I worked for my dad beginning at the age of 10 in his locksmith business. I started out learning how to duplicate keys –even the fancy computer chip ones, then moved on to re-keying the locks. By the time I was 17, I was going on calls to unlock houses and vehicles for customers who were locked out. I could master or grand-master a lock within 30 minutes ( reconfiguring a lock to work with 2 or 3 different keys, used in places like schools and hospitals, etc, to allow all access to some, and restricted access to others). Have a key that was snapped in half? I could make you a brand new one that worked just as good as yours did when it was brand new – because I knew how to make them brand new with key codes and depths and all of that fun stuff. I could even tell you by looking at your key which key number you had, how many cuts it had, and the number of depths possible to make it work. I could even look at most keys, and cut a brand new one without measuring, copying or coding it with a pair of calipers.
I never kept clean hands when working there. Smells of lock oils, WD40, and other lock lubricants covered them. The only thing that seemed to remove it was that gritty stuff in the big orange bottle called “GOJO”. Even then, the muck that could get under your nails was just nasty to say the least. And nice nails? Forgettaboutit. You could mess up a fresh paint job in no time. It was just easier not having them done. Also, your clothes shouldn’t be good clothes – messing with locks and all of those oils and greases that easily turned black would somehow trace itself to your clothes and you would have smudges in no time.
Breakfasts and lunches were eaten either on-the-run or in between customers. Rarely could we close during that time because, well, that’s when everyone else went to lunch too – so you had to keep the doors open most of the time and just eat when you could.
I know that people would rather go to places that are big-named chains to get some of the same things we did done for a much lower price, but what they aren’t thinking of is that this is our livelihood. Sure, a new key “clicker” remote is a lot cheaper on eBay or a duplicate key is a lot less from the local warehouse store than a locksmith, but what you don’t get is personal service. Someone who can look at your key and tell you that it’s too worn to make a proper duplicate and prevent you from making several trips for re-cuts because your key doesn’t work. Or program your remote properly for you to prevent messing up the remote and rendering it unable to work. I’ve seen things from both sides – the consumer and the worker. I’ve seen how going to specialty shops can hit your wallet like no other. But I’ve also seen where we prayed each and every month that the bills would be taken care of and still my dad couldn’t pay himself for a month or so at the time just to keep the business afloat.
I’m not saying that you should always buy everything from specialty shops because I understand that people have to save as much as possible these days, but I do ask people to keep the “little guy” in mind too.