Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Sept 13 2012 19:55:43

The Ugly Side of Social Selling

By: David Steiner

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Are the models set up by social commerce sites to encourage social selling actually rewarding users for crossing a line from "social seller" into "pyscho spammer"? Have you ever been inundated by unsolicited messages or emails urging you to join an online marketplace or to buy/share/tweet/like a merchants' goods?

I personally have encountered a Yardsellr "affiliate" who used our merchant directory's messaging system to send unsolicited email to EveryPlaceISell.com merchants, entitled, "Have you tried Selling on Yardsellr? It's Free to List and Sell!!" Yardsellr, which was founded in 2010 by former eBay employee Danny Leffel, apparently rewards users for referrals through a program called "Photons."

Despite contacting Yardsellr about the affiliate spammer in August, and getting assurances that they would "reach out to her and ask her not to do that," I discovered today that merchants on another online marketplace recently began receiving similar unsolicited messages from the same Yardsellr affiliate.

The email these merchants received asked, "I noticed your Store on [Marketplace Name Withheld] (Great Items, BTW) so I have to ask...Why don't I see you Selling on Yardsellr too?"  A quick Google search of the spammer's affiliate code showed that they had been pretty busy on Facebook too.

While marketplaces can't control all the behavior of their users, they can certainly look at the incentives they set up to make sure they don't reward bad behavior. As soon as they get a complaint of a member abusing the system, they should eject that affiliate immediately, it should not be, "three strikes you're out," or some other number of chances to break the rules again.

Daniel Leffel of Yardsellr responded to our inquiries today via email, "I'm a little surprised that a single user violating the rules of our program is cause for you to write an article. I thought we've been nothing but responsive to your concerns but I'm willing to accept any feedback about our interactions that you'd like to give."

There are some lessons here for marketplaces, social networking site and for merchants.

1) If you do any promotions on behalf of yourself, other sellers, or an online marketplace, don't ever do anything that could be construed as Spam.

2) If you as a merchant use an affiliate program to pay others to promote your website or products, make sure you vet them carefully and take all reports of abuse seriously.

There's a law against SPAM with costly consequences for offenders - make sure you don't unwittingly break the law!

Plus, it just pisses people off.

About the Author
David Steiner is President of Steiner Associates LLC, publisher of EcommerceBytes.




Comments (21) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: alixibloun This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 13 20:40:54 2012

Ex-eBay...probably why he doesn't give a crap that sellers are spamming for them. Think you need to be a bit short on ethics to work for eBay.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Sep 13 20:56:24 2012

A few ebay sellers either abuse PayPal email addresses to spam their buyers with unrelated commercial messages or sell them to outside third parties.

A certain ebay seller of food products, for example, sells buyers' email addresses to the Nigerians.

Some ebay electronics sellers misuse PayPal email addresses for spam as well.

Some Chinese sellers send lots of spam.

The problem is hardly confined to social media sites, but the anything goes attitude that so many seem to have on the internet.

But, really, when a large internet presence like ebafia not only ignores bad behavior as a matter of policy but actually encourages it as matter of policy can we reasonably expect lessers to do better?

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by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 13 22:17:06 2012

There are always a few nuts/idiots/really stupid people who just don't get it, don't understand the consequences, don't understand the law, don't have any sense of common decency.  We can hope it will catch up with them in some ugly way.  The spam laws do have some teeth.  

And, for the record, I actually really like selling on Yardsellr and have had really good experiences with their customer service.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Sep 13 22:36:19 2012

A friend of mine of Facebook has gotten a bit annoying with her Avon ads. I would not un-friend her because of it, but it's definitely become a nuisance... so I just "demoted" her and configured my newsfeed to show less of her posts and activities. MUCH less!

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by: Analiz This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 13 23:06:56 2012

I don't understand why people are making this about eBay and eBay sellers? The article is about a Yardseller affiliate. I can understand why this pisses off David. This spammer spammed everyone who is signed up on this website for a free promotion provided by the Steiners. They took something good and turned it into something bad. It's like stealing. I am shocked that Yardseller took it so lightly. I applaud you for publishing this David.

