Phone Shaving

Phone Shaving
Affiliate Programs that Shave Your Commission by Phone

by Lonnie Lee Best

Beware of sponsors placing phone numbers on the web pages you link to.  If you sign up for an affiliate program, you better make sure that your sponsor doesn't try to steal your commissions by providing a 1-800 number (Order by Phone) option on the page that you are directing your traffic to.

Phone Shaving Victim

I was sending a lot of my traffic to a sponsor that sold a program that people could order online. Someone could click on a link that was on my web page, and be directed to the page of my sponsor who was selling this program. My sponsor's computer would recognize that the prospective customer was sent from my page, and it would track this prospect. If the prospect purchased something on my sponsor's site, I would receive commission for the sale.

However, after a few months, this sponsor began to include a 1-800 number (Order by Phone) option on the page that I was directing my traffic to. Consequently, some of my sales commissions began to be circumvented by the telephone. Some of the customers, that would have normally ordered online, decided to call the toll free telephone number instead. I called this number myself, and I placed an order. The telephone representative didn't ask any questions regarding how I had heard about the product. Essentially, I generated a sale to my sponsor without receiving a commission for doing so. This was happening each time someone ordered by phone.

I brought this problem to the attention of my sponsor, and they rationalized the practice by stating that only 10% of their customers order by phone, and a large portion of the said 10% were people who didn't feel comfortable ordering online. Furthermore, this sponsor presumed that the phone generated orders were solely made by those who wouldn't have ordered the product any other way. Hence, had the toll free number not been available these prospects would have simply not ordered. So therefore, the toll free number prevented no commissions.

Obviously, there are several weaknesses in this rationalization. First of all, what about those people who would have ordered online had the toll free number not been available? Each of these people represents an unreported sales commission (that my traffic generated) that I won't receive. Secondly, why did the telephone representative make no attempt to find out who generated the sale?

Why Phone Shaving Hurts

Whether intentional or inadvertent, this practice results in unreported sales commissions, and I recommend that you avoid sponsors who display a toll free phone number on the page to which you send your traffic.  If one of your sponsors starts doing this, refer back to this page and write them the following letter:

Sample Letter
Dear Sponsor,

I noticed that the page I'm sending my traffic to provides a toll free number (order by phone) option.  After calling the toll free number, I also noticed that there was no dependable method in place for tracking my sales commission by phone.

Although I'm sure it is not your intention to do so, it is clear that a portion of sales generated by my traffic will not be reported due to the inherent inadequacies of your system.  Providing the telephone number may increase your sales, but it can't increase mine.  Your program should be set up in a manner that doesn't present this conflict of interest.

I would prefer that you remove the telephone number from the page that I am sending my traffic to, and from all pages subordinately related to this page.  Additionally, I would appreciated it if you used cookie technology to prevent prospects (I generate) from seeing phone numbers on any of your pages.

I really do like selling your products, and I want to continue doing business with your company indefinitely.  However, I can only afford to do business with those companies that can insure that I am being compensated for each sale I generate.  I am most satisfied with sponsors who set up their affiliate program in a manner that will not allow them to receive a sale unless I (the sale generator) am also compensated.


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