Topic: General Chatter
National locksmith firms aren't anything new. However the last few years has seen a rise in scam locksmith companies that operate nationwide. I say scam because it is actually questionable whether they are even locksmiths at all.
Working as a locksmith in wolverhampton I am getting increasing numbers of calls from concerned customers that have called these 'locksmiths' out to have been quoted astronomical fees to repair their door, typically in the region of £200-300 higher than a genuine local locksmith would charge.
The same names keep cropping up, and as much as I would love to stick my neck out and name them I will have to refrain from doing so for obvious reasons. What I do advise any customer that has been swindled by these 'locksmiths' is to get in touch with trading standards and let them know! If nobody reports their bad experiences then nothing will ever be investigated. Do not bother with review sites as more often than not, these locksmith companies can easilly get a bad review removed.
So how does the locksmith scam work?
Firstly you are going to be mislead by their advert claiming they are local when in fact they are being deployed from miles away. This often leaves you waiting for ages for anyone to arrive. I find a lot of victims repeatedly call the call center to be told 'just around the corner'. By the time you are fed up of hanging around and attempt to cancel you will be threatened with a call out fee and if you were daft enough to hand over any card details over the phone in advance then you are in trouble.
The locksmiths that do show up have always been described to me as foreign, rough looking and intimidating.
Now come the excuses as to why they can't fix the door. Whether it be lack of parts, obsolete parts, unusual locks.... and will hit you with the huge repair costs, repairs which are rarely neccessary.
A good percentage of customers will at this ppint tell the locksmith that it's too expensive and to forget it, however they are then pressured to hand over money for a call out fee, some of which have been pricier than I would have charged to complete the whole job.
One lady in particular that called me afterwards and was quite distressed, described that after arguing with the locksmith and finally getting him to leave was worried that he now knew that her door would not lock and was unable to leave the house. I immediately went over to sort this out for her.
The more vulnerable customers that are trusting enough to allow the expensive repairs to take place are usually none the wiser and I regularly have family members calling asking for advice when their elderly parents have been conned into paying hundreds more than needed.
Every time I hear another story it makes me sick to the stomache knowing that someone out there is getting rich by misleading and ripping off innocent people in need of help.
I urge anyone seeking a locksmith to ensure that they are getting a genuine local locksmith and not via some call center operation sending out untrained rogues to intimidate people into paying for a substandrad service.
Here is a quick checklist of things that you should consider when calling a locksmith:
> Are they listed in multiple cities?
Local locksmiths will generally cover areas within a 20 mile radius, so anyone advertising in cities all over the UK is going to be part of a national franchise or call center scheme. This does not mean they are scammers but does usually mean you will be paying VAT and call out fees for their service.
> Do they know the area?
Often when giving directions it is easy to establish whether the locksmith on the end of the phone understands the landmarks and roads you are describing. If in any doubt ask them outright if they are based where they say they are. Often false locations are used to give the impression they are locally based.
> Payment upfront?
Are they requesting payment upfront? It is rare for any decent tradesman to be asking for upfront payment with the exception of late night call outs and large commercial jobs.
> Clear quotations?
How clear is the quotation you have been given over the phone? Does it include VAT and what circumstances is a 'no call out fee' relevant. Often scammers will be very vague and in some cases request an address before they even quote.
> Where did you find the number?
Google adwords is usually monopolised by large companies operating nationwide that can afford to maintain expensive advertising. Small local locksmiths are rarely well placed in competitve ad space so it may be worth while trying some of the smaller adverts or those at the bottom of the page. Same rules apply for paper directories which are rife with national companies listing multiple adverts in disguise.
If in any doubt whatsoever, I urge you to reconsider and take the time to grab several more quotations or even phone around friends for recommendations before making a decision.
This is the very reason it is important to support any local traders regardless of the profession to ensure that larger companies and scammers do not get a foor in the door.
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