A word of advice for young, aspiring whip makers:
Category Archives: Rants
Just as I figured, Tuesday’s post A Plea for Integrity made some waves.
Judging from the number of views and visits to this blog, it was probably the first “semi-viral” thing I’ve ever posted here. I received a number of emails and Facebook messages asking about the identity of the whipmaker I wrote about in the article. Whip crackers wanted to make sure they did not (or do not) buy from the person and whipmakers were assuring me that they weren’t the ones doing anything unethical. Everyone was seemingly as upset as I was when I wrote it.
It would have been easier for me to have kept quiet, but I’ve often found that doing the the easy thing is seldom the same as doing the right thing. One major concern I had about writing that article was the possibility that it could hurt all of us who make synthetic whips. Another concern was that some might see the article as some tacit advertising campaign; that myself and Noreast Whips are the “safe guys” to buy from and all other should be viewed as suspect. I want to assure you that neither of those things was my goal.
The goal was to let folks know that there was an allegation of dishonesty in the ranks and maybe, hopefully, the offender would read it and decide to do the right thing from now on. By now, I’m certain the offender has seen the article and knows that someone out there is on to him. Judging by the reaction I’ve seen, the offender can rest assured that if his identity is revealed, it would almost certainly be a career-ender.
Thinking optimistically, perhaps it was just an isolated incident; a momentary lapse in judgement on the part of an individual trying something new.
We can only hope.
At this point, I want to call for calm within our whip making and whipcracking community. I believe that most of my peers are honest and committed to making the best products they can. As I look around at the craftsmen I know personally, I can’t imagine any of them being willing to sacrifice their name and integrity for a quick buck.
What I hope for most of all is that the plaiter in question –and any others who might be tempted to do the same– will realize that such dishonesty is not acceptable in this small community of craftsmen/women.
We don’t have government bureaucracies regulating whipmakers and telling us how we should do things or handling quality control. I’m a big believer in free markets, so I love that I get to make my living doing business in one of the freest, most unregulated markets on the planet. Being such a small niche market, I think chances are slim we’ll ever see much bureaucratic oversight, but I still think we have to police ourselves so someone else doesn’t have to do it for us. (I’d rather not see Obama create a Federal Bureau of Whipmaking Integrity.)
To the whip buyers reading this:
Here where I live, the Health Department inspects restaurants and gives them a grades either “A, B, C, or U” based on their findings. At times, we have driven by and saw a “B” or “C” placard on the window of restaurants where we have eaten in the past, occasionally even on ones we really like.
My wife’s reaction is to say “Oh, no! Gross! We better not go there.”
My reaction is different: I happen to be a Nationally Registered Food Safety Manager, so I know that once the inspector has come through, most of the problems are corrected on-sight. So in reality, it’s probably better to eat at an establishment the day after it gets a “B” or “C” and made corrections, rather than the day before it’s inspected and still has an “A” on the sign from the last inspection.
My point is this:
If I was in the market for a nylon whip, I would personally feel better about the integrity of the synthetic whip market today than 2 days ago. A few days ago, those who were may have been dishonest probably thought they were fooling everyone. Today, they’re not so sure. In fact, I’m willing to bet someone out there may be scared of their mind and is cleaning up their act!
As with all online shopping, you need to keep your guard up. There’s lots of great whipmakers on the web, as well as a few hucksters. I don’t want to see one bad apple ruin it for all of us.
I really wish I wasn’t having to write this article. But, as a whipmaker who has been selling whips online since 2001, I think there comes a time when someone has to “call a time-out” and address something that is allegedly going on within our small community.
Dishonesty in Our Midst
It has come to my attention that there’s a whipmaker selling nylon whips that is being less than honest in his product descriptions. This was discovered by someone who’s first experience with nylon was with a whip I made. The customer liked the whip and started ordering other styles from other vendors.
