Last week, I received the following email. I have changed the name of the firm for the safety of the author:
I enjoy reading the posts on your blog ‘Consumerism Commentary’. It is a well put together site. I was reading a post on 9/29 about your brokerage recently charging you an annual fee. You should check out ShareDesigner, ShareDesigner is one of the few brokerages around that does not charge you an annual fee. Furthermore, you will not be charge inactivity fees if you decide you do not want to trade.
The reason I write is to see if I could interest you in putting a ShareDesigner link on your website. Being that it deals with personal finance, I think there would be a good possibility that a small discrete link to our website (for those that read your blog) would be able to earn you some additional money. We pay 20 dollars per opened and funded account, and the readers of your blog just might be the right targeted group for this to work.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. There are fees associated with the account (transaction fees, like all brokers) but no monthly maintenance fee, only for the lowest “version” of their service. I suppose, according to this afilliate program, if I could get one new subscriber a month, the account would be free to me.
I don’t think that the number of readers I have can support one new referral a month. So, I’ve pretty much decided that this wouldn’t really be worth it to me. However, I did write the individual back asking if they would be willing to refund the annual and/or transfer fee incurred by my previous discount brokerage. If they were to spend that $125 ($50 annual fee plus $75 transfer fee, not yet incurred) for me, I would definitely move my assets to them. I have yet to hear a response, as expected.
I don’t like the idea of endorsing a company when being paid to do so. It happens often though, even in the blog world. You never know if the author of a website endorsing a product is being paid to. You never know if product reviews on websites such as epinions.com are actually written by the company offering that product or by honest consumers.
Blogs are often used to gain prominence in Google search listings and use that advatange to attract readers who will click through to advertisements, resulting in income for the “blog” writer. These are not blogs.
Back to the fees from last month. It turns out the old discount brokerage hid the notice of the new fees in a newsletter whose topic is general investing; just the place one would not expect to see such a notice pertaining to their accounts… They feel I have been warned and will not refund my money. Bummer.
At least I was able to negotiate my rent down, at least until the end of April.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published October 18, 2004.