An interview hosted by Mia Quagliarello with Chris Turner, the founder of The Ring Finders. Chris has built an online directory of 500 independent metal detecting specialists in 22 countries that volunteer as sleuths in search of lost rings. We talked with Chris about a community of people that come together for a simple, altruistic reason--the smile when a ring is recovered.
“The strategy is the questions. You have to ask the right questions. If you don’t, you can be walking away from a smile.” - Chris Turner
When Chris Turner was 12 years old he got a metal detector and fell in love with looking for history. Over the years, he would be on the beach or in a park and get approached by a frantic couple looking for their ring. Within minutes, he was often able to help them recover their ring.
These rings represent stories and relationships, and when they are lost, it feels as though the stories are lost with them. Chris started The Ring Finders in Vancouver to help people recover their rings and thus their stories. He documented these generous acts and caught the attention of a man in Illinois who invested in the mission.
Since then, Chris has built an online directory of 500 independent metal detecting specialists in 22 countries that go out in search of rings, most of which do it on a pay as you wish basis. We talked with him about the human nature of this work and spotlighting stories from the searches.
Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:
👋🏻 Say hi to Chris and learn more about The Ring Finders.
✨Thank you to Mia, “Get Together” correspondent, for bringing us this story.
📄See the full transcript
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Note: This transcript is automatically generated and there may be some errors. Timestamps may vary slightly based on episode announcement & commercial placement.
Welcome to Get Together! It's our show about ordinary people building extraordinary communities. I'm your host Bailey Richardson. I'm a partner at people in company and a coauthor of get together how to build a community with your people.
And I'm Mia Quagliarello, Get Together correspondence and the VP of content and community for MTTR, a new media and community platform launching later this year.
In each episode of this podcast, we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, maybe even thousands more members today. Mia has brought us a remarkable interview. We're talking to Chris Turner, the founder of the ring finders, a group of volunteer sleuths who help people find lost rings and other valuables. The ring finders recently made headlines when they helped actor, Jon Cryer find his wedding ring and he tweeted about it.
They're a global directory with close to 500 members in 22 countries and unusually they work on a reward basis, allowing people to pay what they think is worth it. Mia, I'm wondering what stood out to you from your conversation with Chris?
Well, I love this conversation and what surprised me the most about it was that the technology, which is the metal detectors and other tools of his trade are really secondary to the human nature aspect of this work to be a successful ring finder, you have to be a detective. And to that end, it's all about the questions that backtracking and the context, even questions like were you drinking and how much can impact the outcome for this community? I learned that a common way for a ring to get quote unquote lost is to be thrown by an angry spouse. And the number of drinks just might affect its trajectory, which has Chris know where to look.
It was a really fascinating angle to think about. It was also so refreshing to meet a group of people who aren't in it necessarily for the money they're in it for the smiles. Chris said that over and over again, you either find someone smile or you're walking away from a smile. If you're not doing it right. He and the other ring binders do their absolute best to never walk away from a smile.
Chris, who are you? A modern day superhero? I can't wait to meet Chris. Should we jump in?
Let's do it. So, Chris, first thing I heard about the ring finders was seeing the incredible story of how you found John criers wedding ring from crier himself on Twitter. So before we get into the whole story of the ring finders, I just want to hear about this particular one and how it unfolded. It unfolded like every other story it was, was an email saying,
Could you help? I lost my ring. I replied back. Yes. Can you can you send me pictures of where you think you lost it? He sent me a picture and I looked at the picture and it was a Google earth picture and it was all concrete. And I'm thinking, Oh my God, how am I going to find this it's concrete? Somebody would have found it already, but there was a little strip of grass that separated the two pathways. It was a cycling path and a pedestrian path. And there was three feet of grass that separated the pathways all along the pathway. And that was my only chance. So I just replied back saying you've got probably less than a 5% chance of, you know, recovering a ring because where you've lost it, but I'll come out tomorrow morning and we'll have look for it and when I met John for the first time, I knew right away who he was on like, Oh, this pressure's on because I knew there was a very slight chance of being able to recover his ring. We, we went to the location, he showed me where he was walking. He was really close to the rail, close to the water. So there was a chance that the rain could have popped fell and gone into the water. There's a huge chance he could have just fell in, led on the concrete. There was such a slight chance that we go into the grass, the only place I can use my metal detector to find it. And it was, and it was three, three feet wide, the grass area and probably a hundred yards long. He knew the specific area. And even the grass, he only had like less than 50% of the grass to search because the side of the grass was pounded down where people were walking. So the only place that could've gone for me to find it was where I found it right in the middle.
