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There are zillions of locksmiths in the naked city
July 8, 2009 11:53 PM   Subscribe

High-priced emergency locksmith services clog up local business listings (and Google Maps), driving all the emergency calls to their numbers. It's happened all over the country. E.g., a 'brash new locksmith company' comes to Madison, WI.
posted by grobstein (76 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Oh hello, antipodean afternoon. "The country" means Usa.)
posted by grobstein at 11:56 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good afternoon grobstein. Related AskMe.
posted by tellurian at 12:04 AM on July 9, 2009


The company advertises 24-hour service and, according to Burlin, uses several names and telephone numbers and addresses in its listings, including Madison Locksmith, Crazy Larry’s, Express Locksmith, 007 Locksmith and 24 Hour Emergency Locksmith.

I know when I'm looking for someone to unlock my car, I want someone named "Crazy Larry" to do it.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:29 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And you helped!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 AM on July 9, 2009


as an antipodean Ive got to say I've heard of locks, and my pa seen one in the Big Town Carnival when he was a boy. Our houses are so far apart that we don't needs locks, and it's not like we got nothing to steel, my us kids each got a shiny new penny from the Prime Minister.
posted by mattoxic at 12:39 AM on July 9, 2009 [17 favorites]


Seems like an obvious, if underhanded, business tactic. The vast majority of people aren't going to do a bunch of research on locksmiths in advance just in case they ever have a problem. So when an emergency occurs and they need a locksmith right now they will choose more or less randomly from the names that come up on the internet or whatever. So the way to get the (lucrative) emergency calls is to be listed many times under many names in many locations. If there are 30 locksmiths and 29 of them are listed once, you can corner the market by being listed 120 times as the others start going out of business because you've screwed them.

We'll probably start to see this more and more as the internet increases its dominance, particularly for things that require time-sensitive attention. Plumbing, for instance, except that far more people are likely to already have the name of a decent plumber than a decent locksmith. But things of that nature.
posted by Justinian at 12:44 AM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Locksmiths are ridiculously expensive, even normal ones. I once priced a locksmith when I locked my keys in the car - it would have been substantially cheaper to bash out a window and replace it (my roommate later succeeded in coat-hangering the door.)

It's just one of those jobs where they know that interacting with you at all means they've gotten you over a barrel, so they have no reason not to try and screw you over. Best to try and figure out ways to avoid having to use one if you can.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:46 AM on July 9, 2009


So how long until we get a RBL for locksmiths, plumbers, ambulances, funeral homes, etc?
posted by idiopath at 12:48 AM on July 9, 2009


A better link for RBL.
posted by idiopath at 12:52 AM on July 9, 2009


Wow. I've known drug dealers who were less sketchy than the guy running the "locksmith" operation described in that article.

I guess you can get away with a lot of crap when you're providing a service that most people only need very occasionally, and are generally not in a position to do anything but the most trivial shopping around for. Reminds me of some horror stories I've heard about undertakers.

Just looking at various Yelp reviews it looks like fly-by-night locksmith operations pulling the old bait and switch are just about everywhere.

Incidentally — is there some way for shady operations to game Yelp, besides the obvious (sockpuppeting)? I found a locksmith with a particularly high rating that I'd never heard of, but it seems like the reviews are for a slightly different business (hardware store instead of a locksmith; although I suppose maybe it's also a hardware store).
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:00 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I sympathize a lot with the local, longstanding businesses, and frankly I don't see how they recover from the sort of underhanded, concerted attack described in the article. At the same time, it's this sort of behavior that makes people scream for state regulation, especially since one can all-too-easily imagine even greater price gouging once the swarm of ads and phone numbers has choked off the old guard.

Not a good time to be a locksmith in Madison, or probably anywhere...
posted by mosk at 1:06 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Could this guy be one of the locksmith scammers? He's cut and pasted the same negative review in all the Locksmith listings in Philly, and has edited and changed the numbers of dozens of locksmith companies...
posted by Deathalicious at 1:15 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Google Maps search for "Locksmith, Madison, Wisconsin"
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:17 AM on July 9, 2009


Sockpuppeting like this is nothing new. 20-odd years ago a friend of mine was keeping a database of escorts and masseuses found in the local papers to track exactly this sort of thing for his boss.

