TripAlertz Got Slammed, Learned Their Lesson, and is Changing Their Rules

On Thursday I wrote about TripAlertz, a hotel package deal site that was paying way too much for e-mail addresses.

Most referral deals require that the person being referred actually buy something before the website will reward the referrer. Not TripAlertz. They were paying for every email address that signed up, and the signup process was really easy, all it took was an email address and a password — not even a name. And they were paying the referrer $10 per email address.

Surely that couldn’t last. And it didn’t. Already they’ve dropped their referral fee down to $1.

What’s more they’ve changed the terms and conditions of the program and are applying the change retroactively — instead of having two years to redeem the referral cash, you now only have one year to redeem it. They’re literally halving the expiration period.

Of course they are. They need more breakage. They need the cash to expire. Surely they didn’t anticipate going viral this way.

Presumably they figured that since customers could only use the referral cash on hotel packages, not standard bookings, their high margins on the packages would mean they’d come out ahead. Someone might refer 10 people, those people might never buy anythnig, but the referrer would only be getting $100 off a package. It’s really quite common for sites to offer big coupons like $100 off on a 3- or 4-night minimuim stay.

Instead of a coupon, TripAlertz got email addresses of friends. That seemed like a better idea.

And then the thing went viral, not just on blogs like Frugal Travel Guy, The Points Guy, and Deals We Like, but also on Twitter and Facebook. TripAlertz found itself in a position of paying out real money for referred email addresses of modest value at best, no longer a good value proposition.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Actually, I think the correct way to put it is they gave a $10 credit for each referral. No cash was actually paid. How much it ultimately costs them depends on how those credits are utilized.

    I’m not sure who learned a lesson? Those waiting for their sharebuilder hit to post might have a different opinion. 😉

  2. Now that every tom dick and harry has a blog and spreads the joy of any deal there, travel providers with a loophole in their system have to plug it instantly or fear 000s while misuse the issue. 🙁 earlier the fix used to be more costly than the loss and life went on as long as the loophole stayed under the radar.

  3. Bingo. More than half a dozen highly active blogs with a lot of very similar information. I’m not against anyone blogging what they wish. I would just like both readers and writers to realize the implications and consequences that come from increased exposure of deals, loopholes and other lucrative opportunities. Also realize at the same time the corporate players have become more savvy and aware. The “game” has certainly changed a lot over the past decade.

  4. Once this one started hitting their system in a big way, regardless of where that was coming from, it was costing them money and more than they expected. This wasn’ a “loophole” it was an offer that was more costly to a small company than they’d have expected, and as soon as they realized the implications they pulled it. That’s not driven by blogs. And the phenomenon certainly isn’t. Flyertalk has much more massive scale than I do here.

  5. OK, let me clarify: pre web 2.0 the pretty much only public source for deals was Flyertalk.com, reserved for the freak and geeks. Since about 2 years a lot of blogs have appeared which condense the info and its audience will try out the deal, even if it doesn’t suit them or they even plan to use it. Prime example are the $ off coupons LH offers: each promo is used up within hours of it appearing. A blog itself may have a limited number of eyeballs, but its audience will use the deal and kill it in the process.

  6. I know this wasn’t a loophole. Falls under “lucrative opportunities” category I mentioned.

    Yes, the travel forums receive greater traffic than the popular blogs. However, that’s not a good comparison because forums are broad, categorized by interest with thousands of new posts daily. They’re not focused solely on deals (FT and MP are not SlickDeals, after all). A person may read Forum X daily but not Forum Y, Z or the trending topics on any given day so said person is possibly unaware of opportunities. Contrast that with blogs: A person visits Blog ABC today and sees the latest post right on top. Many blogs focus in on opportunities frequently so that increases the awareness of such deals. At least that’s my belief.

    Many bloggers will mention they get a lot of the same questions in email – questions that are often already answered ad infinitum in forum discussions if they made the effort to read. Instead, a lot of readers seem to get their info from blogs which are admittedly easier to digest than a forum for some people. Based upon that I’m convinced the blogs play an important role in the rapid spread of deal awareness. Even the aforementioned SlickDeals has its place.

    I said before I’m not against anyone blogging anything at all. It’s still primarily a free internet, nobody owns most of the information nor bloggers’ opinions. If you want to tell the world how to easily fuel dump, maximize MR segments, get free Amex MR points, etc, go right ahead. I’d just like people to accept that information sharing has implications and consequences, be they positive or negative.

  7. On the plus side, it’s become quite entertaining to watch the bloggers trip over to lure you into signing up to these deals under their personal referral link.

    The top strategies that I’ve seen:

    1. Provide a thorough description of the service
    2. Send a ‘breaking deal alert’ email blast
    3. Mock the offer sarcastically and say you don’t really care if your readers sign up or not

    Am I missing any?

