The Worlds Oldest Affiliate Program

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I LOVE talking to cab drivers in Las Vegas because they are always open and there is really nothing you can’t ask them that is off limits. The last time I was in Vegas I was chatting with this cab driver and I was asking him how much they get for taking people to the strip clubs. He was telling us that he gets about $60 PER PERSON on average. He also said it was seasonal and the price fluctuated. He also went on to say that when a new club opens up they will pay as much as $100 a person and that will force the other clubs to pay higher to keep people coming in.

I was fascinated and kept on digging. I remember watching this show on HBO about the bunny ranch and I asked him if they got a kickback for taking people out there. He told us that “ranch runs” were the most profitable. “We get 30% of whatever the person spends while at the ranch and we get comped free drinks while we wait” the cabby told us. I asked him about other kickbacks and he said just about every hooker had a kickback system setup with cab drivers. Basically the cabby would get a kickback for recommending a certain hooker.

I just kept thinking to myself how remarkably similar this was to online affiliate marketing. Percentage payouts, 1 time payouts… seasonal flux, market imbalances, tipping points…. Just fascinating.

So if prostitution is the worlds oldest profession then that would make this the worlds oldest affiliate program?

74 thoughts on “The Worlds Oldest Affiliate Program

  1. Mubin

    Dont forget to start a blog telling us all your stories, that would be a worthwhile read every day.

    Im just wondering what type of “perks” these hookers have setup for the cabbies?

  2. andrew

    Cabbies hustle everywhere. In NYC I saw a cabby sell my friend a brand new in box ipod for $150, it obviously fell off the back of a truck somewhere. In Boston they try to make up all sorts of surcharges to tax you, like charging extra for 5 people.

  3. Micky Ward

    there’s a saying in Boston that you can say to some cabbies in the North End that they know where to take you. No reservations and you basically eat in an old school Italian’s house at his dining room table.

  4. Kieron

    Last time I was in Vegas a cabby actually gave us a “Photo album” of hookers. He said that if we liked any of them then just take the picture out of the album and call the number on the back. Next to the number was a 4 digit code which you had to quote when you rang up; I’m presuming this was unique to the cabby so if the punter made a “sale” then commission could be tracked back to the cabby. :)

  5. webwiki

    Last time I was there, cap driver gave us $75 per person to go to Howard’s new club. He said he will get vacation package for his family from club if he brought most customers. That is just amazing.

  6. IBT

    last time I was there, cap driver gave us $75 per person to go to Howard’s new strip club because club has contest which offers family vacation package to driver who brought most customers. Just amazing marketing..sounds like clickbank.

  7. king jacob

    most cabbies will give you a card with their cell, that way they secure a stream of income and arent constantly depending on the Headquarters to post fares

  8. jim

    The clubs all know how many people go in, how much money they make, and so they only pay out what makes sense. Remember also that those places serve alcohol, a huge margin business that I’m sure they make bank on.

    Also, the new ones pay more to get notoriety and get more customers “free” because people know the name.

    Capitalism rocks!

  9. nick

    Interesting commentary on the history of affiliate marketing, J! I suppose that some things never change, as they say ;).

  10. CatherineL

    That is interesting. I never thought about taxi drivers getting backhanders to take customers to strip joints. Thinking about this post – last time I was in Walt Disney World, I was talking to a taxi driver, and their situation was the opposite way round.

    He said his firm had to pay millions of dollars just to be the official Disney taxi company. Apparently they are the only ones that Disney call for their customers, and they’re the only ones officially allowed to wait outside the hotels, attractions etc.

    I guess it’s definitely more profitable to be a taxi driver in Vegas than Disney then.

  11. king jacob

    I think hes saying if you tell a cabbie in the north end he knows where to take you, he’ll take you to some old guys house who will cook for you, Doesnt make much sense to me.

  12. Tom

    So, you get 8 friends, give them 50 bucks a night to go to strip clubs. Then use your cab to take them on a regular basis. An easy 400 bucks a night with no stress. Find an internet cafe to do your affiliate work while they party and you are golden.

  13. Hawaii SEO

    I had a similar experience with a cab driver at the Mexican border. The cab driver kept taking us to one whorehouse after the other. It was terrifying. We were only 18 and just all we wanted to do was buy cheap beer. I thought we were going to die.

  14. SonicReducer

    I was chatting with a cabbie in Vegas a couple years ago, and the dude ran into the side of a parked car! The funniest part was, he didn’t even stop. That guy was insane I’m sure of it.

  15. Grivon

    Hell.. being a cabby anywhere ain’t too bad… I knew one once.. said to never tip a cabby – because no matter what he could just screw down his rate a little and give himself the tip.. and he usually did whether you left him one or not so.. :p

  16. Webmaster Blog

    Very common practice in Thailand that, they get paid either cash or petrol stamps for taking tourists to anything from tailor shops to clubs/massage parlours.

