February 5, 2001 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Amazon.Pay? Amazon has a system to allow site owners and sellers of digital content to get paid....
posted by owillis (76 comments total)
So it's just like PayPal, only less flexible and with Amazon getting 15% of the gross. No thanks.
posted by aaron at 10:44 PM on February 5, 2001

This is an interesting difference, too:

"Please note that Honor System payments are voluntary. Therefore, a payor may refund himself for any reason and with no questions asked up to 30 days after a payment is made. There is no process by which you may contest a payor-initiated refund."
posted by fraying at 10:59 PM on February 5, 2001

Well, it's not really just like PayPal. It's not really meant to be a general online payment service like paypal. I like the meter thing.
posted by gluechunk at 11:05 PM on February 5, 2001

No, but it's like PayPal in that any blogger with sense would pick PayPal if they wanted to solicit donations. Unless they had an actual possibility of getting more than $500/mo, at least.
posted by aaron at 11:25 PM on February 5, 2001

But PayPal is far more than a method of soliciting donations. PayPal is a person-to-person payment service. AHS is not that.
posted by gluechunk at 11:29 PM on February 5, 2001


Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More
posted by mathowie at 11:49 PM on February 5, 2001

Gah, up to 30 days to get a refund, with no process by which you may contest a payor-initiated refund! No way!!!!
posted by DragonBoy at 11:50 PM on February 5, 2001

That was freaky, it had my name in it.

If you offer a money-back guarantee on what you sell (and if you're selling content, why wouldn't you?) then giving the buyer the ability to take their money back -- rather than forcing you to take the time to issue a refund -- could actually be considered a feature.
posted by kindall at 12:00 AM on February 6, 2001

Of course, this has the benefit of reaching an audience of people who have Amazon but not Paypal. Despite the success of Ebay, I have a sneaking suspicion that the former is a larger audience.

It may not be the equal of Paypal, but it may be "good enough" for a lot of people. There are sure to be more entrants in this niche in the future. And this also shows one of the key lessons of last year: don't expect that just because you have a cool technology thing you can do online that people will flock to you. Standalone services are very hard to brand and push to consumers, especially with VC dryup. But the same technology, implemented as an add-on service ...

(When will Amazon repurpose their reader review software for weblogs?)
posted by dhartung at 12:05 AM on February 6, 2001

No graphics in threads!

But PayPal is far more than a method of soliciting donations.

I'm discussing this given situation.
posted by aaron at 12:13 AM on February 6, 2001

Amazon Honor System

Click Here to Pay
Learn More

If anything is capable of accidentally touching off the uprising that kills cookies, this is it. Plus, I'm somewhat amused by the possibility of running an entire blog inside the "site detail" information section on your paypage. The archiving features suck, sure, but I'm sure they'll improve with time.
posted by grimmelm at 12:13 AM on February 6, 2001

Jesus! Twenty-five minutes and he's already got twelve bucks!
posted by aaron at 12:14 AM on February 6, 2001

Okay, I gave a buck. Not much, but my card's at its limit and I'm unemployed. Since I paid, I'm going to use a graphic too, to point out my amusement that Amazon feels the need to trademark this term:

posted by aaron at 12:20 AM on February 6, 2001

Total Collected: $23.00
# of Payments: 6
posted by riffola at 12:28 AM on February 6, 2001

that is pretty freaky, it had my name too! Damn Ama-cookies! they're following me everywhere!!!!
posted by chaz at 12:46 AM on February 6, 2001

1am timecheck: Up to $33 now.

We now return you to the Please Give Matt Some One-Click Lovin' thread, already in progress.
posted by youhas at 1:02 AM on February 6, 2001

I don't see what's wrong with the honor system here. Nor do I see the apples-to-apples amazon-to-paypal comparison.

Obviously you dont want to use amazon to exchange payment for auction goods at ebay, but if you're truly just asking for donations, why be so worried about it? Are you concerned that people will revoke their payment? What confidence....

In fact, I see the amazon system as twice as good as paypall for one simple reason: amazon already has my information. I dont need to log in and create an account on yet another system if I want to give someone a few bucks.

Further, amazon has more time and money and most other aggregators out there. This means that they can do all sorts of neat data crunching and start establishing collaborative filtering with honor-pay sites the same way they do with all of their other for-sale items.

