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THE ROCK FATHERUpdate: I’ve received an apology from Hot Topic in an email dated 2/8/13

I don’t often go on this type of rant here on my personal blog (it has nothing to do with parenting), but something has to be said. I believe that HOT TOPIC (Trade Symbol: HOTT) has just burned me for the last time.

I’ve been a big supporter of HOT TOPIC for two decades. I’ve shopped their stores, ordered from their website, and have defended them publicly when they’ve been a punchline. When they ran into trouble and shuttered their Shockhound site, I even wrote a feature for another site (back in early 2011) about how I thought they could turn that ship around. A few people with IPs leading back to Hot Topic corporate (including someone claiming to be Hot Topic CEO Lisa Harper) left comments on the article. 

Since starting this site two years ago, I’ve been a member of the Hot Topic Affiliate Program through two different outfits (they moved their program at one point). I’ve featured their banner ads here on The Rock Father, and have occasionally pointed out some special deals they’ve had going on… most recently back in November. I like to make a few bucks here and there (this is a for-profit endeavor)  and Hot Topic is not only a store that I’ve been loyal to for many years, but a retailer that offers products relevant to what I do. Then today, they sent me the following (poorly-formatted) email from

Subject: Hot Topic Promo Codes! PLEASE READ 

As you are aware Hot Topic has many promo codes that they send out to their loyal customers on a weekly or monthly basis. As you know, as a publisher of the Hot Topic program, you are only allowed to post promo codes that are available to you in the [retracted] interface. All other promo codes are not meant for publishers.
From 1/17-1/27 Hot Topic had their Hot Cash event where there were several promo codes sent to their loyal customers. Many of these codes ended up on your sites. The client is not happy about this and will give you a pass this time. However, they did say in the future if promo codes that are not meant for publishers end up on your site you will receive either half or none of the commission on orders that used that promo code.
Please do everything in your power to prevent these codes from showing up on your sites in the future. I will continue to email you prior to the codes being released so that you can be on the lookout.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I appreciate your cooperation and understanding!
Larissa, HOT TOPIC

Where do I begin with this?

First: The last mention of “HOT TOPIC” on this website was in November – specifically, “Black Friday” week. In fact, if you were to search “Hot Topic” “The Rock Father” on Google, you’ll see all the results.

Second: “Many of these codes ended up on your sites.” Plural, huh?  Last I checked (today), The Rock Father is the only site I run.

Third: “Half or None” commission? Fantastic – because half or none of nothing is still nothing. Those mysterious January promo codes must’ve driven a ton of sales, because my account manager shows ZERO. Oh yeah, that’s because I didn’t post any codes.

Fourth: Am I understanding this correctly that Hot Topic “is not happy about” getting traffic and sales sent their way?  Although I didn’t post anything for them in January, it’s curious that anyone would be scolded for increasing sales. Just bizarre.

So here’s the reality: I got accused by someone for doing something that I didn’t. I emailed this “Larissa” (Larissa Buch, I think) back via the address almost immediately after receiving this with the following:

“Larissa – I want to know exactly where you’ve seen these codes on my site ( as I have not posted ANY promo codes for Hot Topic on my site since November.
Emailing me by saying “Many of these codes ended up on your sites” is not a very good way to approach me. Seeing as I only have ONE site, and have not posted these codes, you are approaching me with exceptionally FALSE information.

James Zahn”

Of course, there’s been no response to my reply. There has been now.

So as of tonight, I have not only removed all Hot Topic banner ads from rotation on my website (not to say some won’t be served by a third-party at times), but have also revoked my membership in their affiliate program. Will I still shop their stores? I don’t know. Let’s just say that I’m a bit sour on the brand at this point.

UPDATE: In an email dated 2/8/2013, Jon Kosoff, Vice President of eCommerce & CRM apologized for what was a misdirected message sent as a mass email to affiliate partners that “should have been more targeted to the affiliates that were abusing some of our promo codes.” Jon went onto apologize further, and fully state that they’re aware that I did not post their codes. I appreciate the response from Hot Topic on this matter, and have been invited to rejoin them… which I will consider. – JZ

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