Posted 27th Feb 2020
What do we consider to be self promotion?
Broadly speaking this involves some representatives of a business trying to post their deals on site. This will also include that business asking others to post deals up on site.

Why do we not allow self promotion?
Our members should be able to trust that the content on site is unbiased and that this has been shared because it is genuinely a great offer.

Isn't a deal a deal regardless of who shares it?
Mostly likely, no. Consider an example away from hotukdeals - you're new to a town and you're looking for a new restaurant to try. Most likely you'd check out Tripadvisor. Imagine if the top restaurant had 30 reviews but 20 were left by staff. Sure the restaurant might be good but those staff are only looking to increase business regardless of how good their restaurant actually is. The same happens with deals. It could be cheaper elsewhere but all the merchant cares about is getting their content on site.

If a deal is voted hot, what is the issue?
Our voting is a good benchmark but there can be different levels of 'hotness' when considering a deal. That function therefore might allow a poor/average deal (and self promotion) to attain hot status for those not able to consider the discussion and advice from each other. It might never reach a super heat level but it still showing as hot.

Does this stop us seeing great deals?
Possibly, yes. However, we are largest deal sharing community in the UK (and part of the worlds largest deal community being Pepper) so if there really is an amazing deal we're sure it'll find its way into site from our community (or Deal Editors) without the need for the self promotion.

Can't members just read the comments and view the deal heat and decide for themselves?
In an ideal world yes, this would sort this out. But we have many many users who aren't members and can't, therefore don't, vote or comment, and an increasing numbers wanting to access us by app or mobile web. This leads to a quicker, more transactional experience and risk people thinking something on our site is a deal, when it isn't.

Do merchants have options to avoid self promoting?
Yes. Merchants are able to alert our Deal Editors, via the Partnership team, to promotions that have not yet found their way on site or to give them a heads up.

Isn't allowing merchants to ask you to post their deals the same as them asking their customers to?
No. Our Deal Editors are under no obligation to post deals for a merchant and they apply a strict review policy against each and every deal. They have criteria to go through to ensure that the deal is something the community want to see or in the past this is something which has gone done very well. They aren't paid per post. Their reputation (and that of the site!) is incredibly important.

On the flip side, many merchants (understandably!) think that their offers and products are better than their competitors - and don't always recognise cheaper prices from what they see as 'smaller' sellers as being legitimately better. That's one of the reasons we have the filter of offers being analysed by deal editors, then rejected or accepted and written up in their own words.

In the past you've posted some deals which have come from store insiders. Why?
We consider those working in a head office (including a store's back office) to be different to someone working on a shop floor of large retailers. These (for the sake of example lets call them 'shop floor' workers) are generally people looking to share because they believe they've found a cracking deal and not because they've got targets to meet or certain products to sell - most commonly they are longstanding community members who have posted a range of deals from other retailers beforehand. We have to make a judgment call with these.

How do you spot self promotion?
Just like a magician never reveals his secrets, we can't say too much here apart from we never go on just a hunch. We need to be absolutely sure.

What do you do when you find self promotion?
The member will receive a message to explain we do not allow self promotion. If it continues then they will receive an infraction. Merchants get informed when it reaches a point that the staff member has not listened to the warnings. Our partnership managers usually pick that conversation up with their business contacts.

When do you suspend merchants?
Suspending a merchant is ALWAYS a last resort and only because the self promotion has continued after multiple warnings. We never want our community to suffer. So we have an escalation process where we give merchants chances to investigate and show they are taking action - if this doesn't have an effect, we let them know a suspension is the next action if the self promotion continues. Not many high profile merchants ever go past this stage, but if we do continue to see instances after that point, the final sanction is a suspension.

Is a ban/suspension permanent?
Nope. The idea is to not punish the merchant but instead to allow them the opportunity to change their approach to hotukdeals. If we get reassurances from them that they'll change (and it is their first suspension) they could be returned quite quickly.
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