that!)

Thankfully, my mother is always available to give me an in-depth and fervent rant against Capitalism, which helped keep me smiling through this whole thing 😅


Update, 16th June 2021 — since writing this post, I have had precisely one interaction with Amazon about this. 

Their Help account on Twitter sent me yet another link to a form — only it turned out to be a link to their US help form. And, as I’ve made clear circa 50 million times here, I ONLY have a problem with Amazon UK.

I told them this — and received no response.

Which isn’t really surprising.



If you've made it this far then thank you! I honestly am so grateful that you've taken the time to read this through.


I usually write bookish/nerdish/pop culture content like last Friday's fanfiction recommendation post, or this week's Comics Wrap-Up, where I chat capes and comics, or my Nerd Church posts, which are a little bit of everything, like this latest one about the motivation of Disney villains.



If you wanna help me build up some alternative income streams, or just to support me generally or show you liked this post, then you can buy me a coffee here



Thanks for reading! 

Sharing and commenting is always appreciated 💖







You can follow me on Twitter @CeeDoraReads, on Pinterest, and on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page



← Previous Post



6 comments:

  1. Wow, that’s frustrating. I’ve never had a problem with my associates account, but the only time I ever tried to get a refund from Amazon was difficult. I bought a book that was either lost in the mail or never shipped. Amazon said they’d put the money back on my gift card. I didn’t get the refund, so I contacted them again. They said they’d put the money back on my gift card. That didn’t happen, so I contacted them again. After a few weeks of not getting my refund, I gave up and let them keep my $25 dollars. I was sad because they’re a multi-billion dollar company, and I make minimum wage. Twenty-five dollars is a lot to me and nothing to them.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so frustrating - sorry you lost your money like that.

      Big companies can find it difficult to keep track of all the things they've got going on - and I get that - but I still think that if the company's that big, they've got the money and resources to deal with all the issues that come up.

      Delete
  2. I'm so sorry this happened to you Cee! I want to say you're better off without them, but bloggers have to make money somehow and I totally get that this would be very frustrating in terms of you now losing a money source. Amazon does not have the middle/lower class in their minds at all. I guess that's what happens when your CEO is a multi-billionaire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Em - I'm still working on switching all of my UK links to US ones, and it's super-frustrating knowing they're probably *still* making money from my links.

      Still, I never know when to give up, so I'll find some other ways to make cash, I'm sure! :)

      Delete
  3. What a terrible way to treat someone who has been helping them earn money for years! So frustrating. I gave up on the Amazon UK Associates Program a long time ago as it seemed so difficult to make any money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is exceptionally difficult to make money with it, and again, more cynical people than me might suggest that it's more profitable for them to have 10,000 people who've earned £0.89 (and therefore earned them more than £0.89,) than it is for them to have 1 person who's earned £25.

      If I was a gambler, I might suggest that the house always wins ;)

      Delete

Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!