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PriceZombie is shutting down (pricezombie.com)
287 points by viach on Mar 25, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 211 comments

The issue here wasn't that they were just using Amazon's API and then lost access. The Amazon TOS says don't store and display our old prices and, per the post, that's what PriceZombie was doing.

The lesson is that if you're doing something in violation of a partner's TOS and start to negatively effect their business, the partner is well within their rights to cut off access. Whether other businesses have or haven't been slapped down is only a secondary question.

You miss the point. PriceZombie was above board with what they were doing at all times. Amazon TOLD THEM that as long as their latest price was within 24 hours they could display price history like dozens of other price trackers were doing. PZ was reviewed three times, not just by low level people but higher up in the chain, and each time there was no question they were within the TOS so long as they displayed the current price along with price history. This is why PZ's Reddit bot always pulls up and displays the current price when queried. After three years, Amazon changed their mind - but not for everyone, just PZ.

Many of the shoppers using Price Zombie likely relied on Price Zombie's historical pricing data and notifications of price drops to delay purchases until prices for items were relatively low. The affiliate link gave Amazon data on which shoppers were using Price Zombie. Maybe someone at Amazon used their data to estimate the decrease in margins from that, causing Amazon's leadership to change its mind.

So Price Zombie was the best, and it hurt them. GOTO patio11's comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11360482

yes it is true, one of the main reasons I used PZ was for historical data mainly PC parts and such

I guess we'll need some references here -- that's a lot of either inside knowledge or assumptions otherwise.

If they did have permission from Amazon to violate the TOS, I hope they had a contract to do so with protections/compensation for early termination.

If not, the situation is not unlike how off label drug usage can be okay until the FDA tells you to stop. Once they change their minds, that's that.

And there are many similar sites – including ones sponsored by the German government – that still do the same.

  The Amazon TOS says don't store and display our old prices
How is Amazon fine with CamelCamelCamel [1] then? It seems like they make money off Amazon affiliate links too.

[1] http://camelcamelcamel.com/blog/how-our-price-checking-syste...

Oh man, I remember a few years ago I wrote a Python script that used CCC data to help flip seasonal items on Amazon's own marketplace. The idea being that I would buy low from a third party seller and sell high later using FBA. Kind of a fun experiment but kind of a time sink.

Generally speaking, graduate-level textbooks (which release new editions at a far slower pace) had the largest and most predictable margin. That said, I hated that fact, since I think textbooks are also the biggest racket in the education universe, and its one of the other reasons that I stopped.

Amazon collected their fees in both directions, so I always assumed that if they realized what I was doing, they had little incentive to care.

That's because the agreements don't say that anywhere that I can find. Both the affiliate agreement and the advertising api have no mention of not displaying historical prices. The advertising API even suggests it's OK if you display the date with the price.

edit: This is the section that Amazon must be referring to

"You may store other Product Advertising Content that does not consist of images for caching purposes for up to 24 hours, but if you do so you must immediately thereafter refresh and re-display the Product Advertising Content"

CCC only shows Amazon. Others show competitors. One is far more likely to send a buyer to a competitor if the pricing at Amazon isn't competitive.

They probably just haven't been caught yet. Amazon is massive and has tons of people who use their Affiliate API. There's probably a small enforcement team that looks at stuff like this. Price Zombie might have just gotten large enough to show up on their radar.

CCC has been around for a very long time. That seems very unlikely they 'haven't been caught yet'.

Well, PriceZombie was around for a long time too and they 'hadn't been caught' until recently. So maybe it's not unlikely

Not that it affects your argument, but camelcamelcamel has been around twice as long as PriceZomebie[1][2].

[1] https://www.facebook.com/Camelcamelcamelcom-154220361288305/...

[2] https://www.facebook.com/Pricezombie/info

This is circular logic. Maybe there's another reason altogether.

It is not circular logic, but proof by contradiction.

>Maybe there's another reason altogether.

That's what I'm thinking as well.

CCC makes money off of Amazon links. Other ways price trackers make money is to sell personal shopping habits, and other data they gather. PriceZombie's developer has always stated they would not do that which is why they relied wholly on affiliate fees.

From the parent comment:

  Whether other businesses have or haven't been slapped down is only a secondary question.

Didn't Amazon buy them up a few years back?

shhhhh ;-)

That's not the lesson at all. Even if you follow the TOS those terms can change overnight and your business will die in the same way.

If you are 100% reliant on another company you're entire existence depends on that relationship.

Unless they signed a legally binding contract that obligates them to continue the arrangement, they can terminate it at any time for any reason. Avoiding ToS violations does not prevent that.

I'm the owner of PZ. I spoke to the associates team for technical workarounds, including not using the API at all (e.g; purchasing the data from a 3rd party), in order to retain associate's status. The manager said it wouldn't matter if we abided by the ToS or not, Amazon did not want PZ.

Yep, or they can even shut you out by mistake and there's nothing you can do about it except send emails and hope someone woke up on the right side of the bed that morning.

I can't imagine a massive Associates Program user like, say, Gizmodo, doesn't have some kind of internal connection.

Every business is 100% on other companies. Everyone uses electricity, has to ship product, buy resources, use devices to transform those resources etc.

The problem here only really exists in these silly other parasitical web-only businesses. Yes, if you track Amazon's prices and Amazon makes that harder then you'll be on trouble. So probably best to set up 20 or so companies/services in your spare time and not take any of them too seriously.

No, the problem here is that the power company can't unilaterally decide you don't get power anymore and turn it off without warning. Your shipping carrier can't suddenly decide they don't serve you anymore, and by the way we're keeping all the packages you have en route.

But Amazon can. They also pay a few months in arrears, so one day you may wake up to a form email that says essentially, "adios, and I'm keeping the money". In fairness, I believe all affiliate programs are like that.

These are called carriers and utilities. There ar generally laws requiring them to offer the same business opportunities to everyone. Common carrier laws originated in England to regulate shipping carriers. I am not sure to what extent they exist in the US due to the federal postal service, but I understand that they are applied to telecommunications and more recently, the Internet via Title II.

"But Amazon can..... In fairness, I believe all affiliate programs are like that."

My point is that most other companies are like that, and the difference is just the extent to which these parasitical "internet businesses" are coupled to their host.

They're not `keeping the money`, they're just not paying you stuff that's not covered by the contract, TOS etc.

It's not `without warning` by the same token; unless the warning they were expecting was to hear about other companies who play fast and loose with the rules getting caught first.

No, most other companies are certainly not like that; you may not understand exactly what Amazon can do:

Amazon pays ~2 months after Affiliate fees are earned, so at any given time you may have 2 months of fees waiting to be paid. If today they decide that they're done with their affiliate relationship with you -- for good reason or for no reason -- they can (and do) close your account with no explanation, AND they keep those 2 months of fees you already earned legitimately with no recourse except your suing them (good luck with that).

