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Some Things We Got Right

It wasn’t all bad. As promised, I wanted to take some time to talk about what we got right in dealing with the NYS internet tax. Many people, both in public and behind the scenes, really stepped up and it is only right to acknowledge it. There is no way that I can make this a complete list. Instead, I am giving examples based on my observations. Please feel free to add your comments acknowledging anyone you feel went the extra mile.

It is hard to know where to begin, but it seems logical to start with the ABestweb forum. The forum served not only as the place to discuss the whole issue but, it was everyone’s major source of information. It was the place we all went to for everything – information on the NYS tax law, support and of course, to voice our opinions. Haiko de Poel, Jr. created the NY Affiliate forum to facilitate the battle for NY Affiliates.

The ABW members were fantastic. There are far too many members to list them all individually. Because information direct from many parties was lacking it could have been a very isolating experience. Many members stepped forward and in true New York fashion, we would not go quietly.

Affiliates from everywhere helped to interpret and explain the law. We all made sure to post any thing we learned, we shared information and suggestions. Some affiliates not only proclaimed their support, they, in a show of solidarity, stopped promoting merchants who dropped NY. It was an extremely tough time for affiliates from NY but ABW, its members and the moderators made it a bit easier.

With all the uncertainty of the last week of May and the first week of June, many OPMs and AM’s also stepped forward to lend a hand. I’ll name just a few to give you examples, this list is by no means complete. The OPM’s and AM’s that reached out to us earned our faith and trust, a faith and trust that will carry forward.

Adam Riemer, of Downtown Ecommerce Partner , was one of the first to announce that one of his programs, Eastern Mountain Sports, was already NY tax compliant; we could safely join his great program. He offered assistance, advice and support and of course, let us know about the wide range of products. When I lost my luggage merchant there was Adam letting me know his merchant carried some products I could use. If it was not for him being proactive, it might have taken me a while to realize the range of products carried. This is the type of actions that benefited everyone, from merchant to affiliate.

TeamLoxly and other OPMs did the same, letting us know which programs were safe. They notified us that they were working with their clients to keep NY affiliates in the programs. They spent time understanding the law and explaining it to their clients. Through their blogs and posts we at least knew those working on our behalf. It was such a time of uncertainty for NY affiliates that the battle needed to be out in the open.

That was exactly what we needed. We needed to know those merchants, AM’s and OPM’s that were going to help us get through this. We needed to not only know what merchants we could promote, we needed communication. Faced with removing hundreds of links with only a few hours notice was a daunting task and we could use some help.

Greg Rice of Commerce Management Consulting showed support by not only identifying those programs that were NY affiliate friendly but by reaching out to NY affiliates in other ways. A display of a “We Support NY Affiliates” graphic on the homepage of CMC website appeared the day it was designed and “Support NY Affiliates” buttons were ordered and shipped out immediately.

Merchants, OPM’s and AM’s encouraged us in other ways; they sponsored contests and enticements giving NY affiliates and all affiliates a chance earn bonuses and gave away prizes that included “Support NY Affiliate” tee shirts.

The list could go on, but the bottom line is that the support shown gave us hope that things would get better.

Of course the networks helped as well. Although each network had a different approach all urged caution and tried to help save the affiliate-merchant relationship. Termination of affiliates was not really a solution. Brian Littleton, of ShareaSale, was very vocal in his stance that merchants really needed to examine the law, evaluate their situation and they should not rush to simply terminate NY affiliates. He has also offered his help and support in upcoming events. Of course, Linkshare’s conference call was a good source of information for many and CJ also urged all parties to seek counsel before taking action. Avantlink and Performics also tried to guide their merchants.

Affiliate Summit also showed their support and assisted NY affiliates during this challenging time, and has scheduled a special panel discussion session at the upcoming Affiliate Summit East 2008. I am confident that it will be a well attended session. I urge all affiliates, not just NY affiliates, to attend. NY is simply the first state to act with the tax law, I am sure other states will soon follow. All affiliates need to be prepared for what may happen.

Of course, we also have to acknowledge the role played by Amazon. Amazon decided that although they would comply with the law they did not believe the law was just and they filed a lawsuit. That reaction just might be the best public relations move I’ve seen in a long time. What it also showed is that they really do put a value on their affiliates.

Now you may be surprised to hear me say this but, Overstock also deserves acknowlegement. Even though Overstock decided to terminate affiliates they at least did it with ample notice. So while it could be said they did not value their NY affiliates, at least they respected us. Now that Overstock has also filed a lawsuit I am not sure what to think. Perhaps, if they had it to do all over again they would have done it differently.

In hindsight, I am sure we could have a long list of what we all could have done differently but we do need to realize we did some things right.

Thank you to all that have shown support for NY affiliates, both those mentioned by name above and those not yet named.

The last thing I want to mention today is there is one more thing we got right. We became proactive. What we now realize is that we, as affiliates need to be more proactive. This isn’t just about the NY internet tax. It is also not just about internet tax for any state. It’s about affiliates getting the respect that they deserve, the recognition that we are business people, not hobbyists. We should be treated as professionals. Affiliates all have different work models but we have one thing in common. We add value; we create sales and make money for merchants, OPM’s networks and ourselves.

There is no one, single voice of affiliates but there are many voices; voices that need to be heard. The time has come for us to be proactive.

We are working on a meeting to be held in July to address the tax issue (and other topics) and I will keep everyone updated. This issue is far from over, merchants continue to send out termination emails, some are even retroactive terminations. That is a whole other post! :)

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