Several weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to receive a friendly letter in the mail from Gratis CEO, Rob Jewell. Gratis is the company behind ShopFreePay and the FreePay line of sites.
Here is the chief portion of the letter:
This is Rob Jewell, the founder and CEO of Gratis Internet. I saw your recent blog post describing our new site ShopFreePay, and I wanted to thank you. We always enjoy hearing our customersâ€™ stories. More importantly, we love hearing thoughtful suggestions about how to improve our sites. ShopFreePay was built in response to user feedback, and it will only get better as more people use the service and write about it.
I forwarded your post to our product team and they have adjusted our feature schedule as a result. As Iâ€™m sure you can imagine, we have loads of new features on the horizon â€“ but first weâ€™re going to fix the problems that you wrote about online…
Rob also put me in touch with the product team for ShopFreePay. I replied to Rob’s letter and have corresponded with the product team. I addressed some of the bigger issues I’ve judged people to be most concerned about, and made a few suggestions. These topics included: compromised credit card data, unanswered customer service emails, the initial supposed lack of “big ticket” items, offers disappearing from pages, and transferring credit from one gift to another.
Here is an informative response, copy and paste, from the product team:
Compromised Credit Card Data
Of all the issues you raised, this is the most alarming. It’s also, unfortunately, the one that we have least control over. As you know, we don’t collect any payment information; we simply redirect to our sponsors’ websites.
After you brought this issue to our attention, we had several employees personally test all offers. No one saw anything strange on their personal credit card. The common offer amongst all users who reported fraudulent charges was the Funk Unlimited offer, so we have removed that offer from the site. We don’t have any concrete proof that Funk Unlimited was responsible, but we have had no additional complaints since removing that offer last week.
Unanswered Customer Service Email
I sit down the hall from our customer service reps, and I can assure you that they answer every email within 48 hours. They are working their butts off to give prompt, personal attention to every email (i.e. no autoresponders). So you can imagine the frustration when they hear that people aren’t receiving the replies.
We recently completed a six-week audit of our email deliverability. We found that a significant fraction of our emails are not being delivered to the recipient. (Note that we do not receive a ‘bounce’ message. The email simply disappears into oblivion.)
There are three causes:
1. Aggressive spam filters. Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) will mark a message as spam by default, until the user explicitly says that the sender is known to them.
2. The volume of email. We send a lot of email (like I said, our customer service team is working hard!) and unfortunately some ISPs throttle email. If we send too many to one ISP, they start dropping messages.
3. Blacklists. Our domain my-account-info.com has been reported on several spam blacklists, and the blacklist operators are refusing to remove it or even let us know why it is listed.
There is nothing we can do about #1. We’re working with the largest ISPs to be “white-listed”, which will solve #2. And by the end of next week we will be using a new domain for customer service emails, which will solve #3.
As we make these changes, you and your readers should see the percentage of customer service emails that are delivered slowly increase.
No “Big Ticket” Gifts
It takes time to earn big ticket gifts, and I think the initial concern was mainly due to the fact that nobody had completed all the requirements yet. We’ve been shipping hundreds of big-ticket items. Here are a couple that shipped out to customers this week:
-Apple iMac Desktop with 20″ Display, $1399.99
-Samsung HL-S4676S 46″ Widescreen Slim DLP HDTV, $1399.99
-Apple MacBook MA254LL/A 13.3″ Notebook PC, $1099.99
-Samsung HL-S4666W 46″ DLP HDTV, $1299.99
Offers Moving & Disappearing
We will not remove an offer that has been credited — the software doesn’t allow it. I suspect that users are seeing one of two behaviors:
1. An offer disappears after it has been credited on another tab or for another product
2. An offer disappears after the sponsor terminates the campaign
A user can only complete an offer one time. If they click on an offer while trying to get an iPod, and click on that same offer while trying to get an iMac, only one of those will be credited. If the iPod offer credits first, the offer will disappear from the iMac page, and vice versa. Same goes for offers that are on two different tabs for the same product. This explains #1.
Sometimes our sponsors have already signed up their quota of users for the year/month/week. They terminate the campaign, which means the offer will disappear from all tabs and all products. This explains #2. However, this does not mean people will lose credit. If you have been credited for your offer and the sponsor terminates, it will remain. It can get tricky with offers that take several days to credit. Let’s say a user completes an offer on Monday that takes five days to credit. On Tuesday the sponsor terminates. That offer will disappear on Tuesday-Friday. Since we don’t know that the user completed the offer (the user knows as soon as we know), we won’t display the offer. However, on Friday when we receive credit for the offer, the offer will show up again.
Furthermore, we added a feature we call “average verification time” or “AVT”. Each offer now shows the average number of days that it takes for us to hear back from the sponsor. This is a moving average, calculated in real time based off hundreds of thousands of data points. Our hope is that this will help users better understand that some offers take longer than others to credit.
I recognize that all this “crediting” nonsense can be confusing. We’re working with all our sponsors in order to help them report credit more promptly. Someday in the future, when all of our sponsors report credit instantly, these issues will go away.
This is not possible, because tabs are not fungible across products. Or, said another way, a ‘C’ for one product is not the same as a ‘C’ for another product. Let’s look at a hypothetical: we’re trying to get very high priced items on the site like $10,000 TVs. This requires offers that pay us more, like a home refinancing for instance. That offer might show up in ‘C’ of the $10,000 TV, but the $500 TV has different offers in its C tab (more like SunRocket). Obviously, it would be completely unfair to allow someone to complete SunRocket for the $500 TV and then trade that for a credit on the $10,000 TV.
We *could* allow users to trade credits between two products of the same price, but we all believe that would add too much complexity to the process. We’re trying to keep the site simple and easy to explain.
- End of SFP Response -
Hope that helps answer questions and calm some anxiety.