What kind of strategies do you employ to find rings?
You have to be a good detective because our equipment's fantastic. We'll find them, especially recent losses, even if it's been lost for 20, 30 years, it doesn't matter. We have great equipment. The strategy is the questions. You, you have to ask the right questions or you can be walking away from a smile. So many times I'll get into an area. Like I had one the other week where I met the couple, the lady showed me where she was in the park and I'm listening to her story. I'm, I'm looking at this, the area I'm going to search. And I looked at her, I said, is there a chance it could be over here in this area? And she goes, no, there's not a chance. Guess where I've found it in that area. And that area, after doing this search where she believed the ring would be, and I searched it for like an hour, I started expanding my search further and I found it in the area that he said there was no chance to find it. So if you just go in and do a search and don't exhaust the area, you could be walking away from a smile. So we, we, you know, we do this, I have a group of detective members on our directory close to 500 now. And we all listened to the stories carefully. And then we take it from there and we'll do everything we can to find what people have lost.
So you've been metal detecting for 48 years. And helping people find loss rings for over 26. Like what drew you to this past time?
You know what it started when I was very young, when I was 12, I got my first metal detector. And I just loved looking for history and readily contain. And then one day after my soccer career I was living in LA. I was walking down a beach and it was early in the morning and this guy came charging at me, yelling and screaming, boy, here we go. And as he got closer, he was like, hell, can you help? And it's like, yeah, what's up, man. He's like my wife and I were up here last night and we lost her engagement ring. And we've been here all night with flashlights. This is before computers. This is before cell phones. So I I get up there. I find the ring within minutes and she's crying. He's tearing up. He's given me everything he has in his wallet.
And I'm like, no, no, no. I go, I don't want your money. I go, I'm just happy to find. He goes, no, you're taking it. And they walked off and I thought, wow, that was crazy. And flashback a year later, living in Cancun, Mexico, same thing happened to me multiple times. I thought, okay, there's a service here. And that's when I created to, it was called lost jewelry.com, Canadian spelling and jewelry. And it was called finders. And I was doing this Vancouver before computers. It was slow. I had flyers and brochures up with the lifeguards and I'd get calls here and there. And then flashback 11 years ago a person from the internet I've never met to this day, reached out and said, I love what you're doing in Vancouver. And have you thought it helped them more people? And I said, well, you had some money.
And he goes, you build it, you design it and I'll pay for it. I'm like really? I mean, it sits off the unit, right? You can't really, you're gonna pay for it. And he's like, yeah, he goes, you build it, you design it and I'll pay for it. So I built it the, the ring finders and he paid for it. He paid for it for the first three years, corporate taxes lawyers programmers, designers, it wasn't cheap. And 11 years later it's paying for itself. And he keeps telling me, he put it back into the company, pay yourself. It's like an angel investor. This guy is incredible. He's from Illinois. He's a silent partner. And he just loves reading the stories and seeing the smiles. And you've never met him. I've never met him. And not only that, when I go to pay him back his original investment and percent, and she's like, Nope, put it back in the company. So yeah, it's pretty incredible.
You've got to be pinching yourself over that as feels like it was meant to be.
Well, you know what, it's such a beautiful directory. And, you know, he saw the value in what we were doing, what I was doing here in Vancouver and saw a chance to help more people. And yeah, I, I do I sit there and think, you know, that's, it's incredible backstory into how this directory came to light because finders in Vancouver was helping just people in Vancouver slowly, you know, right now being a global directory with 22 countries, close to 500 members, we're able to find a lot more smiles. And I mean, I'm just so proud of the members on this directory. I I'm like the grandfather every time that picture and the story comes in, I get to see it before I post it on our website. It's fantastic. It's a great feeling.
