Warning: It Doesn't Pay To Be A MarketingSherpa Affiliate

MS_SCAM

Update: This afternoon I received a personal call and email from a MarketingSherpa staffer hoping to repair the damage done to this relationship. I sincerely appreciate their effort and I'm optimistic about this leading to bigger and better things for both of us.

Original post follows...

I hate writing posts that call out people or businesses. But I need to warn unsuspecting marketers: MarketingSherpa has done everything in their power to avoid paying affiliate fees.

It has been so long, and the deception so shameful, that MarketingSherpa needs to understand that this is no way to run a business.

This is the story of how I added over $1K to the MarketingSherpa coffers and was scammed out of hundreds of dollars in affiliate fees.

Sound unbelievable? Believe me, it gets worse. Here is the story, more than a year in the making.

The Beginning

I was actually recruited into the affiliate program in May, 2008 (you can read that email here). My contact there was someone I will call Affiliate Manager 1 (AM1).

Emails from AM1 were always sure to include a mention of how much money affiliates could make in the program. Here's a typical example from 6/10/08.

MS_Sales

They always made sure to dangle those commissions in front of affiliates. It must have worked, because I continued to advertise their reports.

First Sale...And First Concerns

I made my first sale on 10/31/08 and sent a message to AM1. He replied as follows:

AM1_Reply

Needless to say, the Reports and Guides Manager never followed up, but who cares? I was making money...right?

I increased the MarketingSherpa ad load on my site considerably. The center column increased to 3-4 160x600 ads and I started including MarketingSherpa banner ads within my posts as well. My readers didn't mind and the potential payout was quite nice.

I made a second sale on 12/31/08 and was feeling good, even though I still hadn't been paid for that October 2008 sale. An established, reputable business like MarketingSherpa was good for it, weren't they?

The Hounding Begins

AM1 left MarketingSherpa, replaced by AM2 on 1/14/09. She sent an introductory email complete with the many ways to earn money through MarketingSherpa's affiliate program.

There was another change around the same time. The payment schedule seemed to go off the rails as well.

You can see from this payment report that MarketingSherpa was documenting my sales. But pay special attention to the "payment dates." After the first sale, the "payment" was supposed to be sent at the beginning of the next month, as per their affiliate payment schedule. But you'll notice the second "payment" is delayed by almost 3 months (sale on 12/31, "payment" due 3/27).

MS_PaymentReports

Strange, right? A few days prior, I'd been given my first reassurance that payment would be made. AM2 concedes that MarketingSherpa understands no money has been sent.

MS_Email1

It's disconcerting enough that the President needs to be involved in one small affiliate sale, but maybe that was to reassure me. On 1/16, I was told why:

MS_GoodFaith

I could understand - we were in the middle of a recession, right? Unlike bloggers who depend on affiliate sales for their sole livelihood, I have a day job and could wait, thinking it would only be a matter of weeks.

I checked in again 2 months later and was told (again) that another new hire would get me a check soon (see below). I made another affiliate sale in April and continued giving MarketingSherpa the benefit of the doubt.

MS_MarketingDir

I continued to act in good faith. I even did posts prominently featuring their reports or solely discussing their findings.

The Last Straw

So, let's review. It had been over a year since I was recruited for the MarketingSherpa affiliate program in May of 2008. I'd added $1,242.20 to their coffers. I was owed $352.81.

I had been paid exactly $0. I'd been getting excuses for over half a year.

MS_Totals

In my mind, I had only a few options:

  • Do nothing: Based on prior past experience, I knew this would yield no payments for me.
  • Complain yet again: Again, I wouldn't receive payment and would make myself sound even more pathetic than I already had. MarketingSherpa could assume that I would continue to post their ads and it would cost them nothing.
  • Go public: I wouldn't receive payment, but I might help another marketer avoid the trouble and indigestion that this relationship had caused me.

Going public is distasteful to me, but being treated like a fool is even less appealing. I gave MarketingSherpa one more chance, sending this email to AM2 on 6/25/09:

MS_LastChance

If not a payment, surely I would receive an apology or an acknowledgment of wrong-doing.

Their response: total silence.

On 7/1/09, I sent one final follow-up, saying "Not even a response to this email? I expected better."

Again: nothing from MarketingSherpa.

So, I had no other choice but to go public with their refusal to pay. I can't recommend a company on my blog that cheats its affiliates. And I can't keep my dignity when I'm being ignored or rebuffed.

Hence, this post. What a shame.

What Do You Think?

Have you been scammed by MarketingSherpa? We'd love to hear your story.

I'd also like to get your opinion. Should I have continued to sit on my hands or did I wait too long to bring MarketingSherpa to task? How soon should an affiliate wait before taking steps to get the money they've earned?

I would love to hear your reactions to this story. Also, be sure to pass this along to your marketer friends so they can avoid this scam. Don't let them fall for it like I did for so long.

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