In early 2016, I was looking for an Avada theme WordPress web design service. I came across Whelk Web Design on the internet. The company professes to be a reputable expert with WordPress web design and particularly the Avada theme template. At the time, I was not particularly looking to change my hosting provider – just get help with design template issues with my Avada theme.

My Search For WordPress Avada Theme Help

I contacted Phil at Whelk and, although the company is in Canada, he appeared to be friendly and knowledgeable. He certainly was a salesman too. The first thing he did was encourage me to change over to his hosting service because, of course, I would receive “much better service” for my WordPress website. My goal was to improve my website and create a long-term relationship with a web consultant that had Avada theme WordPress web design experience. I needed someone who could regularly help me with various WordPress website issues. If moving my website made his job easier to do, I was willing to move my website.

Well, that was the first BAD move. Whelk did, in fact, move my site and immediately began to take steps to update my Avada theme and plugins. When doing a major theme update, it is apparently customary in the industry to set up a temporary duplicate “staging site.” This allows the web consultant to make sure the updates do not cause conflict or problems that affect site function. Unfortunately in my case, Whelk failed to set up a temporary “staging” site to test the updates before they were made live. I have since learned that this would have been automatically done by a web consultant of any caliber. Because Whelk did NOT back up my site before the update they installed.,my website started to have huge problems and my site turned into a mess. For the next 3-4 weeks, I was in daily contact with Whelk for one problem after another to get my site back up and running. Amazingly enough they were not even taking responsibility for anything! I was beside myself. Remember, they had made NO BACKUP before installing the theme update so I could not even “undo” what they did to go backwards to my earlier working site. Whelk’s failure to do this detrimentally affected my business. People could not use my contact form, pages were not loading properly because of theme conflicts, etc. and I was losing business.

Avada Theme WordPress Web Design Consulting Problems

At the beginning of this project, Whelk and I had settled on a fee to migrate our site. That fee virtually tripled when everything was said and done because of all the problems that were created when Whelk upgraded the Avada theme of my WordPress site. As a result, I ended up paying a lot of money for their mistakes. I was certainly less than pleased, but at that point I was stuck. My site had already been migrated, and now my immediate goal was to get it back up and running properly as it had been before it was migrated by Whelk. At this point in the process, Whelk and I discussed future, ongoing fees. I told them I was extremelyl unhappy about paying triple over what I was quoted. Whelk assured me they would keep me informed of future fees to be charged as they were incurred.

Although I already had an Avada theme WordPress web design license for my site, Whelk, being such a great salesman, talked me into purchasing another Avada theme license. They wanted me to do this because they said it would make it easier for them to update the template through their portal. Again, because my goal was to make maintaining my site smooth and easy, I relented and agreed to buy another license for the same product I already had a license for. This was for the sole purpose of Whelk being able to integrate the updates easier.

Over the next several months, Whelk was able to fix most of the problems they created during their site transfer and Avada theme WordPress update. We then started tackling other little things I wanted to change. My anger over the initial fiasco subsided. I am a pretty forgiving person…

Whelk and Gravity Forms Nightmare

About 6-7 months into our website relationship, I contacted Whelk to make some coding changes with the third-party forms service I was using. I was very happy with my current forms system, and just needing some coding help. Of course, Whelk, responded by indicating that he could help me with another WordPress plugin Gravity Forms that would be so much easier for me.  Of course, Whelk recommended that I switch to that program. Whelk indicated that they had a “multiple site license” and would be happy to set my site up with this new plug-in. Whelk also told me they were very familiar with the Gravity Forms plug-in and would be able to help me with any programming issues I might need.

After installing the plug-in and playing around with Gravity Forms, I sought out the “knowledgeable” help of Whelk. As time went on, it quickly became apparent that in simply playing around with the plug-in, I actually ended up knowing more about Gravity Forms than Whelk did! Often when I would ask them for help on something, and was told they needed to refer it out to their outsourced “programmer.”  For weeks we seemed to be going around in circles, with nothing being accomplished that I had asked. For example, I asked to have a form with rows to be styled with each row having alternating shading (white then light gray) so that the form would be easier to read online. What did I ultimately get? Alternating fields shaded that made absolutely no sense at all. Example –  for first name, middle name, last name (3 fields in a row) they shaded just the middle field (middle name). Really????  I immediately told them to remove what they had done as they clearly did not know the coding necessary to alternate rows on a form as was requested of them.

Over this process of going back and forth and getting nowhere with this new form plug-in and other issues, I started asking them give me access to the Gravity form online support. As I was learning Whelk could not answer my questions, I wanted to try to get answers from people who really knew what they were talking about.  It was obvious that Whelk had very little knowledge about Gravity Forms and did not understand what I wanted. Since Whelk controlled the plug in license, I need to go through Whelk to access Gravity form support. Whelk gave me their “supposed” login information for Gravity Form support. Unfortunately, it never worked. I spent hours trying to get into the support portal, sending multiple emails to Whelk about not being able to get in. In the end, I never could get into the Gravity Forms support portal to ask my support questions and was getting absolutely no help from Whelk.

