:Ben Metcalfe Blog

The real reason Bing Cashback is ending: we all scammed the f**k out of it.

Microsoft says it’s shuttering Bing Cashback program next month because:

…after a couple of years of trying, we did not see the broad adoption that we had hoped for

But while the main tech blogs are assuming that means that the site didn’t get traction, they’re missing the real story here.

What was hailed as a great innovation in lead-gen actually fell flat on its face. The idea was that users would move to searching for products on Bing Shopping knowing that many advertising retailers would then offer a 5-20% cashback on the purchases, generating leads that might not of otherwise occurred. Don’t forget, these advertisers were paying Microsoft for the placement and then having to foot the bill for the cashback too.

Instead many people, including myself, would simply get to know which online retailers offered Bing Cashback. When they went to buy something from such a retailer we’d hop over to Bing and click through via the Bing Cashback link to get the extra discount. No lead generated at all, but still with a financial cost to both the retailer and Microsoft.

I’ve probably ‘earned’ (well, saved) over $2,000 in the last few years by doing this, sometimes by saving up to 40% off during special promotions. Thanks Microsoft!

For example, every time I’ve found something to buy on eBay I’ve noted the auction details, cleared my cookie, searched for eBay on Bing and clicked through. Performing that slightly but not terribly inconvenient task has netted me up to 30% refund on my eBay purchases. Ditto for B&H, Dell and others.

The various deal sites such as SlickDeals are rife with this activity – every time a deal is mentioned that is sold by a Bing Cashback retailer you can expect a reminder to perform the above trick to get the extra discount. Here’s a super-thread on all the Bing Cashback retailers and how to get the deals. (And here’s the thread where the free-loaders are up in arms about the closure!)

Aside from SlickDeals & co, there are many other people I know who have also been doing this. And let’s be clear with these examples:

  • These purchases were going to be made anyway – thus no lead generated
  • None of these people have switched over to Bing search engine (known as the halo effect)
  • None of these people have switched to Bing Shopping for non-Cashback purchases
  • Microsoft and the retailers have been paying handsomely for our hacks

It’s my bet that the above situation accounted for a large amount of Bing Cashback purchases, especially repeat/return vistors. Microsoft has finally got wise to the game (or the cost/benefit has leveled out) and cut the gravy train.