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  1. #1
    Member Jennifer's Avatar
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    Default Whatever happened to AffiliateForce 2004

    From time to time I hear people in this industry speak of Affiliate Force and the status of the IAFMA organization.

    I saw this posted on another forum and thought that I might as well post it here for those who were wondering what happened with this event.

    http://www.adbumb.com/adbumb144.html

    AffiliateForce 2004: A Closer Look

    Outside of the political spectrum, there aren't too many names these days that can produce a fierce response from a broad array of individuals. But after a series of recent conversations with a few industry insiders, I hit on one name that seemed to fit the bill.

    "If you ever want to see people start throwing drinks at each other at a cocktail party mention [him]," Tony Fiore, the CEO of Net-roamer, suggested to me in an exclusive interview. "You'll get about sixteen different violent opinions."

    The man he was talking about was Herby Olschewski. The former President of ICCWorldWide, Olschewski is more notoriously known as the man who headed up a series called AffiliateForce. Back in 1999, Olschewski had a vision to create a society for all affiliate marketers, an organization that was dubbed the Internet Affiliate Marketing Association of which AffliateForce was an outgrowth.

    The first of these conventions was AffiliateForce/2000, which included educational training and seminars for affiliate marketers from March 15-17 of that year. It gained much attention from the affiliate community and was dubbed by Olschewski himself as the "Woodstock for affiliate marketers." Though considered a flop by some (attendees I interviewed remarked on cheap folding chairs and low attendance rates), to many others it seemed as likely a conference to find success as any other.

    The three years that followed the inaugural AffiliateForce event brought more Olschewski backed conferences to the fore, ones that included 3 and 4 day cruises to the Bahamas and elsewhere. In 2004, plans had been made to add a land based portion to the event, to be held at the Radisson Miami Hotel in April of that year. Money was paid upfront by some participants; plane tickets were booked, schedules rearranged.

    And then something apparently went very wrong: funds allegedly went missing. And so, it seems, did Herby Olschewski.

    So what happened? How did an event that had garnered a fair amount of praise and trust in the community end up inspiring rants of rage on the AffiliateManager.net forum and elsewhere? I was determined to find out.

    First I spoke to Shawn Collins of AffiliateTip.com. Collins was a former supporter, promoter and speaker for AffiliateForce, and now runs his own series called Affiliate Summit—formed in 2003 after his break with AffiliateForce and Olschewski. Collins told me that after the 2003 AffiliateForce conference he felt, "disenfranchised with the direction of the event. I thought that the emphasis had been too heavy on partying, and not enough on business."

    According to Collins, his departure, "resulted in a lot of venom from the AffiliateForce camp, as I was the biggest single referrer of attendees to AffiliateForce, having referred about 1/3 of the attendees."

    Whether Collins' departure—along with his share of loyal followers—was actually the signal event in the collapse of AffiliateForce, we cannot know without Olschewski, and he's not talking. But what can be pieced together is this much: the land-based portion of AffiliateForce/2004, originally scheduled to take place in Miami from April 19-20 (to be followed by a three day Carnival cruise to the Bahamas) was first reported "postponed" in mid-April of 2004—just days before the event was set to occur.

    Writing on the AffiliateManager.net forum for the first time on April 20th, Olschewski blamed the postponement on the fact that, "cruise lines require the funds in-house by no later than 60 days out…It's almost impossible to get people to decide/pay 60 days out and therefore we end up pushing the envelope. The week before Easter we were still not paid up and the system cancelled our group."

    But how is it, exactly, that Olschewski wound up with people's money in his hands rather than in Carnival Cruise Lines' warchest? Well, here's the tricky part: Olschewski structured his company so that memberships to the IAFMA included a cruise within the package—so that delegates who couldn't get their companies to equate paying for cruise with paying for convention could still attend. Depending on their level of membership (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and so on) members would acquire a certain number of spaces on the cruise and at the events.

