Amazon Screwed Me, Should I Keep Working For Them?


Let me tell you a story and get your opinion.

In December I got excited about the Kindle. During the same time I was learning about PPC advertising. In February, Amazon announced the Kindle 2 and I wrote a post on why you should buy a Kindle. Since I’d learned about PPC I thought I’d try using it to drive some traffic.

Worked pretty well. Given natural organic traffic that my blog gets and the PPC traffic, I was able to help Amazon sell 20 Kindles and numerous accessories.

$7,362.99 in revenue for Amazon when I got this email.

Greetings from the Associates Program.

We recently noticed your Associate links are appearing as sponsored links on search engines under the term “kindle” and variations of this term. Please note, per the Operating Agreement:

4. Referral Fees
In addition, you may not: … (j) seek to purchase or register any keywords, search terms or other identifiers that include the words “amazon”, “endless”, “kindle”, or any other trademark of, Inc. or its affiliates, or variations or misspellings thereof (for example “ammazon”, “amaozn”, “kindel”, “endlss”, “enldess”, etc.) (“Proprietary Terms”) for use in any search engine, portal, sponsored advertising service or other search or referral service. From time to time we may request that you cause any applicable Web search provider to exclude Proprietary Terms from keywords used to display your advertising content in association with search results, assuming the provider of such Web search engine offers such exclusion capabilities. If we determine, in our sole discretion, that you have engaged in any of the foregoing activities or, as the case may be, refused promptly to comply with a request from us to exclude Proprietary Terms from any keyword as mentioned above, we may (without limiting any other rights or remedies available to us) withhold any referral fees otherwise payable to you under this Agreement and/or terminate this Agreement.

In an effort to protect our trademark, we request that Associates refrain from this activity and will be enforcing this policy. Please note that some sponsored advertising services allow advertisers to indicate that their ads should surface when the user’s search is somewhat related to specified keywords; for example, an ad placed against the keyword “books” would surface in a search for “Amazon books.” To prevent your links from appearing as a sponsored link, we also ask that you take preventative measures, such as adding Amazon’s Proprietary Terms to your negative keywords. In addition, you will not receive payment for referral fees earned through the use of these keywords.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and your cooperation. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Thomas – Associates Account Specialist

Guess I should have read the terms of service closer.

When I received this email I immediately stopped my PPC campaigns.

Personally I don’t see how there trademark could possibly be damaged by my buying a “kindle” keyword from Google. In reality I expect they just don’t want competition from associates.

I didn’t send traffic directly to Amazon from Google, as “We recently noticed your Associate links are appearing as sponsored links on search engines” implies. The sponsored links in my ads were to my blog post. I could see how they wouldn’t want that to happen…well I can understand how they would think that was too easy.

I felt they were missing some obvious benefits of the product and so I wrote an impassioned and informative blog post about how great their product was. I have to think it was persuasive to people who chose to buy after reading it.

They debited my associates account $502.05. I’m not sure how they came up with that number. I asked them how they determined the difference between organic and PPC traffic. I also asked why they do this.

They haven’t answered either query.

Amazon is a big heartless corporation. I understand that, even if I don’t like it. They aren’t going fix this and give me my commissions back. They found a way to keep them, and they will. It’s legal, and I might have avoided it if I had read the terms closer.

But to me it is bad business. I helped them sell their product. I evangelized their technology. I wrote a persuasive blog post. I wrote ads that caught people’s attention and got them to read about why they should get a Kindle.

I doubt anyone came to my site before going to Amazon’s. Think about it. You search for Kindle. The #1 result is Amazon’s page. The top of the page sponsored link is Amazon. If someone was just looking for information, wouldn’t they go straight to Amazon’s Kindle page?

They are looking for a reason to buy. They are looking for someone who isn’t associated with Amazon to tell them why a Kindle is good for real. I provided that. And as a result Amazon made $359. Of which they gave me $35.90 for helping them out.

Then Thomas comes along and notices that my ads are showing up on their keywords. So he does what corporate policy #456 says to do, and takes my commission away and sends me an email telling me I broke the rules. Then he moves on to the next ad.

Now I’m left split. On one hand Amazon just cost me money. Not just lost commissions, but the fact I paid for ads that have to be paid for and they took the money those ads earned. Now I’m in the hole.

More than costing me money, I feel they did me wrong. I’m hurt. I know I should be emotional about it, but it hard when you are excited about something like the Kindle – it is a serious drain on my time now that I have one, I can’t stop reading.

I’m excited. So excited I did my unboxing video and showed more benefits of the Kindle. I’ve got an idea for another video on how to get free books for the Kindle and how to get them onto the device.

But should I do it? On one hand it seems a matter of principle if they screw me I should stop helping them. But I can keep making money – unless they find another way to take what I earned – by selling the Kindle. Money I now need to make up my losses for the month of work I’ve already done for them.

BTW when I did the unboxing video I didn’t realize they had already taken my commissions. I thought it was still open to discussion.

What do you think? Should I keep promoting the Kindle or stop?


