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Are Low Locksmith Prices Real Or A Scam

31st August 2020

Finally, September is on the horizon and the schools are on the brink of reopening. I’m sure parents all over the region will be breathing a sigh of relief at that, although understandably this relief may be tinged with anxiety given the circumstances. However, it’s a big step back to normality, and to commemorate this blessed moment, I thought I’d try and contribute by delivering a little bit of learning of my own. This will be in the form of raising awareness of a dodgy scheme that seems to be gaining traction across the country recently, and that I’m keen for you all to avoid. 

I’m talking about a “bait and switch” scheme, which the Master Locksmith Association (MLA) have noted is especially prevalent in London, but as with all these things, will likely spread nationwide. The MLA are trying to make as many people as possible aware of the scam, so it’s only right I do my part to try and stop people being cheated.

At its root, a bait and switch scheme is pretty simple – it describes when a firm attracts a customer with a cheap advertised price, but then at the end of the work produces a bill that is far higher than the initial fee – often as much as a tenfold increase or more. 

Usually the cheap price will be prominent in online adverts, paid for at the top of the page in google listings as Google sponsored ads. These will always have “Ad” next to them, as opposed to those companies who have made it near the top of the listings though being trusted and having positive, genuine (see below) reviews. These paid for ads will promise a low price, say £39 or £49, but then when the work has been done the bill bears no resemblance to this. The MLA highlighted a case this month where the initial quote was £49 and the final price was £1,604 – an incredible 3270% increase! 

It’s all very well being aware of the problem, but what can customers do to protect themselves? Firstly, it’s worth familiarising yourself with average prices for locksmith work. A root around the Master Locksmith Association site will provide you with these, and there are a wide range of consumer sites that will give you a rough idea of the cost per job. If the price quoted to you is a lot lower than this average, then alarm bells should start ringing, as it’s unlikely this price can be honoured, and even if it is, it may be shoddily done with cheap materials.

You should always feel comfortable asking a locksmith questions before you give the go ahead for any work to be carried out. Ask them if they will personally be doing the work or if they subcontract out to other people. Be sure of what the advertised price covers and if there is a call out charge applied. Feel free to ask for the quote to include a detailed breakdown of everything that is required, and get it in writing if possible. Make sure you ask if the quote is set in stone or is an estimate. If it is for a significant piece of work, get more than one quote to see how they compare. Be wary of just choosing the cheapest one regardless of reputation as this can often be a false economy. 

You may have the quotes but be unsure as to the reliability and expertise of each particular locksmith. Ask around your friends and family to see if they’ve had good service from a particular company, as they will be the most trusted people you can ask. After this, you can look at online reviews, but it’s sometimes tricky to rely wholly on these. I suggest looking on a variety of platforms such as Google, Facebook, Bing etc, and not just rely on one platform. 

My reviews are all genuine, but there are companies who will pay for positive reviews, so watch out for these. Generally, the more detail in the review about the job that the locksmith has done, the more likely it is to be genuine. Where it’s just a star rating and the review consists of just a couple of words, not even naming the locksmith or firm personally, this could be a sign of a bought review. On some social media, negative reviews can be hidden by the company, giving the false impression that all reviews are glowing. As a rule therefore, go for word of mouth first, then look online, but across a variety of sites, not just relying on one batch of generic reviews. 

It always pays to use common sense, and retain a sceptical point of view when choosing a new locksmith. An unusually cheap price is the primary red flag, but the advert may also make claims of the approval of a third party or recommended by police, without any evidence to back this up. The trader knows that most people won’t check this out, so just puts in on the advert to try to boost their reputation, when in reality the claims can be nonsense. Another red flag is if there is no name on the advert – it may be that the number on the advert simply goes to a call centre and is then subcontracted so that you may find it hard to discover which company the person who attends actually works for in case of needing a follow-up.

I’m happy to report that most locksmiths are trusted and are professional tradesmen, making a steady living, and helping people without ripping off the vulnerable. That in part is what makes me annoyed when these schemes go round. Not only do customers lose out, but it also dents trust in the profession as a whole. However, by keeping alert and following some of the tips above, that’ll make your choice a bit easier in future. Obviously, if you’re in the locality, I’d be delighted if you chose me for any work, but further afield, please do carry out those additional checks to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting, how much you’ll be paying, and that the work will be to a satisfactory standard. 

For any assistance at all with any lock or security-related matters, please call me on 07990573857

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