Joel Comm Screwed Up

Last week, AdSense Guru Joel Comm launched his long awaited 4th edition of his best selling AdSense eBook. Instead of selling the book at the standard $97 price, Joel decided to sell it at a price everyone can afford, only $9.95.

As you can expect, sales has been quite high. However, what many buyers may not have realized was the when they bought the book, they were auto subscribed into Joel Comm’s Top 1% newsletter. This normally wouldn’t be a problem with most people if the newsletter was free. However, it cost $29.95 per month. The piece of text about the newsletter was extremely easy to miss in the super long sales letter.

When Joel first contacted me about his new eBook, he never said anything about this “negative option” billing. I was under the impression that readers would be buying the AdSense eBook and nothing more. Had I known readers would be buying a book and then get auto subscribed into a $29.95 per month newsletter, I would have made sure the readers knew about it and tell them how to cancel it should they not want the newsletter.

While negative option billing is not illegal, they’re not the most liked or respected sales tragics. Most people like the option of saying no to the extra options at order time, not after the fact. As you can imagine, Joel received a huge negative reaction to the negative option.

Realizing his mistake, Joel has issued a public apology and has revamped the sales page to clearly show the newsletter options.

If you bought AdSense Secrets 4 before the clearer sales letter and don’t want the newsletter you got auto subbed into, then just tell Joel when your first issue arrives and you won’t have to pay for it. To make up for his wrong doing, Joel will be donating 100% of the profit from the eBook sales for the next two weeks.

For two weeks, starting on April 20, 2008, I will be donating 100% of the profits from direct sales of AdSense Secrets 4 to a very worthy organization, Hearts and Hands International.

Kudos to Joel for having the guts to admit he made a mistake and correcting it. Let’s hope Hearts and Hands International makes a lot of money in the next two weeks.

114 thoughts on “Joel Comm Screwed Up”

  1. Ouch, a little embarrassment, or was it planned link bait?

    1. I don’t think it was planned. I think he’s just using some ‘nous’ to get the most juice out of the problem which generated some publicity about the new product.

      Let’s see if it works or not.

    2. mr nice guy says:

      At least Joel Comm had asked for an apology. Had he not he might create a problem with this later.

    3. Thiago Prado says:

      I think we planned that, because he is very popular and full of knowledge and he knew what he was doing.

      1. Debo Hobo says:

        I think it was well planned linkbait & revenue generating scam. Why else would he only charge $9.95 for a book that normally would sell for $97. And he used John Chows site to scam those that bought into it. John should be more careful of those he endorses.

    4. Flimjo says:

      That’s a good question. This whole thing could have been planned. Such a large negative reaction sometimes has the effect of attracting additional attention to your product. Getting sued, for instance, is a great way to increase sales.

    5. – Earn more money
      – Huge linkbait
      …and its a mistake? 😉

    6. Tom says:

      3 words –

      Monthly Recurring Income

    7. Zedomax says:

      Lol… good thing John cleared it up though. I was going to buy one on the first post, good thing I waited for the mess to clear up first.

  2. Neil says:

    Lol… this “screwup” is giving him 100X more publicity then if he was honest right from the get go! Wonder if this was part of his strategy 😆

    1. Flimjo says:

      It might have been. It’s like getting sued. Ask any business that has gotten sued, and you’ll see that their sales increased after the fact. (Provided, of course, they didn’t lose.)

  3. Steph says:

    Hey John. I guess everyone makes mistakes. It’s what they do when the realize the mistake that really matters. Kudos to Joel for fixing this and to you for telling us about it! I may have to go get his book now and maybe even check out this newsletter of his that is supposed to be so wonderful.

    1. Honest Ed says:

      Yeah, just an honest mistake from the guy who created the Extremely Questionable Adsense Buddy

  4. Wade says:

    I immediately caught this right after your review. I was so eager, but I always read the fine print. I then posted about His E-Book on my blog. It got some attention, and and even Joel himself commented on my blog. He assured my readers to relax, that you can opt out, all you have to do is call him. We were wishing it was an option when purchasing. Finally he fixed his mistake. I guess he didn’t like his book being called a scam.