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This user has validated their user name. by: TheCheapSkirt

Thu Sep 13 23:33:17 2012

Weird. Because I don't understand how one spammy Yardsellr person equates "all social sites are evil".

But I'm sensing a theme here based on the multiple articles lately:  EcommerceBytes dislikes social sharing sites.  

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by: MADandCracked This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 00:19:39 2012

I know exactly what's happening.

Yardsellr has been losing both buyers and sellers ever since they raised the buyer fees from a $1.00 minimum slice to a $2.95 minimum slice.

For those of you that don't know, buyers pay this fee (slice) every time they purchase an item.

In order for Yardsellr to try and bring in some new customers, they have been running a promotion for current users. The person that has brought in the most new "friends" wins an ipod.

If Yardsellr had continued to treat it's existing sellers and buyers fairly, then Yardsellr would not be scrounging around trying to bring in new buyers and sellers.

So that is why Danny does not care if people are spamming other people. That person is doing what Yardsellr ASKED of him!

If you can't tell, I'm fed up with Yardsellr and their "ebay greed". I've been working on opening up stores in other venues. :D

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by: teddychan This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Sep 14 00:34:14 2012

I tried Yardsellr for a while and got decent sales, but soon the hassle of dealing with idiotic comments outweighed the sales and I shut my account down. I spoke to Danny multiple times about their issues and nothing was fixed.

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by: RAOTFLMAO This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 06:38:48 2012

I have gotten messages like the yardseller one before and I just hit the spam button, that is all it is.  Got the facebook solicitations also, I report them as spam as well.  Anytime anyone that you don't know contacts you trying to sell something or get you to join something, that is spam.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Sep 14 13:08:47 2012

I don't have anything to do with yardsellr, but I have noticed that at least 4 of my Facebook friends names are being used to send me spam. Not their email addresses mind you, just their names although if you hover over the name you see the actual email address. How do I know they were harvested from Facebook? Simple it is the only place my SIL has her full name including maiden name in that particular configuration. The spammers are alwyas trying to get someone to click on links that seem to be different, so not necessarily trying the using the same link, but I'm sure have the same consequences of getting your email hacked if not more. I would think that this would be a huge production to harvest these names but I'm sure instead of trying to figure out a cure for cancer these mopes are figuring out another way to make 'easy' money.

The affiliate marketer that was mentioned above, isn't nuts or a stupid person that doesn't understand the consequences of what they are doing. They understand all right, but they just don't care! They want to make money or win an Ipod and will do anything to achieve that goal.

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by: BergersBizness This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 14 18:02:31 2012

I look at spam on my computer the same as I think of telemarketers that call my phone or junk mail that arrives in my mailbox. It's all trash and they all get treated with the same attention from me....none.  I don't answer my phone for telemarketers,the spam emails are never opened, and the junk mail in my mailbox goes straight into the trashcan. Too bad they can't think of some form of marketing that would actually get my attention.

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by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Sep 14 22:24:30 2012

@BergerBizness
There is a fine line between marketing and spam.
Years ago people door knocked to sell insurance and cosmetics.
Now they do it via telemarketing.
Is all telemarketing bad?
It might be someone raising money fro charity or a political campaign.


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by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 15 10:35:52 2012

dont you just hate a "friend" who is always trying to sell you something?

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This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Sat Sep 15 21:27:36 2012

@Digmen1 - I don't want charities or political campaigns making unsolicited phone calls to me any more than someone trying to sell something.

Spam is unsolicited electronic communication and is no different than any other type of unsolicited marketing. I would never do business, donate or vote for someone who bothers to waste my time to further their business. Plain and simple.

As for Yardsellr, it's a poorly designed, bottom feeder site that I would never even consider joining or selling on.

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by: GaryMatthew This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Oct 15 02:04:11 2012

You want a story on Yardsellr.com

I'll give you a story, a story of conspiracy,glitched fraud,cybercrime, bullies the works.

