One of my current side gigs is buying and selling discount retail gift cards and reselling them to gift card exchanges through a process I call Gift Card Arbitrage. I’ve written about it numerous times and while I don’t move as much volume as I used to, ebay is still great source for easy flips that I do for the extra miles and points. The two primary gift card exchanges that I sell to are SaveYa and Raise as they gave me bulk seller status once upon a time, but I will also sell to ABC/CardCash if they have the best rate.
Unfortunately, I recently sold a few gift cards to Raise.com expecting the bulk seller commission rates I was promised and only found out after the fact that I was no longer considered a bulk seller! Luckily, this particular transaction only cost me ~$5, but the situation could have been much worse if I was selling a different brand with a larger commission discrepancy or larger volumes. Apparently Raise now enforces a minimum sale threshold to maintain bulk seller status, but the worst part is they can change your account status without even informing you. I’ll break down what I know below.
First, Some Old Commission Problems
Unlike SaveYa and most other gift card exchanges, Raise does not have a fixed payout % that they will pay up front for your gift cards. Instead, they let you choose your own price for the card and if it sells they will take a % commission off of the sale price. For a standard gift card seller this rate is 15%, but they offer better commission rates for bulk sellers.
When I first became a bulk seller with Raise back in March of 2015, I was given an excel sheet of the various commissions that I would pay depending on the brand of gift card I was selling. Big names like Walmart, Best Buy, Lowe’s, and more were in the 6-8% range while more obscure brands ranged from 10-13%. I even specifically asked when commission rates would change and was told they were fixed:
I also had a question, how often to commission rates change and how will I be notified when they do? As you know, every % counts in this business.Each and every % certainly counts – our commission rates are flat and do not change and the market will fluctuate. However if you are doing a lot of volume for a brand or brands, we take notice and work with you to get your rates down so you can maximize your payouts. This is determined on a case by case basis.
As I had joined near the early part of Raise becoming a big company (they had just gotten their series B funding), there were several technical issues with the website and it was impossible to see your bulk rates when uploading new gift cards to sell. When inquiring about this, I was told to not worry about the payout that was listed on the page as the correct bulk rates would be calculated on the back end I and would receive the correct payout.
For most of the gift cards I sold everything worked fine, but I was able to spot a few problems in the payout from time to time.
For example, in May of 2015 I sold several Bed Bath & Beyond gift cards expecting to get the promised commission rate of 10%. After the payments came, I calculated that I was actually being charged 13% and immediately reached out to my bulk seller account rep through email. The problem was that they were migrating all of the “Bed Bath & Beyond” cards to their “Bed Bath & Beyond (Online Only)” category which didn’t have the correct commission configured. After my account rep investigated, I was paid the difference in commission and everything was fine.
Again, in January of 2016 I sold some Overstock.com gift cards expecting the 11% commission rate I was originally given, but after checking the math on the payouts I was being charged 12% instead. Once again I reached out to my account rep and after a brief investigation, I was paid the difference in commission rates.
Problems like this are expected in a growing company (actually just about any company), but the mark of a good company in my mind is one that promptly acknowledges and works to fix it. Up until this point I had nothing by positive things to say about my experience selling with Raise…
Similar Problem, Nothing They Can Do This Time
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I once again listed some Overstock.com gift cards on Raise which sold after a couple days. After double checking the commission, I was charged 13% this time instead of the expected 11% and once again reached out to my bulk sales rep (who had changed by this point, but I don’t think that should make a difference). Here’s the response I got this time:
To be a bulk seller on Raise, sellers need to list a minimum of $2,500 for at least 3 months. Since your account was not hitting the requirement, your account was moved to C2C Preferred. With C2C Preferred, you no longer have an account manager and your rates are 13% across the board, as opposed to 15% which is what regular sellers get.
To start, I totally understand this makes sense from a business perspective. Keep your highest volume sellers happy because they bring in the most money and minimize the time spent on-boarding and providing customer service to those with lower volume.
What makes me upset is that I was never informed about this change! A simple email would have sufficed to explain that I no longer qualify for the bulk seller program, but informing me AFTER I sell cards expecting a previously promised commission rate is unacceptable. After pressing a little further as to why I was never informed about this, I received this response [emphasis mine]:
In regards to the rates and account status, that can change at any time if sellers are not meeting the bulk seller requirements. Unfortunately the Seller Performance team is not willing to change the rates since your account has not met the GMS for bulk sellers over the past couple months.
Luckily my loss was in the single digit range, because they seem pretty stubborn about sticking to their guns here and I really don’t want to fight for it. I also reached out for further comment on exactly what the minimum requirements were, but have not heard back.
Currently a Bulk Seller? Double-check Before Listing More Cards
This caught me off guard, but hopefully no one else will go through the same experience. As I mentioned, I reached out for clarification on the “To be a bulk seller on Raise, sellers need to list a minimum of $2,500 for at least 3 months” comment to inquire whether it is $2,500 per month for 3 months or $2,500 per 3 months (I expect the former), but haven’t heard back.
The actual change in account status doesn’t surprise me much. My overall gift card volume has been lower this year due to only putting in the effort for higher value deals instead of chasing everything that made $1, and the majority of that volume has gone to SaveYa due to better rates. It looks like that won’t be changing anytime soon given the latest change to my account status with Raise.
If you’re already a bulk seller with Raise, be sure to make sure you’re still getting the commission payouts you are expecting. If you’re thinking about becoming a bulk seller with Raise, the $2,500 number above seems like a good volume number to shoot for to get into the program. To my knowledge, they’ve never given a formal requirement to join the program but instead require you to contact them if interested.
Best of luck with your own gift card reselling adventures, hopefully you get paid the rates you were promised.