    You can get a taxi to yourself all day for free if you offer to let the taxi driver take you to say three tailors during the course of the day..

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  18. Gecko Tales

    those are great commissions. I was in Vegas once for a bachelor party and the cab driver took us to the “best club in Vegas.” I guess he got a kick back for that. It was a good club though. Vegas girls…

  19. A Former Vegas Cabbie

    The thing about not tipping can come back to haunt you. A tip less than two bucks is considered a sign of disrespect and the driver will remember you. If you accidentally leave your phone, eyeglasses, room key, ID or shopping bags in the cab….the driver won’t be too anxious to return them.

    Seiously. Lots of things get left in cabs…especially cell phones. It’s a big hassle to lose one (having to reprogram phone numbers, etc).

    Try to never stiff a cabbie or a waitress. If you leave something behind in the restaurant (and return for it) the waitress won’t remember you…just like you didn’t remember to tip her.

    Consider tips a big part of your Karma.

  20. A Former Vegas Cabbie

    As a general rule hookers/strippers and cabbies hate each other…(a long story with lots of logical reason, but try to believe it).

    This kickback thing is not as great as it sounds. Basically, the strip-club kickbacks subsidize the cab driver’s low pay. Cabbies must drive 11:45 hours a night. They drive about 25 carloads on average. The average tip is $1-2. Nightly tips average $50-80. Their company paycheck is about $1,000 per month.

    The average driver earns about $25-45,000 per year driving 5-6 days a week with a 13 hour workday.

    It is not an easy job at all. If you are a corrupt Russian or Ethiopian the job is easier. They simply talk on their phones and ignore you and take the longest route to wherever you need to go.

    In Las Vegas they don’t allow private ownership of medallions. It’s a well controlled monopoly and the money goes into the pockets of about 15 slave-drivers who own the company.

    As for the comments suggesting a driver could take 5 friends per night to a stripclubs for the kickbacks…well that won’t work. Anyone with a Nevada driver’s license gets in free and no kickbacks are given for local customers.

    And YES. The stripclubs still make a huge profit regardless of their ‘kickback fund’. Business executives use their company ‘travel and expense fund’ to buy their customers about $2,000 worth of lapdances. Of course the write this off with the IRS.

    Keep your jobs fellas. A cab driver’s life is way tougher than you might imagine.

  21. Gordon

    i was amazed by this too, and last time i was there my cabbie told me that they stopped doing it because it got out of control. One club would pay $60 while the others paid $20, so the cabbies would always try to talk you into going to the $60 club…

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  24. David Hobby

    Jeremy-

    As a blogger, I have learned much from your site and your DP posts, but this is the first time I have ever commented. Great post idea. But what struck me more was the headline. I have found that one of the greatest pleasures of blogging daily is the occasional flash of inspiration that yields a really good headline.

    Thanks,
    David Hobby
    Strobist.com

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  26. Dave Starr --- ROI Guy

    Funny sometimes to Old Farts like me how many online folks have little or no knowledge of the “real world”, and are mazed when they see a glimpse of it in action. I love the ‘net but really guys, there is an entire world out there that isn’t on line … perhaps growing up in Hudson County New jersey (home of Tony Soprano’s Hq. building) has something to do with my lack of amazement *smile*

  27. jim

    Every other job than the one you’re in, esp. when people talk dollars, always seems like easy money…

    Make money online! It’s easy! Thanks for the insight man.

  28. Jack

    And you left off..

    The competition is fierce in Vegas. For every strip club referral you get 100 cheap tippers for regular rides.
    Many foreign visitors (Vegas is a top international destination) do not understand the tipping principal well enough (“Here’s a quarter for the lovely chat up, mate!”).
    There are plenty of limo services and club owned limos taking patrons to and from the best joints in town.
    The number of drunks and PO’d slots losers who take it out on the poor cabbie.
    You are right – keep your day job.

  29. Profitable eBay Niches

    If a cab driver gets $60 – 100 per person, how much money the strip club getting from the same person??

    I don’t think that watching girls (sometimes pretty ugly) costs so much. It’s much easier just to go out to the street, mall or night club and get a real girl.

  30. Adam Holland

    I see more and more people joining affiliate programs… and all I can see is the striking similarities to network marketing. Whether it’s some cabby recommending a hooker, or your neighbor recommending a new health product, this whole concept is taking the internet by storm…
    Even Rocky (Sylvester Stallone himself) has his own network marketing company now. Even Donald Trump and Robert Kyosaki (of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ fame) promote network marketing. Can we call mlm mainstream yet???

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