For roughly 12 hours or so, I was part of Amazon’s Affiliate Program. It operates on a pretty simple mechanism. You sign up for the program, and then you can use special URLs on your site that link out to Amazon product pages. If anyone buys a product via your URL, you get a small commission.
I figured I would sign up for it. There are a lot of products that I use and love and pay for entirely out of pocket (I don’t do endorsements or accept free items. So if I love something and recommend it, it’s because I genuinely think it’s worth spending money on.) I often recommend them to people, and I’ve been told countless times that if I’m going to do that, I should set up some affiliate links and receive some small compensation for doing so.
I decided that if I was going to do that, I needed to be as upfront and honest with my you all as possible about it. So I created the Stuff I Like page, full of websites and products that I love, and included this very clear disclosure about it:
Please note that my love can’t be bought – I have not been compensated for listing any of these links or products (though I am part of Amazon’s affiliate program, which means that if you buy any of the products/books via the links below, I will receive a small commission. This is the only way that I monetize my site.)
A few hours later, I received notice from Amazon that they had rejected my application and cancelled my account. This was the explanation that they gave:
While reviewing your Amazon Associates application, we noticed that your web site announces that a portion or all proceeds of Amazon.com orders will benefit a particular individual, group, or organization. Associates are not allowed to offer incentives to visitors to purchase through their links by stating a certain amount will be earned, donated, rebated, etc.
Now, I didn’t mean to give my readers an incentive. I just figured that I should be upfront with them. If I was making any revenue (regardless of how small – and trust me, it would have been small) on the site off of their actions, I figured people had a right to know. I told Amazon this, and here was there reply:
The statement “If you choose to purchase any of them via those links, I will receive a small commission.” announces that a portion or all proceeds of Amazon.com orders will benefit a particular individual. The only approved wording for announcing your participation in the Amazon Associates program is located under section 10 of our Operating Agreement
So I looked at Amazon’s Operating Agreement, and the only acceptable wording is a bit of legalese that wasn’t clear, and definitely didn’t fit the tone of my blog. I’m not allowed to say anything else about it. Which, frankly, I’m not okay with. If I’m going to make any money off of this blog, you’d better believe that I’m going to be as clear as hell about it.
But being clear as hell about it violates Amazon’s terms of the agreement. So I’m saying to hell with it. The links on the Stuff I Like page are no longer affiliate links. Some of them still go to Amazon, because I wanted to show the best price I could find online. But I’m not getting any compensation for it. And I’m okay with that. Because honestly, whatever kickback Amazon could give is not worth being vague or misleading.