I wanted to ask you how you grew to 500 members. How did people find out about it and what kind of persona do you look to attract?
Me, it's, it's a lot like what you're doing right now. It's stories that'd be in shared podcasts. Thank you for your interest, by the way, on the ring finders. And it's, it's sharing it with your, your listeners that that's helped grown the rangefinders to where it is the press. They, they grabbed the concept quite quickly because we're so unusual. We're unlike any other company out there. I created a footprint many years ago on a reward basis. So I don't charge to find people's loss jury. I work on a reword basis and all I asked for is cover my guests to get to you if I don't find it. And I'm 90, I'd say about 97% of my members have created, have fallen into the same footprint and we all work on rework basis. So we leave it up to people to play with it's worth to them where they can afford, which is so unusual in this day and age. And these, these, these members are all individual contractors that could, you know, structured their company. Anyway. They like, but they've fallen into the same footprint. They love the idea of working on a reward basis and just leaving it up to people to pay what they can afford.
Like according to the testimonials on your website, like your members, they're not only valued for their detective skills, but also they seem like really kind persistent, optimistic people. Like, do you screen at all for those kinds of personalities?
It's hard to, I mean, it's hard to screen being where I'm located and just talking to somebody to phone. But I do have, I usually talk for close to an hour with members to get them on board with the directory stands for what it's about how it works. And generally everybody who's ever joined has that same passion of wanting to help. If you've found a ring and returned it to somebody, you know how amazing that feels. I I've been blessed to have over 600 recoveries. Now. I think it's over 300 and something on the directory. Plus prior to when I was doing this. So I'd experienced it over 600 times, you only have to experience it once to see how amazing it makes someone you don't know feel. And at the same time, how good it makes you feel to return with someone's lost.
Can you describe that for me and for our listeners who want to experience that themselves?
Oh wow. It's you know, you go in, you listen to the stories, you hear the panic. First of all, when I get a phone call or an email, you can just read the panic or hear the panic. And you want to, you want to go in there and, and help you gotta listen to the stories we get in there. I had that lady, I was telling you about the other day, who had lost it in this area. When I found it, she was just over the moon. She was so happy. So it was her husband. And like I say, every one of these rings has a beautiful story attached to it. And when those rings are lost, the stories and what I, and my members on the directory do, we help continue that story. So it's the greatest feeling. And when you put it back in someone's hand to see how good it makes them feel, it it's addicting. It's, it's like you want to continue to do this out of everything I've ever done. I I've played professional soccer. I've my first acting gig was with Johnny Depp. I was trying to acting when I was younger and I've never done anything more rewarding, and that is felt as good as this feels and that's to help people.
I love that. Well, what are some of the rules that you have for your members?
Well, there's not so much rules. I always tell my members when you're in a search and you're looking for something for someone, show them absolutely everything you find before you put in your pouch. So if you're out there looking for, someone's lost time to bring you to the beach, you're inherently gonna pick up, pull tabs, ball caps, Bobby pins, nails, all kinds of pieces of iron. So you show them everything. Before you put in your power to the end of the day. If you don't find it, you dumped your poach. You show it to them and say, look, if you're reading this here, I would've found it. Now. There's reasons why we don't find what people have lost. And one of the most common reasons is people associate a lost ring by looking at their hand, realizing their ring's gone. And they freeze and they think, Oh my God, I've lost my ring.
And this is where they think they've lost it. It's very common at beaches and parks. So that, that, that association doesn't necessarily mean they lost it where they're standing. They could have been lost minutes earlier hours earlier. It just happens to be, look at their fingers. Something called my rings gone. This is the area they put us in. That happens a lot. I had probably seven in a row where parents had lost their rings in playgrounds. And my question would be okay. You lost the playground. Okay, fine. I, you know, what makes you think you lost it there while I was there for like an hour with my kids. I go, when did you realize your ring was missing? They're like the next day, a lot of them said the next day. And now there's a huge window from losing the, at a playground to realize in this conduct next day.