It's a bit like being a commissioned salesperson, getting fired, and the company keeps all your pending commissions. Totally illegal in that context, but the Affiliate program is not an employer in that way. It still sucks just as much.

A lot of companies warn you if they think you're in violation of their TOS: internet providers, game companies, cell phone companies, on and on. I don't think it's unreasonable to use a 'strikes' system or provide an avenue for appeal.

Except in the many many cases where companies are shut down despite not violating the TOS.

In precisely zero cases are companies "shut down".

Right, but those other business have alternatives if the relationship with one fails (with the exception of electricity, which is regulated and therefore a bit different.)

Exactly, you want to run something like this you have to scrape like LexisNexis, etc.

It doesn't matter how they scrape. They could continue scraping prices if they wanted to. The problem is they lost access to the Affiliates API -- which is how they make money.

They couldn't continue scraping without Amazon's permission. The CFAA makes that illegal.

Most Terms of Use contain language that states that automated access is unauthorized, and most companies allege you've agreed to their Terms of Use by accessing any page other than their front page (or accessing the front page more than once). Furthermore, even if this is lacking, once a company provides notice that you are no longer authorized to access their computers, it doesn't matter what the Terms of Use may say or whether the ToU is considered a binding contract; you've received notice that your access is unauthorized.

The CFAA generally applies to any computer access, as the Commerce Clause has been interpreted as applying to completely intra-state transactions (ignoring the fact that most computer access crosses state lines, which would make it a federal issue anyway), and thus, effectively all computers attached to the internet are "protected computers". Even if you're able to prevail in the argument that the CFAA is not applicable, there are similarly-worded state statutes, and as mentioned, other issues may federal matters, like alleged copyright and trademark infringement (which is usually alleged in such cases).

The CFAA is somewhat grey so if you have a few hundred k or more to flush on your lawyers, go ahead, it's possible that you may win. For most people, it's not relevant, because they can't afford to go head-to-head against a major global corporate entity like Amazon. One of the main goals of such a company is to make the lawsuit as costly as possible for the opposing party, since they have infinity money and they know that their opponent likely doesn't.

If you're interested, there have been a handful of cases already litigated on the CFAA. The scrapers usually get smoked hard. Look up Ticketmaster v. RMG Technologies, Craigslist v. 3Taps, Register.com v. Verio, and Facebook v. Power Ventures to get started.

Also, the problem is that 90% of their revenue apparently depended on this feed from Amazon.

It's never healthy to be so dependent on one provider.

It is against Amazon's interests to have price comparison these days. Early on in my computer shopping days I'd hit pricewatch and buy from random vendors based on price. Eventually this company called Newegg often had the near the lowest price always and had great service. I soon went to shopping at Newegg consistently without bothering to go to pricewatch. Newegg could have raised prices slightly but I did not want to waste time with untrusted vendors.

The same is true with Amazon now. Once they started selling essentially everything at often the lowest prices, I switched to buying from them almost exclusively. Then Prime came and things came to my home within 2 days guaranteed. Now almost everything I buy comes from them. Mostly I do not bother to comparison shop. But sometimes Amazon actually has grossly inflated prices on things. I believe this is where a lot of their margin comes from. I am not going to waste my time going to 10 different sites to shop around, but with price comparisons like camelcamelcamel I can tell that the item went up 50%. Amazon is likely to lose business more often than not on price comparison sites because many people would just go to Amazon and buy in most cases, but if the price comparison site shows a bad price they will lose the business.

I never got Prime because the yearly cost of it (even before the price went up) did not amortize to an acceptable shipping cost. I take the slower free shipping because I'm not impatient or buying on impulse.

So I've never been locked into Amazon and always been free to shop around. And I can absolutely confirm that Amazon is no longer the "default" winner on price. Sometimes they are, but often not. I don't even have to spend a lot of time shopping around to find this. The same deals are everywhere now.

Walmart still meets or beats them on price many times and I can buy online and pick it up on my way home which is effectively same-day delivery.

That requires leaving the house though. Even worse, it requires going in to Walmart.

A lot of Walmarts have drive up grocery loading now. Order on the app, drive up, they load your groceries into your trunk, and off you go.

> going in to Walmart.

Oh my god, the horror! You might be mistaken for a filthy peasant!

And worse than that, it requires giving the Waltons your money

Prime makes a lot more sense if, say, you have spouse and/or parents buying stuff for 5+ individuals.

For a single person, yeah it likley doesn't make sense unless you happen to use Prime Videos or something.

Life hack: I have a Prime account as well as the Amazon credit card, and I share it with several of my closest friends. I pay for the account, but the caveat is that my friends (who I trust very much) must use the credit card and then send me money via Venmo. Every purchase they make I get 3% back.

It cancels out the $99/year fairly quickly and then some. Also unlimited photo storage is a huge plus for me.

Against the TOS? Most likely.

The Amazon store card issued by GE Capital is 5% back.

"It is against Amazon's interests to have price comparison these days"

I have noticed that many books on Amazon UK (outside of the popular categories or bestseller lists) often have little or no discount.*

My recollection is purely anecdotal, but this is a change from when discounts were common across titles in all categories. Having said that, many marketplace sellers offer titles at much steeper discounts than Amazon (even with the additional shipping costs). Of course, Amazon still benefits from those listings.

A few years ago, Amazon aquired bookdepository.co.uk, their biggest online rival in the UK market. They also own Abebooks that specialises in used books. Their domination of online book sales in the UK seems (almost) complete.

So with fewer discounts on books (at least in the UK), it seems logical that Amazon would want to discourage price comparison. And yet the irony is that Amazon dominates online book buying to such a degree that there are few online rivals left to compare prices with. The only major online rivals I can think of in the UK now is wordery.co.uk, or whsmith.co.uk (both of which are often cheaper than Amazon outside the bestseller lists).

*curious to know if anyone else has noticed a drop in price discounts on books on Amazon (from any of their sites)

CCC regurgitates Amazon's own customers back to them. PriceZombie tracks prices on 100+ other stores, they have a Reddit bot that is seen by millions of people every day and they have browser extensions that are used by tens of thousands of people every day. Since Amazon usually has the best price, PZ actually steered customers to Amazon. It is against Reddit's TOS to have affiliate links in bots and against the TOS of most retailers to have affiliate links in extensions - so a massive amount of business was pushed Amazon's way without any benefit to PriceZombie.

