Topic: The Ring of Trust - From a Customer’s Perspective
I promised in my introduction that I would tell more of my story. I’m going to do that from the perspective of someone with first-hand knowledge of the Ring of Trust and how it works.
I first came to the Whip Basics forums in about April of 2015, while in search of my first whip. I had learned basic cracks using borrowed whips and was looking for one to call my own. I spent a number of hours looking through whip pictures, reading descriptions, and generally trying to learn enough to make a reasonably informed purchase decision. I liked the ideas and principles behind the Ring of Trust and decided early that I’d be purchasing from one of the members. Actually, I decided pretty early in the process that I’d likely be purchasing from more than one of the members, but still had to choose who was to be the first.
I finally narrowed my choice down to two whip makers and selected one based primarily on aesthetics - this person had already made whips similar to what I had in mind. I contacted the whip maker on May 20, 2015 and by May 26, we had agreed on all of the necessary details, I was sent and invoice, and the funds were transferred. I was told that the whip maker was working with about a 6 month lead time and that a large order had just come in from another customer, but that I would be in line before his order, as our conversation had started first. Needless to say, I was happy to hear that!
While waiting, I continued to explore the whip cracking and whip making world and soon found that this whip maker offered whips designed and built specifically for children. Knowing that my young son had been captivated by the performances he had already seen and thinking that he might be interested in whip cracking once he got a little older, I decided to contact the whip maker and inquire if such a children's whip could be added to my order.
On July 10, 2015 the whip maker indicated that this would not be a problem at all. I indicated that my only requirements for the whip would be that it be black and orange - my son’s favorite colors at that time. The whip maker was given carte blanche with respect to the plaiting patterns, etc. I finally received an invoice for this second whip on September 20, 2015 and paid for it that same day.
I settled back in and let the whip maker work. I knew that it was going to be some time before I heard anything, but started to become increasingly worried when my attempts to contact the whip maker for an update were unsuccessful. I finally was able to make contact and received both whips (my original whip and the children’s whip) on December 5, 2016. No, that is not a typo - a VERY long six months, indeed!
Immediately upon opening the package from the whip maker, I realized that there was a problem. The plaiting and colors that we had agreed upon were incorrect. Further, the handle was the basic handle and not the upgraded one I had requested (and paid extra for). I contacted the whip maker immediately by email and made arrangements to return the whip. I kept the children’s whip, as it had been made with black and orange paracord, as I had requested. The whip maker indicated that an entirely new whip would have to be made for me, as the handle could not simply be swapped out. It took LOTS of self-control not to crack that whip before boxing it up and sending it back!
Months went by and my repeated attempts to contact the whip maker went unanswered. Finally, in desperation, I decided to reach out to Robby and the Ring of Trust for help in contacting the whip maker on June 30, 2017. In the process of finding contact information for Robby, I learned that this particular whip maker was no longer associated with the Ring of Trust. This knowledge did not leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside….
Robby was very supportive and offered a couple of suggestions for trying to contact the whip maker. When it became clear that I was not likely to have any success with this person, I asked Robby for recommendations for Ring of Trust whip makers who might be working within a reasonable lead time - remember that I was over two years into a whip order already! Robby suggested two RoT members and a third whip maker who, while not yet in the RoT, was making fantastic whips. Robby guaranteed me that, should I purchase whip from any of them, he would see to it that I was given the best possible customer service and that he would personally make sure that I had a smooth experience without any further issues.
In the meantime, I finally heard back from my original whip maker. I was told that my second whip had, in fact, been built and shipped, but no tracking number or other information was ever provided. I was also told that the whip had been sent insured (which generates a tracking number) and that my repeated attempts to contact the whip maker would likely serve as evidence for the postal service that I had never received the whip. I subscribe to a service whereby I am sent text messages and emails regarding any package sent to my address from any location within the US. I received no such notifications from this whip maker’s city or state, except for the package I had received on December 5, 2016 which contained the incorrectly made whip that I had already returned to the whip maker. The whip maker did, however, refund my money in full.
I contacted Tyler Blake (http://www.exowhips.com), as he had been the other whip maker I had been strongly considering at the time of my original whip order. Tyler indicated that he was familiar with my situation and was booked out to about 11 months at the time. He went on to say that he had started to schedule some time for product development, etc. and that he would be able to reschedule some of this in order to fit my whip in without displacing his other customers.
