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Whats inside that matters
Published by PPM Locksmiths Blog in Home Security Tips • 03/09/2011 07:03:23

Whats inside that matters

Johann Sebastian Bach, the famous 18th century composer, was the most famous member of an illustrious family that produced almost 50 notable musicians in a period of about 200 years. Not every member of this great dynasty was equally gifted, and many of his relatives adopted other trades, such as baking, to make their way in the world.

Johann Sebastian was precociously talented, and his natural gifts were further helped by a musical father and a celebrated uncle who taught him to play violin and harpsichord and to compose structured music. As was commonplace in those days, skills and secrets were passed down from father to son, or from uncle to nephew, through the generations. Johann Sebastian Bach could trace his musical heritage back to its earliest beginnings and, in fact, compiled an extensive genealogy of the Bach family dating from the late Middle Ages.

When I was younger, I was taught a vast amount of inside knowledge of locks by a master locksmith. We were not related - my own father was a journalist, but I saw a greater challenge in the mechanical workings of locks than in words. However, while knowledge of locks was not passed down to me by my father, it was passed down through generations. As an apprentice, my master had been taught by an earlier master, and I can track that lineage back over a century, with secrets and techniques being passed from master to apprentice, from one generation to the next.

I was very fortunate to be granted that type of specialised education - seven years of personal tutelage is vastly superior to any training on offer anywhere else, and a century of experience was distilled into that seven year apprenticeship. You cannot buy that kind of knowledge, and you won’t find it in any book. The wisdom that is imparted through such a training is the accumulated wisdom of several generations.

Just as important as the knowledge itself is the moral education I received - a sense of right and wrong in dealings with the general public. It’s a matter of confidentiality and trust. The locksmith profession has no direct equivalent of the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath, although there is a code of conduct adhered to by members of the recognised professional association, the MLA.

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ included a character called the Pardoner. Such people were well known in the Middle Ages for selling relics, often pig’s bones, which were said to be the bones of some saint or other, with mysterious healing powers. They also sold ‘indulgences’, which were ready-made documents absolving the sinner of some wrongdoing. They were early confidence tricksters.

Over many centuries, the medical profession had its fair share of mendicant quacks and charlatans whose only interest was in making an easy living, offering something relatively useless, and convincing customers that it is much better than a more expensive version - which is usually genuine medicine. The Pardoner of Chaucer’s day employed the same tactics - offering absolution from sin, or the spurious relics of a dead saint, for a sum of money that was supposed to go into church coffers, but usually lined their own pockets, and left the poor victim just as badly off as before, but lighter in the purse.

We often get calls from stranded cyclists who have locked their bikes to a post or bike rack, only to find out, when it’s time to go home, that the lock won’t work - the key won’t turn, or it turns around without opening the lock. The locks seem to be very strong, but the manufacturer saves money by taking short cuts when making the lock mechanism.

If you want something that lasts longer, you have to pay more for something inside the lock, something you can’t actually see - the internal mechanism. The customer, faced with a choice between one lock costing £10, or another lock for £30, can’t see the difference between them, and can’t see why one might cost £20 more than another. So, most people tend to buy the cheaper lock. Six months later they’ll probably have to buy a replacement. The £30 lock might have lasted ten times longer, even fifty times longer, but the difference was not apparent, and nobody told them.

There are many shops selling locks of all kinds to the unsuspecting public. If you read the packaging it will tell you that it’s a security lock - they all do, almost without exception. However, these ‘security’ locks are generally inferior to other, more expensive locks because they won’t last. Most people now seem to hold the view that nothing will last for a long time, so there’s no point spending more money on a better product - just buy the cheapest one.

This kind of short-term outlook applies to door locks as well. Most British homes have uPVC doors now, and there’s a range of standard profile locks for such doors that you can buy from several outlets, as well as from any locksmiths shop. So why should the customer pay extra for a cylinder that he has seen elsewhere for under £10?