(I did say they were odd years...)

More recently, wasn't the proliferation of dodgy camera stores - both bricks and mortar, and online - in NYC exactly the same thing?
posted by Pinback at 1:21 AM on July 9, 2009


I've known drug dealers who were less sketchy than the guy running the "locksmith" operation described in that article.

I'm waiting for my man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:28 AM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This guy, on the other hand, is clearly no fan of Burlin.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:29 AM on July 9, 2009


This lady sure gets locked out a lot! boy, this is fun
posted by Deathalicious at 1:31 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is a fascinating way to use technology for marketing. And by "fascinating" I mean a great way to act like a scumbag.

More recently, wasn't the proliferation of dodgy camera stores - both bricks and mortar, and online - in NYC exactly the same thing?

s/recently//
posted by ryoshu at 1:33 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The insane thing about these reviews is that Burlin or his sockpuppets are leaving reviews for his own business as bogus reviews for legitimate, established locksmiths. These guys need to get their acts together while they still have businesses to protect and use the legal system. This is classic libel. Chop chop!
posted by 1adam12 at 1:34 AM on July 9, 2009


This is classic libel. Chop chop!

Locksmiths, as a rule, are not known for having loads of cash lying around. Companies like Burlins depend on the fact that their behavior is not high profile enough to involve criminal proceedings, yet just damaging enough to pretty much destroy the competition which can't afford any legal defenses.

Pretty deplorable.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:40 AM on July 9, 2009


I've been going through and reporting all the bogus reviews. It couldn't be easier. Simply search, click on reviews, then click on the user. If they have more than a couple of positive reviews for a variety of locksmiths in time (and these reviews are cut and pasted), then report.

So far I've reported around 6-8 I would guess. If we all take part, that will hopefully make a dent in it.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:41 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anybody with a car should pretty much have an AAA membership. It's worth the $50 a year for the one time that you get locked out or need a jump.
posted by Avenger at 1:50 AM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I live in a small city in the southern US, population roughly 500,000. The 2009 AT&T Yellow Pages Locksmith section is nearly 20 pages long and most of it is text. I counted 2,372 "locksmiths" that had similar names (yes, I counted them up, 47 locksmiths to a vertical column, which makes it easy when they're filling most of them). It's quite obvious there are big-time shenanigans going on.
posted by crapmatic at 3:37 AM on July 9, 2009


Its happening here in London as well, but in the UK The Institute of Certified Locksmiths provides a referral service so if folks lookup a locksmith via ICL (its a stretch I realise) they'll be fine.

On a related note there is an interesting aspect of these cowboys that one of my colleagues got caught up in about three months ago.

I'm taking a sabbatical to finish my MBA, and generally spend most of the day working on two remaining case studies and my dissertation, all for a September completion (trying to avoid MeFi as well, but that's another struggle). A bunch of us from Uni keep in touch via IM, generally trading tips, pointers, complaints on the case studies we're writing or the hard assed prof, etc, etc, etc.

So one day this Asian banker I'm friendly with starts complaining to us about the awful racket going on outside her flat. She was upstairs on the third floor, but could hear this hellacious noice, sound of metal on metal, banging, all sorts of disturbance, all coming from someplace downstairs, but most definitely outside her flat.

We were discussing some intricacies of a Leadership case when she excuses herself to go downstairs and investigate.

She opens her front door she saw two guys, one of whom promptly turned tail and ran off. The other was one of these "24 Hour Emergency Locksmiths" who, it turned out, had been retained by the scumbag who ran off to "get him into his flat".

Only problem - it wasn't his flat. The Locksmith certainly didn't ask for any ID, proof, etc. Just arrived, commiserated, estimated and started into drilling the locks of her burglar gates. Next up would have been two locks on the front door and then inside. Police were dutifully summoned and while taking statements one of the officers mentioned this has been happening in her neighbourhood (Mayfair, its upscale) a lot.

Apparently criminals do this during the day as most folks are working. Locksmith is summoned, drills, replaces, and leaves the grateful "resident" inside and in possession of new keys. Who then plunders the place and is gone by the time the rightful resident returns.

