A couple of weeks ago, I got a notice that someone in China had sent me $4.45 via PayPal. They had actually sent me $4.94 but I had to pay the fees. The name of the person was two Chinese characters that I couldn’t read. I thought about refusing the payment, but then figured if they figured out their error, I would give them their money back (or PayPal would just take it). I was expecting $42 from DealExtreme, a Chinese flashlight dealer whose affiliate program I am involved in, and I wasn’t expecting any refunds from any other dealers. It was just mystery money. I even thought maybe it was some kind of scam where they spam people with money, but that didn’t make any sense.
Yesterday I was checking out my account on another dealer, DinoDirect. This is a dealer that has a particularly shady reputation though I’ve ordered from them a few times and never had any real problems. They have a lot of discount codes and let you accumulate points that can be traded in for credits on purchases. Sometimes they have really good deals, and sometimes they double their prices for no reason. But if you are careful you can get some good deals. They also post fake reviews of their products like this one where the person gave it 4.5 stars: “Good, it is possible to buy a flashlight.” It isn’t hard to spot the fake reviews, but it is still a dishonest practice. DealExtreme, on the other hand, has tons of user reviews which all seem genuine.
In September of last year, I made my first purchase from DinoDirect, my most expensive flashlight, the Sunwayman V10A, which they had for an irresistibly good deal (reviewed here). Very soon after that I ordered a cheap light, the UniqueFire UF-2100, and wrote up a review here (that light would eventually get baked). Part of the review template I use at BudgetLightForum is a link to where you bought the light. And I figure if people are going to use my link to buy a light, then I should see if there is an affiliate program where I can make some money on those purchases. Most online dealers have them, but they don’t always work. For DealExtreme’s program, where they owe me $42, I will give the money away at BLF in random drawings. I think one reason I earn a lot at DX is because people intentionally use my affiliate number so that I can offer contests. So I don’t end up keeping that money and can run a contest every 4-6 months for a $20 drawing (I’ll do two drawings when I get paid and use the leftover $2 for PayPal fees or “handling”). So DinoDirect had an affiliate program and since I was writing two reviews, I included affiliate links in my reviews at BLF (which I copy over here to the blog). Some people at BLF feel this is dishonest and that someone would write a really good review in order to pump up sales and commissions. I suppose there is a conflict of interest, but the money involved is pretty tiny. Sometimes I will mention that the link is an affiliate link for “full disclosure”. I do it more just to see if the links work. One dealer, KaiDomain, has a points program that has never worked. And after writing these reviews and signing up for Dino’s affiliate program, I realized Dino’s didn’t work either. I was getting no click throughs or sales even though people commented that they had bought lights because of my review. It was worth a shot, I guess.
So yesterday I am in my DinoDirect account checking out my bonus point balance and the reviews I have written (you get 20 points for writing a review of a product you buy from them which converts to 20¢ off your next purchase). For some reason I decided to check out my affiliate account. I didn’t even remember the password, so I had to reset it and have them email me a new one. I logged on and saw on the summary page there were no clicks. They had a whole system set up, but had never used it. Then I clicked on Reports. In the reports I saw that I have had eight sales and my commissions added up to almost $20. The site says that they will pay you automatically once you get to $25. So I started looking around and under Payments, I found they had sent me $4.94 last month. So that was the mystery money! I’m not sure why they sent me the money, but I suspect that they made some kind of change to the program and were clearing out the old program’s rewards. Now I have $14.72 in unpaid referrals fees!
I think the system wasn’t working last September when I signed up and then around March of this year they got it to work because that was when the first sale showed up. The last purchase I made from Dino was a Tank007 E09, which is a great little budget light (reviewed here), and when I posted the review at BLF, I didn’t even bother with the affiliate link. Well, I went right back and fixed that link.