The customer ordered a 7ft nylon bullwhip from someone that advertised it as having 2 plaited bellies. Noticing something was amiss, the customer did what most would not, and opened it up and found that the whip had no plaited bellies at all! In fact, it contained what probably amounted to several rolls of wrapped black electrical tape!
For the record, I do not know who the offender is and I told the customer I didn’t want to know, at least for now.
I also know that the offender is apparently NOT a newbie; he’s part of the “varisity team.” I think this makes the allegations even more disappointing. I expect this sort of thing from the fly-by-nights and hucksters on eBay, but not from among the better known nylon plaiting establishment. Varsity whipmakers should have enough personal integrity to be honest in their descriptions and sell what they claim to sell. I honestly don’t have a problem with someone making whips with tape bellies, but they should describe and sell it as a wrapped tape belly -and price it accordingly! Don’t say it has “2 plaited bellies,” when in reality, it contains a dozen rolls of wrapped electrical tape!
(What I do know for certain, based on the information I received, was that it IS NOT Steve Huntress at Noreast Whips and that the whipmaker is based in the United States) [edited 10/15/2013 @ 3:24pm]
Those of us who have been around for a decade or more selling synthetic whips will recall a time when nylon was somewhat frowned upon in the whip cracking community. Many of us have worked very hard to produce the best product we can in order to get synthetic whips to the place they are today. And that’s the point, we did our best and we were honest in our dealings: that’s why we’re still around and nylon whips so widely used today!
If there are people within the whipmaking community deceiving their buyers and turning out garbage, it’s inevitably going to hurt those of us who have worked very hard to get where we are.. In fact, the customer who brought this to my attention said that if the tape-bellied bullwhip had been their first experience with nylon, she would have not bought any more synthetic whips! Think about that for a second my fellow synthetic whipmakers!
To the person who is guilty of this charge:
I don’t know who you are, but I realize you could be someone I know; maybe even someone I number among my friends in the whipmaking community. I sincerely hope you will make amends, or at the very least, make your descriptions match what you are really selling. You’re only going to end up hurting your own reputation as people figure out what you’re doing. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain from these deceitful practices.
You’re very lucky this customer is not willing to see you publicly thrashed. I believe you truly deserve to be called into account for this practice. I guarantee that if you continue to do this, it won’t be long before someone else finds out and exposes you. Do yourself a favor and do things right.
“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.” -Leviticus 19: 11(ESV)
“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God,…” Leviticus 19: 35-36 (ESV)
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” -Colossians 3: 23 (ESV)
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” -Proverbs 22: 1 (ESV)
For a whipmaker, having a long list of orders to make is a good problem to have. It means you’ve got plenty of work to do and your name is out there and your work is in demand. Since going full time, I’ve had as many as 75 orders to make and seldom less than 40.
At times it can be a bit overwhelming. The bad part is having to tell people that you don’t have any whips in stock and they will have to wait. Worse than that is having to tell people who have been waiting that they will have to wait longer because 2013 has been so bad for your family with multiple deaths, illnesses, and hospitalizations.
Whereas I once waited to receive payment until I started making the whip, in 2012 I moved to be more in line with most other whipmakers and started requiring payment for orders up front. This move eliminated the trend I had noticed for many years in how people would order whips and then forget about it, or disappear when it was time to pay.
With that change, I made sure to update my policies to reflect that a prepaid customer is free to change or cancel their order at any time while they wait and that the customer would receive a full refund. That change has worked very well. So far, not a single prepaid customer has forgotten about their order or disappeared. I have many to change their order, and less than 5 actual cancellations.
Last night I checked my email before I went to bed, I had an email from Paypal with something I never expected: A customer who had only been on the waiting list for one month went through to credit card company for a “charge back.” He claimed his order was “unauthorized charge.” Frankly, I was quite taken aback. I saw nothing weird about the order on my end when it was placed. He even emailed me asking how long the wait would be for the whip. After that, there was no communication whatsoever. I never saw this coming.
