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This Isn’t The Key To Getting A Refund

, , , , , , , , | Right | September 8, 2022

I witness this exchange in the key-cutting section of a department store. 

Customer: “I need you to recut these. They don’t work!”

Associate: “Sir, you very clearly didn’t buy these here. I can cut you new ones, but I will have to charge you for them.”

Customer: “H*** no! You guys cut them wrong! I’m not paying.”

Associate: “Sir, with all due respect, these are clearly not even machine cut. These marks here—” *points at something* “—indicate that they were probably hand-filed.”

Customer: “I—”

Associate: “In addition to that, we don’t even carry this key blank in brass coloring, only silver.” 

Customer: “But—”

Associate: “I haven’t even heard of this key manufacturer before.”

The associate puts the keys on the counter. 

Customer: *Slapping the counter* “Sir! Are you calling me a liar?!”

The associate looks at the keys and then back at the man a couple of times.

Associate: “Uhh… yes.”

Customer: “Oh… okay.” 

The customer slides the keys off the counter and slowly leaves the area dejectedly, without another word. 

[Associate #2] emerges from the sports section.

Associate #2: “What the h*** was that?”

Associate: “I’m not sure.”

Clueless, Keyless, Address…less?

, , , | Right | April 8, 2022

My coworker and I are heading to a customer’s location to make a key for an older car. It’s a fairly long distance away, so obviously, we need an address. The customer tells us he doesn’t actually know the address. What he describes sounds like it’s somewhere out in a random field with a barn; we get those occasionally. Since he can tell us it’s on the corner of [Street #1] and [Street #2], we manage to find the place pretty easily.

We also found out the following:

  1. It’s a house (not a field) with a detached garage — the “barn” in question.
  2. He’s been living there for over a decade.
  3. The house number is on his mailbox; he’s just never bothered to look at it.
  4. He doesn’t know whether he lives on [Street #1] or [Street #2]. (It’s Street #2.)
  5. He actually has the keys; he just keeps putting them in the wrong locks in spite of tags telling him exactly which car they go to. We find this out after making the new keys from scratch.

For what it’s worth, he seemed like a nice guy, just utterly clueless. We still charged him over $300 for everything we did.

In The Biz, We Call This The A**hole Tax

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: KiltedRonin | December 4, 2020

This happens in 1994 or 1995 or so. My adopted family owns a locksmith company, and of course, they trained me into the family business. It is an old-school family business; my old man is the gruff but honest type and really cares about the work we do. We are paid by commission, so it is absolutely worth it to me to work hard and take all the calls I can.

We also have an emergency line at home that we answer twenty-four-seven. That is part of our thing. You never get an answering service; it is always one of the family.

If you’re good at it, locksmithing is one of those skills that looks really easy, and some of the work goes fast if you know exactly how to do it. When you pay a locksmith, you’re not just paying for the time they’re working; you’re paying for them knowing what to do. Like the old joke, fixing the machine by whacking it once with a wrench doesn’t cost $10,000; knowing where to hit it does.

It is around 1:00 am on a Saturday night, and we get a call from a guy that’s locked out of an early 1990s Cadillac near the middle of the city.

Me: “Okay, that should be $125 to unlock the car, and I can be there in less than an hour.”

He agrees and tells me to come down. I managed to be onsite in a little more than thirty minutes, despite a decent storm going on.

The customer is there and the car is there; it’s business as usual. I do the preliminary stuff like grab his driver’s license to cross-reference with the registration and such. The keys are in the ignition, so I grab my tool, open the car in about thirty seconds, and grab the keys.

Normally, people are happy that it’s quick, or they make some lame joke about how they should learn to do that, but the price is very reasonable for the service — especially at 1:00 am in a rainstorm.

This guy…

Guy: *Smug and condescending* “I’ll pay you fifty bucks. That was too easy!”

I’m not having any of it. I shrug, toss the keys on the seat, and lock the doors. If it’s that easy, he can get ’em.

As you can imagine, the a**hole isn’t too happy with that. He sputters a bit.

Guy: “Fine! I’ll pay you. Just open the car.”

I unlock the car for the second time.

Me: “That’ll be $250; I’ve unlocked it twice.”

Instead of boring you with his four-letter vocabulary, I’ll just say that those keys end up back on the seat with the doors locked again.

At this point, the “gentleman” really gets to yelling and threatens to call another locksmith.

Me: *Politely* “My dad is the president of the local locksmith association and I would know any locksmith that would show up this late. They won’t be any more inclined to work a middle-of-the-night call for $50 than I am, and they won’t take kindly to your trying to cheat me out of my reasonable service charge twice.”

So, he calls the cops on me.

Well, the cops show up and ask me what is going on. I explained that I quoted the man a price over the phone, that there was a verbal agreement to the cost for me to come out and unlock the vehicle for $125, and at this point, I’ve unlocked it twice.

Officer: “Sir, you can either pay this locksmith to have your car opened or you can break a window.”

Guy: “I’m not breaking a window; it’s f****** raining!”

Officer: “Then I guess you’re paying the locksmith.”

So, he asks me to unlock his car. And I oblige. For the third time.

And, with his keys in my hand, I look him in the face and say:

Me: “That’ll be $375.”

He got pretty angry and asked if I would take a check. I kindly pointed out the ATM at the end of the block and told him that, unfortunately for him, I required cash.

Bonus! That particular ATM only dispensed $20 bills, so I got a $5.00 tip because, of course, I don’t carry change at that time of night.

It’s Not The Customers, Honey, It’s The Mileage

, , , , | Right | August 16, 2020

I’m a self-employed locksmith and security hardware consultant living in Savannah, Georgia where I’ve lived all my life. I get a call from a service company based in New Jersey to go check out a lock issue in a chain discount store.