Who, as it turns out, can't get inside their flat. So who are they gonna call?

That's right, a locksmith.
posted by Mutant at 4:03 AM on July 9, 2009 [22 favorites]


Google Maps search of locksmiths in my manhattan neighborhood looks like smallpox.
posted by mert at 4:09 AM on July 9, 2009


Make three Bump Keys and you need never call a lock smith again.

It's not quite as easy as they make out, but it's still pretty easy.
posted by smoke at 4:13 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anybody with a car should pretty much have an AAA membership.

Or not. It's cool if they help you get into your car, what is not so cool is their non-stop anti-bicycle lobbying.
posted by fixedgear at 4:32 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, just yesterday I left my keys in the car when forgetting to pocket them before picking up my parcels off the passenger seat. Thankfully, a 12" metal shelf support -- one of those slot-bracket flat ones with a little nubbin on the end -- makes a dandy slim-jim.

Really, knowing the basics of how common devices operate is pretty useful information. Faucets, doorknobs, toilets, wall switches, hinges, telephones. You can save a respectable amount of money each year by, instead of picking up the yellow pages when confronted with a problem, picking up a "how to" book and seeing if it's something you can just deal with yourself.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:01 AM on July 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


The emergency locksmith who let me into my car a couple months back was this drunk Yugoslavian named Boban. He had a headlamp on like a spelunker and a huge gun on his hip. He claimed to have been a famous artist in Eastern Europe but he came to America to pursue his dream of making sex movies. Also, he was designing an exercise device that would American women tone their flaccid vagina muscles, and he was an expert on women's vagina muscles because he had slept with 100 women in his life, many of whom were from Algeria.

"American women look skinny, but they are not skinny on the inside, inside they are cave."

The idea behind the exercise device is that when you squeeze your vagina muscles it lights up a series of lights. When you start, maybe you light up two lights with your flaccid vagina muscles. But after a few weeks? Four lights. This exercise device will be called, "The Pleasure Stick."

Btw, his wife was standing right next to him the whole time and seemed wholly supportive of his dreams.

They did get me in my car, though, and gave me a fridge magnet to make sure I could call them again if I ever needed to. And you know what? I will.
posted by The Straightener at 5:18 AM on July 9, 2009 [67 favorites]


From the article:

Lehr, a locksmith for more than 28 years, moved to Madison with his family seven years ago and took over Lock Doc. He works alone. His bread and butter is emergency lockout calls, able to respond 24 hours a day. Since new telephone business listings came out earlier this year, which are repeated on Internet sites, his business has dropped 90 percent

So, Lock Doc is one of the (few) legit, established locksmiths in Madison. But check out the reviews that come up on Google for it. This one is typical:

This company is operating in the Madison area using more than fifty different business names, phone numbers and bogus addresses. They advertise bogus addresses throughout the city to fool you into thinking they are local and nearby. These are same tactics being used by "scam locksmith companies" in many cities accross the United States. BEFORE using this company search the internet for "Scam Locksmiths". Please check this company out before you use them.This companys phone number comes back to USA Locksmiths(SCAM) Please google USA Locksmiths complaints Please check with the better business bureau BE CAREFUL!

That was from a reviewer called "truth666." Looks like the scammers have either: (1) So confused people about which business goes by which name that good ones are being tarred with the same brush as bad, or (2) Intentionally left online reviews accusing the good guys of the tactics that they themselves do.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:34 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


N-thing the recommendation for CAA/AAA membership. Despite their sometimes anti-bike noise, if you're a regular driver and take road trips, it's pretty good value/insurance. And they provide some great discounts (hotel rates, etc).

Locksmiths are like any other trade. The secret is to find a person or company who has been recommended by friends, try them out, and if you are happy, give them regular business (hint - maybe buy a lock or two from them). A trust relationship gets set up, and in the event you need emergency service, you already know who to call.

