eBay Tosses MCM to the Curb Like a Bad Sofa

Many of you know we’ve been running a page at the Mid-Century Modernist that showcases my top picks from eBay. When someone clicks on an item, they are taken to the auction and I get a commission based on what happens after that point — a combination of clicks, new accounts, bids, wins, etc. Our readers found the Gallery useful and we sent a lot of bodies and cash to eBay. In return, we earned enough to cover further development of the site. It was exactly how affiliate programs are supposed to work: mutually beneficial to retailer, publisher, and user.

This week I received an email from eBay Partner Network stating that our “account has been generating low quality traffic as gauged by [their] internal measures.” Our account was to be terminated in 3 days. No rules broken. No other explanation. No opportunity to rectify the situation. That’s it. Goodbye.

I was surprised and confused. I had never received any alerts about traffic quality before. My reports showed that the traffic we were sending to eBay was increasingly valuable, generating more winning bids and more revenue in recent months. I wondered if this message was a phishing scam or somehow sent in error. I fired off a question to EPN support. Their reply:

We have received your inquiry regarding the expiration of your eBay Partner Network account. After re-reviewing your case, the Network Quality Team has confirmed that your account has been generating low quality traffic. You will be expired from the network on October 29, 2010.

The advertiser has the right to terminate your account at anytime upon 3 days notice. The expiration stands, and you are not permitted to rejoin the eBay Partner Network.
I’d heard of other members getting this treatment in earlier years of eBay’s program, but new management had promised more transparency and a better relationship with publishers. And that seemed to be the case. Until now.

I hate to publish a victim post, but, to me, this is pretty shady. And I’m not alone (Update: eBay admits error, reinstates Retro Thing’s account. We hope they’ll do the same for us.). I understand eBay’s reasoning behind their confidential formula for earnings (QCP), but holding members to a completely hidden standard to merely maintain their accounts without any warning or recommendation for improvement is far from fair. I had spent many months developing a website that was optimized to benefit our users and eBay. And we had begun (expensive) work on some really interesting new features.

So, my advice to website publishers is this: before you invest your time, effort, and capital in the eBay Partner Network, be aware that you can be terminated without recourse or explanation. With so many other affiliate and advertising opportunities around, I can’t recommend a program this risky.

Second, if you intend to make part of your living with your site (fortunately I wasn’t yet at that stage), diversify your sponsorship relationships. You never know when one is going to go sour. I’ve had affiliate accounts die for one reason or another — though never like this.

Finally, if you feel so inclined, let eBay know how you feel about the policy. They may be within the bounds of their agreement, but this treatment doesn’t inspire trusting relationships with publishers. It’s just bad business.

5 notesShowHide

  1. laureola reblogged this from stewf
  2. stewf posted this