Unless you're exchanging goods or services that require a definite fee and an arbitrated refund process, I dont see any reason to use paypall over amazon.
posted by bryanboyer at 1:31 AM on February 6, 2001

Neat thing. Surprised they didn't enable "1-Click". But then that causes all sorts of mayhem...
posted by owillis at 1:38 AM on February 6, 2001

I have to say, I am seriously considering this as a more attractive way of funding the Barbelith Underground than paypal OR prostitution...
posted by barbelith at 1:53 AM on February 6, 2001

Hmmm. I have to admit -- I Don't Get It.

Their signup page claims there are "Two Ways to Earn" -- "Collect Voluntary Payments" or "Sell Digital Content". All fine and dandy. But the site they point to as an example of Selling Digital Content, the Short Story Writers Showcase, is doing no such thing -- they're Collecting Voluntary Payments ....

So does anyone have any idea how you would use this to sell something, like they vaguely claim you can?

posted by webmutant at 2:25 AM on February 6, 2001

kinda looks nifty, but as with all these things i want to be a part of - the sad lack of credit card defies my spending whimsy! bah!

posted by endorwitch at 3:52 AM on February 6, 2001

I would love to use it to keep in the air, but of course they don't support overseas transactions.
posted by prolific at 4:04 AM on February 6, 2001

"It may not be the equal of Paypal, but it may be "good enough" for a lot of people. " i think you just explained aol.
posted by bliss322 at 4:37 AM on February 6, 2001

The paypal registration is not that complication so as to be very hard to set up to send funds. It leads you step-by-step when making a credit card/check payment.

Some comparison on credit card to service transactions. Amazon Honor System charges 15%. So at $1.00 the fee would be $0.15. At $2.00, the fee would be $0.30. At $3.00, the fee would be $0.45.

In comparison to PayPal, they charge a flat fee of $0.30 for anything under $15.00. Anything over $15.00 is charged at 2.2% of the transaction total + $0.30 flat fee.

So for example, on a $20.00 transaction, Amazon HS would charge $3.00. PayPal would charge $0.74.

Plus you don't necessarily need graphics, can use your own, etc.
posted by benjh at 4:59 AM on February 6, 2001

So far, $81. This makes me so happy and *gasp* might mean Jakob is right about micropayments!

Hey Matt, if ya got a PO Box, us non-cc users might be willing to pitch in a dime or two.
posted by Mick at 5:06 AM on February 6, 2001

Paypal has crumby customer service though. Just my experience.
posted by mblandi at 6:37 AM on February 6, 2001

Paypal or Amazon? Any reason why you can't use both and give the choice to the users?
posted by quirked at 7:20 AM on February 6, 2001

PayPal's server was overloaded all day yesterday when I tried to use it. That's one good part about this.

Since it's such an easy service to set up (being a parasite for payments), I'm sure Yahoo, MSN and AOL will be jumping on the bandwagon.

What's funny is that with's new recent services (this one, zShops, the one that lets authors and musicians sell their CDs through the site), they're exploiting their network of customers for the purpose of collecting a tax-like payment on services. Again, the artist/writer/producer/seller gets screwed by the middleman who owns the marketplace.

If you ask me, 15 percent seems too high for a donation system. There's a lot of padding there. But I notice that a lot of sites have been jumping on the bandwagon.
posted by timothompson at 7:25 AM on February 6, 2001

Curious what the tax status of a donation like this is, what if a for-profit site sets up this system? What do you guys think?
posted by owillis at 7:42 AM on February 6, 2001

how come it's only open to US accounts? they've got my VISA-info even though I live in Europe, so why can't they simply credit the card?

ValueClick and such services seem to have no problem sending cheques over here, anyway.
posted by dagny at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2001

Anyone tried Citibank's c2it yet?
posted by tremendo at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2001


Donations are tax-deductible only if given to registered 501(c)(3) corporations.

Still, you only need receipts for donations over $100, IIRC. Schedule A has a line-item you can use for "all other donations".

Unless you're audited, I guess.
posted by dhartung at 9:18 AM on February 6, 2001

Jakob Nielsen's Paypage. Although he is asking for $2 (10 cents per Alertbox.)
posted by riffola at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2001

...and Jakob gets how much per speaking engagement? And yet he's already collected almost $70 (at the moment). People really have the urge to give!
posted by owen at 9:51 AM on February 6, 2001

Speaking of the "it knows my name" thing, did anyone else click on the little "click to pay" button that knew their name to find out that big brother was watching them?