So I'll go to the playground. I do what I call a closure search. If it's there, I'll find it in all the cases. I never found anyone in any of the seven brains, but I told them now, you know, it's not here. Here's your next step? Where did you go? After one person went to a store, one person went to a gas station. Somebody else went to a, you know, a liquor store for, I think it was three other. The seven got the rings back there. They were in the lost and found and one found it in her washing machine. So they didn't, some didn't even have it when they went to the park. So a lot of times, if we don't find it, we'll tell the people don't give up. Here's what you can do. And you know, we'll tell them to do a police report, follow the lost and found because some people, the older generation, they don't know the Craigslist and how to post what they found.
So they'll go to the place. It was always told to us if we find something to train it to the police. So the training of the police lost and found would tell people to check the loss of thumb for the police department or area we'll, we'll suggest that they post up in the Craigslist after we searched for it. If we don't find it because there is a chance, but we want them on a certain scams to look out for. And then the other option is to post a lost poster in the area. Now we've had people get the rigs back that way.
Do you have a story of a find, that you're really proud of? That was like super hard. You never thought it was going to happen.
To be honest with you, me, I'm proud of everything I find because of the stories. I can tell you, a man from Australia was here visiting the Rocky mountains with his girlfriend. And she took off five of her rings, which were from her late husband. And she put it in the full of her shirt while they were driving to the airport. And this isn't a wintertime up, you know, Berta, which lot of snow he pulled off to the side of the road. Cause he wanted to take a picture of this one mountain called castle rock mountain. He jumped out of the car, was taking pictures. She jumped out, forgetting. She put those five rings in the fold of his shirt while she was moisturizing her hands and they get to the airport. She realizes he hasn't got a range. He runs back to the rental car.
The rings were gone. She, she was inconsolable. She couldn't even talk the whole 19 hour flight to Australia. He felt horrible because you know, you invite her to come out here and go on the holidays. So he flew back in a summertime and from the pictures he took at castle rock mountain, he he got in his hands and knees on the side of the road, in the dirt and grass and found two of the five rings. If you can believe it, just with a fork, just with a fork. That's how desperate this guy was. He goes back to Australia, presents her the two rings. She just loses it. So now he he's like, okay, I got to find those other three. He finds the ring finders. I didn't have any members in that area. That particular time he said, would you drive, you know, 10 hours, 11 hours to meet me there? I said, absolutely. So I drove. He flew in from Australia for one day GPS, the area we got there and I found the other three rings. He went incredible. They ended up getting married. It was a beautiful story. That one sticks out in my mind. There's so many others there. Like I said, they're all equally as important because the stories attached,
How do you Chronicle these stories?
I do videos. I have probably close to, I guess, close to 400 videos of recovering and returning rings. Plus on our website, we have a place where we blog our stories. So there's all the blogs of our stories. All our members get to blog stories of their journey of the rings. And they're, they're wonderful. I love reading them.
I feel like this is the reality show that we need right now. Have you ever been approached to do something like that
Approach many times? Yeah. It's funny you say that because we're kind of in talks right now, a little bit with the company that I, I feel I would be proud to work with. It's a pretty big company. I don't want to say any names right now, but I I've had many people approach me to do shows I've not done one because I won't do something that isn't real. There's no need to, to make a reality show on this company and glorify it and try to make it something that's not, the stories are powerful. Everybody's ring. Like you say, has an amazing story when those stories and we get to hear them. Sometimes we don't find them. But a lot of times we do. So I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the integrity of myself and my director and its members. So I'm very particular in who I would work with and how it would be. And right now we're just in the beginning stages. So you might see a show.
I hope so, selfishly, I hope so. Well, what is, what is the attention that Jon Cryers tweet stores, his story? What is, what kind of attention has that brought to the community?
It was huge. You know, it takes something like that to make awareness and you know, we've been on good morning America prior to this, we've been on so many news stories because of the human interest stories behind, you know, the losses and, and seeing a smile. So we, we get a lot of attention prior to John Cryer, but this really, it was like the home run on. And I even knew when I went out there, I thought, Oh, geez, I'd love to find this because I knew in the back of my mind there, this could open an opportunity for more people to know this beautiful directory is out there. So when I, when I found it and when I, you know, I've recorded, you see the video I selfishly, when I turned the camera off said, Hey, John, I'm sure you have followers.