The kicker is they were friends with the founder Danny Leffel. One pictured here *Note Yardsellr LeaderBoard is where the screenshot came from. This was directly on their software after Celeste Nelson asked the question who is Gary Long on the public forum. http://i.imgur.com/Jol9A.png

I'm Gary, a simple guy who took a crap search engine and improved it with the addition of 1 word. Photon$Mart$ , a place where users can come and find items for 5$. Backed by the group Photon$Head$ the Mart opened 01/01/2012 and boasted over 4000+ items on opening day. Over 200+ users still use the keyword created for their success today and have testified its benefits. Also Seller Ranked 4 on Yardsellr has said in writing that Yardsellr.com once told him to POST his items with the KeyWord in his titles.

In January 2012 the groups new found popularity and DOMINATION on the BUYER Boards caused a rouse in the community. TROLL or internet trolls (Earlier founding members of Yardsellr.com) Banded up to banish me and exterminate the group Photon$Head$.

All of the information has been kept on zip drives. Screen shots in real time of what I endured are still frozen like they happened just moments ago.

On June 6th 2012 Employee Mike Price emailed a user Mary Mehan and told her to not speak to me or another mutual friend George a certain way on our Facebook walls. Mike made over 4 emails in a 1 hr period to basically slander my name. He didn't realize they were both my friends and they notified me immediately, last I checked he is still an employee.

The list goes on and on, in the 12 months I spent on Yardsellr.com I gave it all, in return I got glitched out of hundreds of dollars that they never paid back, I got slandered and bullied all over the internet then ignored and ultimately left Yardsellr.com

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by: GaryMatthew This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Oct 15 02:08:50 2012

https://www.facebook.com/PhotonHead
^^^^^^ The Photon$Head$ founder Gary Long

https://www.facebook.com/PhotonMart?fref=ts

Photon$
Mart$
Backed by the Photon$Head$

Still a Keyword search that lives on 4 months after its creators departure.
http://yardsellr.com/search/Photon$$Mart$$

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by: GaryMatthew This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Oct 15 02:20:57 2012

http://i.imgur.com/QB3U2.png

I got enough evidence to write a book. U want a story? Come get at me. Danny they'll write a book, you know what you did to me sir.... One article should be the least of your concerns...

http://i.imgur.com/QB3U2.png

^^^^^^^^^ MUST SEE BEHAVIOR FROM YARDSELLR EMPLOYEES

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by: GaryMatthew This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Oct 15 02:24:04 2012

http://i.imgur.com/NmDlC.png
^^^^^^^^ The Whole Email

No wonder they are late to email people back, they are too busy doing this to honest hard working community members.  

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by: DannyB4Yardsellr This user has validated their user name.

Sat Oct 20 16:54:17 2012

You guys didnt work with Danny before yardsellr or eBay. I worked with him at the company he ran before that where he sucked a couple of million investor dollars and then bailed. IRI Motors. Danny is a con man, cant believe he sucked 5 mil out of another group of astute investors. Money down the drain. If you want to know the really good stuff, just post a comment back and I will try to respond.

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by: crackerjack9 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 21 07:22:39 2012

When I heard about yardsellr, I joined because of what the name implied. I am an occassional seller of small items, and want quick sales for some extra cash...I don't have time to sell online any other way. Well, I found out that THEY hold the payment from the buyer until the buyer reports that the item was recieved and they're HAPPY with it. Last time I checked I couldn't go to a yardsale and take something home to decide if I wanted to keep it! That may be fine if you're selling high-end items, but is it really neccessary for the occasional $20? The worst part is they have thousands of users questioning it, and will not respond to any of them. Read their blog/forum! If a user asks ''why do my photons start counting down 10 per second AS I BROWSE?'' their response is ''PHOTONS ARE THE GREATEST!! YARDSELLR ROCKS!'' If a user comments ''The buyer recieved my item 6 weeks ago, and I still haven't been paid by yardsellr!'' their response is ''Yardsellr pays all sellers with 3 days of the buyer recieving the item.'' Huh??? Are you not HEARING the very people that keep your site going? They had the potential to be great...but they chose to dig themselves into a great big hole by ignoring the small sellers.

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