PriceZombie's failure was in not expecting Amazon to always have the best price. Not all of the online retailers they track have affiliate programs so if a few of them dropped out because they were losing business it would not be a big loss, but with 90%+ of all purchases coming from Amazon, losing them as an affiliate was a fatal blow.

But that is to the PZ site. Behind PZ is a massive, custom coded data retrieval and searchable storage system that contains three years worth of product and price data from almost every major online retailer - both the technology and data is far more valuable than the PZ website.

> Once they started selling essentially everything at often the lowest prices, I switched to buying from them almost exclusively.

I used to do that, but I've started comparison shopping at local retail stores more recently. I've found that for many of the items I was buying that are available locally, Amazon was offering the same price or higher, plus a shipping delay (and the non-trivial hassle I have to go through to pick up some packages).

Plus, retails stores tend to group similar products together and allow you to get an intuitive sense of a products physical qualities, so I think they often provide a better experience. On Amazon, it can be surprisingly hard to answer the "how big is this, really" question.

Now, if I think I can buy an item locally, I try to do that first.

I recently did a fresh computer build for the first time since 2005. I was use to using PriceWatch for parts and buying from smaller stores. I've actually been out of the country for four years, and upon my return, I see most of the small shops are gone. The lowest prices seem to always be Newegg, Amazon, SuperBizz and Microcenter. They've pretty much squished out a lot of the market, and it seems like Newegg allows other vendors to sell through it just like Amazon.

It's kinda sad really. The last city I lived in still had computer stores. The one I moved to doesn't...at all. There are some recycled PC stores, but the only new parts store is a Frys way out of the city. Fuck Frys too.

Our appeals to Amazon affiliate program administrators (associates@amazon.com) and even Jeff Bezos (jeff@amazon.com) were either ignored or answered incompletely, leaving us wondering if anyone was listening

I was once in a room with Dave McClure and a ~50ish companies he had funded. He announced that he was taking a tour of partnership teams at two members of AppAmaGooBookSoft and asked for who wanted to come with. A handful of hands were raised.

Dave McClure got frothing mad, and not his normal frothing character mad, but I think actually angry.

"LISTEN UP. 80% of you are building on these platforms. If you do not have a direct line to God at their HQs you ARE NOT TREATING THIS LIKE A BUSINESS. You will %(#)%#0 fail. If you are working with one of these companies, and you are not on that bus, you are dead to me."

I don't think I'd phrase it like that, but the core message is exactly correct. The standard platform deal is, indeed, in the event of an issue you can write to an inbox that no one reads. You do not want that deal.

You should, as early as practical, identify an actual human inside the mothership and convince them to like you. You should then lateral from that actual human to other actual humans so that you do not lose your beachhead if your actual human is re-assigned. If you do not do this, when you inevitably have a problem, you will be reduced to taking it to the HN front page and hoping an actual human takes pity on you. Pity is a much less likely outcome than convincing an actual human than you are scads better than their median semi-anonymous participant in the partnership program, which is pretty easy, because their median participant is terrible and all processes are designed to treat them as such.

I am aware that this some people will perceive this as unfair because getting better-than-publicly-available access to one's business partners seems like you're at a position of advantage vis-a-vis the people who can only send mails to /dev/null. Is this an advantage? Yes. If you believe this is an unfair advantage, I would strongly counsel you to negotiate honestly and in good faith with your counterparties at your largest business partner and source of existential risk, and not worry so much about other putative businesses which are not sophisticated enough to negotiate honestly and in good with faith their core suppliers.

"identify an actual human inside the mothership"

This is so valuable. I was intrigued by who wrote this and no wonder it is Patrick. (I highly recommend this article by him: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-pro...).

My two cents: Talk to human. Develop social skills they matter more than what you think.

Thank you, Patrick, for the cool splash of water.

My heart goes out to PriceZombie, a tool I really liked using. It makes me wonder, are contracts just passé in today's web/app economy? Do founders not care about having the rug pulled out from underneath their business at any time?

I of course understand if this is a side project, not a full time job, and can't be given 100% focus. But I feel like I woke up from a bad dream: everywhere I look, it's the same App Store model: Apple, GooglePlay, Amazon, Steam...

For a while I worked for a company that had a direct line to engineers at all of their suppliers (which they often earned by only calling with the right questions). This caused them to get issues fixed quickly and competently, sometimes with them supplying parts of the fix.

I've since returned to working for companies that rely on first line support, and it's much harder to get the support you need, so I totally agree with this point.

A relevant xkcd as always https://xkcd.com/806/

> "LISTEN UP. 80% of you are building on these platforms. If you do not have a direct line to God at their HQs you ARE NOT TREATING THIS LIKE A BUSINESS. You will %(#)%#0 fail. If you are working with one of these companies, and you are not on that bus, you are dead to me."

This is why 90% of Silicon Valley Healthcare startups are ephemeral. They can't sell to Hospitals and they won't pay attention to the "dinosaurs" that try to tell them otherwise. There are some industries that you can't "disrupt" unless you're going to play by it's rules.

This is exactly correct. Sometimes I would like to think starting a technology business is all about the tech but in reality business is personal.

Building relationships is critical and so is maintaining them. They provide real value and if you are building on someone else's platform you better trust they won't pull the rug out from under you (or at least have a backup plan). It's totally okay to rely on a company's platform as long as you understand the risks and mitigate them. Getting a bug in someone's ear at the company is one way to reduce the risk that something will go awry.

The same principle applies within larger companies. It's a lot easier to get things done once you have a guy you know in ops, a gal in DB, a buddy at the IT helpdesk...

Most large organizations end up functioning at all because there are networks of competent, motivated individual that use that kind of favor trading and rule breaking to make the system work despite the bureaucracy. A key part of joining a new large org is to look for one of those networks and prove that you have the skill and attitudes required to get hooked up into that network.

It's amazing how companies can flourish or wither depending on whether the people on those networks end up growing in status and exercising more influence, or marginalized and quitting.

And on the flip side of that you have dysfuncional large orgs where incompetent people get to move up and form networks with others just as incompetent.

I'd strongly urge that in Amazon's case this advice is functionally irrelevant as they aren't a reliable business partner that reacts in a consistent way when it comes to MWS operations regardless of who you know that works there unless its Bezos himself.

I agree. The advice by patio is generally sound, though in this specific scenario, I don't think Amazon would ever care. PriceZombie offers negligible profit compared to the billions Amazon makes. Even spending 0.5 seconds on their case is a waste of their time.

I don't agree with that at all. We have to guess how much transaction volume PriceZombie sends to Amazon, but $50k/month isn't an unreasonable estimate (probably very low). It is totally worth a couple hours of a support person's time to deal with the source of $600k of annual revenue.

I wouldn't be so quick to disagree.