  1. Chris says:

    You broke the rules and you got caught. I honestly found your constant promoting of this blog post to be a little bit annoying (I follow you on Twitter and it came up enough for me to notice and think “not this guy flogging his Associates link again”). I work in online advertising and I still feel like it’s a tainted industry. I don’t want the Internet to be just a giant morass of affiliate link bait, spam farms, and SEO marketing blogs. I’m glad Amazon forbids PPC keywords for their Affiliates program, and I don’t think trying to frame it as “but the links weren’t direct to Amazon” or “it’s not fair” or “but I brought them so much money” makes a whit of difference. What you did was exactly what the terms said not to do, and you need to take responsibility for the consequences.

    I hope you aren’t offended by my frank response. I mean it in no way as a personal attack, I’m just trying to present it how I see it without beating around the bush. I’m actually very interested in your opinion and experience with the Kindle, but somehow the experience feels a bit dirty or sullied when there’s an affiliate link. Not just in your case, but with all affiliate programs. It’s admittedly a very difficult line to define.. obviously, spamming your comments with my own Associates links (I have one, so I can’t be too opposed to the concept) would be blatantly wrong. So is writing a blog where you do nothing but insincerely promote products through affiliate links. Where does it stop being obviously wrong and start being just a bit slimy? And what’s the difference between slimy and legitimate? I can’t define it, but I usually know when I see it. And unfortunately, having a fairly typical “I got caught and now I’m all upset about it” post is something that generally subtracts rather than adds to the feeling of legitimacy.

  2. Ron says:

    I’m not totally offended by your response. Just a little at “I got caught…” which implies I was running. Trying to get away with something. I honestly didn’t realize there was anything wrong with buying the keywords until I got the email.

    The question to me now is, should I keep trying to promote the Kindle for someone with policies like this?

    I guess you might say that I should keep promoting it if I believe in it. Maybe and I probably will. I think even this post shows I love my Kindle. But my time is valuable and all the stuff I did added value to them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being compensated for adding value.

    I also think the idea that someone making money as an affiliate will turn the internet into “…a giant morass of affiliate link bait, spam farms, and SEO marketing blogs..” is a bit extreme. You should blame amazon for the problem then, because they created the biggest affiliate program in the world. With out it the Internet would not be sinking in to the morass.

  3. Sally says:

    Amazon screwed me and I didn’t break the rules.

    they sent me this

    “We are writing to inform you that incorrect balances were displayed in your May earnings report on Associates Central. This was caused by a system error that resulted in an inaccurate display of additional referral fees. The error has been fixed and your earnings summary now shows accurate referral fees. ”

    I checked my earnings and half my sales were deleted. They did not explain ‘their mistake” and when I wrote to them I got an inane response about a different month’s earnings.

    I’m in the same place you are. Should I loose these ‘thieves’ or suck it up for the measly income I get? This just happened this morning, so I have to cool down before I decide.

  4. Peter Piper says:

    Amazon IS a big heartless corporation and we are nothing more to them than a fly to swat.

    I had a different issue with them. I sold someone a CD and about a month later the seller filed an A-to-Z claim under the category, “Item damaged or not as described”, claiming the CD was scratched. This struck me as odd since I am very careful with these things and double-check everything that I send out. I emailed the buyer asking whether they would prefer a refund or replacement. They stated that they would prefer replacement. I sent a replacement. A day later, Amazon took it upon themselves to decide to REFUND the buyer, debiting my account. To make matters even worse, Amazon claims that the buyer does not have to return the item!

    I attempted to reason with them that you either send a refund OR a replacement, but NOT both. That’s just standard business practice. If you complain to Walmart that something was defective you don’t expect to keep the item AND get a refund do you? But that’s what Amazon’s policy allows you to do!

    Attempting to reason with Amazon was completely futile. You might as well be talking to the robot Hal in the movie 2001. Apparently they have some policy saying the customer does not have to return an item you send them if they grant a refund under their A to Z policy. Again, their sole discretion, bla, bla, bla.

    Okay, so I only lost a few dollars, and that much is no big deal, right? But it’s unbelievable to think that they really have a policy like this that potentially gives an unscrupulous buyer a license to steal your goods. (Is that even legal?) I read a blog entry from someone else who sent out a $600 video camera later had the funds debited from his account under A-to-Z. –>

    The same behavior they exhibited towards you is the same I experienced, and many other people as well. They do not care at all about sellers or people who make them money by referring people to their site. You might say well, that’s just business, but honestly you will get better treatment from any bricks-and-mortar company any day of the week.

  5. yourmom says:

    Amazon, bunch of fuckers. They screwed me over too.. They told me I had broken a policy, I looked at the policies, and it was not in their list at all. The confiscated my funds, almost two grand. They’re a bunch of stupid dick crooks. If I had the money I’d get an attorney.

  6. Peter Piper says:

    Yourmom, you haven’t described what they did to you. It’s hard for anyone to evaluate your grievance unless you give some details.

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