If you’ve ever sent me anything from Amazon.com, please do me a favor. Right now, while you’re thinking of it, go and delete me from your Amazon address book.*
This is important.
Amazon just denied me one of the biggest single commissions I would ever have received. Their reason? As boilerplated by someone signing itself David T:
I found some of the items, including the [expensive item in question], listed in your account’s Orders Report were flagged by our system as ineligible for Associates advertising fees.
Due to the proprietary nature of the way we make these determinations, we can’t share the full list of criteria by which we detect these ineligible orders. Typically referred orders can be flagged because our system recognized the orders were placed by the Associate, or on their behalf. This can also happen if we have determined that the orders resulted from you requesting or encouraging your friends, relatives, or other people you know to purchase products through your Special Links.
When I protested that the item had certainly not been bought for me and that the only people I had been “encouraging” were blog readers, David T responded sternly:
I reviewed and confirmed the order you inquired about met our policy definition for an order ineligible for Associates Advertising Fees. Unfortunately, we are not able to make an exception to this policy. …
As this determination will remain unchanged, we won’t be able to comment any further on this issue.
“Reviewed” my Great Aunt Fanny. I’ve learned since that both the phony “review” and the “due to the proprietary nature” business are standard Amazon stonewalls.
Worse, they are stonewalls that may proceed Amazon closing the accounts of independent sellers and Associates — and keeping payments in their own hands for months.
I’m disgusted that a company I’ve always thought so highly of (and that does treat customers well) would take the attitude: “You screwed up. We won’t explain. There’s no appeal process, so just shut up and go away.” But apparently they’re notorious for crapping on those who ride their financial coattails (though the worst of it seems to go to independent sellers — which I am not).
After considering the situation and talking with other Associates, I’ve concluded that the mysterious problem is this: if I’m in your Amazon address book (and I am if you’ve ever bought me something, including wish list items), then we’re “friends or family members” — and from now on, anything you ever purchase at Amazon will not be eligible for commissions. And could even jeopardize my account.
Never mind that hundreds of other people might be using those links. I’ve learned of at least one case where Amazon closed an Associates account bigger and more active than mine because their dumb-and-blind algorithm told them the guy was using his links primarily for “friends and family” — which he could not have been unless his social circle were impossibly big or impossibly rich.
But never mind. The Algorithm Is Always Right.
It also seems that Amazon is most likely to close accounts after a vendor or Associate has had a big month and before releasing funds for that big month. November, thanks to you, was my biggest ever, and it’s still six or seven weeks until pay is due for that.
So please. Remove my name from your Amazon address book. My address will be in your address book if you’ve ever bought something from my wish list. I’m not positive that will take the curse off. It might be too late if the flag they put on your purchases is permanent, but it’s my best guess for solving the problem.
Unfortunately, this also means no Amazon wish list next year — or ever again. But I thank you from the cliched bottom of my heart for the great gifts of Christmas past and present. Your generosity, steady support, and sense of fun have warmed a couple of dreary seasons.
* UPDATE: This whole message may be in vain. People that I know have sent me wish list gifts are reporting that I’m not (visibly) in their address book. So it may be that Amazon is simply adding some code somewhere or using some other invisible method to mark our “friends and family” status.