--

Trusting Amazon, Google, et al

Yesterday I decided to order several books, and given that I'm an Amazon associate I opted to do it through my own referral link (getting "cash back" of 5%). Today I look at the report for yesterday, and two of the books I ordered are there, yet another in the order is strangely missing. It apparently fell through the cracks.

Similarly several times in the past I've had people tell me that they followed a link to a certain book, and again it hasn't appeared in the referral account. The cynic would suggest that perhaps Amazon "misses" some commissions, and there are very few options we have to validate it.

Similarly the same faith proposal comes into play for Google - ultimately we are simply trusting Google when they say that X clicked on ads. Why should we trust Google?

In both cases there is a simple choice to drop these two advertising strategies for income, going with something else, but it does make me wonder how much legitimately earned compensation is being denied (or going into some Amazon or Google employee's account) because of the inability to validate real performance numbers.
Permalink Skeptical 
March 7th, 2005
Hold on. You're admitting to violating the terms of the Amazon Associate's agreement by ordering books for yourself through it but then you're worried about Amazon not being trustworthy? Those are some interesting ethics you have there.
Permalink SomeBody 
March 7th, 2005
" Those are some interesting ethics you have there."

Oh boo fucking hoo. I'm "stealing" from Amazon by getting basically a microscopic discount, one that I likely would not and could not ever redeem. If you think this is an issue of "ethics" then you're a serious dumbass. Amazon can happily cut me out of their lucrative program and I'll make those pennies elsewhere.

In any case my primary purpose was as an experiment, as I've seen some information that conflicts with what the Amazon reports proclaim, but couldn't quantify if it's just inaccurate information sources, or discrepencies on the Amazon side. Sure enough there is a discrepency, and if true it could mean thousands of small sites are basically being robbed of legitimate sales. On the flip side it could just be an error. It's just a general comment.
Permalink Skeptical 
March 7th, 2005
Such hostility. Tsk, tsk. I'll grant that it's damned hard to find the agreement, and it's damned hard to find that particular clause _in_ the agreement. Nonetheless, I just checked, and SomeBody is right; you're not allowed to buy stuff for yourself through the Associates program.

That being the case, it seems like rather than one book too few, you're seeing two books too many on your report.
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 7th, 2005
Yes, you make an interesting argument, Skeptical. Ethics is about what you do when no one is looking. It DOES apply to pennies as much as to dollars. Getting defensive about it is not a good sign.

Having said that, how DO we verify what Amazon is doing, without violating the very agreement already signed?

As I said, an interesting dilemma.
Permalink AllanL5 
March 7th, 2005
Give money to a friend. Have them buy you stuff.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 7th, 2005
This is the classic affiliate dilemma. They own all the cards, so you're playing their game. If you're not happy with them, you try another casino.

As for Amazon, sometimes it takes a couple of days for charges to show up, it might have something to do with the customer's ability to cancel an order before it ships or working with 3rd party vendors something.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 7th, 2005
Defensive is such a misused word. My reply above was irritation over such a righteous, and irrelevant, comment. In any case I was in error. Instead of using my own link, I used my friends. They then gave me $1.30 in compensation. I'm glad that I am ethical.
Permalink Skeptical 
March 7th, 2005
> They then gave me $1.30 in compensation.

Woah, if you needed the money so badly you'd ask your friend for it, I wouldn't fault you your ethical faux pas. ;-)
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 7th, 2005
Well in reality they gave me an IOU that if Amazon actually credited them the order, and if they hit Amazon's minimum cutoff, and if Amazon didn't change their terms of agreement before then, and if Amazon paid out, then they would give me $1.30, minus the BS charge.

I'm in the money.
Permalink Skeptical 
March 7th, 2005
Woohoo, all you need to do is buy lots of expensive stuff on Amazon and you should be getting a nice fat check in the mail.

I wonder why nobody thought of this before?
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 7th, 2005
> In any case my primary purpose was as an experiment

hmm. Do you take me for a fool?
Permalink zed 
March 7th, 2005
"Instead of using my own link, I used my friends. They then gave me $1.30 in compensation."

Of course, kickbacks are also prohibited by the terms, but I guess in this case it's your friend's sin, not yours. You really ought not aid and abet, though. :P
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 7th, 2005
Remarkable how wide-eyed and puppy dog eared people will defend an Amazon condition that basically removes any possible auditability. Of course we're to believe that all of these lying douche bags (the most thieving and conniving are the ones who make a big deal out of the most absurd of so-called transgressions, presenting the position that they are so saintly it seems unbelievable to them. "OMG YOU DOWNLOADED AN MP3! <steals a $20 from the till>") pay full price, instead of using as some sort of quid pro quo agreement with friends.

For me I like doing audits. I don't give a FF if you believe my agenda or not (oh boy I'm in the money! I gave Amazon $50 and got myself a blistering $2.50 that I'll never see), but the results are the same.
Permalink Skeptical 
March 7th, 2005
Really interesting. When the system's rules are set such that it is impossible to test the system in an ethical way, what do you do to test the system?

I would conclude (as has Skeptical, apparently) that you then MUST relax your ethical rules in order to test the system. He has apparently tested the system in a relatively ethical way -- only off by $1.30, oh, well -- but that does not invalidate his conclusion.

Well done sir. Except for a little rampant hostility when challenged (understandable considering the issue -- who knows how much Amazon has made off you?) you've handled the situation well.

Not that you need my approval, of course.
Permalink AllanL5 
March 7th, 2005
"If you think this is an issue of "ethics" then you're a serious dumbass."

I think it's a serious issue of ethics. You agreed in a contract not to do this and you were informed it is their policy and you are aware of it. Yet you deliberately chose to commit fraud and steal from amazon nonetheless.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
March 7th, 2005
> Yet you deliberately chose to commit fraud and steal from amazon nonetheless.

Too rich. The world is full of all types.
Permalink Buck Rogers 
March 8th, 2005
Okay, to say it in another way. If you order some books through Joel's affiliate link and he never gets the money "How will he ever know?".

Jesus Christ, what nit-picking people some of you are.
Permalink  
March 8th, 2005
We're literal-minded programmers; why would you have expected any different?
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 8th, 2005
"Jesus Christ, what nit-picking people some of you are."

What you've seen in this discussion is what happens when you publicly pronounce doing something that a group of people are doing, but they all hilariously think that they're originally fooling the system. They'll vehemenently denounce the transgression, believing that they need to keep this mischevious trick to themselves otherwise there'll be a concerted effort to stomp it out and they'll lose out on their lucrative exploitation. It's absolutely typical.
Permalink Skeptical 
March 8th, 2005
To nit-pick, Kyralessa, we're not all programmers :-p
Permalink  
March 9th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

Other topics: March, 2005 Other topics: March, 2005 Recent topics Recent topics