Just as one would ask questions of a mechanic when bringing their car in for service, it is important to ask questions of one’s locksmith in order to avoid getting ripped off.
While I would venture to say that the majority of the people in the locksmith industry are hardworking and honest, there is certainly no shortage of bad apples. Asking questions and taking a genuine interest in the required work will reduce the chances that you will be taken advantage of by a dishonest locksmith and will ensure that you walk away from the experience with the absolute best value.
Over the years, I have gone on far more calls for lockouts than anything else. There are few things more annoying in life than being locked out of your house or car and it always seems to happen at the least convenient times, in accordance with Murphy’s Law. People are typically pretty stressed out in these situations and, as a result, are vulnerable to the suggestions of dubious locksmiths. What makes things more challenging is that when you are locked out, there is no time to do the proper research and sometimes you end up going with the first name that comes up online or in the Yellow Pages. It is important to keep in mind that lockouts are a fairly routine call for locksmiths and they should be fairly inexpensive.
Irrespective of the service that you require, the most important question to ask is how much the service will be. A dishonest locksmith will take advantage of the fact that a price wasn’t quoted first to charge you whatever tickles their fancy at the moment. Honest locksmiths will generally offer lockout services at a flat rate during working hours and you should expect some additional service charges at night, during the weekend and on holidays. When you first contact the locksmith, ask for a price quote and make sure that there won’t be any additional surprise charges.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to lockouts is that it is truly rare that a locksmith will need to destroy the locks in order to gain access into your home. A capable locksmith should be able to pick your lock without too much difficulty. In my experience, there are really two situations in which a locksmith would be required to drill your locks. First is when a lock completely seizes. Locks contain numerous minute moving parts and, over time, dirt and corrosion can take their toll. The second is when a door is protected by both a high-security lock and a protective side bar. If a locksmith immediately pulls out a drill then you need to start asking questions. Cases where someone is locked out because the door simply closed behind them are about as easy as they come in this business and shouldn’t run you too much money. When you speak to the locksmith over the phone, explain how you came to be locked out and inquire as to how they plan on opening the lock. If they get evasive with their answers or start giving you sketchy answers then move on to the next number on the list.
Dishonest locksmiths will also typically target calls that require lock changes. The most important thing for you to keep in mind as a consumer is that locks come in a wide range of prices. Prices will vary between the different manufacturers as well as the level of security that the lock offers. When you speak with the locksmith over the phone, make sure that you are not only quoted a price for the appropriate lock but that you are quoted the full price for the installation; including, any service charge. Just as with lockouts, you can expect an additional service charge during off-hours. Again, the service charge should be reasonable.
Whether you are locked out of your home in the middle of an arctic storm or just need a leisurely lock change, the important thing is to keep your head and don’t be afraid to ask questions.