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How to find a reputable locksmith
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 6:00AM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 11:12AM PDT
Picking a locksmith can be difficult. There are many websites advertising locksmith services and sometimes they look like good deals. But what you could be calling is actually a dispatch centre in another part of the country, or even the world, and they may tempt you by advertising or quoting low rates.
When the McLaughlin on Your Side team called a locksmith website indicating low rates, they were charged a much higher price when the locksmith showed up to do the job. Despite advertising $15 for a service call and $35 and up for a house lockout, the locksmith said it would cost $255 to pick our lock.
“It depends on the lock," explained the locksmith.
"That's an easy lock," argued Ross McLaughlin.
“No, not easy, five pins medium security," said the locksmith.
Our producer was able to pick the same lock in two minutes. And while the locksmith did tell us the actual price of the job before he started the work, most people will pay the higher price out of desperation when they're locked out.
"They're being misled by these companies," said Evan Kelly with the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB website shows the number CTV called belongs to Vancouver Locksmith, which doesn't appear to have a mandatory security licence from the province. It has an F rating with the BBB and the listed address doesn’t seem right.
When McLaughlin arrived at the location, there was no Vancouver Locksmith company there.
"They're really just redirected to a call centre somewhere else like Toronto who then dispatches someone locally," explained Kelly.
The locksmith who picked our lock said he was working for Top Locksmith, not the website we called.
Top Locksmith has a security licence, but the address on its website is a private residence. The person living there said they were not with the company.
McLaughlin called the owner on the phone, who told us the address is just a service point.
"Because we're mobile service we're changing addresses sometimes. You know it's just some type of advertising. It's a service point. It's not a physical address for a shop or something," he said.
The owner told us he's paying the guys behind the Vancouver Locksmith call center website up to 20 per cent of what his guys charge in the field.
And the BBB says you also need to be aware of imposter ads.
Recently, another mobile locksmith was using the name of a local locksmith, Pop-A-Lock, to advertise and get business. The real Pop-A-Lock has an A+ rating with the BBB.
But when McLaughlin hit the road check the address listed with the imposters, it was a residential complex, not an address for Pop-A-Lock in Langley.
McLaughlin on Your Side met with the real Pop-A-Lock owner who explained how these ads have been hijacking his business.
“It makes me mad,” said Todd Coupal, Pop-A-Lock owner, "We've been trying to follow up with the Ministry of Justice and they can't find a record of any licence with these kinds especially under this address."
"They've stolen Pop-A-Lock's brand, their logo, their name," said Kelly.
One clue to avoid higher prices is to get a firm price before anyone picks your lock.
"We're up front with our lock pick prices. We're $70 for a service call, $20 for a lock pick. $90 dollars and you're done," said Coupal.
The locksmith who helped set up our test says he charges between $95 and $150 for a lockout, but says the price is firmly quoted when you call and it doesn't matter how difficult the lock might be. The bottom line is if the company is vague on a price when you call and won't quote until they come out, move on.
So how do you go about finding a locksmith?
All locksmiths need to be licensed by the province, ask for their licence number and look them up. Also, check out their rating with the BBB where you can also see reviews and complaints, and talk to family and friend for recommendations.
Once you find a reputable locksmith, keep their number handy in case of an emergency.
This article is the second in a series. Read Part One here.