While I cannot state that the FatCow's affiliate program is a scam I have still had quite unpleasant experience with it. This article does not concern the hosting service provided by FatCow.com (which still could be OK), it's just about the affiliate program they are offering via Commission Junction to partners promoting the web hosting.
Some time ago I decided to become FatCow's affiliate partner and promote their hosting services. As always I didn't put much money and efforts in a new partnership but after a couple of days I had my first sale and it did seem like a good ROI. Unfortunately, that was everything good in this relationship.
I had 3 more sales the following month but all of them were cancelled later. Of course, I asked FatCow affiliate team about the reason and I received the following answer:
"After reviewing your sales, I discovered that 2 of them had been canceled shortly after being signed up and one of the sales tracked was in fact not a sale at all, but an affiliate signup. Unfortunately these track the same as sales and must be reversed at the end of the month."
I started to feel uncomfortable immediately after this mail because it was very strange to confuse a sale with an affiliate sign up - if this was true, there should be something definitely wrong with the tracking system. So, I expressed my concerns and I got another mail with some nice bla-bla-bla and also containing the following sentence:
"After looking into the sales further, it would appear the one that I previously mentioned was an affiliate sign up was actually a sale, but was flagged by our fraud team and deferred."
It was strange that the FatCow's affiliate manager should "look into the sales further" in order to find that a sale was really a sale rather than an affiliate sign up and for whatever reason it was flagged as fraud. I asked about the "fraud" reason and the answer did not contain any explanation about it so, after all of these suspicious emails with many nice words along the strange and contradictory information, I just stopped promoting FatCow's hosting.
But there was a sequel... After several months FatCow "spammed" me with some promotional offers that coincided with a friend of mine asking about a web hosting service. So, we've decided that he could try the FatCow's promo offer and thus I could also see what would happen with the sale from affiliate point of view. Initially it was OK - the sale was tracked and it appeared into my CJ's account. But at the end of the month it was cancelled like the ones before. I contacted again the affiliate support team and the response was:
"We apologize for the inconvenience, unfortunately there appears to be an issue with tracking. We currently are working to resolve the issue, we apologize once again for the inconvenience you are experiencing in this matter."
I asked for more information and receive another "informative" email:
"We apologize for the inconvenience, there have been some system errors with tracking the sale. We are currently reviewing the sale and if deemed qualified we will then payout the commission in the next payout cycle (around the end of June)."
So, I decided to wait... After waiting long enough and of course, after nothing happening from FatCow's side I asked them again about that last sale. To be honest, at this point I was almost convinced that they were scamming. For my surprise I received the following:
"We apologize but the sales are not able to be tracked, we will credit you for the sale due to the fact that the issue is clearly a system tracking error. We highly apologize for the inconvenience and we appreciate your efforts in promoting us. I was unable to add the actual sale so I have added the commission balance as a bonus, we appreciate your patience in this matter."
They really added a bonus in an amount of one sale's commission. I did not escalate the case to Commission Junction's staff or any further but I decided to describe it here because it was quite disturbing. Yes, I was credited for the sale that I knew did happen and thus it was actual for sure but still 3 other sales was cancelled for very vague reasons.
In the end, the FatCow's affiliate program is probably not a scam but their tracking system appears to be awful (The web hosting itself seems decent for the money but this is another story). The affiliate service does not seem professional and I suppose even their affiliate partners that are making good money in fact get just a portion of the real amount they should get. So, that's all... You've been warned! :)