(Ok you are all now free to continue to do all your hardware shopping with Home Depot, get your car serviced at some national chain, etc, and to amass horror stories about how you were gouged when you needed some emergency service. All the while complaining how the little guy is being shafted...)
posted by Artful Codger at 5:39 AM on July 9, 2009


One of the bail bondsman companies around here has taken an interesting tack. They've started doing radio commercials, just to get brand awareness. I've never heard a single other commercial for a bail bondsman. So when you do get in trouble, and need to pick a bail bondsman from a list (similar to the locksmith situation), you might just pick the one who's name rings a bell for some reason. Clever.
posted by smackfu at 5:43 AM on July 9, 2009


Make three Bump Keys and you need never call a lock smith again.

Just make sure to always carry them with you. But obviously not on your key chain.
posted by smackfu at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Instead of AAA, I went with the Better World Club. Same services and they match AAA's prices, but without the right-wing anti-environmental, pro-Detroit lobbying. Can't say much beyond that, as I have never need to actually use them.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:48 AM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I used to be a AAA member. They are not the only auto club that pays for lockout service. AAA is, however, by far the most expensive auto club I've seen, and is consistently active in promoting auto travel and highway construction at the expense of public transit.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:52 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Instead of AAA, I went with the Better World Club.
I have re-joining AAA on my TODO list. Anyone actually ever call BWC?
posted by shothotbot at 6:16 AM on July 9, 2009


AAA has not been a reliable service for me on 2 occasions. In addition, if you choose not to renew a membership because they couldn't get you into your locked car, they'll threaten your credit, at least they did in Maine. It's been cheaper to use other emergency services. They have a very effective marketing model, but it's quite possible to own a car without a AAA membership. Their additional services, such as insurance and even mobile phone contracts, may not be the best deal available.
posted by theora55 at 6:30 AM on July 9, 2009


I have USAA car insurance and it includes roadside assistance. I had to have my car and trailer towed a couple of weeks ago. No problem.

They've always been a good insurance company and if they've done well one year the refund some of your premiums.

I've never had a reason to try their lockout services though.
posted by gelos at 7:18 AM on July 9, 2009


AAA is awesome.

Our membership expired after moving and my wife called in for help. They let her re-up over the phone and then covered the tow we needed. The tow would've cost us more than the re-upping by far. If you go to museums and stay in hotels, the membership pays for itself over the course of the year thru discounts.

I love triple-A. There, I've said it.
posted by codswallop at 7:23 AM on July 9, 2009


AAA Paves the Road to Hell. Reading that article is what made me look for alternatives in the first place. No wonder that BWC is posting it now.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:26 AM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I question the whole concept of honest locksmiths. Maybe a few of them won't gouge you too much, but as an amateur locksmith, I've always disliked the professionals. They're very similar to magicians when it comes to trying to keep everything a trade secret, requiring "certification" to limit the competition and keep fees high, pretending there's some secret skill/talent to what they do, etc... And that's not even mentioning the disinformation campaign used to try and convince people their locks actually work (true, the hardware manufacturers are the main culprits here). The reality is that locks only keep out honest people.

Sorry for the broad brush, I'm sure there's some really hard working honest locksmiths. In my experience though, they're few and very far between. You're much better off having a friend or two that either knows how to pick basic locks, has a copy of your key, or has a decent set of tools (replacing a lock is normally cheaper than calling a locksmith).
posted by ShadowCrash at 7:40 AM on July 9, 2009


When I read the Toronto CAA magazine and found that they were lobbying to extend an expressway through our local ravine, I cancelled my membership. Their philosophy boils down to "more roads!".
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2009


As much as Google Maps can facilitate this kind of skullduggery, Google Street View is a useful check on it. I hadn't been aware of this problem with locksmiths before, but if I'm ever in a different town and need one, I'll hope that there's a street-view shot of the locksmith's purported premises.
posted by adamrice at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2009


I know there are a lot of people in NYC, but a locksmith on every corner? Google should clean this up (if that's even possible).
posted by HumanComplex at 7:49 AM on July 9, 2009


(Lockpuppets?)
posted by fleacircus at 8:09 AM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


My local storefront locksmith has a sign in his window about this scam. I thought it was a bit nutty, but I guess he's got reason to be upset.