That by itself isn’t uncommon; most chains these days use out-of-state service companies to find qualified repair technicians and locksmiths. When their location needs something, they call corporate, corporate calls the service company, and the service company calls me, validates my credentials and availability, and hires me to do the job. Easy. And most of them are really great to have as customers. 

What’s weird is when I ask where the store is located and they say Kathleen, Georgia.

I tell the representative I’ll have to do a quick Google search, because while I don’t recognize it, it might well be a small town inside my service area — usually about 100 miles — but I do make exceptions if they’re willing to pay my rates for commercial/industrial work. I have her spell out the name of the city so there are no mistakes. 

When I search, I find out that Kathleen, Georgia is about 180 miles away from me.

Me: “Huh… Well, please understand, I’m completely free today, and I’m more than happy to take the job, but that location is 180 miles from here, and my standard rate is $2/mile plus one hour labor minimum at $75/hr. It’d be about $435 minimum. Might I suggest calling a—”

I am about to suggest to the representative — again, from New Jersey — that they find a locksmith in the nearest major city to Kathleen — which is only about thirty-five miles away and should have at least a couple of qualified legitimate locksmiths — to save money, but she cuts me off. 

Representative: “$435?! THAT’S INSANE!”

Me: “I completely understand. I’m sure you can find a qualified locksmith who’s closer, but for me, it’s a 180-mile trip.”

Representative: “There’s no way it’s that far!”

Me: “I just checked Google; maybe there’s a different Kathleen, Georgia that’s closer? Are you sure that spelling is correct? Do you have a zip code?”

Representative: “You people in the south think we’re stupid. I can drive across New Jersey in less time than that!

I don’t really know what to say.

Me: “Ma’am, I can only tell you what Google tells me.”

Representative: “I know for a fact that Georgia is not that big!”

I’m getting frustrated here, but I don’t want to burn bridges with that service company… provided a different rep calls next time.

Me: “Ma’am, perhaps if you call a locksmith in Macon or Warner Robbins, I’m sure you can find someone there who’d be a lot cheaper.”

Representative: “Well, I’ll do that, then. Maybe I can find someone honest about their mileage.” 

Me: “Okay, have a nice day.” 

She hung up on me.

She’s Dead(bolt) On The Inside

, , , , | Right | June 30, 2020

I’m a locksmith, on the way to another city for a house unlock, and I get the info for another call. I give them a call and tell them that I’m on the way to another call and in about a half-hour or so, I can call and give them a proper estimate on when I will get there.

Customer: “Oh, well, I have to open my business and I have appointments. Do you know any other locksmiths?”

Me: “Well… not really, ma’am. Like I said, though, I can give you a call in about a half-hour and let you know when I’ll be there.”

Customer: “I thought you guys would be closer; I called a number for this town.”

Me: “Yes, ma’am. We are a completely mobile company. I can give you a call in about a half-hour, though.”

Customer: “Okay, whatever.”

I go and unlock the house, and I give the other customer a call; my GPS is telling me I’ll be there in about thirty-five minutes. I add about ten minutes to the ETA to accommodate any traffic or unexpected delays and just the sheer fact of me finding the place.

Me: “Hello, this is [My Name]. I just wanted to let you know I’ll be there in about forty-five minutes.”

Customer: “You said a half-hour ago you’d be here!”

Me: “Um… I think there’s a misunderstanding here. I said I’ll give you a call in about a half-hour with a more accurate ETA.”

Customer: “Well, if I knew it was going to be this long, I wouldn’t have called. How far are you again?”

Me: “About forty-five minutes ma’am.”

Customer: *Pauses* “Where are you again?”

Me: “I’m down in [Nearby City]. I just finished another call.”

Customer: “What address?”

I pause for a split second, realizing she’s going to try to GPS me and figure out exactly where I am to see if I’m lying to her. “Guest Service Mode” ACTIVATE!

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m not at liberty to reveal the locations of our customers.”

Customer: “Oh, well, whatever. Just get here.”

Me: “I’m already on my way.”

I start heading down there, going just a little over the speed limit to make it there without any more complaints. Of course, I don’t even get that far. About ten minutes out, my phone goes off.

Me: “Hello, this is [My Name].”

Customer: “Hi, it’s [Customer]. I just wanted to see how far away you are in minutes, since one of my appointments just showed up and he wants to know how far you are so he can decide to wait or not.”

I get an eye-twitch, having to put forth a little effort now to keep my guest service voice up.

Me: “Well, ma’am, I’m down by the Chevy dealer.”

Customer: “The one outside town?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am.”

Customer: “Okay, see you soon.” *Hangs up*

I get to her address and start working to unlock her business after I introduce myself. As I’m standing there trying to unlock the door, she keeps talking and telling me about the lock and how “I don’t know why it’s on two different keys,” and, “Whoever designed it was stupid,” and, “I lost the keys sometime last night,” etc. It gets to the point as I am trying to unlock it that I say in a very even tone:

Me: “Ma’am, I need a minute to focus on this.”

She gave me a look like “Are you a moron?” when I asked her what way she turned her key to open her door. 

As I was working on the lock, I saw that her sign said she opened at 8:00 am on Saturdays. The appointment she was running late for was at 10:30, and I got the info at 9:30 ish. So, now, I was wondering why she was ignorant enough to wait until the last minute to get her place open… and that just annoyed me.

Finally, I unlocked the deadbolt and she went in, leaving me and her client standing out there. Her client walked in, and then I took a minute to gather my tools and walked in to which I saw her with her voicemail on speakerphone, jotting down appointments. I just stood there for about five minutes before she waved me over and finally paid me.