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A cheap locksmith is almost never a cheap locksmith. Scam locksmiths advertise as cheap and then charge a much higher rate than a good locksmith. So when you are calling a “cheap locksmith” you are most likely not even paying the already high price of an honestly priced locksmith. Best case scenario is that you are charged the same rate as a real locksmith. This gives the cheap locksmith the benefit of the doubt.
Assuming that all they were doing was lying about their prices to compete with scammers. Of course, this has caused the business to advertise a bait and switch, and that is still a scam. The danger with this bait and switch is that it damages the corporate culture. Once a company has opened the door to the idea that there are easier ways of making money, honesty and fairness become a hindrance to growth.
A real locksmith is a little pricey. That is because pricey happens to be fair in this industry. A real locksmith is going to be as fair as they can be. Some people may be unhappy with a fair price, but the upfront pricing gives you a good indication that the locksmith is legitimate. The most important part is that their price does not stick out in a list of prices.
You want to stay away from outliers, for the most part. A very high advertised price might mean that the service caters toward a very specific niche. A stand out low price should be an immediate red flag. Because locksmithing is very rarely high volume, low prices are not sustainable. Trust in the mid-range prices. Read reviews and explore the site to get a sense of the company.
Truthfully, what a locksmith does will not take them very long, and it will not seem like it took much effort. Those are the signs of a good locksmith. Unfortunately, the experience that makes such things possible is what creates the higher cost. We want the job done fast, yet something in our very human mind assigns time to the difficulty of the task. In reality, the difficulty was getting their skills to the point where they could do their job fast and well.
The saying goes, “Cheap, fast, and quality. Pick two.” Along with the time that it took to become a good locksmith, you are also paying for travel time (in the case of a mobile locksmith). Chances are that the price will also be higher at certain times of the day. If someone is getting out of bed, it will most likely be a premium charge. Similarly, a locksmith might have been out and about, but the premium is because they are available. It comes down to supply and demand.
Materials can also be expensive. All businesses have to pass those costs on to their customers. Though a case could be made that locksmithing should be a public service, they are not treated as such. So when you are upset that your locksmith is expensive, compare it to a restaurant. Buying your own food and preparing it yourself will always be cheaper than going out to eat. The one exception is fast food, and is that really the quality you want for your security?
It is up to you if you think that you have the ability, time, and resources to do the work yourself. Locksmithing is not like changing the oil in a car. Buying the supplies yourself is not always cheaper either. For example getting a key cutter is not cheaper than getting your keys cut. It does not make sense for just anyone to learn a bunch of skills that they may never use. No one should be trying to gouge you on the price, but things do add up.
Unless the price is just ridiculous (in the thousands) for something very routine (like a lockout with standard locks), it is in the eye of the beholder. What are you comfortable with? Do not let the locksmith begin working unless you are OK with the price. Usually, their attitude is a good giveaway. Trust your own ability to judge a person’s character, but balance that with some compassion for a person trying to do their job.
You do have to look at the prices around your area to get an indication of what is average. Try and find numbers that stick out. If someone is charging twenty dollars for a lockout and the average is fifty-five, that is probably too cheap. Stay away from the outliers.
Try and find out what their go-to method of entry is. It should not be any form of destructive entry. There should be an attempt to pick and bump the lock. Some exceptions are high-security brands like Medeco, Evva, and Mul-T-Lock. There is no such thing as an unpickable lock, but there are some locks that very few people can pick.
Even if there are a few security pins in the lock, the technician may think that the time spent picking the lock might not be worth it. Make sure that you have clear communication with the locksmith. If they cannot answer your questions about what they are doing, or about what they would like to do, to a degree you are happy with, that is a bad sign. You should never feel as though you are being bullied.
Certainly someone that really seems to know what they are doing can be easily identified as a quality locksmith. In order to really understand how good they are you would need to know some things about locks, so that you could ask them a few questions. If they say that there are security pins, can they name the type of pin they believe it is, and why? That would be a master locksmith (most people cannot do that).
If they can make an educated guess based on the false set, or brand of lock, that shows quality. Any type of knowledge that they can share should be an indicator of a good locksmith, but not everyone is articulate. If the locksmith can open the door very quickly, this is also a sign of quality. Not reverting to destructive entry, or being able to explain why the lock must be destroyed, are all signs of quality.