The best answer to this is to ask someone who has been burgled. We often hear from very distressed people who have had their house robbed. They have come home to find the door open, the door cylinder in pieces on the doorstep, and an apologetic neighbour telling them they only found out about it when the alarm went off - after the thieves had rifled through the downstairs rooms, taking a laptop, an iPod Nano, several pieces of jewellery, a Blu-Ray player and £200 cash.

In these cases, they got through the £10 door lock in less than 60 seconds, and then had 45 seconds before the alarm went off, grabbing armfuls of goodies before making their getaway, unseen by anyone, around the corner to a waiting car.

What can you do? Actually, there’s plenty you can do to prevent this from happening to you. There are companies that have real solutions to this problem of security. My predecessors would be utterly horrified if they could see some of the shoddy rubbish being passed off as security locks nowadays. The trouble is that the market is being flooded with inferior products, while the good products cost more to make.

If you had a mysterious pain under your ribs, you might consider going to a fortune teller. You could ask a friend of yours who is a First Aider at work. You could even ask a butcher, because he actually sells spare ribs. But your best course of action would be to consult a doctor.

In the ‘Peanuts’ cartoons by Charles Schulz, there was a bossy character called Lucy who regularly set up stall in her neighbourhood advertising psychiatric help for 5 cents. When the mood took her, she would sit in the stall with a sign saying ‘The Doctor is in’. Perhaps this isn’t actually the way you would choose your doctor - someone local, who says they are a doctor, and who only charges a minor amount. However, many people choose a locksmith this way - someone local, who says they are a locksmith, and who charges the least amount.

Just as doctors have professional qualifications to practise medicine, so locksmiths can gain professional qualifications to show their credentials. There is only one qualification that matters for government bodies and local authorities, for high street banks and for insurance companies, and that is the approved status of members of the MLA - the Master Locksmiths Association. In this country, it is illegal to practise medical science without a formal qualification, but it is not illegal to offer lock services without formal qualifications.

We don’t offer the £10 door locks that other people supply. It is our view that door locks that last less than 60 seconds in a force attack should not be labelled as security products. We take a great deal of pride in scrutinising the products we offer to ensure they actually do what they are meant to do. If you want a door lock that will stop a burglar from getting in, we can help. Similarly, if you want a bicycle lock that lasts more than a few months we can supply that. They might cost a bit more, but they will have been tested by time-served, experienced locksmiths.

When you call us needing a new lock, you are calling a company that takes great pride in offering a first class service, using quality products. There are individuals offering cheap locks as replacements, because they know that most of their customers won’t know the difference between a cheap lock and a well-made quality lock. Some of them know it is down to pure chance that you don’t have a break-in straight away, and the lock is found to be deficient. But, many of these individuals don’t even know the difference themselves to distinguish between good and bad.

There is an attitude held by some people who say, “if they want to get in, they will”. The individuals who sell cheap locks are counting on you believing that, but it is NOT TRUE. We can help you to keep the villains out. We say “if they want to get in, they can’t”! To those who say “What can you do?”, we say all locks are NOT the same, and we have locks that are actually worth the money.

All of our seniors at PPM Locksmiths are very capable individuals who have chosen to pursue careers as locksmiths because it is very challenging, stimulating and satisfying work. We are motivated by the knowledge that we have special skills and experience that most other people do not have, and that these skills can be offered to the general public as a service. The goal of our business is to provide a quality service and quality products, helping people to secure their homes and businesses, while providing gainful employment for individuals of good moral character who will strive to further our aims. Being an MLA approved company is a recognition of our own standards of excellence, and those standards are available to the public.

PPM Locksmiths has an outstanding pedigree - the result of over a century of experience and knowledge being handed on, like the Olympic torch, from master to apprentice. If you expect to have a degree of expertise and the best quality locking products as part of the service, please call us.

PPM Locksmiths Ltd 7 Dominions Arcade Queen Street Cardiff - Phone 029-20231717