I wasn’t sure if I should publish this post because it probably will come off as a bit preachy and self-serving. I assure you, it’s not my intention. Yesterday, I got an email from a reader and just couldn’t stop thinking about it ever since. Here is the gist of it:
“My mom lives in Uruguay, where I’m from. I had 56K United miles that I didn’t see a use for in a near future, so I made an impulse reservation and went by myself to surprise her. I wasn’t too excited about leaving our short Minnesota summer for the damp Uruguayan winter, but I know now that I’ll never regret my decision. I just stayed for 6 days, but had a wonderful time. I have to thank you one more time because I followed your advise to wait for a 50K United offer, otherwise I’d have only had 30K miles which would have been as good as nothing. I topped the 54K or so miles I had with some UR points and off I went.”
We live in a society where instant gratification is king. Affiliate bloggers aren’t immune to it, unfortunately. How can we be? Many of us depend on commission and have a quota to meet. This topic is complicated and I’m not here to take sides or point fingers. I’m certain that constant pressure to push credit cards has to take its toll. Remember the ABC’s of sales? Always be closing.
Not to sound patronizing, but I genuinely feel bad for many top bloggers in this industry. Most started out with the best of intentions, and because they were so helpful, their sites grew big. With traffic came huge monetary rewards. Ironically, now they constantly face a choice of either misleading their readers or losing those rewards.
I remember the email from this particular reader. She was asking me about the 30K miles offer on United card and was ready to use my affiliate link. I told her not to. It was a stupid decision, business-wise. I don’t know how much longer I’ll have my affiliate links, so logically, I should Always Be Closing. But I simply can’t treat my readers as faceless customers and this follow-up email has confimed it. If I were to knowingly mislead her, it would have cost her a trip to see her mother, who is 70 years old BTW.
It’s easy to rationalize this and say that when a reader applies for an inferior offer via affiliate link, it’s simply a payment for knowledge provided by the blogger. I mean, it makes sense if you think about it logically. Some bloggers have teams of employees and ghost writers. Someone has to pay them, right? There is no such thing as free lunch.
But how do you explain it to a person who wanted to visit her elderly mother (maybe for the last time), but simply couldn’t because of the bad advice from a blogger? Applying for 60K instead of 80K points offer on Chase IHG MasterCard isn’t inherently bad, since it’s a great card with or without the bonus. But those 20k extra points could provide a 4-night PointBreaks vacation for a poor relative, maybe their only vacation in years.
To be clear, I’m not saying that readers should constantly attribute bad motives when it comes to bloggers’ advice. That’s how the atmosphere in this industry has reached current levels of hostility. Bloggers get trolled for even mentioning their affiliate links, which is unreasonable. I think there should be some sort of a middle ground and mutual respect.
That said, as bloggers, we should always remember that behind every click there is a real person, a potential vacation, maybe a family reunion. We can’t just take those away.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.