Not far from our Cardiff city centre shop there is a bargain store where everything costs £1.
The other day, I popped in after work to buy a roll of black rubbish bags, and had a quick look at the other things they offer for sale - goods for household and gardens, various stationery products, food and drink, pet products, DIY, and a selection of tools. My eyes were drawn to a brass euro cylinder with three stamped keys.
There were several identical cylinders there, all the same size, with the same key - much too short for 99% of domestic doors, and really of no practical use. It got me wondering what kind of person might be tempted into buying one of these? Anyone who used one of these on their own door would have to accept that it is shorter than the original, so doesnít fit their door. Perhaps they would be unaware that others who bought the same lock for only £1 would have a key for their house, as all the locks work from a common key.
How far would people go to save money? Many famous retail businesses were founded on the basis of ďpile it high, sell it cheapĒ. Nowadays, if you want to buy anything you can probably find a cheaper version of it somewhere else. Thereís always a compromise to be made. My grandmother had a saying - Ďbuy cheap, buy twiceí. If you want to pay less for something, then the manufacturer has to cut production costs somehow. At the moment, if you want to buy a cheap lock, the chances are that it has been made in China, and made using metals that are just a mixture of whatever scrap metals they happened to have at the time. But itís not just that itís cheaper - it is vastly inferior to a decent lock.
It seems crazy to me that, in an age when most people enjoy a standard of living that is much higher than their parents and grandparents, there are countless thousands of people with thousands of pounds worth of personal belongings - plasma televisions, hi-fis, computers, games consoles, DVDs, CDs etc., all being guarded by a cheap lock while they are hard at work. Itís like having the Andrex puppy as a guard dog. Unfortunately, most people donít know the difference between one lock and another. Many people donít even realise that there might be variations in quality as well as price. To them, a lock is a lock.
Thatís like saying that a Fiat Panda is as good as a Ferrari, but if you view the Fiat Panda as a top car youíll regard the Ferrari as overpriced. In fact, the price difference is as a result of using better components, more features, and a lot of work to make it faster, smoother, more comfortable, more robust, and so on. So it is with locks. If you view a budget lock as normal quality, then a security lock will appear overpriced. A quality lock will cost noticeably more than an economy lock, because it is better in every department except price. Some lock manufacturers have responded to this view by dropping their standards and producing budget locks.
In a constantly changing market they have found it necessary to adapt to survive. You can still buy a range of quality locks but you have to visit a retail locksmith to find them. Over more than 35 years of my working life, I have seen how most homeowners have replaced wooden doors with uPVC doors. Most people still have no better home security that their grandparents would have had about 40 years ago. But in the past a normal, basic lock would be expected to last for decades. Basic locks nowadays donít last for more than a few years at best.
Of course, the better quality items for which PPM Locksmiths are well known will last much longer. We still regularly copy keys for customers who bought their locks from us over twenty years ago. Maybe you wonít need a lock that lasts for over twenty years, but another main difference is the level of security that comes with a quality lock. Not only do they last longer, but there are no Ďtricksí that can be used to open them - no picking, bumping, magic keys or brute force. They have extra features, just as you would expect a Ferrari to have extras. For a quality lock such as that, if you lose your key, you will need to call a genuine locksmith to get you into your house. There is information available to anybody on the internet that is sufficient for them to pass themselves off as a locksmith.
They might not be able to deal with quality locks, but they would be able to open basic locks. Whatís more, they can replace one cheap lock with another cheap lock, and the customer believes they have had a great service! If the locksmith told them the cheap new lock was just as good, it must be true! ďHe was such a nice friendly chap - he opened my door in seconds and saved me a fortuneĒ. Trouble is, you havenít saved a fortune. This nice friendly chap could cost you everything you own. Once youíve seen the trick of how they do it, you could even use that trick on your own door.
So why do you need a key? Why have a lock if it doesnít keep anyone out? Any villain can also do these basic things, and when that customer comes home to find their home has been cleared of all their prized possessions it is put down to bad luck. Nobody has told the customer they need to spend more money to get the product they actually need. Nobody has told them that cheap locks DONíT do the job. If someone gets through your door Ďin secondsí it is a danger signal - your locks are useless.
They have to keep everyone out, even a locksmith. If somebody gets in very easily, itís more likely to prove your locks were basic than that he is very skilled. Thatís the time to consult us about getting a secure lock fitted. If you donít get advised to upgrade from these basic locks then your home is still not secure, but if a locksmith canít offer you alternatives they are not what they say they are, no matter how pleasantly they smile. If you go to a travel agent to book a holiday, and are told they only do day trips to Skegness, then theyíre not exactly what youíre looking for in a travel agent. You might be after sun and sand on some exotic island. You donít want to be told that, after all, itís very cheap in Skegness.
Technically, they can still describe themselves as a travel agent. But certain aspects of their approach would set my alarm bells ringing. I would not be tempted to use the services of an optician, for example, who offered Ďthe cheapest laser surgery anywhereí. Iíd rather use the services of someone who has a good safety record, even if it costs more. Thatís the way it is with locks and security. If you pay the difference to have a quality item, you are a lot less likely to come home to find everything has been taken. Yes, there is a difference between a Fiat Panda and a Ferrari. There is a difference between a fry-up at a roadside cafe and a meal at the Savoy, and there is a difference between the Andrex puppy and a Doberman.
There is also a big difference between a £15 lock with no features and a £35 lock that is capable of resisting force attacks, picking, bumping, drilling and anyone with access to the internet. Thatís why it is so important to choose a locksmith company that can offer choice and reliability, and actually deals with genuine home security rather than offering Ďthe cheapest locks available anywhere