I wasn't, you know, I don't follow him or anything like that, but I said, I'm sure you have followers. I go, would you mind sharing this on any of your social media? And he's like, yeah, I'll do a story. I'll do a story about my tweet about it. He was so happy. I thought, okay, cool. I didn't realize how hard that would hit because you know, he tweeted it and within an hour, every, every news station here did a story. Two of them did three stories on it. Like it was ridiculous how it went national here in Canada, every single newspaper throughout Canada. And I believe the U S even got hit with a lot of stories and I had members get and are still getting what I call the John Cryer effect, where we're finding rings because of the stories that have been done and people saying, Hey, you know, I lost my ring.
I had a lady right after the story, call me and say, I lost my ring three years ago. And you know, we're walking in a forest and I slipped in my husband slipped and we fell down a bit of this ravine and my ring went flying. So I went and found that after three years of members, like you say have been feeling the effect across our directory. So it was fantastic. I was on the Tamron hall show talking about it. It was, yeah, I think it, it really, they seem to be impressed of how long I've tweaked tweak kind of guy, but how long it lasted up on social media, they're saying, you know, how's it feel to be the talk of the town for like five days? It's like, well, yeah, good. You know, I love talking about this directory. It, it makes me happy because the more people that hear it, the chances are the more stories that are going to be revealed to us and people asking for help. And that's what we're here for. And we just love every call. There's not a member who joins that doesn't want to get a call. We all wait for those calls. And when we get them, it's exciting because we know we have a chance to go and find someone smiles. So we're, we're, you know, we're guilty of just loving what we do. And I just, I live for the calls.
And is there any sense of community among the members themselves? Like, are there meetups, do they get together in real life?
They, you know what we'd like to, or we talk about it, but now with this chronic it's, it's, it's a, it's a different game. Now. I would, every year, pretty much for three, four years, we'd go up to the California coast and meet members and go hunt with them and talk to them. We had a group of us from California get together and have a barbecue. I'd love to do that. You know, where we could have a big meeting and one, one, one place California, Florida, somewhere, and just meet everybody and have a long weekend of just hunting, detecting and telling stories. But until COVID, you know, we figured out COVID, that's not going to happen.
And until then, do you guys stay in touch through how do you, how do you guys stay in touch?
Well, it's like I say, we're all independent contractors, right? And, you know, we're there to help people. So I stay in touch by seeing the stories that are coming in. So I, you know, I, we have over 7,000, 300 recoveries over, you know, close to eight, $1 million in lost jewelry, recovered in return. So I kind of stay in touch with members by seeing their stories coming in. I've got to post all the pictures. I've got to post their, their, their stories on our website. So that's how I sort of stay connected with them. By seeing what they're doing. I'm open to members, members call me, email me, or text me any questions they have. I'm always there to help. I'm not somebody who just started a directory and and that's it. I I'm I'm also merrily Tetris that it's out there helping people.
So we, a lot of people will share stories, talk about equipment anything they want to talk about. I'm there to help and, and talk. I I've had a member in Washington, DC. He found just to show you the, you know, different extremes. We, we not only find jewelry, we can find buried treasure on people's property. I had a member in Washington, DC. He found a hundred thousand dollars for the gold Cougar and one ounce Cougar, and 60 of them that was buried, I believe for 30 years. And the son remembered his father telling him the story. And he contacted my member and my member found that. And you know, it's a, it's a beautiful story. If you go to Washington DC, his name is Brian Rudolph. He, his blog about it is like a book. It's amazing. He, you, he takes you right through the whole process of finding this guy's gold.
And not only did he find it when he found it, he left it in the hole. He didn't even take it out. Once he realized it was what he was looking for, he left it there. So his son could be the first to touch it since his father's late father and buried it. So, I mean, there's, it's, it's pretty powerful stuff. And yeah, we can find very treasure, hidden treasure. There's so many different things, you know, I've been called out for hearing AIDS, full steep. You name it. It's it's we, we could find it if it's made of metal.