What astonishes me is that there's enough emergency locksmith business to make this scam worthwhile. Spamming the Yellow Pages costs money. Operating your network of scam locksmiths takes time and money. How much are they making doing this over just being a legitimate locksmith?
posted by Nelson at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2009


Reminds me of the long distance company that took advantage of the introduction of multiple carrier phones in hospitals/etc, where an operator would ask you which phone company you wanted to use for your collect call, and had registered phrases like "I don't care", "first on the list", and other likely phrases someone harried and not paying attention, might say.
posted by nomisxid at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2009


I live in a small city in the southern US, population roughly 500,000.

You have an odd definition of "small". 500K is a pretty big city.
posted by grubi at 8:46 AM on July 9, 2009


Apparently there are only 34 cities in America with populations over 500K. Under that threshold, we have such tiny little hamlets as Kansas City, Oakland, Miami, Minneapolis, Tampa, Cincinnati, St Louis, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh.
posted by grubi at 8:53 AM on July 9, 2009


Sorry for the broad brush, I'm sure there's some really hard working honest locksmiths. In my experience though, they're few and very far between. You're much better off having a friend or two that either knows how to pick basic locks, has a copy of your key, or has a decent set of tools (replacing a lock is normally cheaper than calling a locksmith).

I worked a stint in automobile roadside assistance about five years ago. It wasn't AAA, but a lateral competitor who outsourced themselves as warranty-based roadside assistance. When it came to lockouts, we primarily used a national franchise chain of locksmiths, because they had at least some kind of standard to which they held their franchisees.

The chain was the implicit seal of approval for us, and I admit did get a kind of exclusionary "guild" feeling (like magicians) every now and then. But at least you knew that when you sent one of Their Guys out to a scene, you were sending someone who at least knew to bring along a Wonder Tool instead of a slim jim (or could cut keys from the keycodes, and we weren't about to give out manufacturer keycodes to just anybody.) Lockouts were covered in the driver's warranty so that helped too, because you knew they weren't gonna get gouged on the side of the road for sudden "unexpected" costs.
posted by Spatch at 9:03 AM on July 9, 2009


Apparently there are only 34 cities in America with populations over 500K. Under that threshold, we have such tiny little hamlets as Kansas City, Oakland, Miami, Minneapolis, Tampa, Cincinnati, St Louis, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh.

This is a derail, but urban areas aren't really defined by the legal borders of municipalities when it comes to determining the number of needed locksmiths. St. Louis, for instance, has a mostly hollow urban center surrounded by three million or so people.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:08 AM on July 9, 2009


Mitrovarr : Best to try and figure out ways to avoid having to use one if you can.

This last weekend I needed to get some keys made for a new-to-me Subaru. None of the local hardware stores were able to because the blank key listed in their books was clearly incorrect and they couldn't figure out which would be an appropriate replacement.

I checked my phone for locksmiths in the Milwaukee area and found many, several of whom only worked by coming out to your location (and they felt kinda scammy), but I found one place with a storefront operation. It was getting late on Saturday, but when I indicated my need, they offered to stay open late. Once I got there, they quickly explained what the problem that the hardware stores were probably experiencing was (Subaru uses Nissan blanks for some models), they cut me two keys which, quite astonishingly, work much, much better than the original I gave them, and they happily explained where all the vintage safes scattered around their shop came from. (Cannon ball safe? Awesome!).

They did charge me nearly twice per key what the hardware store would have, but to my mind, $4 per key for one that works perfectly is better value than $2 for one that apparently can't be made.

I'm not disagreeing that there are a lot of sketchy businesses out there that call themselves locksmiths, but I can assure you, when you have a specific need, it appears that it's best to go to a professional who knows their craft.
posted by quin at 9:20 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


ShadowCrash: "41I question the whole concept of honest locksmiths. Maybe a few of them won't gouge you too much, but as an amateur locksmith, I've always disliked the professionals. They're very similar to magicians when it comes to trying to keep everything a trade secret, requiring "certification" to limit the competition and keep fees high, pretending there's some secret skill/talent to what they do, etc... And that's not even mentioning the disinformation campaign used to try and convince people their locks actually work (true, the hardware manufacturers are the main culprits here). The reality is that locks only keep out honest people.