I spent 2 years generating over $1mil a year in sales through the Amazon affiliate program - to be dropped without warning or contact. No amount of follow up and attempts to contact my, previously very accessible, account rep resulted in anything. Not even an explanation on why my account was closed, outside of being told that I could take legal action (in the state of Washington) against Amazon to collect on the nearly $40k in yet-to-be-paid earnings.

I disagreed that it 'would be a waste of their time'; not saying they'd act rationally. In my limited experience it seems like they don't.

- (business lost to other sites with lowest price)

it's entirely possible Amazon did this math

Where did you get $50K from? I would guess that's a huge factor above what they exactly make. I'd estimate somewhere a few thousand (and maybe even less than $1000 some months) to $10K at most. If they're making $50K/month, they must be very very good marketers, or they're doing something very shady.

I said "transaction volume", which is the value of what people paid Amazon via PZ's affiliate links, not what PZ made in affiliate fees.

I would have thought that Amazon wouldn't want transparent price comparison websites. Wouldn't that tend to cut into their products?

Exactly. I also deal with Amazon on a seller's platform and can confirm this. It doesn't matter who you know, the company itself is bipolar and unreliable.

As a fellow third party seller on Amazon - I am astonished by how dysfunctional and unreliable Amazon is. I cant imagine relying on FBA for my main source of income because Amazon is so fickle. For example - I have had an item in reserve [1] in their warehouse since Jan 18th!! I opened a case about it on March 4th (for those following along, that's three full weeks ago...). They just keep saying "we've contacted the warehouse and will get back to you if they can find it or not." Apparently I'm supposed to accept that items I send them are unable to be purchased for over 2 months?

It wouldn't be a big deal if this was an isolated incident but it's not.

But people continue to sell on Amazon because that is where the customers are.

[1] Reserve means an item is unable to be bought, either because it's in reserve for a customer order that hasn't shipped or its being transferred to another warehouse.

I'm confused. Was the mention of a tour just something that reminded him to give that advice, and it was completely unrelated to the rant? Was he assuming that anyone that wanted to go on the tour was in that situation, an assumption that makes very little sense?

In a room where he expected ~40 participants for the tour he had ~6 hands raised, which caused the core dump.

This is really not surprising.

Here on HN a few months ago I remember person X saying "I have a successful business in that domain and I can help you. My email is in my profile." and the OP in that thread responding "OK, maybe I'll email you when I can" and being taken to task (correctly, IMHO) by another poster for not immediately jumping on what was really a great opportunity offered to him by a complete stranger.

For those of us who are trying to start businesses, it's very helpful to be occasionally dopeslapped on the side of the head by someone saying "stop being an engineer, this is business. TALK TO PEOPLE!"

Were that many of them partnering with those particular two? And if they had really good access already they wouldn't need a new tour.

Well I'll just assume it made sense in context.

Thanks. That wasn't clear to me. Good advice as well that I think I should be applying better.

What you just described is why a number of large businesses have relationships with politicians.

Facebook destroyed Zynga overnight. All of a sudden they decided billions in revenue wasn't worth the spamminess. Now, their feed is at least as spammy but with out the spam coming from friends and being part of a game. shrug

I think it's better that spam doesnt come from friends/feel part of the game. That would feel even more intrusive to a lot of users.

I wonder how many people are emailing Mr. Bezos in response to his email address appearing here.

> You should, as early as practical, identify an actual human inside the mothership and convince them to like you.

This presumes humans will retain abilities to manage such decisions, or can manage them at scale in the future. If a company relies on an API for revenue, the best strategy is to have a backup for that API and then a backup for the backup API. A hope-and-a-prayer email address may or may not help retain an existing business relationship, which frankly all depends on the circumstances. Sometimes even a president can't get a company to do something if it is against policy or contrary to revenue.

Assuming connections to people are sufficient to head off changes in business models is a fallacious argument steeped in the idea that VC was a good idea for your company. The VC lead model is the cause of these type of problems, not people who are expected to simultaneously work 20 hour days and still have a life - which is where real connections are formed and retained.

I would have told Dave to go fuck himself.

There is always a human that can make decisions and override policies. If you don't find one of these, get his or her contact, and take them out to dinner as often as possible you're a fool.

source: I worked for a company that had / was part of my job to talk to a dedicated adwords account manager. Even google has such a thing. They can ok stuff for you that virtually nobody else gets and, in the event it's later judged noncompliant with policy, forwarding that email chain makes things ok. It also ended up being part of my job to take him out drinking in sf.

Also, your api & backup api is dumb. There is no alternative to facebook. There is no serious alternative to adwords. There is no alternative to google search. For many things, there is virtually no other retailer on the internet that matters besides amazon. That's reality.

When you and a Google account manager go out to dinner, who picks up the tab?


All the comments on "don't rely on 1 customer" are correct, of course, but I'm more interested in how, as far back as the 80s, we all believed in the magic of having something show us the best price for an item. Now, sure, it may often be Amazon, but not always, and they don't carry everything.

So, multiple price engines come and go. Why? Because consumers won't pay for them, and so they rely on kickbacks from merchants. Same for Travel sites/aggregators, and for review sites: You either get folks to pay for them (of which Angie's List was the only kind of success) or you get vendors to pay you (Yelp, any affiliate aggregator (Creditcards.com, etc.), price engines).

I guess I wonder: I love CamelCamelCamel, I loved PriceZombie, I loved PriceRunner and Jango and all the rest... but they keep going away. Google killed google shopping comparisons, as did the other portals. We can probably all think of ones we used that are all gone now.

What kind of service would one have to create that grabs prices but can charge consumers so it's not depending on affiliate vig? And given that many merchants are creating terms of service to block displaying of their prices (we see this also in the travel industry), will one of the earliest dreams of the internet, that of a flat marketplace where I can evaluate all players and their pricing and pick the best store for me, still fail to come to life?

It feels like online shopping has become a big mall, where I have to go to as many sites as I can find til I get tired and just buy the thing at the most recent site (or just trust that Amazon is the cheapest). I hope we can avoid this fate.

(Update: fixed typos)

What's wrong with Google shopping? I've found deals using it, it's had greater than zero value for me.

>What kind of service would one have to create that grabs prices but can charge consumers so it's not depending on affiliate vig?

I've got a handful of ideas about this and have been considering a startup along these lines. I think that you need to take control of the actual purchase, so then it's just "Oh, I paid less than I expected, some may have gone to the middleman but I still win" instead of "I paid money to X for the purchase and to Y for finding it for me" and feel somehow losing out for not finding it yourself. If anyone wants to discuss this I added an email to my profile.

This is kind of like what Jet was doing when they first launched, although they've stopped it since, apparently because stores didn't like it.