  8. hobo13:

    4. Readers of blogs complaining snarkily about the free information someone has researched and provided them.

    5. Same readers later complaining when the info dries up, saying that bloggers and FT/MP posters aren’t “helping out the community.”

    6. Same readers complaining when a blogger makes a few bucks from a referral link.

    Did I miss any?

  9. @toomanybooks:

    7. Que the defense of a blogger whom he has a business relationship with.

    8. See explosion of the population who continually acts like they never heard of the word “transparency” before. Your “breaking deal” email buddy is king of that.

  10. and mike: why don’t you go ahead and tell us all what kind of business relationship we have. base it on fact while you are at it. I’m continually amazed at the attitude of the new young caucasian male. Such anger, negativity and willingness to criticize without provocation. William Bennett just wrote a book about it. The Book of Man. I guess I’d better pick it up. it is a phenomenon that has really helped destroy FT and pushed many to the blogs.

  11. I personally don’t think TripAlertz got slammed.

    1) They got a huge amount of organic PR and linkbacks from major sites. Companies pay HUGE money for this type of advertising.
    2) Their brand is now known amongst savvy travelers who have money to spend on travel
    3) As HikerT mentioned- I’m sure they aren’t losing $10 per referral since so many people will let the credits expire and you know theres a huge markup on these packages.
    4) As Ingy mentioned- his account was once flagged for fraud. They clearly have the systems in place to identify fraud and delete those accounts, which I’m sure they’ll do.

    In the end a lot of people will get discounted/free travel, so I’m not sure what the big deal is. Deals die.. instead of pointing fingers I’d rather just focus on finding the next one.

  12. New sign-ups seem to get a $25 bonus. Let’s say all hundred of my referrals sign up, they’d be giving away $2500 in total, instead of giving me the $1000. That doesn’t seem to make sense.

    Due to this change, a referral of mine signed up today and already has more tripbucks than me. I got $1 and they got $25.

  13. What people are saying is…Since FT and MP have individualized forums, that information is kept there for those who read these particular forums with deals.

    However, the bloggers post the same shit from Flyertalk and MilePoint to increase traffic to their site for referrals, ad revenue, page impressions, etc.

    People like when you bloggers post resourceful information but when you post a deal that you know will close down, people get angry. If it stayed on FT and MP that is fine and it’ll stay within that community.

  14. like tagged and other spaming social media websites, the need to raise venture capital and prove that u have an audience lends itself to this behavior. until of course the investors start asking for a real return, just ask groupon and soon facebook

  15. @Latimer. There’s a difference. In the case where they give 100 people a $25 credit toward a trip that ultimately costs $400 or more where those people have to bring money to the table to get a vacation, they are making less money than they might have otherwise made on each trip, but likely not losing any money. If they give you $1000 where you can take a couple trips for free, TripAlertz now has to come totally out of pocket. In the first instance, people most likely have to spend real dollars before TripAlertz “gives” anything away. In the second instance, TripAlertz loses money and only recoups it if you or one of your 100 referrals actually starts using the service.

  16. Now they are changing their T%Cs even more often than ICH’s does with their best price guarantee. According to the T&Cs the “money” expire after 6 months and also some new tighter restriction apply :s

    “If a Member does not earn Trip Cash at least once every six (6) months, as determined by TripAlertz in its sole discretion, the Member’s account will become inactive. Trip Cash has a 6-month expiration date and will be forfeited thereafter. Redeeming Trip Cash for TripAlertz Travel”

  17. Just noticed they completely overhauled their terms and conditions, including an expanded section on the restrictions to using Trip Cash. And it looks like they are going to examine each large purchase made with Trip Cash and prosecute if they feel like the Trip Cash was not earned according to their terms.
    If you don’t agree with what they are doing write to them at memberservice@tripalertz.com

  18. What the hell is going on with them? According to the new T&Cs they are now allowed to terminate a account for any reason! Seems like they introduced the T&Cs from some African companies, where everything is allowed…

    “If a Member’s account becomes inactive or is terminated by TripAlertz for any reason, in its sole discretion, all Trip Cash and promotional awards in the account will be forfeited, leaving a zero balance in the Member’s account.”

  19. in addition:

    “All transactions using Trip Cash are subject to review, adjustment and/or rejection by TripAlertz at any time. TripAlertz may cancel the Member’s account, and any associated reservations if abuse, misuse or violation of Trip Cash program rules or spirit is suspected. “

  20. WATCH OUT! This company is shady. I bought a Google Offers for tripalertz.com and they would not honor the offer. They claimed the offer didn’t exist even after I showed them the link to it. Finally, I called Google and they claimed this company was not honoring any offers and Google has no choice but to refund the offer value….too bad TripAlertz.com had already changed my card $25….

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