    But in trying to maneuver around the higher ups in their companies, it looks like a number of people wound up getting burned. Because soon, AffiliateForce/2004 went from being "postponed" until late August, to be being cancelled altogether—with no structure for refund in place. The last word Olschewski offered his investors on the situation was a promise that the money meant for the 2004 event would be transferred to the upcoming AffiliateForce/2005. Plans for this event have yet to be publicized in any fashion and Olschewski still appears to be among the missing.

    I thought I might be able to get some answers from Carnival, but none of the representatives I spoke to had ever heard of AffiliateForce. A few offered to look further into the case to find some answers. To date, none have been received.

    Another question plaguing me was whether or not any group bookings had ever been made with the Radisson Miami Hotel, where Herby claimed (again, on the AffiliateManager.net forum) that "the new dates and contracts [for the conference] have been confirmed." On this same forum, he directs anyone speculating about the event to "feel free to call the Group Sales Manager [of the Radisson Miami], Eddie Chaviano, for answers." I did just that.

    In a discussion with Chaviano, I asked him whether any money had ever been received by the Radisson for the group booking. He recalled his talks with Olschewski but stated that as far as receiving any money went, the answer was no. "We blocked the date, "he told me. "Deposits were due. Deposits were never received." Chaviano claims that since there was never a contract signed, the rooms were free to be rebooked. And though he admits that Olschewski "tried to push [the reservation] back," after a certain point, "I never heard back from him." In the end, no contracts were signed or deposits received for the August date either.


    In April of last year, some people did, in fact, show up in Miami because they had paid in advance for flights. I was told that Olschewski did put those few people up in the hotel, but as for the events and the cruise, neither occurred.

    In researching this article I spoke to any number of people who claimed to have been duped by Olschewski and who have raged freely on various blogs about the scandal. But for one reason or another, few were willing to go on record with their complaints. One person who would go on the record, however, was Tony Fiore, CEO of Net-roamer and former AffiliateForce supporter. "I did get involved in lending [Olschewski] some money," he told me, "and I didn't get all my money back." Olschewski did offer Fiore payments on occasion to repay his debt, but the full balance of the loan was never repaid in full.

    In our talks Fiore explained that, "Just knowing Herby was enough to make you lose out on money." But he isn't bitter about his losses. "I still like the guy," Fiore admitted. "I don't know how to get in touch with him. I'm very upset that he chose to disappear, but I expected that that would happen sooner or later and it just did." Fiore did emphasize that he believed in what Olschewski was doing and had remained truly convinced that he would come through for his investors until the very end.

    Others are similarly sanguine about their past relationship with Olschewski. Brad Waller, VP, Business and Affiliate Development of EPage and former investor in AffiliateForce's programs, told me that, "EPage has not ‘lost' any money with Herby as others claim to have. We paid for memberships which gave us forums on the IAFMA web site as well as passes to the conferences."

    Waller also insisted that, "even if the last conference did not happen, we did still get most of the membership benefits and do not look at the money as anything more than a business expense." However, even Waller, who defended Olschewski vociferously on the forum, admitted that, "Herby did have failures in that he was not well organized, and he often over-promised and under-delivered."

    This seems to be precisely the case with the AffiliateForce/2004. As for where Olschewski is and what he is doing now, the best anyone can say is that he's been narrowed down to a home somewhere in South Africa—where, I was told, his mother lives.

    Comments, Question, Refunds… Jaime Gottlieb Jaime@adbumbinc.com
    Jennifer Moore :: Affiliate Program Management
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  2. #2
    Moderator - Big Kahuna Dominique's Avatar
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    Well, Herbie stole my money - I don't expect to see any of it again.

    I was not only a participant but also a sponsor of the affiliate force.

    IAFMA is down and I don't expect to ever see it active again.

    Last thing I heard of Herbie was months ago - and he promised the event would be taking place in 2005 and I would get some additional cruise tickets.

    I hope he enjoys himself with my money.
    dominique




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  3. #3
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    I made post after post warning people about Herby and iLaughma but he still managed to steal tens of thousands of dollars. He was a crook from day one.
    He STILL owes me money!

    Thanks for posting this Jennifer. I at least feel vindicated as having been one of the first people who saw through Herby's charade and called him on it.
    Last edited by Professor; 01-20-2005 at 12:40 PM.
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