> What's wrong with Google shopping? I've found deals using it, it's had greater than zero value for me.

The Google shopping that exists today is not the same service that was originally launched. It used to function more like a standard search, but limited to all online stores. So long as there wasn't a robots.txt, Google was index the site and include the product in their shopping results. So basically like standard search, but with logic to determine if a site represented a store.

Then Google modified shopping so that it was opt-in for the retailers, meaning a large number of stores were no longer included. To be included in Google shopping now a retailer must have a Google merchant/adwords account. It's more of a curated search now.

Nothing wrong with it now, but it used to be great for finding hard-to-find items or items that were mispriced by less sophisticated retailers.

I know that they moved to paid inclusion, but as I said, it's still useful. GP said it was "killed", and that seemed too much.

Killed from it's original vision; the remaining is a shadow of what it was. Big shadow, admittedly. But fair point, my hyperbole may have gotten out of control.

Google Shopping requires vendors to pay for inclusion so it isn't a fair comparison of what's actually available. What makes matters worse is that they don't make that clear so people think it's fairer than it is.

Typically though most retailers are on there. Granted the current incarnation is much better for retailers in that it doesn't always make the cheapest price clear.

CamelCamelCamel has not went anywhere. But they also don't serve affiliate links as far as I can tell, so their revenue model (if they have one) is not dependent on an affiliate relationship.

CCC does serve affiliate links. If you go to any product page on CCC and click the "Buy" button, you'll end up at Amazon and the URL will have the "tag=camelproducts-20" for their affiliate code in the URL. I'm sure every Amazon-bound link on their website or browser plug-in will do the same.

I guess the solution is to have a cheap to run web service which tracks prices and monetise it via ads rather than pretend you've got a real business that needs loads of employees and office space etc.

But then I'm always amazed at how many employees and offices Twitter has.

This sucks, but unfortunately is something that is not unlikely to happen when one's whole service is hosted or relies on a third party API for its data. I recall something similar happening with a service that relied on the Google Maps API to draw coordinates or something. And Google pulled API access because the service was too similar to what Google Maps did with trip directions, or something.

Unfortunately this is a reality of basing, or largely basing, a whole service off of a third party.

The point here is not that they're relying on a third party, but the fact that Amazon banned them from the api while their competitors/alternatives can still use it without constraint.

Isn't that a bit like complaining to the police officer who pulled you over that other people were speeding, too?

The problem is that unequally applies rules are often intermingled with biases. While a single instance of 'what about that other guy' isn't a worthwhile plea, if you can show a trend as to who gets pulled based on something other than speeding, you have a problem.

In business, it is less of an issue because business doesn't need to be fair to the same standard of law. There are still certain laws and protect groups and such, but the bar is still much lower than in law. The complaint of unfairness can be valid, but also pointless.

As far as I understand it, this is different because they were "previously told we were in 100% compliance with the rules"

So, it's more like a cop pulling you over even though you weren't speeding.

I think you guys are stretching the analogy way too far. As I see things: it's a private matter and doesn't map well onto a public analogy.

The bottom line is that Amazon can deem it acceptable to allow behavior one day, and change it's mind the next. If you systematically rely on your partner's humor, you're doing something wrong.

I agree its allowed for amazon to do this, but its still a dick move

Right, and that's the point! If you're systematically in a position where you have to worry about "dick moves" from your partners, you're doing something very, very wrong.

Amazon might be dicks, but not to the extent that PriceZombie is foolish.

(I get the sense we're saying the same thing, though :) )

Besides likely being less effective than saving such arguments for the magistrate, what exactly is wrong with that? It's a standard avenue of contesting a speeding ticket.

Because you're admitting that you were speeding. If you claim ignorance ("Sorry, I was too focused on traffic to glance at the speedometer"), you at least have a chance (depending on the officer's mood) of getting away with a warning.

You're "admitting" that you were going a certain speed, but not that said speed qualifies as "speeding".

I agree you're better off trying a different tack with the ticket troll, I'm just saying it's not wrong.

I can only accept that argument if you're willing to say "Hey Amazon, I'm willing to donate $XXX,000 for you guys to hire X people to police everyone and ban anyone violating the TOS". No? Then your complaining is just bitterness, that's all.

Amazon really has no obligation to provide equal access to everyone though. That's a risk of building on an API. They don't need a reason to cut you off.

YC partner Aaron Harris had a similar problem with his first startup[1], and is a lesson for all startups:

It's risky to rely on one customer for the majority of your revenue.

90% of PriceZombie's revenue was dependent on affiliate revenue, and thus Amazon. Similarly, virtually all of TutorSpree's revenue was dependent on SEO, and thus on Google, and when Google changed their algorithm, they saw a similar fate.

[1] http://www.aaronkharris.com/when-seo-fails-single-channel-de...

A similar thing happened to me with Google Images. They were unintentionally a major source of my traffic. Some years ago Google changed their Images service so that it continued to take images from other websites but was very unlikely to send people to the source.

It surprised me how little fightback there was to this change. So, anyway, never rely on platforms like that, always assume it's a temporary arrangement (especially if the platform is run by a major player).

This is part of the risk of startups/business. This is like the opposite of survivorship bias...

Think about all the successful companies out there that DO depend on third parties:

- Buffer (Twitter has a bad day? Cut their API access off!)

- Candy Crush (Apple hates them? Remove their apps!)

- RetailMeNot (Google thinks they're spam! Delist them!)

- DuckDuckGo (Bing hates them? Cut off their API access)

- Heroku (Amazon has a bad day? Cut off their AWS Access)

- MailPlane (Google doesn't want Gmail apps?! Cut them off!)

Just because these companies are doing well today says nothing of the potential impact this (still very present) risk holds for them.

Honestly I'm (selfishly) kind of glad that they're shutting down, as awful as that is. I browse Reddit a lot and the fact that every single time somebody posted a product, there would always be a PriceZombie bot commenting bugged me to no end.

I've found that very helpful. Otherwise, I feel like I'm gambling when I buy something on Amazon. I could be getting the lowest price, or the highest. Amazon's price games are the worst (I know all stores do that to some extent, but Amazon's price swings are much bigger.. +-75% anecdotally)

Yeah, I guess I'd rather search myself if I'm actually considering buying a product. And most of the time, if I'm participating somewhere, I'm not actually looking for purchase advice myself, just reading, helping out, or discussing.

I guess I'm pretty often looking for purchase advice in a lot of the subreddits I frequent. Helpful to get advice from people with domain knowledge.

Bots are the worst kind of comments on reddit threads, after the ones posted by people.

come on now, arguably the most valuable commenter on r/nba is a bot that converts twitter videos to streamable links.

