More or less at the beginning of Febraury I noticed something strange in my Amazon Referrals Program, the referrals links report was drastically low compared to the previous month, and above all, it seemed that no books were sold thanks to that links. Notice that, to determine this I had to wait some days, since I have a daily report from Amazon, available the day after the actual day, and obviously you can notice the difference only after few days. So on Febraury 5 I wrote both to LiveJournal than Amazon, and since, wrongly, I was more lean to accuse Amazon of the problem, my support request to LiveJournal was almost kind:
February 5: Hi. since yesterday night I notice an odd behaviour on my LJ. I often use to link Amazon from my LJ to partecipate to their Referrals Programs. A typical link is:
where "0767927737" is the ISIN code of the book and "elimyrevandra-20" is my Associate ID
Since yesterday night, all the link are "automatically redirect". This is the redirect:
and this is the landing page:
as you can notice, my Associate ID "elimyrevandra-20" is now substituted with "5336432744-20"... I'd like to let you know that this means that my Referral Fees are not computed to me... Please provide me with a clear answer, and correct the problem. Kind regards, Elisa Rolle
No answer at all, for almost two weeks I continued to see the Referral Fees going down, better I DIDN'T SEE ANY Referral Fees at all. Two week later, LiveJournal gave me a very clever answer:
February 18: This problem can be caused by the presence of malware, such as adware or spyware, on your computer and you may wish to perform a scan of your computer to make sure your computer is not infected. Information on what malware is and how to remove it can be found at [http://community.livejournal.com/howto/31316.html].
Since I'm a good person, and I can also believe to someone from the Support Center who answered me, at first I even downloaded one of that programs to fine spyware in your computer, but after few minutes I realized that it was a STUPID answer, so I wrote back:
February 18: No, I don't think it's a spyware problem. It happens only from a LiveJournal page, I use the same link in other pages, out from a LJ portal, and I don't have the same problem. Then, if it was a spyware it would affect only my pc, and instead the traffic from my page to Amazon is drastically lowered from the day I noticed it. It's happening exactly from the day after you released some "improvements" for LiveJournal, to adjust some issue you had, so I think you changed something.
I was still almost kind, I was still believing that it was not something that LiveJournal willingly did to steal my Referral Fees. But LiveJournal did a very wrong thing, they stopped to answer me.
On Febraury 22 I decided to post about it (http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/964023.html) and to add the answer Amazon gave me for LiveJournal to read:
February 22: Amazon's Support Center reply: "I confirmed that when I clicked the link provided in your e-mail message it tagged to your account correctly. However, when I clicked any of the links in your LiveJournal post, they all tagged to that other ID.
I tried posting some links on my own LiveJournal profile and these also tagged to the other ID. This suggests that the problem may lie with the way LiveJournal is handling Associate links."
As I was supposing the last time you updated something on your portal (you said something about some banner that worked not properly), something happened to the links. If it's of help, the same moment I noticed that problem, I also noticed a change in the tag of your page: for example before the changing the link to a tag was:
I noticed the problem with links to Amazon page, in particular Referrals Links. Don't tell me it's a problem from my side or a spyware or something else, since it's not, it happens to all users of LiveJournal who tags an Amazon page. Don't let me think that this is a way for you to gain on the referrals programs of people who use LiveJournal, I really hope it's not.
Please give me a reasonable answer as soon as possible. Elisa Rolle
I was still in an helpful mood, I even tried to give to LiveJournal all the info they needed to identify the issue, but I was also starting to believe that it was really strange that someone else was gaining from my Referral Fees, and that Associate ID was real, since there is a searching engine on Amazon Associate Program where you can choose Associate ID and it tells you if one is in use, and that one was.
On March 1 Amazon, as it promised, answered me again and I promptly posted the reply for LiveJournal to read:
March 1: Amazon's Support Center reply: "Our technical specialists have investigated the problem with your links, and have determined that it is due to something on the Live Journal system. We suggest that you contact Live Journal to see if there has been a change in their policies for affiliate marketing links."
So I'm doing it AGAIN. I haven't still received a good answer (or an apology for the money you are making me loose...). Elisa Rolle
Obviously LiveJournal DID NOT ANSWERED ME, but probably or Amazon contacted the stealing Associated ID owner, or someone more techy than me read my Support Request to LiveJournal, in a way or the other on March 4 the bubble exploded and all over LiveJournal they were posting on how LiveJournal was hijacking not only Amazon Associate Links but the links from 150 other Associate Program website. I didn't know, but mine was the FIRST Support Request to LiveJournal about this, other after me were answered, but mine is still there, tagged "answered (yeah, the spyware suggestion) but still needs help". So on March 5 I wrote AGAIN to LiveJournal:
March 5: According to the words of one of you:
the problem was from your side and you are aware of that.
