A Locksmith Opened My Door in Minutes – Should I Pay Less?
This is a question I am asked regularly on my blog post “How Much Does a Locksmith Cost?”. Incidentally this is one of my most popular blog posts! It is clear that there is confusion and a lack of clarity about how much you should really pay for locksmith jobs. On one hand there are those that think they should pay a very small amount for a job and on the other hand I come across customers who have parted with large amounts of cash (to a seemingly cheap locksmith) for substandard and sometimes unnecessary work.
Image courtesy of Howard Lake
Locked Out and Need to Gain Access
Here I will specifically address the issue of people who are locked out and want an affordable locksmith to gain access to their property. I am called out to this type of job regularly and am experienced in dealing with a variety of lock out situations. No two jobs are the same. Sometimes there is urgency to access the property and the pressure can be intense. There have been situations where I need to open a door when a small child is locked inside and more recently there was a situation where the home owner with small children was threatening to jump of a high building. There was also the time DIY SOS were locked out and the homeowner was due to return for the big reveal and both the back and front doors needed to be opened pronto! It can be very challenging and pressurised at times.
How to Gain Entry – Explained
As an MLA approved locksmith there are various methods I can use to gain entry, which I don’t like to go into too much detail of because I am not keen to share the information with burglars! When a customer calls I need to ask them a series of questions to establish the situation and what possible methods of entry I can use.
Establishing the Circumstances of the Lock Out
The questions I ask when customers call are;
- Are you locked inside or outside?
- Is it your Chubb lock or your night latch?
- Have you lost your key? Or is the key on the inside?
- Can you tell me more about how it happened and the circumstances
- Do you have ID to connect you to the property?
From this information I can get an idea of what methods I can use to gain access. Saying that it is never cut and dry and I never really know how long a job will take. Opening a front door could take anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 hours. As you can imagine this makes planning my day quite tricky!
Possible Method of Access – To Drill or Not to Drill
The methods that can be used very much depend on the circumstances. There are a range of options available and an experienced and honest locksmith will be able to gain access with minimum damage and within a reasonable time frame. Finding the balance is something that comes with experience and honesty.
Some of the options a locksmith can use to gain entry are;
- By-passing via side of door
- Using a letter box tool
- The use of a screwdriver
- Drilling the lock
Drilling a lock is a last resort as it destroys the lock and the lock will need to be replaced. Sometimes it is necessary to drill a lock and the time it would take to open it in a non destructive way needs to be weighed up.
Some locksmiths are experts at picking locks and will relish the challenge and at the other end of the spectrum there are locksmiths who will drill where it’s not necessary to (if you search for cheap locksmith near me it isn’t always wise to choose the one that seems the cheapest, do you research). This comes back to choosing a trustworthy, experienced locksmith and avoiding the many rogue locksmiths operating in London. Make sure you choose a CRB checked locksmith! All MLA approved locksmiths are CRB checked, qualified and vetted. Look out for the logos. You can read about how to choose a reliable locksmith here.
How Long Will It Take To Open a Lock?
How long it will take and the amount of damage caused very much depends on;
- The lock
- The circumstances
- The experience of the locksmith
- Tools to hand
- The honesty of the Locksmith you have chosen!
The ideal scenario is that you will gain access to your property as quickly as possible and with as little damage as possible.
Quoting to Open a Lock – Locksmith Prices Explained
Fixed Price or Hourly Rate?
Different locksmiths have different ways of quoting to open a lock. Some quote a fixed price and some quote by the hour.
There are locksmiths who charge by the hour and some are honest and genuine but many are out to make money at the customer’s expense. As I have said many times before, be careful who you choose!
I have been asked, “Is reasonable to charge an hourly rate if entry is gained in minutes?” If you have agreed to an hourly rate then it is reasonable to be charged the hourly rate provided they have completed the job they agreed to do. I would be more concerned if they were taking a very long time and destroying the lock and the bill was mounting.
At IKS Locksmiths we quote a fixed price to gain entry and that will stay fixed whether it takes 2 minutes or 2 hours! I would always advise choosing a locksmith who quotes a fixed price. Our aim is non destructive entry within the best possible timeframe.
Out of Hours Pricing
If you call a locksmith out of hours you can expect to pay more. This is because you are calling at a time when the locksmith may be on emergency call but off duty. To ask someone to leave family, get out of bed or rush out just when they are about to eat carries a premium. You can read more about that here.
This is an example, on the Money Saving Expert Forum, of someone who has been overcharged by a locksmith. This type of scenario is not uncommon, I speak to people who have been fleeced on a regular basis.
Image courtesy of Images Money
What Exactly are you Getting For Your Money?
When people question why they need to pay perhaps £60 for a job that takes maybe a few minutes it can become quite awkward. There is a minimum amount that I charge to complete any job. If I were to travel to jobs throughout the day charging £10 my business would not survive. It just wouldn’t be viable and I wouldn’t be able cover my outgoings let alone support my family. It is not uncommon for me to make suggestions to customers on the phone and in my blog posts of ways to resolve an issue without having to shell out money unnecessarily to the nearest locksmith. I am running an honest ethical business.
Here I explain what my prices reflect;
Experience and expertise
The “know how” to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is not something to be sniffed at! I have spent considerable time and money training and gaining qualifications in my specialist area as a property locksmith. Not something that every locksmith is prepared to do.
I don’t have a retail premises but I rent an industrial unit and lease vans. Then there is the cost tools, marketing, salaries, I could go on….
Time and Travel
Time and fuel spent travelling to a job needs to be factored in. I need to have a fair pricing structure that applies to all customers. The time and distance will be shorter to some jobs and much longer to others. I need to cover the cost implications of this throughout the day.
Image courtesy of ciocci
Dropping Everything for an Emergency Call
Being a locksmith on 24 hour call and potentially having to drop everything at any moment has a significant effect on my quality of life and that of my family. There is never really a time when I have completely clocked off, I even get calls when I am on holiday!
My Husband Doesn’t Even Get Paid That Much!
On one occasion I opened a door for a customer who was locked out and when I asked for payment (I always get agreement on the amount on the phone prior to attending) the customer proclaimed “My Husband Doesn’t Even Get Paid That Much Per Hour!” In those types of scenarios I have to admit that I do find it insulting that my expertise and value is being questioned. However when it comes down to it I know that I offer exceptional value to my customers and that my prices are highly competitive with other London Locksmiths. Just because I don’t work in the city or wear a suit doesn’t mean that my time and knowledge are not valuable. I think the fact that I am hands on with all aspects of the job adds value to the service as I see jobs through from start to finish. It can be interesting to see people’s perceptions of what my time is worth.
I do hope this has given you an understanding of why locksmiths can’t charge buttons for jobs (as well as what to be wary of) and I hope that it has given you an insight into exactly what my costs cover.
Should you feel that you do need to make a complaint about a locksmith there is advice on how to do so here. Please do share any experiences you may have had with us. We would be happy to offer our advice.