It’s been at the core of more than one controvery in its time, but Ebates.com (aff) has finally decided to pull the plug on the Moe Money Maker downloadable rebate reminder toolbar.
In an email on 1/11 to members Ebates had identified as prior downloaders of MMM, the company announced that it was discontinuing support of the software, in preparation for the launch of a new, non-downloaded reminder tool very soon. The full email to members can be read below.
Initially, the outcry over MoeMoneyMaker was made by online marketers who were incensed that they might lose out on commissions as MMM “swooped in” and reminded a shopper to use Ebates’ affiliate link to receive cash back…versus possibly forgetting, clicking through a banner link on any old website, and THAT webmaster receiving the commission for your purchase (the member receiving zero). The “other” webmasters’ complaint: “It was our website that made the consumer want to buy. We should get credit for the sale. Instead, the reminder tool pushes the consumer to go through Ebates’ link and we get nothing.”
Of course, the consumer’s just happy he’s been prompted to get cash back.
The problem with toolbars like this (and there are other rewards programs still doing toolbars, like Upromise), from a consumer’s standpoint, is — what if he wants to use more than one rewards program? Suppose he has the toolbar installed to remind him about Upromise cashback, but he knows (thanks to CompareRewards.com and other websites) that he can get a higher cashback rate through a competing rewards program like Extrabux. Then what? Does the toolbar swipe the sale anyway? Does the member have to remember to choose a particular option in a popup to get the Extrabux cashback instead of the Upromise?
My standpoint’s been that if you’re only going to use ONE rewards program, and they have a toolbar, sure, you can use one…. but they’re spyware — they track your online activity — and you may be forfeiting a better cashback rate elsewhere. I suggested as far back as 2004 that you delete MMM and avoid it like the plague.
Aside from the “It’s not fair!” plea of non-rewards-program websites that don’t like having their commission intercepted by a reminder toolbar, Ebates also got in some hot water in ’05 when it was discovered that MMM was being installed on computers without permission via a security hole. They were sued for this exact thing in 2006 (the case never went to trial — unsure if it was thrown out or settled).
In December 2007, I had the opportunity to meet with Ebates’ founder, Alessandro Isolani, at the Ebates offices in San Francisco. One of the many topics we discussed was Moe Money Maker. He said that MMM was not promoted on the site anymore and that in fact it may not even be on Ebates website at all anymore (he wasn’t sure), but he didn’t want to come out and completely discontinue support for it as there was a small but very loyal group of members still using it. I suggested that the positive PR that could be spun from ditching it might be worth the wrath of the few members who’d miss it. He felt that those with a beef against MMM were in the minority and appeasing them wasn’t worth ticking off any MMM loyalists. (My paraphrasing, of course — but I think that’s the spirit of what he said.)
Alessandro left Ebates last year and I guess the climate has changed. Still, the discontinuation of MMM was done quietly in an email sent only to those who had at some point in time downloaded the tool. I think it’s something that needs to be spotlighted because of its long and contentious history: it’s the end of an era for Ebates…and hopefully the beginning of something new and better.
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Ebates Moe Money Maker Reminder Program
Sunday, January 11, 2009 5:01 AM
From: “Ebates Customer Care”
Our records indicate that you have downloaded the Ebates Moe Money Maker Reminder service to your computer. We regret to inform you that we will discontinue support of the program software starting next week in preparation for the launch of an exciting new Ebates toolbar in the coming weeks. The new, cutting-edge toolbar will provide a superior customer experience and better access to personalized special offers without actually being downloaded to your computer. As soon as the toolbar is ready for use, you will be among the first to know.
In the meantime, we hope you will continue to earn cash back every time you shop by starting at Ebates.com. Just click through to your favorite merchant and shop as you normally do.
Discontinuation of the reminder software should not cause you any inconvenience. There should be no impact on your computer when the software is deactivated. If you wish to remove the software yourself in advance of its discontinuation, please visit our website for instructions.
Please contact customer care if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for your understanding.
The Ebates Team