The Hypocrisy of Walmart: Why I Am Dropping The Walmart Affiliate Program

My days as a Walmart affiliate are coming to an end as a result of my choice to refuse to work with the company. Illinois just passed affiliate tax nexus legislation that was heavily supported by Walmart, who I believe has behaved rather hypocritically in its support of the legislation.  Walmart presented itself as a suitable replacement program for affiliates dropped by companies such as Amazon.com, when in reality it offers what I view to be a rather poor affiliate program and it has a reputation for denying applicants who operate on a blogging platform.

If you are unfamiliar with affiliate tax nexus legislation, something often referred to as the “Amazon tax,” it works like this: Amazon.com and many other online retailers do not collect sales tax and, unless the merchant has a physical presence, also known as a nexus, in a state, it is unconstitutional for a state to require it to do so. This, of course, bothers brick and mortar retailers such as Walmart, who lobby for solutions that would require online retailers to collect and remit sales tax.  This has led to legislation in a number of states that seek to establish a nexus to online retailers through their in-state affiliate advertisers. But, when that sort of legislation passes, some online retailers, including Amazon, cancel their contracts with their affiliates so that they won’t have to collect tax.  The result is that affiliates lose contracts and the state ends up still not collecting tax and even losing revenue in the form of income taxes from affilaites. For some affiliates, this results in significant loss of income. In Illinois, some larger affiliates are leaving the state in order to continue their business, while others are scrambling to replace the programs that have dropped them.  But the legislation looks appealing on its surface and has big backers such as Walmart, so it has been passed in several states and introduced in others.

Now, let’s discuss Walmart’s actions in all of this. While the Illinois legislation was pending, Walmart held itself out as a suitable replacement for affiliates dropped by online retailers, to the point of taking out advertising in a  blog focused on Illinois politics, inviting Illinois affiliates to apply to their program. This, of course, would make it seem easier for passage of the bill—if affiliates could easily replace Amazon, then there should be no worries about Amazon dumping them right? The problem is that the premise was completely wrong and Walmart itself  was rather disingenuous when in made such claims, because the Walmart program is not a particularly quality affiliate program and it denies entry to bloggers.

Walmart’s program has never been one that I actively promoted. The commissions were low (4% generally and 1% on selected goods) and Walmart would at times exclude popular items that would convert well from the program.  Walmart also does not carry the wide range of specialty products that a company such as Amazon provides, making them less attractive in many niches. So, this isn’t a program that I was ever thrilled with or recommended to begin with. They certainly are not a suitable replacement for Amazon for most affiliates. But what really angers me is the hypocrisy.

A large number of affiliates operate their sites as blogs. The WordPress platform is a great content management system, so even those  who do not “blog” per se, still utilize the WordPress platform. More important, niche blogging has become  a rather popular form of affiliate marketing. Niche bloggers are also exactly the type of affiliates who would join the Amazon Associates program. With the wide range of products carried, Amazon is a great source for affiliate links to items within a large number of specialty niches.  But it is exactly these people for whom Walmart’s proclamations ring empty.  Reports from affiliate marketing forums and bloggers reveal that Walmart has a reputation of denying bloggers access into its affiliate program. Indeed, just a few days after passage of the Illinois legislation, an acquaintance of mine who was reliant on Amazon was denied entry into Walmart’s program, with Walmart telling her that the reason was because she was blogger.  In their advertising, Walmart mentioned working with 45 Illinois affiliates. Only 45? That low number indicates to me that either affiliates are not interested, or Walmart is not actually accepting many. I suspect a combination of both.

Interestingly, I am a blogger and was accepted into Walmart’s program about a year and one half ago. Maybe I slipped through their anti-blog cracks.  Regardless, I  cannot remain associated with this sort of hypocrisy and certainly cannot promote it. I am dropping the Walmart affiliate program right after this article is published.

For more on Walmart’s dubious claims in support of affiliate tax nexus legislation, take a look at the following article from the Performance Marketing Association:  What Might Really Be Behind The Nexus Tax Issue?

Comments

  1. I can tell you from first hand experience about the ‘Walmart doesn’t accept bloggers’ deal. During Affiliate Summit last year, I was approached by a woman from Walmart who asked me what kind of site I ran. I turned my laptop so she could see it and said, “I’m a podcaster and a blogger.”

    She took a step back and smiled weakly and said, “Oh, sorry, we don’t allow blogs in our program.”

    I was dumbfounded; I’d never heard of an anti-blog stance before. I said, “Wha-no? No blogs at all?”

    She simply said ‘no’, turned and walked away without another word. I had never been so confused by anything at Affiliate Summit. It wasn’t until a little while later, after telling the story to a few people, that I learned that their problem with bloggers had been going on for a while.

  2. Good. Will leave more WM affiliate department budget funds for sites like mine. An even better private offer coming soon…

  3. Walmart’s refusal to work with bloggers is rather strange, especially since they have heavily targeted blogs for standard ad campaigns, often at a rather decent rate. But in all honesty, for most niche bloggers, everything that is sold at Walmart can be found in another affiliate program, often with better initial terms and responsive program managers. So, I never particularly promoted Walmart anyway. That made it particularly easy to drop them.

  4. Hello,

    I’m still rather new at affiliate marketing.I was going to add WalMart as a link from my site,but changed my mind after these comments. I already have Amazon on my site.

  5. Thank you for this. I was going to add Walmart, too, as I just finished a post related to their Photo Center, but next time I’ll work with Target or another local photo center and avoid anything Walmart related for affiliate linking.

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