    Shudogg Dot Com – Make Money Online Blogging

    1. Paolo U says:

      Don’t spam your blog here! 😡

      1. Flimjo says:

        I can’t stand the spammers. Over at Shoemoney, some dude was doing the same thing: i.e., signing off every comment with his lame-ass URL address for his blog. Geez, offer something of value, for Pete’s sake. The good thing about the blogosphere is that it eventually weeds out the weaklings. If Joel Comm made a mistake, he offers an apology, and now the market will judge him and the quality of his work. If he’s worth it, he’ll make money. If he isn’t, the market will drive him out. With spammers, the market does the same thing. If they’re worth it (i.e., if they have something to offer), the market will give them a platform. If they’re not, it’ll weed them out.

    2. Sha says:

      Why even bother when you can read about this online for FREE?

      1. Flimjo says:

        That’s a good point. With targeted Google searches, I tend to find some very resourceful blogs with information about Google adsense. It might take a little more time so I guess the question becomes how much is your time worth? If it’s worth a lot, then it’s an investment to pay $9 for this book. If not, then search away.

        1. Sha says:

          I haven’t read it, but people keep saying that they’ve seen the exact same information right here on John Chow dot Com, ProBlogger, ect.

  5. Steve says:

    His apology is worse than his original presell page. Why does everyone care about this book? Is it worth the negative publicity for the $4 commission?

  6. Nowadays, you do see more of such sales pitch coming up. Selling a cheap and affordable upfront product and auto-subscribing you to a monthly recurring newsletter or club. While this is a clever technique, it should be clearly spelt out in the sales letter or at least give the customer a choice.

    It can be frustrating if it is hidden away and you end up having to go through the trouble of stopping the subscription.

  7. Sha says:

    That’s messed up, but at least he apologized for it & didn’t blow it off like it was nothing.

  8. Some times we have those “what was I thinking” moments! I know I do on the field all the time! It think, “it sounded good at the time”. Hindsight is always 20/20 and at least he fixed it and then some.

  9. SEO Mash says:

    About what one would expect form Joel

    1. Flimjo says:

      I think he’s worth of some sort of forgiveness. It was quite the sneaky thing to include that newsletter, but he had the guts to stand out and admit he screwed up. Not to mention offering some clarity and penance (i.e., donating money). I’ve never seen anyone do that before, so it creates some valuable goodwill for him.

  10. Paolo U says:

    This is the reason why I don’t buy those ebooks when they are just new.

  11. mr nice guy says:

    Joel Comm must be upset with this thing but it’s done. The best thing to do is apologize for the mistake. 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆

    1. Flimjo says:

      He did just that. I guess we have to commend him for that.

  12. GolfSpy X says:

    I have an offer for this POS Joel Comm.

    Offer $25,000 (Will Pay For his Screw Up)


    Joel Comm
    GolfSpy X

    He wins = $25K
    I win = $1 ans satisfaction of beating up a marketing bully.

    [email protected]

  13. jhay says:

    Sneaky…really sneaky.

    Then again, any publicity, is still publicity as the cliche goes.

  14. Sha says:

    Some people are wondering if his apology is sincere, saying he’s only sorry because he got caught. What do you lot think?

  15. Ashley says:

    Most of these direct marketers use these sorts of tactics and don’t think twice about. It is nice that he’s apologizing, though.

  16. Terry Tay says:

    Any publicity is good publicity. It got him this post on here and quite possibly a few more sales of the ebook. I wonder how many people will pay for the newsletter anyways?

    1. Sha says:

      True. I wonder if he was thinking about the publicity thing.

  17. Fitness Site says:

    I dont think there is a big mistake here by joel.
    Nothing embarrassing 🙄

    1. Sha says:

      He made the mistake of not making the fine print bigger. It was damn near the bottom.

      The way he has it set up now is how it should’ve been done in the first place. I’d like to think that anyone with common sense knows this. I think he was trying to pull a fast one, but it’s done & over with.

      1. Flimjo says:

        It certainly was a fast one, but he seems to have regretted it.

  18. Internetsalsa says:

    Common–Joel is a big talker. Kind of like scam…

  19. Internetsalsa says:

    If they do cheat like this then simply do a charge back on your credit card.

  20. wisdom says:

    Was waiting to see this post.

  21. Internetsalsa says:

    look at his apology..

    it still looks like long sales page…He is big talker/writer once again

    1. Flimjo says:

      I guess he is what he is. Let the market judge him.

  22. Alex Kim says:

    I wish he give out another option to buy his book. I mean why not letting us buy the book from using Paypal? instead of credit card.!

    1. Thiago Prado says:

      I wish it had this option as well. I don’t like to use credit card in this type of transaction.