Whelk’s Avada WordPress Gravity Form $900 Consulting Bill for Nothing

The real kicker was when I got Whelk’s latest bill. For a month’s activity of accomplishing basically nothing, I received a bill for close to $900, PLUS the bill included the purchase of a developer version of Gravity Forms! Keep in mind, up to this point I could not even access the Gravity Form support portal . There was no way I was going to pay Whelk for Gravity Forms (particularly after Whelk inferred there was no fee because they already had it). More importantly, I was not even able to use the Gravity Forms support portal! I told Whelk that I was not going to pay them for the Gravity Forms plug-in and indicated I would buy the plug-in directly from Gravity Forms. Once I purchased the plug-in myself and changed the license, I immediately had access to the support portal and was able to get my support questions answered that Whelk had not been able to answer for weeks.

Whelk Holds Website Hostage for Disputed Bill

I told Whelk that I was disputing the charges on their bill and that I was not in agreement to pay them to educate themselves over various things. More particularly, Whelk had not delivered the services I had asked for. I also asked for an itemization of what they did. When I asked for a detailed itemization what did I get? A cut and paste non-detailed itemization in French from their “programmer” that I had to translate using Google! Real professional….

Out of compromise, however, I should mention I did offer to pay a substantial part of the bill. My offer was certainly more than what their services were worth. What was Whelk’s response? They locked up my site! This was done even though I had pre-paid my hosting service for the entire year and my dispute was for their non-hosting services. Whelk also told me they blocked my access to my website portal until I paid my bill that was in dispute. Out of desperation, I told Whelk I would pay it in dispute, and that upon payment I demanded access to my portal. What was their response? Pay the bill, but they were still not going to allow me to get access to my portal!! Furthermore, they now demanded that I immediately move my site in a week because they were going to delete it. Again, keep in mind I had pre-paid my hosting and there were 2 months credit remaining. A quick Google search shows that apparently this is not an uncommon tactic used by unscrupulous web designers and hosting companies.

Whelk and Gravity Forms License

Whelk also complained that they had purchased a license for Gravity Forms that now they could not use. I reminded them of their earlier email where they specifically told me they already owned a developer’s license for multiple sites. Of course, I received no rebuttal when I brought this to their attention. Imagine this website company trying to make me, their customer, feel guilty because I had to directly purchase a product they were billing me for but which I could not use or access support for! And the truth is, they had NOT purchased a license for us because they told me they already had one! I was starting to get a real clear picture of the unethical characters I was dealing with – we were at a standstill. It was becoming obvious that Whelk thought I was an “easy sucker”.  I mean, I had paid their bill before for the first fiasco when my website was transferred, so I guess they thought they could bill “whatever” and I was simply going to pay it.

Since I had already told Whelk I disputed their services (and their bill) they demanded that when I paid my bill online I included the language “I will not dispute this credit card charge.” I told them I absolutely was NOT going to do that because the bill was, in fact, disputed. I further told them the ONLY reason I was paying it was to get my site released because they were holding my site hostage.

Review of Whelk Web Design and Hosting

Why am I sharing this story? This review of Whelk Web Design and Hosting and my experience with this company will hopefully help another unsuspecting business owner from a similar experience. I am a self-employed service related business owner. I would never tell a customer I know how to do something and then charge them exorbitant fees for me to “educate myself.” If I make a mistake, I own up to it and take immediate action to fix it.  On the other hand, this company does not take ownership for anything they do. They did not take ownership when they failed to make a backup of my site before they did a major update, they did not take ownership of the cost of their mistake and my loss of business for weeks on end, and they did not take ownership of billing me hundreds of dollars and accomplishing nothing. The owners are arrogant and they are certainly NOT Avada Theme or WordPress experts in any fashion of the word.

I did move my site almost a day after I paid Whelk’s disputed bill and filed a a dispute with my credit card company. Shortly afterwards I managed to fix ALL of the things Whelk was “supposed” to fix over the prior months (and for which I paid for) through my new hosting service provider. Yes, there are support services that hosting providers automatically include as part of their hosting services. Not Whelk, however.

I should note that Whelk had put under their Portfolio page a “Case Study” of our original fiasco with them where they actually acknowledged they had messed up my site (they referenced it as a “learning lesson”) when they failed to do a backup before they updated my Avada theme in WordPress.  At later check of their site revealed that the Case Study blog page about my experience with their company was removed. It appears they don’t want to admit their failures quite so obviously, or perhaps have someone contact me to verify how “wonderful” their services were.

What I learned Using Whelk’s Web Design WordPress Avada Theme Services

  1. Do your due diligence when selecting someone to help you with your website. I would certainly not recommend Whelk.
  2. Contract with a U.S. based company. If anything goes wrong, you will be able to enforce your legal rights.
  3. Do NOT have your website consultant/designer/developer host your site. If there is ever a problem, they could try to hold your site hostage as Whelk did, even though my hosting was paid and the services in dispute were completely unrelated to my web hosting.
  4. Don’t assume when a company tells you they are an “expert” in WordPress or Avada that they are.  There are thousands of people out there that claim to be experts in WordPress or Avada that really only know the basics. Their lack of knowledge will hit your pocketbook because it will take 4 hours for them to do something that a knowledgeable person can do in 10 minutes.
  5. If you are looking for help with simple WordPress tasks, you may want to check out TildenTasks. I have had them do a few oddball things for me since this experience and they are knowledgable and very inexpensive.
  6. For exceptional WordPress hosting, you might consider WPEngine. Their 24 hour support (phone or chat) have addressed all of my issues that Whelk had attempted to outsource to a “programmer” and never actually fixed…for FREE. Yes FREE…because when you have web site issues or glitches, reputable hosting companies offer that as part of their standard hosting package.