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An Open Letter to the Amazon Associates Program

Dear Amazon.

I have been using your Associates program for quite a few years now – from the early days when I earned just a few dollars a month to today when I send you tens of thousands of dollars of business each month. I’ve written about why I believe in your program and have no doubt sent you hundreds (if not thousands of affiliates in my time).

By my calculations I’ve sent you around $1,500,000 of sales over the last five years.

I’m very grateful for the $70,000+ you’ve sent me in affiliate payments and am by no means am I your biggest affiliate but I hope that having reached the million dollars in sales mark you’ll forgive me this note to express a concern that I have in the hope that it might help improve your program.

I am increasingly frustrated by your payment system.

While you offer direct debit payments to those situated in the USA – I live in Australia and so have two options for payment – gift certificates and check. Lets take a look at both methods:

1. Gift Certificates – as someone who earns $2000-$3000 in commissions each month from Amazon it is simply not feasible for me to take my payments in certificates. For starters I’d run out of things to buy pretty quickly – particularly because most of your high ticket items cannot be shipped outside of the USA.

This leaves me with the option of either just buying books, DVDs and CDs ($2-$3k worth a month….) or buying things, shipping them to US friends and having them repost them to Australia. It also means having to pay for international shipping on everything I buy – not cheap. Lets just say that all of this rules out the gift certificate option (although I take it once a year if I’m doing a trip to the US).

2. Check – this leaves me with only one option – receiving a check. Let me say that your checks do come quickly. I get them within a couple of weeks of the end of the month – a lot faster than others (nice work) – however a check of over $2000 in Australia needs to be processed and sent by my bank back to the USA before it can be cleared. This takes six weeks from the day I bank it.

This means that money I make from Amazon on the 1st of a month can take six weeks before I get the check and then another six weeks before I can see the money. That’s 3 months!

All in all this is one of the slowest and antiquated payment systems that I have to use. Every other affiliate program or ad network that I use (and I use a few) gives either the option for an international direct deposit or a PayPal transfer, particularly to affiliates who earn over a certain threshold.

The only other affiliate program that insists upon me receiving checks gives me the option to have them split into smaller amounts (so I get 2-3 of them each month) so that the check can be processed locally without the six week delay.

I love the Amazon affiliate program but the payment system is increasingly frustrating me. I’d love to see you do something about it for myself and my fellow non US affiliates and in doing so improve your already great program.

I know you must be kind of busy with your big Black Friday sale – but I’d appreciate your consideration to this.

Darren Rowse – ProBlogger.net

PS: having just added up how much business I’ve sent you ($1.5M made me have to sit down) it strikes me that you’re the largest affiliate program or ad network that I deal with that I’ve never had any personal contact with. Again – I’m sure I’m a small fish in comparison to some of your other affiliates – but other affiliate programs and ad networks give their medium to large affiliates quite a bit more personal attention.

Some assign account managers, others call every now and again to see how we’re going, quite a few offer special premium commissions for larger publishers, quite a few send a gift…. or even a card at Christmas time to say thanks for the business. Amazon…. well you send me checks that take 6 weeks to clear.

Don’t get me wrong – checks are nice and you’ve more than helped me make a dent in my mortgage…. but when web publishers are making the choice of which affiliate program to use on their websites, sometimes the little things count.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. finola says:

    Wow. I thought we were more alone in this dilemma in the Caribbean. I’ve been researching this as part of a post I’m putting together on e-commerce in the caribbean.

    With us, no matter how big or small the cheque, it takes 6 weeks to clear, the fees are fine, just the time. We also can only use a few online payment systems – paypal doesn’t work here because of our banking regulations – we’re so backward.

    We also suffer the stolen cheques – there’s so much opportunity but so much frustration you have to be prepared for also in the great web.

    It was interesting reading the comments on this one also – a good overall idea of different ways people deal with the issue.