While I suppose it is possible someone used his card to make an unauthorized charge, it certainly wasn’t me! If this guy desired to cancel the order, he was free to do so and I would have cheerfully obliged. Unless this was a legitimate case of ID theft, the way this was handled was tantamount to a landlord sending the police to collect the rent from a tenant who wasn’t even late -without ever having attempted to collect it first himself.
If the buyer in this case was legitimately defrauded by someone, he has my sympathy. If he was simply lacking in tact and common decency, I’d rather not do business with him anyway.
The title of this post is a question I’ve gotten a few times lately, so I figure it was about time to address it here on the blog.
The fact is, I do not offer a discount on matched sets, there’s actually a fee associated with it. At first glance it seems odd because it is common practice for sellers to offer discounts for multiple purchases. Such is the case with many of the beekeeping supply companies I deal with where the more of an item I buy, the less per item I pay. So in light of that, I realize it may seem counterintuitive to people that I would charge more for a pair of whips.
The reason why I charge more for matching a pair of whips is simple: it takes much more time and focus to make a matching set of whips. I’m not sure how others do them, but for me, making a set of whips match is not as simple as just making two whips back to back. When I make a matched set, I spend much more time on it and it is more painstaking because I really try to get the whips to be as matched as possible. This means I’m constantly going back and worth between the two, repeating every step as closely as possible. Every step is worked, compared, and sometimes reworked. It’s lots of work… Or, maybe I just stress out about it more than some.
Here’s an example: Right now I have a matched set of 8ft, 16 plait bullwhips on my waiting list. I can make one 8ft, 16 plait bullwhip in a day; two of them in two days, but because it’s a matched set, I’m pretty sure that this order could end up taking me three days. To me, it is only logical to charge a little more for doing a job that will require even more time, skill, and focus to accomplish. I try to keep it reasonable; the most I charge extra is $75.00 for most types of whips and just $25.00 extra on a set of FCE stockwhips because the handles are prefab and I only have to handcraft and match the thongs.
Again, I realize that some may disagree with this policy and that’s okay. I hope that this article will give folks some incite as to why I do charge more on matched pairs. It has nothing to do with being greedy or wanting to discourage two-handed whip cracking.
Thankfully the online whip market is still very much a free market, so no one is forced to buy anything. Those who see the value in what I do will have no problem paying what I ask, those who do not see the value will go elsewhere. Either way, no one is being defrauded.
I’ve used USPS Priority mail service almost exclusively for all the years I have been shipping whips. Except for a few minor issues here and there, I have always found the service to be reliable. I never had a whip lost or damaged. USPS provides free boxes that fit most of my whips and the prices are lower than other services. Overall, I’ve found it to be a great value and have come to rely upon it.
Lots of changes have been made recently with the U.S. Postal Service and their website is touting improvements to Priority Mail. Some of the changes and realignments to their sorting centers have actually had a negative impact on the quality of service based upon my experience. Those who receive USPS shipping notifications from me should be aware that this recent decline in service could add a few days to your waiting time. Packages that are supposed to take from 1 to 3 days are now taking from 4 to 12 days. International transit times for my packages are equally abysmal.
I recently spoke with a manager from their consumer affairs division about the lagging transit times and he said that, overall, their transit times are largely within their goals, but that the recent changes USPS made are directly impacting me. He assured me that they are doing all they can to work out the bugs. I could switch to other shippers, but I want to keep prices low.
For now, I guess I just happen to be shipping from a location that’s 4 to 12 days from everywhere. Just keep that in mind when you receive your shipping notification.
[I sometimes write for a news and opinion blog called Freedom Outpost. The site has a daily digest emailed to roughly 800 thousand subscribers. I published an article there yesterday hoping it will spread awareness of the situation and expose more people to sport whip cracking. Below is the article in its entirety:]
Political Correctness Targets Bullwhips at Olympic College -Freedom Outpost
by Rhett Kelley
There’s a small but growing sport here in the U.S. It’s called Sport Whip Cracking. Imagine something like trick roping, but with a bullwhip instead. Adam Winrich currently holds 9 Guinness world records for whip cracking. He is known around the world and travels extensively performing. As you can see from this video footage of Adam, sport whip cracking is actually very impressive to watch.