First: can you please at least answer to my support request, with an apology for trying to say that it was my fault (spyware problem sure!)
Second: how do you intend to refund my loss? as you can read in the thread above, the month before you changed the code I gained 36 dollars in referrals fees from Amazon, the month before that 35 dollars. This last month? with you "code" active? 6 dollars... If the count is good, you gained more or less 30 dollars that were rightly mine.
Yesterday night you removed the code? This morning I "suddenly" had back my Referral Fees and two book sold in a night... This means that, in a month, more or less 60 books were sold through Amazon thanks to my links and you gained from that.
I'd really like that you don't ignore also this last request. Elisa Rolle
I was really in a bad mood, I was sarcastic and I was no more in the mood to help them. Do you think they answered me? NO. I was really sure that this morning, I would have find an answer from LiveJournal, maybe not a monetary compensation, but at least an apology. But nothing at all, and so this morning I posted this last comment, with the answer Amazon gave to another Associate Program participant:
March 6: Amazon Associate Program replied to one of their associate with more or less this words:
1. Thanks for telling us.
2. Anybody who lost revenue (or believes they lost revenue) due to affiliate hijacking should let us know via the Associate Program contact form. We'll fix it.
3. We Are Not Amused.
4. And for obvious business reasons, we can't tell you exactly what we're doing. But thanks for the tip-off, we're probably doing something.
I'm no amused either, you are still not answering me even if mine was the first Support Request that made you aware that you were stealing Referral Fees of other people and I can prove that you monetarily damaged me. Still not answering?
Wanna bet how many time it will take to LiveJournal to NOT ANSWER even this last comment and pissing me off even more so much that I will do something else?
If you want to see the full thread, here is my support request: http://www.livejournal.com/support/see_request.bml?id=1046745
If you are wondering what I do with all those Referral Fees (! I spent 100 dollars with 25 of Referral Fees so Amazon is still gaining from me and not viceversa...), you can not believe me, but this are my last orders:
The Magic in Your Touch by Sara Bell (indie pubs)
Magebound by Katica Locke (indie pubs)
Frontiers by Michael Jensen
Someone Like You by Timothy James Beck (out of stock)
I'm Your Man by Timothy James Beck (out of stock)
The Love Thing by Chris Delyani (newbie author, indie pubs)
Ockham's Razor: a novel by Alan Michael Williams (newbie author, indie pubs)
All Lost Things by Josh Aterovis (indie pubs)
Strings Attached by Nick Nolan (indie pubs)
Is Harvey Dunne?: A Novel by K. L. Romo (newbie author, indie pubs)
Notice a trend? I buy books from Indie Publishers and New Authors for the majority of the cases. I use that money to have the chance to read and review books from new authors that probably have not so many chances to be read and review. I buy books that would be too much expensive for me, living in Italy and having to pay high shipping costs... So what LiveJournal did, not only hurt me, but hurt also some new authors that probably I will not buy, or at least I will not buy now.
I went out and back home. Many of you repost and comment and surprise, an answer from LiveJournal for me:
March 6: "I apologize greatly that you've had to wait so long for an answer. I also apologize that this incident happened in the first place.
At this time, we're waiting for a report that we're hoping to obtain which will help us identify and contact anyone who has lost revenue, and we will then be able to offer you our apologies as well as amends that we can make.
Unfortunately, this report isn't in our hands and we will need to wait until we receive it, which may be early next week.
I will leave this request open and update you here as soon as I know more."
The answer is in the support request, so you can all see it. As you can see mine. Actually marta was the only from LiveJournal that somewhere else tried to give reasonable answer, only she or LJ did not to me or my request before. I really am not angry with the Support Center, or people like marta, now I'd only like that, burned by this experience, LJ will not try anything like this again.
On March 7 also Amazon replied to me (the final answer from Amazon I posted was not to me but to another participant to the Amazon Associate Program):
Hello, Thank you for writing to us. I apologize for this situation.
We are aware of this situation and working on a full resolution.
We will be contacting you within the next 3-5 business days with more information regarding your account and advertising fees.
Thank you for your patience and participation in Amazon.com Associates.
On March 12, I haven't yet still from LiveJournal about the famous "report", but on their weekly news they posted something:
March 12: "Last week, we became aware that a recently-implemented script was overwriting affiliate referral fees for some of our users. Once we confirmed this, our Ops team quickly removed the script. Please be aware that, while we may beta-test other affiliate scripts down the line, we will take greater measures to ensure that no existing user-referral arrangements are impacted in any way. (http://news.livejournal.com/123354.html)"
It doesn't actually sound so good to me, yes, they are sayng that it's not their intention to hijack affiliated fees, but if someone is writing a link without an associate tag, they indeed want to "beta-test" other affialiate scripts down the line... So I think I will continue to monitor my reports, just to be sure.