    2. Lam Eja says:

      That’s absolutely right! We want paypal to buy this kind of things, no credit card!

  23. If I were his lawyer, I would have advised him that his billing method is legal, but I think it would generate negative goodwill among his readers.

    I love the way you explained it above, as it takes the high road, YET still makes the sales pitch.

    I know that whenever I market my e-books I would not consider a negative opt-in for something that is going to cost my client money if they don’t affirmatively opt-out.

    This is an excellent learning experience for all serious bloggers.


    Stanley F. Bronstein
    Attorney, CPA, Author & Professional Motivational Speaker

  24. lee says:

    I think he just got caught. Look at it this way. If he’s such a huge, throbbing marketing genius, how could he have “missed” this?

    1. Flimjo says:

      Perhaps there is more malice to his approach than we thought.

      1. Sha says:

        He was trying to be slick.

  25. This really pisses me off. I actually bought this book, and now I learn I may have subscribed to some stupid newsletter! If this is the case, then Joel has lost all credibility in my eyes. If he intended to do this to get publicity, then he’s a fool. How can pissing off your customers ever be a good marketing strategy. So much for him being a good guy.

    – Dave

  26. Rob says:

    This guy is absolutely shameless. He tries to scam us and then he wraps the apology in another scam. Actually, it is not really wrapped up… it’s in your face…. He is dodgy and I can’t believe John would vouch for him.

    Love the photo of him in the apology. He is so false!

    1. Sha says:

      It does look rather magazine press-like.

  27. Joel says:

    Hey Gang,

    I thought I’d address a few of the questions and comments on John’s blog…

    1) We don’t have paypal set up because of the way our shopping cart communicates (or DOESN’T communicate) with Paypal. It also has to do with affilliate commissions. Believe me, we don’t like turning away customers so we’re working on a way to implement paypal option.

    2) This was NOT a publicity stunt. Forced continuity is as old as marketing and is done daily thousands of times. As I said in my apology letter, we were up front with the offer both in the sales letter AND on the order form. It was right there for all to see. But after reading Deb Gallardo’s post on Clicknewz,com, I understood that I needed to bend over backwards to make sure the offer was directly in the potential customer’s face. And so I did. I’ve made things right as best as I can. There will always be cynics and nothing will make them happy. But my conscience is clean. I learned and move on…

    3) I never claimed to be a “marketing genius”. I’ve just had some success in my 12 years online. Everyone makes mistakes. Some own up to them and some don’t.

    Thanks to John for posting the apology link.

    1. Zero and Up says:

      I didn’t buy the thing in the first place, so maybe it’s easier for me to say this. However, none of us have any way of proving you true or false, so all I can do is assume you are truly making a genuine apology.

      Thanks for donating to a worthy cause!

  28. Robert says:

    One of his so-called flagship sites has been banned by adsense. Here he is talking about it.

    Here is the site now.

    He is using bidvertiser and some other crappy CPM network.

    Be wary people!!

    1. Joel says:

      Um, no. None of my sites have been banned by AdSense.

      I guess you get to offer your apology now, huh?

      1. Look, no name beside the “Comment by”.

        Why are people afraid of stating their opinion?

  29. Mark Avey says:

    Well, if it was a mistake, it’s at least the second time he’s done it. I signed up for one of his earlier eBooks and got “stung” for an additional amount ($97) for something I hadn’t asked for. I got the money back, but it still put me off using his “services” for good.

    1. Sha says:

      Didn’t know he had done this before. Makes me wonder even more if he’s only sorry that he got caught.

  30. Internetsalsa says:

    So beware all of you so called marketers—john chow, darren, shoemoney, zac johnson (kid), etc..

  31. pennyblogger says:

    I knew Bob Saget was up to something!

    1. Sha says:

      Strangely enough, I can see the Bob Saget resemblance.

  32. Hmmm… I have gotten so much success from his book that I’ll actually stay subscribed to the newsletter to see how good it is. If it’s anywhere close as good as the book, it should be worth the price.

  33. Homebizseo says:

    What Joel did was fine even if it was deliberate. We all should move on and let Joel make his fortune.

    1. jeff says:

      I think that I have to agree. Yeah maybe he should have made it a bit more clear, but it really wasn’t anything that most other companies do, banks, insurance, etc….

      I think that the only real mistake is that he didn’t offer a longer trial period, and then at the very beginning of the trial mention that they get a couple of months free and then have to pay. The mention would include steps to drop out, however most won’t out of laziness, and if the service is as good as he says, then the rest won’t so that they don’t miss out on anything.