What's the weirdest thing that you guys have found?
Well, I can't speak for anybody else. I'm sure everybody has weird things. I've found a tin can with a ponytail in it one time. And I can, it was wrapped up with like in a, in a cloth. I'm thinking to myself, somebody buried a Rolex or something like that. And I opened it up and there's a ponytail. And I just, I put it back in the can and put it back in the earth and walked away. I don't know what that was about, but it was kind of creepy.
That's the definition of random. I love that. Well, what didn't, you know, when you started this work that you now know about building a community,
What did I know? I guess how much work it is? It's, it's, it's a lot of work. I'm constantly on line. I'm constantly adding new members you know, adding photos every day deleting thousands of spam every day. But just extremely proud of how this continues to grow and how proud I am to see the smiles come in, how proud I am of the members that have joined to do exactly what I'm doing here in Vancouver, all across the United States, Canada. And like I say, 22 countries, I'm just, I'm extremely proud of watching this continue to grow. And my goal is to see over a million smiles before I die. So, you know the, the ring finders deserves to be a household name. That isn't the hardest part is we're not, I mean, John Pryor definitely helps. If I get a show, it will definitely help, but more people would need to know this because a survey was done many years ago by, I think it was called a company called ring safe, and they say in America, four out of 10, married men will lose their wedding band in their lifetime.
And I believe it was like something like 700 million married men. And it worked out to be like 22 million lost rings or 20 million lost rings. That's a lottery. That's just men think of how many women are losing their rings as well. So you think this is happening every day, somebody's losing the ring every day. I could probably stop work my personal job and do this full time if we were a household name. So my goal, my dream is to find a way to put this on the map where when anyone loses a ring, somebody goes call the ring finders. That's what I'm, that's what I'm working towards. Now.
Hopefully we can help you with that just a little bit here. Well, I wish you, I wish you could see my face throughout this interview. I've had like a huge smile the whole time, because you're, you're sort of generosity of spirit and your enthusiasm is totally infectious. If someone wants to get involved with the ring finders what should they do?
If you want to get involved with the refiners, go to our website, it's www.theringfighters.com. And there's a join section on the top. Just click on join. It will talk you through it. There is membership fees to be on we charge $65 per town or city that you want to join in that you're getting an info book with tips, tricks, techniques, grid, search videos, and you get your own personal blog page. And we done this. So whoever joins get their own profile page in their location, where they can have themselves show up on our directory whenever somebody clicks in their location. So it's, it's like having your personal website and Google loves the ring finders were 11 years old. Now they rank us really high because we were doing all the right things. I teach people how to do their posts, their blogs, and how to use the correct keywords that are going to help more people find them. So yeah, just come down to our directory, click on join. If you've lost something, we have a search bar where you just type in your location and we'll the nearest member too.
That's fantastic. Chris, Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you'd like to share?
If anybody wants to check out my YouTube channel, it's the ring finders on YouTube and I have close to 400 videos of surprising people and it's, it's pretty powerful. I I'm, I've got a way of surprising people and seeing their original, like, you'll see exactly what it means to people. Cause I I'll present in a way where they don't know, I find it. So I'm a little tricky when I rebuild a recovery and I catch people off guard and to see the reactions is it's beautiful. It really is. And you'll see why we're addicted to this and why we do what we do from just those videos. I know what I'm doing this afternoon.
If you want to connect with Chris or join the ring binders, go to their firstname.lastname@example.org. Their YouTube channel also has many terrific feel, good videos that are fun to watch. And you can find that at Turner's treasure team on YouTube, thank you to our team, Greg David, for his design work and Katie O'Connell from marketing. This episode, you can find out more about the work I do with my partners, Kevin and Kai, as people in company, helping organizations get clearer on who their most important communities are and how to build with those people by heading to our website, people and.company. Also, if you want to start your own community or supercharge one, you're already a part of our handbook is here for you. Visit get together book.com to grab your copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like this one with Chris. And last thing, if you don't mind, please review us or click subscribe. It helps get our stories out to more folks. See you next time. Yes.