Update: I have the solution.
I’ve been using Commission Junction for a couple of years (well, actually, much longer, but that account was closed), first with SodaRatings.com (for the eBay affiliate program) and then with the “Managing Online Forums” book site, to enable affiliate links to Books-A-Million. eBay moved away from Commission Junction, a while ago, bringing their affiliate program in house. Since then, I’ve just been using the Books-A-Million program. Everything was going fine, I thought, until I received this e-mail on February 1:
Dear Patrick O’Keefe,
You are receiving this email because we are concerned that your Commission Junction publisher account has not generated any valid commissions (from payable transactions) recently. We encourage you to begin earning commissions as quickly as possible. Otherwise, your publisher account is at risk of deactivation due to dormancy. Please see the Commission Junction Publisher Service Agreement for further explanation.
Accounts deactivated for dormancy are eligible for voluntary reactivation with Commission Junction, but you must re-establish any previous relationships with your advertisers. After reactivation, you are ready to redevelop your publisher business and begin actively promoting offers within the CJ Marketplace.
Of course, we would much rather see your publisher account actively earning commissions. If you would like some information on strategies and tips for doing so, please log in to the CJ Account Manager and click on the CJU Online link for helpful resources.
If you have any further questions regarding this or other issues, please use the Ask a Question feature available by selecting the Contact Us link available in your CJ Account Manager.
Notice, there is no mention of any fee in there. I did want to keep my account and I wanted to keep working with Books-A-Million. The e-mail was vague on what exactly I needed to do – just to “begin earning commissions as quickly as possible.” So, I went and logged in to my account to send them an e-mail to ask exactly how much activity was needed and to see what I could do.
I logged in and checked my stats, first, to see what sort of activity I had. I was surprised to see that, on February 1, that same day, I had had a $10 fee deducted from my account balance. The balance was $13 and change and I now had $3 and change. A quick Google search led me to this thread at PowWeb. And then it started to fall into place.
I’m sure it’s in their terms and I, most likely, violated those terms. No dispute there. Take my $10, I guess. Commission Junction didn’t do anything wrong to me. Just wanted to be clear about that. It’s in their terms and they enforced them. I’m fine with that. But, I think maybe it would have been better if they notified people, in advance, and told of the fee, at least, when you are running close to having it happen.
I e-mailed support to ask them if the fee could be refunded, expecting that it wouldn’t be. If that would be possible, I said, then I could go ahead and buy something through one of my links (as their documentation advised) to keep it out of the inactive state. The support person was nice and polite, but basically said no. So, I provided some more feedback, and asked that my account be closed.
The person closed it and told me that, worse yet, had my account been left, they would have cleared it out by $10 every month, until it reached $0 and then it would have been closed. Because I closed it voluntarily, the representative said, they would send me a check for the balance. Again, the person was very nice, kind and polite and said that I could always come back and reopen my account. She even said that the policy was an inconvenience for publishers.
I don’t feel comfortable quoting the e-mails, in full, that I exchanged with the support rep. I don’t mind posting the e-mail above, which was automated. But, I will quote one small part. She said that the $10 fee “occurs due to the system which has certain rules which keep the network productive.” I just wonder: is it worth it?
Is the gain of this $10 fee really worth the negative feelings it must cause with struggling, small publishers? Is having inactive accounts really such a strain on Commission Junction’s network? When people get charged $10, do they think “well, I’m going to go work harder to promote my Commission Junction links” or do they think “they took my $10?! I’ll just use someone else.” Commission Junction is a leader and they represent a ton of attractive programs – but, that said, there are plenty of other folks in this arena, including major site based affiliate programs (like Amazon.com’s and eBay’s), other affiliate networks and CPA networks (like AzoogleAds or Market Leverage). I just don’t know if it’s worth charging $10 for this.
I’ve taken down the link to Books-A-Million, leaving links to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s. I would apply to the Borders program, but they, too, use Commission Junction. It’s a shame as I’d like to link to Books-A-Million and Borders, but the Commission Junction policy just makes me not want to work with their program.