Shopify Staff Exploited Our App for Free?!?

Are you a Shopify partner? Do you sell apps on the Shopify App store?
We do, and here’s our story about how we found out a Shopify staff member was using our app for free, without permission, for over a month.

Analyzing our Shopify Customers

We have a Shopify app, it’s a good marketplace. And it’s a place Shopify customers visit regularly to improve their shops.

If you’re a partner, you probably know the struggles of operating a Shopify app and charging for it.
You can’t easily automate your stats to a spreadsheet for KPI measurement.
So we set out to learn more about our numbers and metrics on the app store.
While we were at it we discovered a customer who is on our most expensive plan ($699/month at the time) but Shopify’s partner dashboard shows $0 revenue for that customer.

Unfortunately, the partner chat support team did not have answers, so we reached-out by email and moved on with our investigation while waiting for their response.
We used the Billing API and discovered that the above charge was marked as a “test” charge. This can happen in two cases:

  1. A staff member is testing your app and bypasses the charge.
  2. You provide staff members’ shops with a free premium package (staff shops are identified with the “staff_business” shop plan), the documentation advises to send it as a test charge.

The Revelation

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

This staff member was not testing. His shop is a very active one (over 100k traffic) but his shop plan is “test” and not “staff_business” as should be, based on the documentation.
In addition, he asked for support with setup, configuration and optimization multiple times. In other words, costing us several hours of support effort.
Finally, we do not offer premium packages for free to anyone (staff members commercial shops get 50% off).

Once we found out, we cancelled his subscription without prior notice. However, he decided to upgrade again, free of charge. The only way we could fight it is by cancelling his subscription manually again.
It took several emails but eventually his response was that his store is a “loyalty” store and as part of the partner agreement we agreed to give our app for free and all of the apps he uses are for free.
Needless to say, there’s no such thing and the app developers are the ones who decide who gets their app for free or not.

Shopify Taking Responsibility

The Shopify specialist team answered quickly, it took less than 24 hours. Although they tried to rationalize the staff member’s actions as a misunderstanding, they took full responsibility it.
They issued a manual compensation for the time the staff member used the app for free. And according to them, this will not happen again in the future as they’ve reinforced their internal checks for staff members exploiting apps for free.

Bottom Line

We suggest you run a scan of your existing Shopify customer base and check if there are any discrepancies.
Check for shopify stores that use the “test” plan (more info in the GET shop API under plan_name).
Check for stores that use the “staff_business” plan, and make sure to handle that logic in your code.
Talk with Shopify support if stumble into an issue.
Finally, be on top of your numbers!

If you have any questions or want to hear more details – shoot us a message.

Natan Abramov
Co-founder & CTO at ProveSource
I am passionate about leading and executing creative ideas. I enjoy every aspect of the product life-cycle from idea to launch to scale, while constantly striving for growth and development of myself as well as of others around me.

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