I also conversed, at some length, with Jessie Edwards (https://generissite.wordpress.com). She provided plenty of help, recorded video of one of her whips in action, and even provided me with pre-production photos of an upcoming whip that she thought I might have some interest in.
It became clear to me in my conversations with both Tyler and Jessie, that they both take the Ring of Trust very seriously and are willing to go the extra mile for their customers. Ultimately, I decided to order a whip from Tyler, as it would be most similar to the whip I had originally ordered over two years ago and I was more familiar with his work. With that said, though, I will be getting one of Jessie’s whips at some point in the future. My biggest problem with Jessie’s whips is that they are all so beautiful and so unique, that I can't seem to choose just one. I’m constantly afraid that the next one she does will be “The One” and I’ll have pulled the proverbial trigger too early! If you’ve seen her whips, you know what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit more to the story, as well. Remember the children’s whip that I did receive form the original whip maker? (It was called a children’s whip, but was essentially just a 4 foot bullwhip with about a 6 inch handle.) Well, there was something about that whip that never felt right. The thong was unnaturally stiff, it didn’t roll out very well, and it always felt like you had to put way too much power into the whip for its size. It was a whip that just seemed to fight me from day one and the fact that the thong would sometimes assume unnatural positions depending on how the handle was held should have been an indication that something was wrong.
On the weekend of July 8-9, 2017, I had been cracking that whip as, despite its size and poor temperament, it was the only one available to me at the time. I noticed something odd - a small flash of purple on an otherwise black and orange whip. Closer inspection and pushing apart two strands of the overlay revealed what appeared to be a purple vinyl or similar substance that was very clearly not paracord. I informed Robby of my findings on July 10, 2017 and provided him with a picture the next day. I knew that the whip maker involved had not been a member of the RoT in some time, and only sent him the information for his knowledge (despite my mounting suspicions, I had no idea why this whip maker was no longer in the RoT, but assumed that the information would be of some value to Robby and the rest of the RoT). Having seen many of his videos, I was aware of his opinion on electrical tape in whips.
I was completely unprepared for the email I received from Robby on July 14, 2017. He indicated that he had discussed the situation with the Ring of Trust members and that they would provide me with a replacement whip made by Rachel McCulloch (http://wolfcreekwhips.com). In exchange, they wanted me to return the whip in question so that it could be examined in detail. I’d have been a fool not to take advantage of this offer, as it would give me the opportunity to replace a questionable whip and to find out what was going on inside that same whip. I indicated to Robby that I’d like to see inside this problematic whip.
I contacted Rachel, gave her the information she needed to make sure that she had the appropriate supplies on hand, made arrangements to return the whip, and shipped it out to her. As with Tyler and Jessie, it became very clear that Rachel strongly believes in the principles of the RoT and is willing to go the extra mile to make sure that her customer is satisfied. I also asked Rachel if I could see what was inside the whip once she opened it. She said that this would not be a problem.
The results of the autopsy of that whip can be seen here:
I’m not going to say any more about that particular post or that whip here, as there’s I simply can add no more to that story than has already been shown by the pictures. Res ipsa loquitur - the thing speaks for itself.
I will however speak to my interactions with Robby Amber, Tyler Blake, Rachel McCulloch, and, although she is not yet a member of the Ring of Trust, Jessie Edwards. I simply cannot overstate the level of professionalism and customer service displayed by these individuals. They have, quite literally, taken a problem which was not theirs to solve and made it right. They did so out of dedication to their craft, a willingness to support the community, and a desire to do the right thing.
If you are considering purchasing a whip from one of these whip makers, or any Ring of Trust member, I am fully confident that they will do what is necessary to provide you with not only a quality product, but with a good experience. These are excellent whip makers who stand behind their products and, perhaps more importantly, they are good people. They understand some very simple rules in life: treat people right, do what you say you’re going to do, help out when you can, and do the right thing. If more people lived up to the standards they set for themselves, the world would truly be a better place.
If you are a whip maker who is considering membership in the Ring of Trust, consider this your warning: these people are deadly serious about the standards they set for themselves, for each other, and for you. If you join and subsequently fail to live up to the promises that you have made to the other members of the RoT and to your customers, then you will be held accountable.
To Robby, Tyler, Rachel, and Jessie, I’d like finally to extend a very personal (and very public) thank you to each of you. You each have gone above and beyond for me and, in so doing, have demonstrated both the content of your character and your consummate professionalism - thank you!