  2. Grant Northsby says:

    I completely agree. In fact it is this issue that is making me strongly consider switching my affiliate marketing efforts to other online stores. Since earning $3000+ a month the checks have become difficult to cash here also. I’m also frustrated that despite having referred $2 million of business to Amazon over the last 3 years that I have only earned an average of 4.1% commission (similar to you I see). I know they have small margins on consumer electronics but I would have expected that as publisher who sends that kind of business that there would be some kind of ‘tiered’ system in place beyond 4% no matter what you generate in sales.

    I’ve had offers by other online stores to better 4% on electronics (they’re offering up to 6-7%) and while I’ve stayed with Amazon based upon their name and trust with readers I’m at a point that I’m probably going to switch. I’m losing money, the admin of banking and tracking checks is taking up time and energy and the lack of any kind of personal touch frustrates me.

    So consider this me adding my ‘signature’ to your petition/letter to Amazon.

  3. Darren Rowse says:

    Bob Nolin and Jim Fitzsimmons – please don’t hear me as not appreciating the income that Amazon has brought me. I mentioned that I do a couple of times in the post (and when I said it’d put a dent in my mortgage I was mean it’s been a big help – perhaps I should have said ‘significant dent’). There’s nothing insignificant about $70k, even spread over the five years that I’ve earned it). It’s been a growing part of my income and I do value the Amazon program – but just because it’s been good to me doesn’t mean it can’t improve.

    Part of my motivation for this post is the hope that it might spur Amazon on to improve what they offer web publishers, particularly those not living in the US.

    I’m not bent out of shape (and I tried to highlight my appreciation for Amazon in my post) – I simply would love Amazon to catch up to their competition and consider paying those of us living outside of the US in the same way that other programs do.

  4. You deserve nothing but kudos, Darren, for all of your hard work and devotion to your fine audience.

    I hope that Amazon starts paying a lot more attention to its associates and gets this straightened out.

    You shouldn’t have to wait three whole months to receive your hard-earned money.

    Have an excellent day!

  5. Although, I don’t use Amazon, I’m from a Caribbean island and that means I cant even get international direct deposit cause most networks just deal with the bigger countries like UK, Canada, Australia etc.

    I feel your pain and commend you for writing Amazon on behalf of affiliates overseas.

  6. Martin says:

    I’ve had similar issues with other sources of US$ income in the past. Australian banks like to charge excessive fees to process US$ cheques, with most banks charging about AUD$50 per cheque!

    Thankfully, I now receive my income from this other source via direct deposit, but your post is making me think twice about signing up with Amazon’s affiliate program…

  7. tim says:

    Just curious, is this letter after repeated attempts to contact them without a response?

    I would probably like a little more attention after making over $1 million for them!

  8. Truely amazed by amazons lack of business ettiquette, but as someone has already said large corporatation are simpily greedy, and while I don’t believe you are in their small fish category they simply earn too much to care.

  9. doug morris says:

    Being that I’m from the US I don’t experience the same payment problem but I do sympathize.

    However, I am an associate or compared to Darren’s staggering figures, a micro-associate. I deal with just a few networks since my niche isn’t that big. I don’t bring any of my networks the kind of money Darren is bringing to the table and I get some kinda personal attention. I never paid much mind that i don’t get any from Amazon since my numbers there are not that big.

    I have to say that I’m appalled at the lack of personal attention that Amazon shows someone that has sent them $1.5M in business. Either they are rather rude or they deal with a lot more people that bring in a lot more money. It is most likely not the later.

  10. DeeJay says:

    Big corporations are like turtles when we talk about changing something from the root.
    That’s the case with Amazon and their payment system, too.

    Or maybe they don’t want to change it?
    Think why? ;)

  11. Hank says:

    Well said and lesson well taken.

    Thanks

  12. Sangesh says:

    I do agree with DeeJay about what he is saying. Big companies are sort of like bullies. But let’s hope Amazon is an exception.

