Don't you get free whistles to review?
Sometimes. Sometimes, I buy them myself (new or second-hand). And sometimes, I get loaners from kind-hearted folks. The O'Riordan whistles I reviewed were loaned to me by an amazingly trusting and kind-hearted whistler. There is just no way to easily get your hands on one of those these days.
Occasionally, I will write to a whistle maker if they are new, or their whistles are particularly hard to get ahold of, and ask if they would like me to review their whistle. Sometimes, whistle makers will write to me, especially if they are new or not very well known.
My policy is as follows: If a whistle is provided by the manufacturer, I generally ask to keep the whistle as a 'product sample'. I don't have a ton of cash to spend on review whistles every year, so I almost always turn around and sell these sample whistles so that I can use the money to buy another whistle to review. I used to make betwen $600 and $800 a year in ad revenue, and I used that exclusively to pay for hosting and to buy review whistles. But ad revenue has dropped so low that it was better to just drop ads from the site altogether than continue to bother with the tax headaches.
Even though I am receiving a whistle as a product sample, I make it clear to the maker that I am going to give an unbiased review. They aren't 'buying' a good review by giving me a whistle. On more than one occasion, I've received a sample whistle that had problems, and I have mentioned those in my review. On all of my reviews, I try to list whether I purchased the whistle, received it on loan, or if it was a product sample.
If I purchase a whistle second-hand, and it has problems, I always write to the maker to talk about it. Since the whistle has had a prior owner, I don't know what kind of treatment it's received prior to reaching me. So, I don't know if the problems are caused by the maker or the prior owner. In these cases, I will ask the maker if they'd like me to trade the whistle in for a new one that is more representative of their work. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no. In any case, I always mention the problems I had with the whistle in the review, and what the maker did to correct the problem.
In rare cases, I will take a product sample from the manufacturer on loan. For instance, my review of the snakewood Thin Weasel was a loaner whistle from Glenn Schultz. But this is not my normal operating procedure. Taking a whistle on loan means that I have to pay to ship it back, and I also have the risk of being responsible for the whistle if somehow I damage it while it's in my care. But in rare circumstances, I will review a loaner whistle from the manufacturer if the maker really can't afford to give away even a single whistle for some reason. This is especially true if it's a popular enough whistle that I feel that there's a bona fide need to have a review in my archive. I'm less likely to agree to a loan arrangement from a newer maker that is hoping to use my review to help launch their whistle making career.
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