Locksmithing may be the ultimate emergency service. Like plumbers, electricians and other home service standards, when you need a good locksmith, you need one RIGHT NOW. But unlike those others, you may go decades without calling a locksmith for help. You probably have a go-to electrician and HVAC company ready to call, but when you're hiring in a hurry, you can easily find yourself at the mercy of the first locksmith you call.
Furthermore, locksmithing tends to attract its share of shady operators and outright scams. To avoid this problem, plan ahead to be ready for a lockout. Arm yourself with these tips for the best possible hiring:
Absolutely make sure your locksmith is a local business with a brick-and-mortar address. Unscrupulous companies often flood phone books with businesses that appear local, but don't have a local presence. They're just centralized call centers that send out contracted technicians with minimal training.
If you have to hire in a hurry, ask detailed questions of the person on the other end of the line. Reputable professionals will be happy to answer questions about locks and door hardware. The call center representatives for less savory organizations won't do that.
Take caution with locksmith companies with names like "AAA" or "A1." These names are designed to push them to the front of the phone book.
Be wary of scams. Shady locksmith companies lure in customers with claims of extremely low rates and unrealistic response times. Call center locksmiths often quote prices between $15 and $40 over the phone, then pile on extra charges when they arrive. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Look for credentials
Locksmith licensing can be a complicated territory to navigate. Most states don't license locksmiths, and various municipalities have their own rules. Study up on your local regulations, and absolutely make sure you hire someone who meets those standards. If your state or city doesn't license locksmiths (and indeed, even if they do), look for professional certification such as ALOA Security Professionals Association or the Society of Professional Locksmiths. This certification demonstrates continuing education and dedication to the craft.
3. Check them out ahead of time
It's wise to have a locksmith on call before you ever need one. Check reports on Angie's List and call the company to get an estimate on their services before you agree to have work done. Ask for details about their pricing and available hours. Do they have emergency hours? Do they charge for mileage or have service-call minimums?
Once you find a service provider you're comfortable with, store that company's information in your purse, wallet or cellphone — some place you're likely to have access to if locked out.
Incidentally, when you research your locksmith, don't think of them just for emergency services. Home security and lock technology have changed a great deal in recent years. A good locksmith can inspect your home, offer suggestions and perhaps solve problems you didn't even know you had, with solutions you didn't know existed.