  13. Congratulation for your earning with Amazon, Darren.
    My experience being affiliate with Amazon is frustated because no single sale I made. So, I never received check payment from them.
    Another check that I ever received is from Google, which can be cleared one month from the day I bank it, here from Indonesia.

  14. PC says:

    You echoed the thoughts of a lot of Indian Bloggers. I wish they could issue a cheque in local currencies like Adsense.

  15. Lenin Nair says:

    Wow, an open letter indeed. But Darren, you have friends in the US right. Maybe try to start a US virtual bank account like the Payoneer and try to cash the money directly to your payoneer mastercard. It takes 24 hours flat.

  16. Darren Rowse says:

    Lenin (and others who say to open a US account). To get paid into a US account you also have to have a U.S. tax ID number or a Social Security number so unfortunately that counts me out unless I want to completely transfer my account to someone else.

  17. Adbrite also only pay by cheque to Australia. They just sent me a cheque for US$10.22 – this converts to around A$15, which is the same as what my bank would charge me to deposit it (after a 6 week delay). I’ll be keeping the worthless cheque as a souvenir of the Adbrite account I no longer bother with.

    Another problem with receiving US mail arises if you live in Western Australia, which has the same state abbreviation as Washington (WA). I’ve had mail not arrive, or take months to get here, which puzzed me. The mystery was solved when one turned up with writing on the envelope that showed it had been redirected after going to Washington by mistake. It seems the US postal service also lack awareness of the world beyond their shores.

  18. Chris says:

    I completely agree with you. My policy now is to primarily concentrate on affiliates who offer payment by paypal or bank transfer. Cheques are an outdated form of payment in this day and age. Why cant amazon get their act together?

  19. Vivian Zabel says:

    I won’t feel so bad now that I see how little personal service you receive from Amazon with the amount of business you send their way. No wonder I don’t with my tiny bit of business (accordingly) since we’re about the newest kid on the block.

    I hope you let us know if anything changes.

    Vivian
    http://twitter.com/VivianZabel

  20. James says:

    Actually Darren, I’m a UK citizen and have a Citibank checking and savings account with a debit card (I spend 2-3 months of the year here for work).

    I don’t have an SSN and I’m only a ‘visitor on business’. My account requires me to maintain a balance of over $1500 at all times.

    James

  21. Wow! That’s a serious amount of business you’ve done with Amazon. They pay such a low commission rate I didn’t think it was possible

  22. Adsneeze says:

    amazon don’t give a damn on the publisher. they are really annoying an ignore a large market (blogger market). any small medium blogger has his money in max 45days, but amazon is really sloppy. I really recommend anything else.

  23. Papa Razzi says:

    Wow, that’s. I’m signed up with amazon also but so far I’ve only made $1.33 from them by two books sold. Would be nice to make 2-3k a month from them.

    I’m sort of lucky because anyone typing ‘paparazzi equipment’ into yahoo will have my site come up as #1 and in google it’ll come up in the second page.

    I think its because nobody has ever made a blog about paparazzi or about the equipment they use. So any traffic from that search that gets to my site instantly goes to a page that has all the equipment that I use and their links to amazon where people can buy camera equipment.

  24. very well thought out letter, have you in fact sent it to them or are you hoping they see it on here?

  25. Glenn says:

    Be thankful you don’t need tech support from them. I find, as with banks, that you’re OK unless you have to deal with the humans there. Also, I would mention that their affil banner ads are mostly ugly and years old. On the plus side, they’ve made some upgrades to the linking process and widgets that seem pretty good.

  26. You could always take the certificates and buy up all the trinkets and sell them locally. Clicks to bricks.

  27. Breakaway says:

    I am from the US, and receive direct deposit… but i share your frustrations with other affiliate programs. When I receive a check from Canada over $100, they take out a huge fee, and it takes like 6 weeks to process…. I live in Sacramento and it’s not a great place for international finance apparently.