Sorry for the broad brush, I'm sure there's some really hard working honest locksmiths. In my experience though, they're few and very far between. You're much better off having a friend or two that either knows how to pick basic locks, has a copy of your key, or has a decent set of tools (replacing a lock is normally cheaper than calling a locksmith).
"

I thoroughly agree with you. I was a commercial superintendent for a security door and hardware company for 12 years. Now we didn't pick locks, we just installed new hardware in offices, stadiums, homes, etc... The locksmith was the bane of our existence. Fucking hack locksmith scam artists.

I remember one guy who locked himself out of his house. We charged him $90 to replace the locks (2) on the exterior of his home the week before. He called me back in a tizzy because he had locked himself out and a "locksmith" wanted to charge him $400.00 to get back in.

I went back to the guys house after work, picked the lock because I know how too :), didn't charge him anything as it is a 5 min process and kept the guy as a customer for many many years. Referrals and such were great. Generally speaking, pro "locksmiths" are not pro at all. If they have to drill a lock to get it open, then they have just shown you they don't know what they are doing and are not a locksmith.
posted by Gravitus at 9:38 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I locked myself out a couple of years ago and had to call a lock service. I vowed never to have to rely on one again, and got myself some combo lock boxes. For example, this one. A little preparedness goes a long way.
posted by Araucaria at 9:44 AM on July 9, 2009


Oh, and quin is absolutely correct about finding the pros. They are out there and a visit to their offices will quickly confirm whether or not they're on the up and up. In fact, I'd recommend finding a reputable, professional locksmith to make your spare keys, when you're not in an emergency situation, and then sticking that contact info in your cell phone contact list for emergencies.
posted by Araucaria at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2009


I had no idea the extent of AAA's lobbying, and had been planning to join in the next week or so. I'm thankful for the info in this thread making me re-think that plan. Not only are they apparently anti-bicycle, anti-mass transit, anti-automotive pollution reduction initiatives, and pro-road-building, but also anti-gay. From Better World's website, "It doesn't violate a law for a membership organization to respect same-sex unions. It just requires the right membership policies." QFT.

Also, it appears that my immediate area hasn't yet been infested by these unscrupulous locksmiths, thank goodness. What they're doing may not be illegal, but it's certainly shady.
posted by notashroom at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This last weekend I needed to get some keys made for a new-to-me Subaru.

You're lucky you could even get a key from someone other than the dealer. Many manufactures have pretty much shut out locksmiths by putting RFID chips in the fob (to prevent hotwiring).
posted by smackfu at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2009


Because this is a home security issue and the territory of scammers, maybe the local police could and should be helpful in this regard. The police could maintain a list of reliable local locksmiths (maybe they do already) and could publish the police department's information number in the phone book under locksmiths. Call the police number, get a referral (or even a direct transfer), and be sure that the police know who the locksmith is and that the locksmith knows that there is a record of this call in a police database (so the locksmith will be held responsible for not verifying identification and right to enter). What's in it for the police: good community PR and reduced locksmith-assisted break-ins.
posted by pracowity at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2009


I've always wondered about the possibility of using locksmiths to break into people's apartments and Mutant's story seems to confirm that this actually happens. The one time that I needed a locksmith to get back into my place he certainly didn't ask for any ID.
posted by pravit at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2009


If you're in the vicinity of Lowell, MA and need a locksmith, I've had good luck with Post Office Locksmith.They've been there forever and know their business.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2009


There is something fishy about Better World Club. From their benefits page, under the header "Towing":
Your vehicle can be towed up to your benefit limit, up to 5 or 100 miles at no extra cost. If you choose to arrange for service on your own, you will be reimbursed up to $50/$100, respective of your benefit limit (pre-authorization required). Certain restrictions apply. (AAA does not guarantee immediate availability for flatbed trucks) (emphasis mine)

Is that a strange typo? Is BWC somehow affiliated with AAA? Did they plagiarize the text from an AAA policy?
posted by muddgirl at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think they are pointing out the limitations in their competitor's (AAA) service for overall comparison, or noting that limitation if you choose AAA service while "arranging for service on your own".

I think? It's a bit confusing.