Read GP's comment again. ;-)

Can't you just block the bot if it bugged you? There are several bots I block, but that's not one of them.

The robot can ignore individuals if requested. Additionally the robot only posts in subreddits where the moderators have granted the bot permission to post. Thus it doesn't post anywhere where it isn't wanted. Your situation is best resolved by adding the bot to your ignore, since you don't want to see it at all.

I don't know if is a RES feature or not but you can hover over a name and click "Ignore"

Yeah, it's an RES feature. I never noticed that actually because I keep most features of RES turned off, including Tagging, which I believe that is under, after searching for what you said.

"However, our appeals to Amazon affiliate program administrators (associates@amazon.com) and even Jeff Bezos (jeff@amazon.com) were either ignored or answered incompletely, leaving us wondering if anyone was listening. "

This is pretty standard for Amazon marketplace seller services. They take a 16%+ cut of all of your sales and have absolutely nobody to help you when your account is banned or disabled by one of their auto bots.

This happened to a client of mine a few years back. Near 100% feedback, complying with every rule, and one day they get the ban hammer (for a claim that was later withdrawn by the original person that filed it).

Amazon withheld $50,000 for over 3 months while they were 'investigating'. After 3 emails where Amazon responded with canned responses, they said the matter was 'closed' and all future emails would not be answered.

Do NOT do business with Amazon. You will end up sorry and probably without a business. As as an associate or marketplace seller, they own all of your clients and you are responsibly for anything bad that happens. When you get kicked, they have all of your data, your clients, and your money for 90 days.

On top of this, they compete with their own marketplace sellers (unlike Ebay) and use all of your sales information to undercut you. I witnessed it many times with the above client.

This should be against the law. I think the only reason they haven't been sued out of existence is because their so big.

Feel bad for them really. But this is a classic example of the risk you undertake running a business where you core depends on a third party. It is astonishing that they lost 90% of their business just due to amazon closing their affiliate account.

I saw a girls startup plan that involved exclusively using Facebook. I was like, "You really need to support Flickr, Twitter. You shouldn't depend on one source for your customers to pull photos." She said they were just going Facebook because it was the quickest route to get a deliverable product. She obviously wasn't an engineer and I'm sure any software dev will tell you if you support at least two services, you'll write code in such a way that's expandable to many (more modular, classes for each service type). Even if that 2nd service may not have any customer base, it's worth the implementation cost just to have.

This doesn't really relate to this story as Price Zombie did utilize many different sites, but it does show just how big the giants are (like Facebook/Amazon) that even if you try to support lots of different sources, one of them can make or break you.

Here in Austria, Amazon pays the major price comparison website to be listed: www.geizhals.at

And I hear it's not cheap for them.

Well, being listed on a price comparison website is basically advertising, and can funnel a lot of traffic to Amazon if they are often the cheaper or better choice. This service just used referrals to make a bit of money instead, probably because there's a lot more price comparison website competition in the US and Amazon doesn't want to fund them all to get listed.

They get away with it too, because a price comparison website is not feasible without having amazon as one of the shops.

That's not strictly true. Amazon pays affiliate fees, not for being listed.

I can't disclose details, but Amazon apparently has no issues with big CSEs (Idealo.de, billiger.de) but obviously they don't like sites that focus on deal "sniping" (like PriceZombie and "deal" sites) as much, since that cuts into their margins (people buy mostly temporarily low-margin offers through such sites and affiliate fees are too expensive there).

It works in Austria because of how many people use Geizhals: basically everybody in certain categories who is a regular shopper. They have a huge reach.

As others here have noted, the affiliate game is a risky one. You are in essence a sales rep for whichever merchant(s) you work with. A merchant has ZERO legal obligation to continue working with you, and can often discriminate against you as they see fit, terms be damned.

If you don't own the relationship with your primary source of revenue, your business is built on a rocky foundation, and if the weather is fickle enough, you can be washed away overnight.

Having been an affiliate, managed an affiliate program, and worked with an OPM to manage the program, I can say that stuff like this happens all the time in the industry, and that's why the #1 rule for affiliates is "diversify diversify diversify."

If your objective is to write a crawler that parses pricing information from a third party web site, then write the crawler. Relying on the third party to provide a consistent API that can be remotely communicated with is setting yourself up for failure. These companies can quickly ban you from their platform when using their API. At least by writing the crawler yourself, you're making it much more difficult for them to do this. Another lesson is that building a business model around the availability of a third party is also a recipe for failure.

> building a business model around the availability of a third party is a recipe for failure.

Rather, I think it's that a business model that is not complimentary to the third party is the problem. E.g. Amazon doesn't want historical price tracking for as it could lead to folks discovering price manipulations and a decrease in margins. So, that's the issue--the business was not a compliment. Let's imagine a startup that was generating new sales from a long tail market segment too small for Amazon to target directly, then that's a good business model as it compliments Amazon and leads to new sales they wouldn't otherwise see.

TLDR if you rely on a partner, make sure your business helps their business.

Which is a great strategy, until the business releases something that duplicates your functionality and cancels your access.

If your product was well made and fairly priced, they would never need to.

I don't think that would have mattered here. They were generating revenue from the Affiliate API. Even if they made a scraper and used that for price data instead, they're still violating the TOS for the Affiliate program. It wouldn't matter how they go the data.

I don't remember, nor can I find, any reference to not using historical pricing data with amazon associates: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/agreement...

The specific section on pricing in the api doc (https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/advertising/api/deta...) seems to indicate historical pricing is allowed if you display the date with it:

"(o) You will include a date/time stamp adjacent to your display of pricing or availability information on your application if you obtain Product Advertising Content from a Data Feed, or if you call the Product Advertising API or refresh the Product Advertising Content displayed on your application less frequently than hourly. However, during the same day on which you requested and refreshed the pricing and availability information displayed on your application, you may omit the date portion of the stamp. Examples of acceptable messaging include: Amazon.com Price: $32.77 (as of 01/07/2008 14:11 PST - Details) Amazon.com Price: $32.77 (as of 14:11 PST - More info) Additionally, you must either include the following disclaimer adjacent to the pricing or availability information or provide it via a hyperlink, popup box, scripted popup, or other similar method: "Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product." In the above examples, "Details" and "More info" would provide a method for the end user to read the disclaimer."

Update: I'm thinking it's probably a violation of this:

"(n) You will not store or cache Product Advertising Content consisting of an image, but you may store a link to Product Advertising Content consisting of an image for up to 24 hours. You may store other Product Advertising Content that does not consist of images for caching purposes for up to 24 hours, but if you do so you must immediately thereafter refresh and re-display the Product Advertising Content by making a call to the Product Advertising API or retrieving a new Data Feed and refreshing the Product Advertising Content on your application immediately thereafter."

