Holiday shopping mania is about to kick in at full force, and while zeroing in on the best deals, online shoppers may also want to consider the rules that pertain to their favorite retail and coupon websites. If you don't play by them, you could become ineligible for certain discounts and even banned from using those sites altogether.
"We can get up to several million shoppers on our PromotionCode coupon site each month and invariably some of them will do things offensive or aggravating enough to get banned," said Mike Catania, co-founder and CTO.
We've complied a list of 'Shopping Do Nots' — some of which may come as a surprise.
Being a Bully In the Comments Section
What is it about the comments sections that enables us to become our worst selves? We see it often enough on media sites — commenters criticizing one another in light of their opinions — but this kind of catty aggression has no place (fortunately) on retail-oriented websites.
"We have no tolerance whatsoever for visitors on our site attacking other users in comment sections," said Catania. "It might seem unlikely that a coupon site would have that sort of vitriol in the comment sections but it's true: People who submit coupons where they have a vested interest will mercilessly attack other users in an effort to have other codes removed."
If you must, first scream into your pillow, and then return to your computer.
Promoting Your Own Business
Another behavior you'll want to avoid in the comments section and other discussion boards on professional retail sites, is using the space to link to another site. No matter what great deals or advice you have to share, and no matter how potentially relevant you think it could be to shoppers, you're better off sticking to social media for linking to outside sources.
"When I was an amateur in digital marketing I was banned for posting promotional links to different discussion boards," admitted Tochukwu Mbiamnozie, the Founder & CEO of TucciPolo , a lifestyle luxury footwear brand. "I learned my lesson."
Stick to the subject (and the site) at hand, folks!
Buying Gift Cards For Yourself
"Some retailers used to give rewards points or cash back when users purchased gift cards from them," said Erin Warren, senior VP of marketing for Splender.com, an online cash back shopping site. "But, most of this rewarding is being eliminated as retailers learn that many people aren't giving gift cards as 'gifts' — which [aim to] bring in new customers — but instead are buying gift cards for themselves in order to 'manufacture' more rewards points and/or cash back... ultimately costing the retailer more money."
This is called "gift card churning," Warren noted, and it can get shoppers banned.
Creating Multiple Accounts
Thinking you can maximize deals by creating more emails/log-ins? Yeah, you're probably going to get busted — and banned.
"This is the era of Big Data. So when community members create several accounts, we can obviously see matching IP addresses that are created just to up/down-vote offers," said Catania, adding that often people will lie when confronted, a move that gets them in even more hot water.
"Trying to game the system and then unabashedly lying about it when confronted with evidence is a quick way to get banned."
Some retailers will offer you additional discounts if you get your friends to shop on their site, too. Sneaky shoppers have been known to make up friends — or at least, make up friends' accounts — in order to meet the quota for these bonus savings.
"Some people make up fictitious accounts to collect bounties for new customers," said Warren, adding that if you're found out, you'll likely get banned.
Being Aggressive With Customer Service
Annoyed about something and want to let customer service know all about it? Well, you're certainly encouraged to do so, but you've got to be respectful. Don't hit send on that chat or email until you've cooled down and made sure that you aren't saying anything aggressive.
"Some people take for granted that there's a live human being, complete with feelings, on the other side of their angry emails," said Catania. "It's alarming how worked up some people can get because their expired coupon wasn't accepted — and [how they] have no fear about putting it in writing. It's one thing to be disappointed or upset but another to make personal threats; it's a quick way to get banned."
Here's another opportunity to scream into your pillow, instead of lashing out.
This applies more to sellers than to buyers, but in the golden age of eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist, where anyone can sell something, it's worth noting.
Sometimes people selling a product will try to give themselves positive reviews, or "upvote" other positive reviews. This is a definite no-no, and Amazon in particular has become very savvy at detecting these actions. So good in fact that you have to be quite careful; even if you're not meaning to seem shady, you could mistakenly appear as though you are. For instance, if you have multiple Amazon accounts and use more than one of them to diss (or applaud) a product, you could trigger an alert causing Amazon to delete your reviews.
Manipulating reviews probably won't get you completely banned from a site, but it will get you banned from the reviews section, and likely wipe out your history as a reviewer.