This image appeared when I clicked the button.

posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2001

dhartung, I meant for the recepient of the donations...
posted by owillis at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2001

Neat. It's like the web version of spare changing.
posted by jennyb at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2001

I just added $3.00 to take the total to $200! Maybe we should raise enough money to buy Blogger!
posted by Brilliantcrank at 10:17 AM on February 6, 2001

I talked to Amazon about being one of the launch users for this, so I got a lot of the details early, but was previously under NDA. (I didn't do it mostly because I had too many other things going on and no immediate plans to do more donations anyway.) I also, of cousre, had some rather significant recent experience with PayPal.

My observations:

1) You're right, 15% is ridiculously high. Ouch.

2) The greeting-you-by-name thing is, to me, one of the prime selling factors. They call it adding the "guilt-factor," because it implies "we know who you are." Pretty smart, whether you like the idea or not.

3) I'm interested to hear it didn't work overseas. That's one of the advantages I expected it to have over PayPal.

4) Another advantage over PayPal: Amex.

5) The way you do non-voluntary payments is you make the pay-out page only accept referals from the AHS thank-you page. This can't be done with PayPal because the thank-you page is SSL-encrypted, so it doesn't send a referer.

6) One really cool thing about PayPal is that you send all the data about the purchase (Item, price, etc.) in the query string. This is nice, because you can dynamically generate payment pages for an infinite variety of "products." As far as I can tell, you can't do this with AHS.

8) Send the buyout offers to my lawyers. ;)

posted by evhead at 10:44 AM on February 6, 2001

Does anyone else find it offensive that IMDB is asking for visitor donations? The site was built on volunteer donations of content, the editors and founders sold it to and probably made out like bandits, and now they want user donations on top of that?
posted by rcade at 11:17 AM on February 6, 2001

15% doesn't seem too bad to me really. Unless you're making enough that you can afford a merchant account, I can't really see getting a better deal. I guess Paypal may be a better deal, but if Amazon brings you way more people who don't want to use Paypal's annoying system, I'd say it's a fair trade-off. Either way you're still miles ahead of asking people to mail in money, and there are substantial costs to Amazon for this sort of thing. As an international user who can't use this, I'd LOVE to pay them 15%. I'd pay more even, since without it I'm not going to make anything anyway.

The no international users thing is super annoying (I'm bitter I can't use it after seeing what Metafilter has raked in so far damnit), but probably the credit card companies are stopping that. When Paypal finally took international orders, within a few weeks Mastercard decided to drop out, so now you have to have a VISA to use it, and I'd imagine that's the sort of thing that's stalling Amazon.
posted by beefula at 11:22 AM on February 6, 2001

WooHoo? 2 and 1/2 months worth of Rackspace raised in 12 hours?
posted by Neb at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2001

the sad lack of credit card defies my spending whimsy!

Most ATM cards are either MasterCards or Visas these days. You could just as easily use one of those, and have the money sucked out of your checking account.
posted by aaron at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2001

You know, I was gonna give a couple bucks to Matt, but then I saw his total was $256, and I thought to myself, why spoil such a nice, round binary number?

So one of the rest of you will have to go first...
posted by kindall at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2001

I'm international but have registered with the service no problem. All I need to do now is travel to the States and set up a checking account to collect the cash...

As far as I can see there are two advantages over PayPal.

1) That a huge number of people are registered with Amazon and will be attracted to the pay page because of the "hi so-and-so" cookies function. They will then use their 1-click settings to make a payment just for the fun of it.

2) PayPal takes a while to register. When I registered, I had to make a $1 charge to my credit card and then wait a month for my credit card bill to come through, then type in the number on my bill to match it to my PayPal account.
posted by tobyslater at 12:24 PM on February 6, 2001

To answer the slight tangent: no, I don't have a problem with giving a few bucks to IMDB. However it was put together, I've been using their service heavily for years, and want to support something I see as adding value to the web. Since they're an information site, this is the way to do that.
posted by frykitty at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2001

speaking of nice, round numbers, this is post 5700.

i'm in.
posted by Sean Meade at 1:04 PM on February 6, 2001

Hang on - I'm an affiliate of, and they send me the cheques regularly - why is this different? Why can't they do the same with this?
posted by barbelith at 1:41 PM on February 6, 2001

Anyone who wants a laugh should check this out. Modern Humorist is giving all their donations to Jeff Bezos.

"So, when you make a donation to Modern Humorist's Honor System pay box, not only will Bezos get his usual cut, but we'll put our share towards a nice gift for him from one of's stores."
posted by timothompson at 2:06 PM on February 6, 2001

This just creeps me the fuck out.