Yet, it seems today nothing can escape the critical glare of the politically correct extremists out there who seem to find offense under every rock and behind every tree. Last weekend, I was alerted that whips and whip cracking have now been banned on the Olympic College campus in Bremerton, WA. This after professor Karen Bolton raised a fuss in an email after seeing a student on campus cracking a whip.
Bullwhips are no longer allowed on campus after an email complaint from a professor about the historical use of whips and their meaning to her as well as other students.
OC student Jason Harris’ whip cracking was brought to the attention of OC’s President, Dr. David Mitchell as well as all OC faculty and staff through an email from professor Karen Bolton. She said she felt offended by the recreational practice because of the historical context of the whip and it’s origins in slavery.
“Being a person of color, it literally made me feel sick to my stomach,” said Bolton in the email, “that whip has symbolism.”
Symbolism indeed Professor Bolton!
To many, it’s a symbol of adventure; of that first time they went into a movie theater and watched Indiana Jones use his bullwhip in Raiders of the Lost Ark. To others, it symbolizes monthly gatherings with friends at a local park to practice their sporting routines. For guys like myself, a whip symbolizes youth spent largely on a sprawling ranch in central Florida, being part of a multi-generational family business of raising cattle. And for others, it’s a reminder of a grandfather who once had a bullwhip and would crack it to entertain the grandchildren.
For one gentleman I know, it’s a symbol of overcoming tragedy: being able to crack a whip in both hands at once, even though his hands are prosthetic hooks following a high voltage power accident while serving in the Air Force. The symbolism of a whip to the people I know is that of a connection to actual experiences they’ve had. Sadly, Professor Bolton can only see a symbol of something terrible from the past that she has most assuredly not experienced herself. As one commenter posted on my Facebook page, if she sees such vivid symbolism of slavery at the mere sight of a bullwhip, then she’ll probably faint if she travels here in Georgia and passes by a cotton field!
I’ve sold whips to people of all colors and creeds on 6 continents. In all the years I’ve made whips, I honestly cannot recall anyone being offended at the sight of a whip because of some symbolic connection to Antebellum U.S. slavery. Most people are very curious and thrilled by the crack a whip makes. I’m sure at least one of my many black friends would tell me if my products were offensive to them. If anything, I find the biggest misconception people have when they learn I make whips is that I’m making them for people with some kind of sexual fetish or something. Never is there any mention of slavery.
The article goes on to state that Professor Bolton further sees the whip as a weapon. Can a whip be used as a weapon? Anything can be used as a weapon. Any one of the mundane objects cluttering my desk right now could be used as a weapon if I had no other options. I’ve sold many whips to those who use them in martial arts. There’s at least one book on the subject. The question is, did Mr. Harris use his whip in an unsafe or threatening manner? According to campus security, he did not. And neither Washington law nor campus rules classify a whip as a weapon.
Professor Bolton would do well to investigate sport whip cracking a little bit. I recommend she spend some time online checking out whip cracking videos. She might also try to catch a show by the aforementioned Adam Winrich, or my friend Chris Camp. Hopefully she would reconsider her position. After that, she could pay a visit to my website at Cowwhips.com, and I’d be more than happy to make her a whip of her own.
If she could just try to overcome the prejudices in her own mind, Professor Bolton might even find sport whip cracking to be an enjoyable pastime. It could be a nice break from the lofty, yet absurd, intellectual atmosphere of academia. It sounds like she needs it.
(If you think this is absurd as I do, please contact Olympic College president, Dr. David Mitchell about his decision to ban whip cracking on campus, his email address is email@example.com. A very well written form letter that can be found at Bullwhips.org, the site where I originally learned of this situation.)