    I hope a letter from someone like you may spur Amazon to open up the opportunity to be paid be direct deposit.

  28. Miss Xu says:

    Hey Darren -

    I just happened to stumble upon your post. As someone that spends well, 343 or so days abroad, I totally feel your pain. One thing that’s helped for me is sign up with a bank that has a local and Australia presence. Typically if you are a premier level in one country, you get reciprocal benefits in any other country. I would NOT however recommend HSBC. They have left me stranded without access to funds for over a month (and I happen to be in China).

    Just a stopgap solution in the event that you need one. Something tells me that Amazon is not going to be budging any time too soon.

    My angst over hsbc -> http://tinyurl.com/5vx2bm

    Oh, and another thing. Traditionally, I’ve not found American companies to be stellar with non US services / products. The exceptions likely being FMCG companies like P+G and Coke.

    Best of luck!

  29. Debo Hobo says:

    Okay you can transfer your account to me. I live in the US, I’ll take a small cut of course, let’s say 80% and send you the rest.

    Sound like a deal? It would be a burden for me but I’m willing to make the sacrifice after all you do offer all this great blogging info for free so its the least I could do.

    Kind of a win win for both of us…

    LOL ;)

  30. TopToys says:

    Firstly fantastic earnings and well done. Being relatively new to affiliate marketing and only having done Amazon for less than one month i am still learning about the flaws in the amazon system but being based in the UK have to date refrained from joning the non UK affiliate schemes for the reasons you mention. It seems very strange with the internet being global that we need to register with each Amazon scheme rather than just having one global id and that amazon can’t make the payments as simple as say google does with the adsense scheme.

  31. domainpubber says:

    Amazon is REALLY missing the boat by not assigning AMs to their top associates. Its purely bad management on their part. I use their Create Space, Web Store, Fulfillment by Amazon and Associate programs and its a complete nightmare trying to get assistance since they have no consultants or humans that know all their merchant programs and systems cohesively or that you can actually get on the phone!!! Hopefully management will figure this out and make some corrections one of these days; then they actually might become the Powerhouse of affiliate programs. Maybe I should apply for the job since I seem to be the only person I know who uses ALL of Amazon’s merchant programs together ;-)

  32. Ark Lady says:

    Funny, I just took a survey from Amazon and conveyed my disappointment in their affiliate program as compared to my earlier experiences with them.

    As a USA affiliate I don’t face the same challenges as you do but I have not enjoyed the changes they have made to their percentage changes.

    I hope that you too were able to take the survey and express your concerns there as well.

  33. David Allen says:

    I agree with you Darren and about time someone reminded Amazon that the internet is international and that there are perfectly good international payment systems.
    I get paid by Paypal for other things and also get paid with bank transfer.

    I did get a payment from another affiliate system that would have cost me money if I had put it in the bank, aside from the fact that the bank would still take just over a month to process a cheque from the US.

  34. CMD says:

    .
    I am interested in knowing if affiliates have more to say about the specific payment processors or systems that appeal to them?

    Our site (which would be grateful to see some of you super-affiliates around once we launch – that’s all of you) offers two payment processors PayPal and AlertPay. But is that enough?

    Will check back: & thx

  35. jay says:

    Maybe Amazon should consider using Western Union just like Google

  36. uwak says:

    amazon with plus and minus…..wow, you create big money from amazon

  37. I can’t believe a company as big as Amazon don’t use Paypal. I might have to remove their affiliate links in my site. I live outside of the US so payment would likely suck for me too. (I didn’t read the payment guidelines well when I signed up)

  38. Lorna says:

    This post makes me rethink about using Amazon.com affiliates program. Granted, I’m not earning anything from them yet, but it’s better to realize it now than to regret it later.

  39. Ajay says:

    Here here Darren,

    Like you I am an Aussie Associate that gets paid monthly. My cheques vary between one and two thousand a month and I must say that having to go to the bank each month (the same bank each time) and have to explain that the cheque is in USD which is not clearly stated on the cheque itself, then to have to pay the foreign exchange fee (with bankwest at least) it gets very monotonous.

