How Selling Too Many Plush Monkeys Got Me Banned From Amazon Forever

I didn’t set out to lose $587.13 selling plush monkeys, but I guess that’s just the way life turns out sometimes

Here's how Amazon banned my account forever.

Here’s how Amazon banned my account forever. Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

It all started Saturday night at 1:43 AM. There I was, lying in bed, pondering the meaning of life. My phone’s dim light illuminated my expressionless face as I went through the all-too-familiar motions: check Facebook, check Twitter, check email. Rinse, repeat. Repeat, refresh. Facebook. Twitter. Email. And so it goes.

I was about to capitulate to the sad reality that is the inside of my eyelids… and that’s when I saw it.

I’d been laying there for so long that I lost track of time. But now, it was here. And I was ready.

If you’re familiar with Woot.com, the daily deal site acquired by Amazon in 2010 for $110 million, you’re well aware of the quirky and irreverent emails for which they’re so famous. And this night’s email was no different:

Email from Woot.com

Email from Woot.com Author photo

Now, to the average Woot.com email subscriber, this was a pretty funny email. But to me? To me, it was an opportunity.

You see, within seconds of receiving this email blast — a blast that goes out to millions upon millions of Woot.com subscribers — I was already registering the domain SecretMonteCam.com, a $10 investment that would end up costing me almost $600.

I pontificated on what would be the best use for the domain. Should I redirect it to my website? My Twitter account? My TEDx talk?

There were so many possibilities! But each second I didn’t make a decision was opportunity lost. The email had already gone out, and surely people were clicking on that link by now.

Then, all of a sudden, it hit me:

Woot.com is owned by Amazon, right? How funny would it be for a curious Woot.com subscriber checking out the link shared by two digital plush monkeys to be redirected to an Amazon search for ACTUAL plush monkeys?

So, I set up the URL redirect, and called it a night.

A few days later, I checked my Amazon Associates account. I was curious to see if anyone had actually decided to purchase a plush monkey. A small part of me even hoped that I would be able to recoup the cost of the domain name.

I almost fell out of my chair when I realized what I saw.

Not only had people purchased plush monkeys, they purchased $9,542.53 worth of products!

People were buying books and music and games. They got mouthwash and diapers and wipes. They bought peanut butter and ketchup and nutella. And yes, they even purchased some plush monkeys!

After all was said and done, I was left with a pretty nifty $587.13 in commissions through the Amazon Associates program. Not too shabby for a $10 domain name investment.

Unfortunately, this sort of URL redirect is apparently against the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement. So, I had to forfeit all of my money, and Amazon banned my account forever.

Easy come, easy go.

Next time an Amazon subsidiary sends out a link without first checking it, I guess I’ll just redirect it to a porn site instead…

Amazon.com bans me from the Amazon Associates program (with “warmest regards” of course)

Amazon.com bans me from the Amazon Associates program (with “warmest regards” of course) Author photo

Jared Silver is a student entrepreneur, TEDx talker, and software developer whose mission is to improve people’s lives through education technology and technology entrepreneurship. He currently studies business administration at Babson College while working on a number of edtech side projects. You can learn more about Jared by checking out his website or following him on Twitter.