It's in the section (n) just before that, regarding not storing API content longer than 24 hours.

Not that you actually have to break TOS. Amazon can shut down your access for no reason at all.

Probably too late to comment (what a shame discussion is so time limited) but what interests me about this story is that they call out hosting costs as the reason to shut down.

I would love to see numbers from this operation, like we saw after Everpix. I would love to understand the scale, if it really would cost so much to host it?

So perhaps the actual take away is they didn't really violate the ToS as it is written, but they got kicked out and should have known it would happen. They may have been targeted because they show competitors pricing. Either way, it's sad to lose the service, but hard to chase those customers, because the customer won't pay. They are trying to sell the IP and maybe the company, and apparently there's some sturdy tech with broad applications!

What's so tricky is the dispute isn't about API access for the latest pricing, but rather their affiliate revenue. That can be canceled for any reason at any time, so that they still get the API and could find other revenue streams is a key point. They are not "entitled" to Amazon affiliate revenue, so then the question is -- where's the story?

Damn, this is exactly what I've been looking for for the last year. Any alternatives?

CamelCamelCamel. Amazon only, though – and who knows if they'll be shut down too under this policy.

I think PriceZombie ran afoul because they compared Amazon's history to other competitor's websites like Walmart, Best Buy, etc.

CamelCamelCamel just compares the current Amazon price to historical Amazon prices.

One site makes it much easier to encourage you to buy on another site, one site makes it much easier to optimize your purchase while still remaining with Amazon.

> This situation is further compounded by our competitors (who only index Amazon) being allowed to continue despite utilizing Amazon's data in the same manner as we did without facing similar bans.

Looks like being Amazon only may be what is keeping them alive. I enjoy CamelCamelCamel a lot, it's fun to put in a low-ball price target and then months later get an email that it has been met.

SlickDeals developed something similar but my understanding is that Amazon "asked" them to kill it or severely cripple it. Amazon's got a big stick and isn't afraid to weild it.l here.

im working on https://percht.com (it's still early)

I searching for running shoes and got camera products...

It's giving me a 502 bad gateway :(


looking good so far, will be checking on your progress!

There will be another alternative later this year, which I'm sure you'll love. Hang tight!

Keepa (Amazon only).


Padmapper was forced to shut down too by Craigslist.When are we going to learn that this type of business model is unsustainable? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4149455

Padmapper ended up fine though.... They just got acquired for millions.

Yeah if you're just regurgitating someone else's data you haven't really created anything. You might leech some money off someone else's marketplace for a while but don't expect it to last.

>if you're just regurgitating someone else's data you haven't really created anything

If you're regurgitating in a manner that is beneficial for both parties and the customer then I'd say you've created something extremely valuable. Just ask Google.

I find such actions puzzling, in a world where (charge per click) CPC advertising no longer works due to click fraud, (charge per action) CPA advertising offers a sane alternative. Only pay for the actions of customers, if someone buys, you pay, if they don't, you owe nothing. And yet CPA is treated like a really off color way to feed a few pennies to bloggers.

In this case Amazon doesn't like past prices being stored and shown. Ok, I get it that doing so exposes sellers who price high during "rush" seasons and low during "off" seasons, or the difference in price quoted to a Dallas IP address versus one from San Francisco, but shouldn't those sorts of shenanigans be exposed?

They note that Amazon is "afraid of services that compare their prices with other stores".

It's more likely Amazon just doesn't see the value. Why would they want to pay a company to drive traffic to Amazon, only when Amazon's prices are lower? Otherwise, they actively drive traffic to their competitors? Amazon is not in dire need of traffic, and with their algorithmic pricing, information is an advantage.

Perhaps there is a business case that can be made. But, OTOH, it doesn't strike me as irrational that Amazon would rather not.

Amazon associates is corrupt and not worth your time or its existence. They will wait until day 29 of 30 then shut down your account (after they collect revenue) and find any reason to shut your account down. They have no obligation to state a reason in their email to you. It's a scheme at its finest, unless you are willing to settle for working 8 hours a day for 20 dollars a day capped.

Can you create this a self hosted application? Then Amazon can't really track this ( i suppose).

They should suddenly start tracking thousands of affliates and you could earn some money from it :) ( i suppose)

Eg. Something like https://sendy.co/ , i believe they earn plenty of money also :p

That's not the problem, the problem is they needed commissions

Chrome extension for scraping and affiliate link placement?

They wrote that into the Terms of Service a couple of years ago. I know because I created one before the rule change and had to remove that part.

If Amazon found out they can still shut down that affiliate link.

Dear PriceZombie:

I will pay you $x a year to keep your service functional. Go figure out what x is, given the number of active users you have , and what it costs to keep the service open.

Also, email me at pmcfarland@exelion.net. I am a service provider, I might be able to help you cut down your cost of operating.

I am going to miss their price protection tracker that emailed when the price dropped within a certain period of time following a purchase. That let me get the difference refunded by my credit card company.

This is such a shame... I really enjoyed PriceZombie to display old prices, even though they shouldn't have been doing this. I wonder why Amazon changed their mind after 3 years?

Im guessing the reason you were canned was less to do with historical pricing and entirely about the fact you let them compare with other sites.

I am fairly certain amazon hates that with a passion and is in fact why you dont see that feature on CCC.

Also, Its my understanding that all of these price comparison sites get a severely discounted affiliate rate from amazon- Something like 1%

This is sad. I really feel for them. I'm making a similar website for another country and am planning to bring it to the US later this year. It will largely fill the gap of Price Zombie. Big shoes to fill, though.

For PriceZombie and many other businesses, depending on one major revenue source to survive can be a death sentence and at the very least pose an existential risk. Let this be a hard lesson in diversification.

It seems kind of extreme to shut down based on that. Wouldn't the technology be useful for other uses? I'd imagine that some would pay for that kind of historical data.

The thing is there are other websites giving that historical data away for free. Their affiliate accounts haven't been shut down (yet?).

So PriceZombie just can't compete. Makes me kind of wonder if they were just the "top" website doing this, and so they suffered from too much success.

It's because they compared with other services, and Amazon has been raising prices across the board lately, which they don't really want people to figure out.

The lesson here isn't about breaking TOS. The lesson is that if you build a business around a 3rd party API that party can crush you at any moment without reason.

Why do they need an account? Can't they just crawl Amazon and get price info? Or is their business only viable if they can collect a percentage of your purchase?

Exactly. Affiliate is their only profit. Sure they can crawl and link, but they would get 0 profit from that.

