ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
They say that variety is the spice of life, and as a person who has always worked in the Cardiff area, there has been plenty of variety to appreciate in the past 50 years with all the changes to the city centre. I clearly remember trolley buses on St. Mary Street, the outdoor market at Mill Lane, and when four lanes of traffic went through Queen Street.
I could easily reminisce about the changing shape of central Cardiff during my lifetime, and how much has vanished from the everyday scene, even in recent years. But Cardiff has been renewed and invigorated by these changes, developing into a wonderful European capital city.
We have a fantastic city centre - apart from the civic splendour of Cathays Park, we have the castle, all the arcades, old and new, the indoor market, and the amazing St. David’s Shopping Centre, connecting the John Lewis store with Queen Street - half a mile of modern shops.
In the course of my working week, coming in by bus usually, I will often walk a slightly different route in to our locksmiths shop in Dominions Arcade. This is also true of my journey home in the evening, when I might go a different way, just for a change.
I’m one of those rare people who actually enjoys his job. It helps that I get on so well with my colleagues, but the nature of the job - being a master locksmith in a company with such high professional standards - sets new challenges every day, which I relish.
From an outsider’s point of view, there are aspects of my life that might be considered somewhat obsessional. If I walk down any street I will tend to look at the locks that people have on their doors. It’s fair to describe me as an ‘anorak’ when it comes to locks.
My journey in to work this morning took me along a few side streets just off the main centre, and I was surprised by what I saw. In times of recession, everyone has to be careful how they spend their money. However, if you have retail stock, special equipment or hardware to protect from thieves, then you need locks that can’t easily be forced, picked, drilled or bumped open by burglars or untrained locksmiths.
Dozens of these businesses, shops and offices in central Cardiff, have cheap, basic locks that are not good enough to do what the customer expects them to do. If these people were being properly advised, they would change them immediately.
If there were power cuts in Cardiff, knocking out street lighting and CCTV cameras, the physical security on such premises would not stop any break-ins, and the villains would have a field day. Yet, anyone who tries to advise these vulnerable businesses is likely to be told that, having just paid a large amount of money to have their locks fitted or replaced, they don’t want to spend any more money.
They have clearly placed their faith in the wrong people. If you call a plumber to fix your tap, and he gives you a spanner to turn the water on and off, it may save you money, but have you had the service you expect?
There are many handymen around who don’t have the first idea about security locks. If you go into a DIY store these days, there is hardly any lock that is not described as ‘security’. A security lock is designed to keep you secure. Most of the products labelled as ‘security’ will not do this. That is why they tend to be cheaper, but you won’t get a genuinely secure lock for the same price as a basic lock.
I’ve overheard handymen in a DIY store looking at locks, choosing the cheapest available, and saying to each other that their customer won’t want to pay more anyway. Furthermore, they have gone back to a van with ‘Home repairs and locksmith’ written on the side. That’s like advertising ‘Manicures and minor surgery’ - it doesn’t give me any confidence in their expertise. I wouldn’t want to engage the services of a tradesman whose knowledge of the subject is gleaned from the blurb on the packaging.
The problem is that the customer is not getting what they need and expect from a locksmith. Firstly, they don’t have a secure lock, and secondly, believing the person they’ve called to be an expert, they think anyone else who advises them is doing so out of professional jealousy, trying to get them to spend more than they need to spend. But, fitting a £10 lock on a business worth £1m does not make sense, and it is £10 wasted. If you’ve just spent £200 on locks for your business, you need to know that it’s money well spent.
Security - protection of property - is very important. In the same way that personal health is very important to our wellbeing, so it is very important to have confidence that you can leave your property locked up, so that when you return, it will still be there.
Anyone with a health problem who consults their doctor would not expect a medical practitioner to go to the local chemist to read the bottles before choosing a treatment. In the same way, if you call anyone who advertises their services as a locksmith, you expect them to provide you with products that stop thieves. However, while doctors are not allowed to practise unless they have genuine qualifications, anyone can call themselves a locksmith, no matter how unqualified they might be.
If you are not sure about your security, then consult a company with proven expertise. In the UK, the established trade association for professional locksmiths is the Master Locksmiths Association. If you call a company that has MLA approval, you will be guaranteed to have the service you expect from a professional expert locksmith company.