Rely on the data feed and you may get punished by the merchant!
I use the coupon feeds from the networks to populate my site, Sunshine Rewards. I import them into my admin panel and then someone on my staff runs a quick check on them for duplicates and blatant errors. We run that check as a courtesy to our members so that we aren’t publishing deals that are bad or do not exist. It’s time intensive, but we have a pretty good process. However, if a coupon that comes through a data feed is not accurate, who is responsible for fixing it, the merchant or the affiliate?
An Angry Merchant
On January 26, I received an email at 8pm on a Saturday night from an angry merchant. The email clearly went to their entire affiliate base (at 8pm on a Saturday night) and stated:
“Good Evening, The Affiliate Exclusive X offer has been cancelled. Unfortunately there are many publishers that posted the offer early and the photo team has decided to pull the plug on the offer. We apologize for any inconvenience. X Affiliate Team.” (emphasis added)
This was the second time I had received such an email from this particular merchant. Although I wasn’t working (did I mention it was a Saturday night??), I immediately went to our page to see if we were one of the publishers at fault. Sure enough, the deal was listed on our page. I immediately removed it.
However, as I went in to remove it, I noticed that although the text of the deal said that it started on January 27, the database field for start date was January 26. I checked all of the other coupons that we had for that merchant, and they were the exact same. The start dates the merchant entered into the “start date” field were all one day earlier than the text.
Who Should Scrub the Coupons?
I emailed the merchant back explaining the situation and said that I did not believe that any of the affiliates posted the deal early intentionally or to get a jump. Rather, most of us use the coupon feeds and do not have the time to manually change every start date when the text and the fields differ. I never received a response.
I try to be pretty balanced when it comes to merchant and affiliate responsibilities, but in this case I think that the affiliates have every right to post the deals as they are sent to us. Yes, we can scrub all of that data and change the dates. But consider:
- Most merchants are doing it right. Why should we have to spend all of that extra time on merchants who just don’t use the system right?
- We don’t have time to manually add every coupon. That’s why we use the coupon feeds to begin with.
- There isn’t an ROI for most of us to pay for a coupon service or an employee just to scrub the coupons that the merchants are adding incorrectly.
- With thousands of coupons coming in every day, we are not always going to catch merchant errors even when we do manually look through the coupons.
I’m curious as to what other affiliates think about this and, even more, what merchants think about it. Do other affiliates manually check and change every coupon? Do merchants/affiliate managers/OPMs know how to use the system properly? If not, would they hold affiliates responsible for posting the incorrectly coded coupons a day early?
(I intentionally withheld the name of the merchant here because I don’t think they are doing a bad job with the program overall. I just think they are missing the boat on this one issue. However, I see many other merchants who consistently enter the wrong dates into the feed as well.)