  34. Rame says:

    Another example of this forced subscription would be Matt Bacak he offered his seminar for $1 but there was an automatic subscription for his newsletter for 19.95 or 29.95 I don’t remember exactly.

  35. Randy says:

    Do you guys get it. He is trying to get publicity. It was deliberately setup. And he comes back to “apologize” oops I’m sorry. Now he’s getting the buzz and more sales will come in. There is no mistake. There is no screw up. It’s staged. Wake up you “marketing” people. You know what he should do? He should refund all the money to the people who bought the ebooks and let them keep it. How about that Mr. Joel. You created a publicity alright. A NEGATIVE one. You could have fooled a regular everyday customers at wally mart but not the people in the marketing circle. Nice try tho.

  36. moserw says:

    Wow. I thought the guy was a good guy out to help others make some money while he was doing it too. This really stinks and such behavior is just not acceptable.


    1. Internetsalsa says:

      Haaa..he is helping himself..

  37. Paolo U says:

    This is not a mistake at all but a marketing plan.

    1. Googlelady says:

      Yes, is one of his marketing techniques as John Chow mentioned is not illegal but is also not good for his “loyal members”.

    2. okonoi says:

      i second to that! deliberately setup intionally setup so he can “apologize” . it’s a classic marketing plan. all staged.

  38. That is very bad, “hidden” cost for buyers!
    Maybe that is secret 🙂

  39. Siddharth says:

    I always get confused with so many books and articles out there to make money and secrets. May be if you have recommended. I will try this out. :mrgreen:

    1. Googlelady says:

      I will recommend you to APPLY what you know. Sure you know the basics (At least): Open a blog, Write unique content, Monetize your blog with many programs and get traffic from Social networking sites, and then read other bloggers see what they are doing and then apply again…and do the same always.

    2. Sha says:

      I recommend you to just keep reading blogs like these & do a search for ” blog monetization”.

  40. Fergie Miller says:

    well it is ok what Joel have done but one should accept his mistakes.

  41. Flimjo says:

    I can attest that this book is excellent. A friend of mine read it, and he said it helped him multiply his Adsense revenue.

    1. Yup. Me too…I read the book and got amazing results.

      I was an AdSense Amateur before reading this book. I had no idea how the program really worked. I didn’t even know that if people click on your ads and then do nothing, that it lowers your earnings per click and stuff like that.

      I wrote a blog post about the results I got from following the advice ( ).

  42. Googlelady says:

    I always have been against “Joel Comm” marketing techniques and that’s why on September 27, 2007 I wrote about “Greedy Affiliate Marketers”.

  43. bryan says:

    Joel Comm wasn’t the only one to screw up. screwed up. Michael Kwan screwed up. Mistakes are made by humans and they should all be forgiven but to make a post saying if I had known I would’ve told my readers. You get paid an enormous amount of money and outsource it to someone who obviously didn’t thoroughly find any of the pro’s and con’s and Joel will still make loads of cash and subscribers from this….but I view this as critical mistake that makes me question the credibility of this site and their mission to provide information or making handfuls of money for reviews?

    1. okonoi says:

      nobody made a mistake. it’ all staged. it’s all planned to get publicity. just like a celeberity who has a movie coming get themselves into “trouble” to attrack the media. In return they gett a buzz for their up coming movie. get it? John did not make mistake. Joel did not make mistakes. it’s a marketing technique used by me and many others.

      1. Sha says:

        I have to agree about celebrities because it’s true. Ever watch “Entourage”? Sure, it’s a show, but a lot of the things that happen on it happen in real life.

  44. James says:

    I think Joel has given a public demonstration of bad guru marketing.
    No need to buy his ebooks – he has shown us all how already.

    1. But the information in the eBook has helped me with my AdSense tweaking tremendously. Why wouldn’t I just apply the techniques he teaches, minus anything that might jeapordize my integrity?

  45. Dot_Commie says:

    Anyone who believes this was nothing but a scam by Joel Comm is an idiot.

  46. My SEO Blog says:

    This is actually not a fair game to anyone who purchased that ebook..Joel sucks!

    1. Flimjo says:

      He should offer an automatic cancellation for all previous newsletter “forced” subscribers.

