The email came at night, but it wasn't completely unexpected. In a terse missive, Amazon accused me of violating their Terms of Service (TOS) and terminated my account. Reasons given: copying pages and links to other sites and search engines. In other words spamming other sites with specific Amazon links tagged with my id to collect commissions.
I have operated my two sites (hashemian.com and padfly.com) for over a decade with a couple of different associate and affiliate programs. I probably have too many ads on my pages, but I have been careful to stay on the ethical and moral side of the fence. Fairness and respect to my visitors have always trumped making a quick buck or a large sum for that matter. Good reputation is worth way more to me than money.
I have never copied a page nor parts nor links containing my Amazon account data anywhere outside of my own sites - never, not even once. There have also been no schemes to push any links onto search engines. My sites are crawled and pages are indexed normally by search engines. But Amazon simply accused me of being unethical and took punitive steps.
So how did I know that I'd be receiving a termination notice from Amazon at some point? This past Christmas season there was a marked increase in sales and therefore higher commissions in my Amazon account. I attributed that to the season, luck and some validation after years of being online. As months rolled on, the sales continued to stay positive and I became certain that Amazon would not be pleased and they would eventually pull the plug.
For a long time I have suspected that Amazon disapproves of any associate who wields too much selling power. Such an associate can materially influence sales numbers and that's not welcome news to Amazon. So Amazon has created a clever TOS for its associates program that allows them to terminate anyone at anytime. Why even have a TOS when the program is free? That protects Amazon against possible lawsuits such as those for discriminatory practices. The TOS rules are nitpicky enough that at no time any of their associates are in complete compliance. One link appearing on another site is enough to violate the TOS. I'm certain that I was in violation since day one. But it took them 6 years to suspend my account.
As long as the associates make a paltry earnings from the program, Amazon is willing to let the violations slide. But when an associate surpasses certain figures, then a quick notice of TOS violation is given and the associate is terminated. No one but Amazon knows what those figures are and how they are applied, but they do exist and they are applied. And that's how I was terminated from Amazon associates.
The most damaging part of the notice to me was the accusation of being unethical, just a simple and cold assault on my reputation. Now, I realize that no one cares about my situation and people would just dismiss this as a another scammer's rant. I don't mind. People don't know me, so why should they believe my story?
But people should at least believe this part. As a part of my account termination, Amazon also seized all commissions earned. They would also continue to keep future commissions from any sales related to my links. It's not much money, but if these were indeed ill-gotten gains, then a responsible company and an ethical corporate citizen would not keep them nor would they keep any profits from the sales. They would at the least donate them to a good cause. A charity for fighting hunger and poverty, educational programs for under-privileged children, or organizations combating diseases such as cancer. Instead, Amazon simply and silently pockets the money for itself.
If cops busted a suspected drug dealer, is it right for them to kill him and pocket whatever money they found on him? Is it OK if they sold the rest of his stash on the streets and kept the profits? It's an exaggerated comparison, but I don't think that would be right. i don't know, maybe I have a warped perception of ethics.