I'm considering switching from AAA... maybe I'll post an ask me to see if anyone has experience with BWC.
posted by danny the boy at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2009


pracowity, the only problem with that plan is crooks planning on breaking in are not going to call the police for a referral. They'll find out which locksmith doesn't ask questions and call them directly. Oh, and any locksmith not referred by the police (or placed high enough on the list) is going to file a suit against the city/town.
posted by ShadowCrash at 2:14 PM on July 9, 2009


"Fishy" was probably the wrong word to use. The whole site is oddly-written, which is probably to be expected from such a small company. It's a very intriguing idea, and this thread has definitely made me re-consider my AAA membership.
posted by muddgirl at 2:32 PM on July 9, 2009


Well here's my ask me about AAA alternatives...

Oddly-written. Yeah. I also don't know how much stock to put into one company's claims about it's main competitor...
posted by danny the boy at 2:34 PM on July 9, 2009


I've used Better World Club, and been very happy with them. Never had cause to call them for a lockout, but used their towing service several times and always found them quite friendly and efficient. They also offer roadside service for cyclists, though I've no direct experience with that.

Tom and Ray from Car Talk recommend them, which is what originally convinced me to sign up.
posted by fermion at 2:37 PM on July 9, 2009


The spamming of yellow pages has been going on for some time. A manager of mine at a previous job worked as a locksmith some time in the past and mentioned this practice to me. That would have 2003 at the latest.
posted by ericales at 3:38 PM on July 9, 2009


Also notashroom, the Google Map doesn't appear to have the pox on the first page, but page 4 of results looks kind of diseased to me. If you look at the bottom of the list, are there really 16,224 locksmiths in Norcross and surrounding areas? There are around 3300 plumbers, ~6000 dry cleaners, ~2000 handymen, and ~900 tattoo parlors in the same zipcode. There are over 97,000 restaurants though....
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:20 PM on July 9, 2009


"Who are you and how'd you get in here?"

"I'm a locksmith. And, I'm a locksmith."
posted by kirkaracha at 10:13 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


easy solution. pull out telephone book. find a paid ad for locksmith. voila. these guys dont pay for ads in phonebooks, they just get free listings. next.
posted by jcworth at 11:26 PM on July 9, 2009


hmm this thread has me wondering if i should cancel AAA... is it a total contradiction to belong to that and san fran bicycle coalition?
posted by jcruelty at 12:18 AM on July 10, 2009


So, Lock Doc is one of the (few) legit, established locksmiths in Madison.

Indeed. You'll notice, however, that in fact there are around 6 matches for Lock Doc in Madison, and only one has a phone number that matches what I assume is the offical business run by Lehr. The negative reviews -- all of which are for doppleganger Lock Docs.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:46 AM on July 10, 2009


Also notashroom, the Google Map doesn't appear to have the pox on the first page, but page 4 of results looks kind of diseased to me. If you look at the bottom of the list, are there really 16,224 locksmiths in Norcross and surrounding areas? There are around 3300 plumbers, ~6000 dry cleaners, ~2000 handymen, and ~900 tattoo parlors in the same zipcode. There are over 97,000 restaurants though....

You're absolutely right. Page 4 is wacky. Page 6 is flat-out insane. I'm wondering if flags have greater validity as listings than dots. Looking at restaurants, though (and I'm quite certain there are not almost 100k restaurants in this zip code), the dots all look like valid business locations to me, as long as you're willing to classify Burger King as a restaurant and are willing to accept that they're not entirely up-to-date as to closings and openings. Maybe the result count includes individual pages for restaurant reviews at CitySearch and whatnot?
posted by notashroom at 10:50 AM on July 10, 2009


The AMA has started including MoToW for free if you set up an auto-renewal. I haven't been an AAA member since I started riding because they're also pretty anti-motorcycle in addition to the whole anti-bicycle, anti-public transport thing.

If you ride and aren't an AMA member, what's keeping you?
posted by Eideteker at 11:46 PM on July 11, 2009


The AMA are not without their critics. There's also the whole thing about raising undead Nazis from cold lakebeds.
posted by grobstein at 6:30 AM on July 12, 2009


The Straightener, maybe this artist is your locksmith?
posted by splatta at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2009


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