Amazon Associates Doesn't Pay Referral Fees, Refuses To Explain

Consumerist reader Sean C. thought he was having a lucky day on June 29 when he finally earned some money through the Amazon Associates referral program, to the tune of around $500. Unfortunately June 29 was also the day Amazon ceased the program in California.

A new sales tax law was signed in California on June 29, and Sean writes that Amazon communicated the news of the shutdown in that state in a somewhat confusing manner. He just wanted to find out if he’d be getting paid that $500 in referral fees.

First we got the notification about what was going on and what might happen at about 12:30pm; later that night at 9:45pm, we got a followup email that the sales tax bill had been signed and all Associates accounts were being closed. What wasn’t clear was exactly when this was effective. Was it when the second email came through that announced the Associates closure? Was it at midnight that night or perhaps even retroactively taking effect for all of June 29th? So I called.

Other Associates probably know how hard it is to find an actual phone number for the Amazon Associates program but it’s out there if you dig enough (1-800-372-8066). I called up the next day hoping to clarify and spoke with Marva. She was very helpful and said that accounts weren’t actually closed until midnight as June 29th became June 30th. She also confirmed that orders made the afternoon of June 29th would still be eligible for payout the normal 60 days afterwards. Great!

Fast forward to Aug. 30, and Sean says Associate payments have gone out, but he still has yet to see any money. Even worse, all records of his June 29 sales seemed to have vanished.

As you can imagine, I was a bit ticked off because now I had nothing to reference or refer to when trying to get this taken care of. After rooting around in the dashboard some, I did find one tiny speck of reference to my missing payment. It shows that I was credited the amount, and then immediately debited that same amount.

And thus began my parade of calls to Amazon. I first spoke with Sherry, who was wonderful, and we spent probably 45 minutes on the phone trying to figure it out. She was genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of it and seemed quite flabbergasted as well that there were no traces of anything except for that credit/debit item under my payments. She couldn’t find any information on why the payment would have been denied, let alone why my records were wiped. She said the “specialists” would get back to me in about 10 business days. You’re reading this, so I bet you know that didn’t happen.

I’ve since made four additional calls, speaking with Angelita, Sherry (again!), David and Donnie, all with the same result. They all say that the case was forwarded to either a higher department or legal department (I’ve been told both), that they see it’s been assigned to someone to review and I should be hearing back soon. Each deadline comes and goes with no word on this issue.

I do want to point out, the CSRs for the most part are fantastic and I do believe that they’ve passed it onto whoever they’re supposed to pass these things onto. They’re all nice and seem to care about my problem, there’s just nothing they can do about it. None of them seemed to be working off a script and a couple even empathized with me, wondering how I was staying so calm about the situation. One even did follow-up on his promise to email me an update a few days later, although it was just another “there’s no update” note.

Sean adds that despite all the hassle this has cost him, it’s not about the money, it’s about an explanation.

If they’re trying to claim that those sales are ineligible because of the tax bill timing, that’s annoying but fine. If they DQ’d my referral fee payout because I broke some rule in the Associates TOS, that sucks but fine. I just want an explanation, a dialog with someone about why it wasn’t paid.