I'd pay (once) for software that periodically ran on my computer, pinging a URL for a price, tracking it locally, and giving me an alert at a change threshold.

https://keepa.com/ basically does that, not locally and only for Amazon tho. It has saved my wife thousands of dollars on the various things she buys. Particularly the kind of seasonal stuff. We go to alot of music festivals and the fun costumes and fuzzy stuff she loves to wear fluctuates in price like crazy throughout the year. Keepa allows her to figure out when those fluctuations generally happen. They also remind her to set a price threshold based on historical data and then forget about it until it goes back down in price.

Works great.

You could probably make that overnight. Just send a cURL to the page and look for the text of the span with the ID "priceblock_ourprice". Then log that to a comma delimited text file or something.

But the real problem would be updating your code every time the appropriate website(s) changed their markup.

In a hosted service that's easy; if you're selling something people download you'll have to ensure timely updates.

Which is why, unfortunately, this product can't realistically be a one-time fee.

Why didn't they come to an agreement with one of the Amazon's competitors? It sounds like a logical next step which needs to be taken to survive.

This is what happens when you rely totally on third party and then when you grow you ,company will be closed either by a buyout or legal termination.


Saying fail is a lowercase fail.

Saying fail with code is an uppercase FAIL.


Please don't do this here.

What is it with the downvotes? Zombie is the moe of American culture; you just take something good put Zombie on it, and then idiots will lap it up at the movie theatre.

JustSomeNobody is right. fail-as-a-noun is in the same dumb bucket as overuse of zombies.

Also outside of extreme cases, a silly product name should not be a big problem.

Sure, but where was all this sober reasonable wisdom earlier this week when dozens of comments were aghast at "Boom"?

Although, if ever there were a company closure about which one couldn't be too sure...

This blog is "loser talk".

Let me just ask the $64.000 question. Why did they ever bothered with the API and not just crawl Amazon for whatever products they needed?

It wouldn't make a difference: it is their affiliate account was that was closed - which is how they earned money. Affiliate account = getting paid "kickbacks" by Amazon for customer referalls from PZ's site that result in purchases.

It wouldn't matter. If Amazon didn't want them accessing their servers, they could file suit under the CFAA. They could also allege copyright infringement, since judges have ruled that the temporary copy of a page stored in RAM from which factual non-copyrightable data is extracted (as would be the case on an Amazon product page) constitutes an infringing copy, and trademark infringement and dilution.

The existing body of law is very hostile to scrapers. Server access is treated like access to land. The "owner" can kick you off whenever they want.

Crawling Amazon is no longer feasible if you want up-to-date prices. There's 10s of millions of pages to crawl, it takes too long. I believe they also added captchas against excessive crawling (perhaps via Tor only).

The immature part of me would have just done a massive url redirect to a competitor. I would say change the links on the page but that would probably get you in even more legal trouble.

> Press: If you're interested in running a news story about our situation and why Amazon is afraid of services that comparison shop Amazon's prices with other stores, please contact us at support@pricezombie.com

Yeah, that's really going to help your situation.

1) You built your product on top of someone else's service. That's always a rocky road. It is common to read about other companies in your shoes.

2) In the time you were operating you couldn't make a single contact at Amazon in case stuff happens?

1. PriceZombie was not built on top of Amazon. PriceZombie indexes products and prices in over 100 online retailers. The developers always had the option of using the PZ website as a front end to gather personal shopping habits and other data that is valuable to advertising and marketing companies - which is what many (most?) price trackers do as their primary source of revenue. PZ opted to get their funding from retailers instead. People purchased mostly from Amazon, therefor when Amazon pulled their affiliate program funding dried up and PZ had a choice - go to the dark side, close up, or sell.

2. They had many contacts, some of them quite high. PZ is a very ethical and methodical company. They dotted their i's and crossed their t's. They had an open dialog with Amazon where they were repeatedly told, in writing and on the phone, that they were in full compliance and there was no problem. The problem with Amazon is inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement of their own rules.

The developers are in discussions now with companies that want to purchase the technology - including my own, though I don't think we can afford them. This is no garage set up by comp sci students. The developers have impressive credentials and they have created a very impressive system that has wide application to other uses.

> PriceZombie was not built on top of Amazon.

Not technically for the reasons you stated. However, it is evident that PriceZombie was financially built on top of Amazon's Affiliate program. It's hard to argue against that when Amazon contributed 90% of revenue

That is dictated by where consumers end up shopping. You can diversify to thousands of stores, but if Amazon is the biggest seller, they will get the lion's share of the click throughs and purchases.

What PZ did was show users who shop at other stores, that Amazon was cheaper, and funnel users to Amazon. Sometimes Amazon wasn't cheaper, but I wonder if this is all about to change.

Definitely not defending them, but sometime's initiating contact can be a tricky thing. Because they may not have paid attention to you, and now you're basically told them "Hi, I exist!". Then later in a meeting, someone in Amazon says "Oh hey.. this site exists. I didn't know that... isn't that a violation of our TOS..??"

Or even: that's not a violation ... well then make it one!

And Amazon isn't scared of the situation, they just don't want to subsidize it. Not really surprising.

UPDATE: Hey, lot's of downvotes for this post. Would be great if you guys could explain why you downvote.

Sorry, but not much sympathy from me.

1) You knowingly violated the terms of service. Therefore you are denied service now. Nothing to complain about. Honestly, if the API of my website would be intentionally abused in a way that I explicitly exclude in my TOS, I would be seriously pissed. I would probably think about suing you. Not only denying you further service.

2) You whine, bitch and complain because others did not get the same treatment as you. There are also many murders and robbers who are not in prison. If it would not be allowed to put one criminal into prison unless we put them all into prison, there would be no law and order at all.

3) You encourage the problem. By shutting down just because Amazon kicked you out. Why not address the problem that 90% of your revenue came from one single retailer? Why not talk to the other retailers and the users and see if there is a way to work it out? Do the difficult thing: CREATE! Don't beg!

Sorry, if this sounds harsh. I welcome and applaude every tech entrepreneur. But please stand up and fight for the right thing. For a better world. Not just for a bit of profit by bending the rules.

They were TOLD that they were 100% in compliance with the rules and that there was no problem. And then one day things changed for no reason.

Told by whom? An Indian online chat customer service rep? Some sort of account executive?

Associates team is on shore and there is no way to directly contact them. They contact you.

Upvoted just to keep the thread and go against "elitist" hivemind.

How about the "read the article" hivemind? There's a bit of a difference between "knowingly violated the terms of service" and "told we were in 100% compliance with the rules".

Also, if you want a dumb crime analogy, imagine a situation where robbers get locked up... but only if they voted for a particular party. Uneven enforcement based on whim is a bad thing. Especially when someone is trying extremely hard to follow the rules.

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