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Silence is Not Golden

Prior to June 1, 2008, NY affiliates had what they thought were valued relationships with many merchants. It is a fact that thousands of NY affiliates were terminated by hundreds of merchants on or around May 31. NY Affiliates have lost thousands and thousands of dollars in income, income that is gone for good. NY affiliates continue to be terminated from programs and are not being reinstated due to a lack of preparedness of the affiliate industry, a continued lack of knowledge about the issue or by failure to act. All Networks are going to have to help get the word out about how to be able to continue to work with NY Affiliates. Networks should not be silent.

Over the past week, I have asked merchants and program managers to reach out to NY Affiliates in one simple way. Let me know you are a NY Affiliate Friendly merchant, the network you are on and the reason you are NY Affiliate Friendly, and I’ll list you. It’s a simple list of programs but it accomplishes much more than that.  Be proud that you work with all affiliates, stand up and shout you value all affiliates. Seize the chance to get noticed by quality NY affiliates seeking merchants to work with. Let all affiliates know you are a merchant that truly values the partnership. Merchants should not be silent.

Unfortunately, the industry as a whole is still not prepared to deal with the NY Affiliate tax situation. Many merchants still refuse to allow NY Affiliates into their programs. Many other merchants have not added terms to their programs, yet they say “Hey, NY affiliates, don’t worry, we are well under the threshold.” Well, you know what, I am not reassured and I do worry. What happens tomorrow if the $10,000 threshold is met? We heard many reassurances and promises in May that we were safe. We all know how that worked.

Affiliates have little or no protection; we can be terminated at will. Every affiliate should read the terms of a typical agreement. You, as an affiliate, can be terminated and commissions voided at will, with or without just cause. In May and June, thousands of ethical NY affiliates were terminated from merchant programs simply because they were New York affiliates, sometimes with less than 24 hours notice. In some cases, links were deactivated ahead of time. Some merchants even decided they would deactivate affiliates retroactively. That means that on a date in June, NY affiliates were told they were deactived effective May 30 and any commissions earned were taken back. It is probably illegal to take back commissions earned and retroactively deactivate, but to my knowledge, that aspect of this issue has never been addressed in a formal manner by any network or merchant.

Every affiliate, no matter where they live and do business, should take notice of what happened to NY Affiliates. I know I have said it before but it bears repeating. This is not just a NY Tax issue; it’s not even just a NY issue or a tax issue. It is an industry issue. Affiliates, merchants and networks need to work together to ensure that the industry moves forward. Of course, many issues need to be addressed including but not limited to ethical practices, parasites, and BHO’s.  Improving the contracts or terms of service between affiliates and merchants is imperative. The industry cannot survive with one-sided contracts offering protection to only one party.

Affiliates cannot afford to be silent.

In May we heard silence and in some ways, that silence continues. To me that silence says more than any speech, blog or forum post ever could. In this instance, silence is not golden.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Sabrina & Daniel Malone November 14, 2008, 5:28 pm

    Wow.

    Melanie, our hearts sincerely go out to all the NY affiliates. Part of the reason you’ve heard so little from your fellow affiliates is because we don’t know what to say. And we have no idea how we can help.

    What happened in New York could’ve happened in any state looking to increase tax revenue. (Except the 5 states that impose no sales tax.) It’s safe to say that most of your fellow affiliates are simply shell-shocked, hoping that our own states have learned a lesson from the New York debacle and won’t attempt to copy it.

    You are right, we have all been pretty silent. But it isn’t intended to be a silence of indifference. This is a silence because words fail us. We don’t know what to say, we don’t what to do, nor do we know who to even tell it to…

  • Melanie November 14, 2008, 8:55 pm

    Thanks Sabrina & Daniel. To be honest, I don’t even know what to say anymore because now, I am looking beyond the tax issue. Looking at the situation and conditions for all affiliates in general stuns me. I think we really need to address the terms of contract in general before more damage is done. I’ve spent over a week reading TOS of hundreds of programs and I am truly worried about the vulnerabilty of all affiliates.
    Thanks for reading and posting. I know many care and many have shown NY affiliates support. We all appreciate it. I just think the industry has to really move forward and tackle the underlying issues. I am just not sure how we can do that or if the industry is ready and willing. The fact that you are here reading and took time to post is reassuring.
    Thanks again.:)

  • Kevin November 15, 2008, 1:19 pm

    Well said, Mel.

  • Art-and-Home November 18, 2008, 4:46 pm

    A very well written and thoughtful article on a difficult situation for all.

  • Melanie November 19, 2008, 7:48 am

    Thanks Art-and-Home. It is indeed difficult for all parties. I think if we all work together we can at least fix some underlying issues.

  • "Idora Billie" know as (IB) November 25, 2008, 9:15 pm

    We’re looking to grow our business fast, and we
    Need your help.

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