"When you sleep with someone, you're sleeping with everyone they've ever slept with and everyone they've ever slept with and so on..."
It's true in regards to sex and, as an analogy, it's true in regards to professional and public reputations.
I got a reminder of that, recently, courtesy of a decision made by a company I've contracted with to provide services in regards to the Melhi Ink store. They decided to migrate their in-house affiliate program to a 3rd party. I'd parted ways with that 3rd party, many years ago,vowing never to do business with them, again, despite the fact that I'd cashed a lot of checks from them. As much as I love money -- and I DO love money --some things are just more important.
This 3rd party is structured to favor large "incentive publishers," which, from the perspective of a merchant or another affiliate publisher, is a parasite that bleeds merchants dry while snaking commissions from other affiliate publishers and often diverting traffic. These programs are the lowest of the low... the bottom feeders on the underbelly of affiliate marketing. I will not be associated with them, directly and... going back to that safe-sex adage, above... I CANNOT associate with them, even by proxy or their poison spreads through me to the other people and projects I'm associated with.
I'm politically active. I've supported candidates, volunteered on their campaigns, I'm active in my local party, I've run for office, myself and may run again someday. I sit on an important civic committee and am helping to draft a new cooperative corporation that will set policy and shape the economic future of my county for many generations beyond my meager lifespan. I'm looking at starting a large, national-scale online business with a business partner who is a good friend and is also an honest and ethical man with a solid reputation. He has other projects and businesses of his own to protect. The potential damage from a simple business decision, made by a service provider I use for a small sideline project I barely have time for goes far beyond just linking my own reputation and brand to shady operations.
So, I lent my voice to the chorus of other concerned shopkeepers and designers who use this service and lacking an immediate answer to this concern, I began to search for alternative POD service providers. I found an excellent service for apparel, with a small but expanding gifts line and my designs will be available through that service, soon. I also found an excellent outlet for greeting cards and may make some of my designs available through that service, later in the year.
I lacked only a provider for bumperstickers, mugs and pinback badges when an answer came. After considering all of the information about incentive programs and our concerns about the damage associating with them, directly or by proxy would do to our names, brands & bottom lines as well as to the service provider's reputation and bottom line, the company determined that they will NOT accept incentive publishers into their affiliate program. So, I CAN continue to use this company, and will continue to use them, while also making my designs available through a wider selection of services.
While I'm very pleased with this service provider's decision, either way, the crisis would have been averted because I know that my personal, professional, political and public reputation is built not only on my own actions but also on the reputations of those with whom I choose to associate, which is built on their actions and their associations and so on.
It's a simple concept... most of us begin to grasp it and learn to implement it in our lives in pre-school when we refuse to play with the boogar eater lest we be likewise ostracized as boogar eaters by association. It's a shame so many of our current political leaders fail to grasp it in even the smallest measure.