I rushed to Amazon to change my settings so it won't pester me by name. And I noticed that they cheerfully and helpfully happened to automagically check for me the boxes for "Send me several different varieties of shitloads of spammy email", which I then had to carefully uncheck before submitting.


If anything I am FAR LESS likely to give to someone who bugs me by name. To me, in so doing, such a person has essentially branded "ASSHOLE" on their own forehead in my mental picture of them.

And besides that - Amazon bad. Yuck. Ew. :(
posted by beth at 2:27 PM on February 6, 2001

Just to clarify:

You can donate if you live overseas, I just did. What you can't do is sign up for the service for your own website.

That talking-to-me-by-name thing is creepyass, though.
posted by Georgina at 3:05 PM on February 6, 2001

I paid. I vote Matt takes his wife out to dinner with some of the money. Anybody second the motion?
posted by thirteen at 3:25 PM on February 6, 2001

Now that you mentioned it, he'll have to :)
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:26 PM on February 6, 2001

Well if you need to use Amazon's service then at least use it with style.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 4:05 PM on February 6, 2001

owillis: Curious what the tax status of a donation like this is, what if a for-profit site sets up this system? What do you guys think?

I've been pondering that one as well.

Matt, better get down and talk to your accountant about how to structure this.

You wouldn't wan the tax department to suddenly start seeing these donations as part of your annual income.

posted by lagado at 4:34 PM on February 6, 2001

As of 4:45pm PT:

Jakob Nielsen:$185.43
posted by gluechunk at 4:51 PM on February 6, 2001

Gluechunk, that's because Metafilter rocks. :)
posted by crushed at 4:59 PM on February 6, 2001

Anyone who wants a laugh should check this out. Modern Humorist is giving all their donations to Jeff Bezos.

My, that's quite charitable of MH, since they just laid off most of their staff yesterday. If anyone needs AHS, it's them.
posted by aaron at 5:29 PM on February 6, 2001

i'd use paypal or c2it -- heck, i'd use any service that let me pay for things or donate to people/services i like. except that paypal won't accept my credit card because their definition of "international" only extends to 30 or so countries. whoopee for globalization!
posted by lia at 8:47 PM on February 6, 2001

beth, what creeped you out? The cookie is on your computer. Amazon's site talks to your computer and gets the cookie. Nobody else sees the cookie. *shrug*
posted by dhartung at 9:22 PM on February 6, 2001

I'm not sure what his "burn rate" is, but matthowie's current take of around $517 bucks could make Metafilter one of the more succesfull "dot-coms". Somehow that's right.
posted by owillis at 11:38 PM on February 6, 2001

Stephen King just revealed that his tipping experiment netted a nice profit. Perhaps there's some sort of business model behind this after all...
posted by owillis at 7:35 AM on February 7, 2001

Okay, so I let Amazon give me a cookie. I come to expect being greeted by name at Amazon.

But not at J. Random User's site, okay?

My assumption of an anonymous (or relatively anonymous) browsing experience is totally destroyed, and that pisses me off. It may not be a *typical* reaction, mind you, but I don't care how many other people share my opinion. I do care that I have to jump through several hoops to make the damn thing stop!


Who are all you people who don't mind any random site acting as though it knows your name? I don't understand how you give away your privacy so easily...
posted by beth at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2001

I don't care, because I understand how it does it, and I'm really not that worried even if Amazon does decide to use the info and figure out how many times I have read this thread, or looked at some other random page with a button on it. If you want to get paranoid, you could not visit any sites with stats trackers on them, there are way more Nedstat images on random pages than Amazon ones (I guess they don't tie it in to your real name, so maybe that's a bad comparison). But yeah, speaking for myself, I don't care at all. This may destroy the illusion of an anonymous browsing experience for some people, but I don't see it really adding to any existing problems too significantly.
posted by beefula at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2001

Aside from the "WTF reaction" of seeing my name on a random web page, I think it's a good idea to give web authors an easier way of accepting donations. I've had loads of problems with Paypal. The only thing is that 15% to Amazon leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I feel that it's much too greedy on their part--but then again, I have no idea what their costs are on this project.

beefula is right, there are much more insidious privacy concerns on the web than Amazon cookies (TM), especially banner ads/spyware by companies like Aureate. I hate being weirded out by seeing my name unexpectedly, but I'm guessing it's a calculated risk on Amazon's part. After all, with the rapid growth of the net, there are more and more "customize my experience" people every day who actually like this stuff (and who might have a blind spot to their own privacy), and there are a lot more of them out there than there is of me.
posted by DaShiv at 6:27 PM on February 7, 2001

Who are all you people who don't mind any random site acting as though it knows your name?