    Why cant Amazon get with the times and offer it’s international affiliates wire transfer or at least do what CJ do and route it through Australian banks whereby its issued in AUD. CJ is great for Cheque payments but Amazon is really starting to shite me!

    Your right too, pushing hundreds of thousands of dollars in product sales, you would at least expect a hello call or free mousepad every now and then. Goes to show how small we really must be.

  40. paul says:

    Well, I guess it will take a blogging and affiliate giant like Darren to spark changes to the system. If they don’t listen to such feedback, it is hard to imagine them making changes for less successful affiliates.

  41. Clint Dixon says:

    You have got to be kidding……you should have enough money that you don’t need to worry that Amazon sends payments that take so long to process.

    Plus you should be getting checks monthly by now so your checks should be clearing monthly albeit not as perfect as one could want.

    Life could be a whole lot worse Darrin…remember your luck,,

  42. Ben says:

    Wait…you mean some people make money with Amazon? ;) I’ve only earned enough to buy a cup of coffee, and that took two years…
    goes to show that different tactics work for different blogs.

  43. Kholid says:

    I agree with you Darren, maybe I’ll become more motivated, if Amazon gives an alternatives of payment such as Paypal. Currently I make enough money from selling Amazon items. I hope Amazon teams read this post.

  44. Jeff Bezos called you yet?

    Just wondering. If I was him I would.

    Or is he above such a sensible response?

    -Alister

  45. Emir says:

    Darren, I would start a US company to receive money, and use it for US business activities. Adsense, servers etc.. With a US based company you get US bank account, merchant account and so on..
    You can pay taxes or wait for 3 months to receive the money. $3000 now and $3000 in 3 months is not same, if you receive it “now” you’ll probably turn that into say $4000 in 3 months…even with the costs of having a US company…
    Anyway, best of luck.

    Emir

  46. Dollars says:

    I was working as a freelance journalist for over 10 years and I also had to wait 3 months for my money. However, it was not $ 3,000.

    I think you should not have written this post.

    And I wish the comments on this website would be restricted to people who have something to say about the topic, instead of just saying how right and fantastic you are, for the sole purpose of linking their blog.

  47. Get Real says:

    Get real to the bozos that kept saying “you are lucky to work from home.”

    Luck had nothing to do with it.

    He made sacrifices and worked to build his business and that’s what got him there.

    He earned the money and sent the sales so he shouldn’t have to wait more than a month to get…

    his money.

    Let’s reiterate that.

    His money.

    That’s over a million dollars Amazon would NOT have
    if he didn’t send it to them.

    You are saying he’s “lucky to be working from home”?

    Get a clue.

    It takes boldness to not just be neurologically programmed
    by the philosophy of the mediocre masses

    and actually create wealth running your own business.

    Especially online given the ignorant detractors to which it seems you’re carrying your membership card.

    Do something original.

    Start a business of your own.

    NO wait, that would require you thinking for yourself.

    Just don’t call entrepreneurs “lucky” about anything.

    Without entrepreneurs you wouldn’t have a job to put your trust in or complain about.

  48. Firstly, yes to what “Get Real” said above.

    I was Googling around looking for info on Amazon affiliate schemes and trying to work out if I should take a UK or a US one, etc. Also doing my due diligence on payment methods etc. I found this topic.

    Most informative; Thank you. This site isnow my reading this evening!

  49. Manuel says:

    Nice try. I stopped promoting Amazon a while ago. I think their comission (electronics for example) is way to low. I remember that I sold a couple of plasma tvs for around $10k and ended up with a $50 comission…

  50. Patzz says:

    Daran I had bit confusing about placing choosing amazon or ebay to my site, I choose amazon thanks You mention you’re a small fish at amazon but for me you’re the biggest one their thanks this is really worth