  47. It’s hard to cancel this free trial… I’ve already tried. His support desk doesn’t respond to e-mails.

  48. Well, when the issue first opened over here I said, wether you beleive adsense is still effective or not, that 10 percent of the original price seemed like a GREAT deal. So now that it turns out it would actually cost you MORE if you’re wrangled into an ongoing subscribtion it’s clearly not a great deal. But the 10 buck thing would’ve been great.

    Glad I treat all new offers like new software and wait until the dust settles. Just ask the people over at Twitter this morning…

  49. Eric B says:

    It’s not like anyone here has ever made any money pimping affiliate campaigns that have the exact same “hidden” (aka, I’m too lazy to read everything) terms this guy’s ebook had. Or were you all somehow also confused by how you are getting paid $15 for a company to send a $4.95 “free trial” of their miracle drug/dating service/etc to someone.

    Stones, glass houses, etc etc.

  50. AMAR BHAGAT says:

    😆 hi,friends this is urs adsense secrets ebook well and most benefited in all adsense member,thank u ..

  51. Brendan says:

    how much is 100% of the profit. Is he paying himself first?

    1. Flimjo says:

      Good question. He should offer some verification of that number. Two weeks without profiting from the largest ad campaign for your newly released ebook is tough to swallow.

  52. Joel is a sleezy marketer stuck in mid 90’s techniques.

    He’s very sligh about newsletters etc with any of his sites / products.

    He also likes to pretend each email he sends to his affiliates are completely personal as he states in them even though anyone with half a brain can see that’s completely and obviously not the case. Which is fine, but why lie lol.

  53. Sounds like planned and paid posting here whew

  54. Ronnie says:

    John correct me if I am wrong, but in one of your past entries I believe you openly stated you do negative billing? This was in regards to a post talking about selling ads via paypal. How when they purchase its set to auto-renew and when they forget you get paid for an extra month or whatever?

  55. Ronnie says:

    Here is the link. Its somewhat a different form of negative billing, but not to far off:

    1. John Chow says:

      I never said negative billing was wrong. I also never said that you shouldn’t do it. However, if you do it, then I recommend you clearly spell it out so the readers knows what they’re getting into. This was where Joel made his mistake. It was not the negative billing. It was the disclosure.

      1. Paul says:

        I believe you are also a crook, everyone makes mistakes but you just don’t care.

  56. Felex Tan says:

    We should understand that everyone makes mistake.There is a cause definitely there is an effect.But we can solve the problems earlier by following John Chow’s advise.

  57. Syed Balkhi says:

    As long as he admits that he made a mistake and the apology is accepted. Eventhough it is legal it just takes away the readers from him.

  58. It sems that Joel and another of others have brough the whole topic of negative billing to the forefront. I don’t belive that there is ever a reason ption that is NOT obvious to the purchaser.

  59. Wade says:

    I was going to buy his E-Book until you posted about the OIOPublisher wordpress plugin. I will wait until next months funds come through from the site and buy his E-book then if it is still on sale for $9.95.

    Shudogg Dot Com – Make Money Online Blogging

  60. robert1 says:

    Joel should REFUND the money back and let the customers keep the ebook, for those who already bought it. Do we have a deal Joel?

  61. Hey John,

    I just read this article and really enjoyed it, personally… KUDOS from me, man! I also read many of the comments and don’t want to get into a discussion about negative option billing or dwell on the negative aspects of what happened here (no pun intended). Rather, I want to focus on the positive points!

    Yeah, Joel Comm is one of my favorite Internet Marketing “gurus” and I had not heard about this until just now, even though I belong to a few of his newsletters. Coz I have been working offline a lot lately and fell behind in my emails, so I actually got to yours before his in this case.

    I already knew Joel is a stand-up guy (imo), and yet this incident really solidified it for me. Like him or not, the fact that he is donating the additional profits in question to an established charity is proof that it’s not just about the money to him and that it was most likely an honest mistake on his part.

    Thanks for a great post and for allowing me to share my opinion. Btw, I Dugg it and gave it a “thumbs-up” on StumbleUpon. Have the best, blest life!

    Best Regards,


  62. Michael says:

    I hate it when people auto subscribe you to things just because you buy something from them, I’ve probably been subscribed to 10 or so newsletters just because I purchased an item from a website that might not have deserved my money.

  63. Chuck Miser says:

    I am waiting for it to come out on video so I can get a bootleg copy here in Cambodia!

    If he felt really bad he would post it free for two weeks, and then ask people to donate to his favorite charity…him!

    This is going to turn out just like the concert for Bangladesh Man!

Comments are closed.