I'm a person who understands that marketers already have my name and a thousand other details about my purchases in their databases, and probably in some shared databases as well. The publishers of Honor System sites do not know my name because of that graphic -- Amazon is not sharing customer data with other sites.

Why would I be alarmed when an Amazon graphic embedded on a Metafilter page knows my name, when I already expect Amazon to know my name when I visit the company's site?
posted by rcade at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2001

Why would I be alarmed when an Amazon graphic embedded on a Metafilter page knows my name, when I already expect Amazon to know my name when I visit the company's site?

I've been struggling to figure out what the danger here is, and I think I finally figured it out. (Dan Gillmor can always be counted on for a predictable rant, but also predictable is his maddening vagueness. Never does he really give examples or scenarios of what he's so mad about. Drives me nuts.)

It's not that Amazon knows your name, it's that it knows where you've been. So, you visit Metafilter and then on your next visit to Amazon, you get recommendations for water filters. No big deal.

But what if your favorite porn site goes on the Honor System? Is that really any of Amazon's business? What if Grandma borrows my computer and Amazon recommends her the latest issue of "Jugs"?
posted by luke at 1:06 PM on February 8, 2001

How much does it cost to run Metafilter? It seems like we have contributed enough to pay for the registration, and a little hosting, but probably not very much. Is this all tax deductible some how for Matt?
posted by thirteen at 1:54 PM on February 8, 2001

Well, if Metafilter were a website to promote his business, Matt could deduct the costs and call it advertising. As it is, though, I think that'd be a bit of a stretch.

I just checked, and Matt's managed to snag $500+ from the Amazon link ... and he's legally responsible to pay income tax on that, unless he's a non-profit organization.
posted by crunchland at 2:05 PM on February 8, 2001

Yeesh. One more reason not to sign up with Amazon. This is more insidious than those one-pixel GIF "web bugs" - it's a web bug, hidden right out in the open, with a friendly face to make people feel good about it.

The fact that they are willing to put so much energy into collecting information about me and my web-habits is all the proof I need that I very much do not want them to have it. I don't know what they're going to do with the information, but I do know that my interests do not parallel theirs.

This all comes down to a matter of trust. I don't trust Amazon. I don't see any reason I should cooperate with their moneymaking schemes, especially when said schemes involve allowing them to look over my shoulder as I wander around the web.

-Mars, rapidly becoming a web-hermit
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:08 PM on February 8, 2001

Of course, if you sign out at Amazon (using the "If this is not Mars Saxman, click here" option), then it zaps the cookie and is no longer tracking you. Also, I'd think that people who are really concerned about that sort of thing are already practicing some sort of cookie-management or id anonymizering... The time will come (sooner than later, probably) where tracking becomes much harder to duck, but for now it's just not a big deal.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 3:48 PM on February 8, 2001

Not that it will assuage any fears, but the following is listed here:

"Does the Amazon Honor System record the sites that I visit?
No. Even though the Amazon Honor System generates personalized payboxes, we do not save copies of those payboxes. Most Web server computers automatically create logs of information transmitted over the Internet. The Amazon Honor System uses special software that removes your name and similar information from the system's records before they are stored in our server logs. We do not maintain records on any of our internal computers that track the Web sites you visit or would permit us to construct a record of the Web sites you visit."
posted by gluechunk at 4:17 PM on February 8, 2001

The greeting-you-by-name thing is, to me, one of the prime selling factors.

This is a real turn-off to me. All it says is we have so much information on you, we can plaster your name on sites where you least expect it. My reaction first was surprise, then dismay. Canned "personalization" like this makes me sick.
posted by leo at 1:20 AM on February 11, 2001

I thought it was a pity that Amazon doesn't give webmasters the option to personalise 'payboxes', or not, during the setup process.

If webmasters using this system decide that they don't want a personalised box to appear on their pages, there is a workaround: Choose the smallest paybox graphic and choose "Greetings" as the salutation. There's hardly any room left for a name, so one is not displayed.

This doesn't mean that the Amazon cookie doesn't know who your visitor is, of course, just that their name isn't displayed.
posted by normy at 4:37 PM on February 11, 2001

Came across this: online comic strip Penny Arcade has collected $2,024 so far from 239 of their fans. They've gone the route of setting a monthly goal and seeing what happens.
posted by owillis at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2001

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