Sometimes, not often, but sometimes we hear from customers,
“Why Did It Cost So Much When It Went So Fast?”
Usually this comment include something like “It only took you 10 minutes to do this job.” or “You’re right down the street.” We discuss real locksmith prices based on the national locksmith averages and how and why locksmiths price like they do, even though some jobs go very quickly.
IMPORTANT: Locksmith fraud is a totally different beast. Scam locksmith companies rip people off by charging many hundreds of dollars for services that should be under or around $100. Those scammers should be thrown out of all states. Information on locksmith fraud is covered in great detail here.
There are certain part of the locksmith industry that are extremely complicated. For example, we have 6 full-time service vehicles and track over 500 jobs per month. When a customer calls, the office staff, which takes the call, has no idea where the locksmith that will eventually be assigned the job will be coming from.
We do not send the locksmiths from our shops because they are working the stores. We send the field drivers to service field calls. Because drive time depends on where all the other calls we book are located, we don’t know ahead of time how long it will take to get to any given job.
Additionally, there are so many locks, keys, and hardware brands out there that every job ends up being different. This makes jobs hard to quote site unseen, over the phone because we simply don’t know what we will run into. But, we are asked to do this every time a customer calls.
One thing is always true, a customer should NEVER pay more than any locksmith quoted for the most-common lock services (such as lockouts, rekeying locks, and trip charges). There are a variety of things that can make a job take longer, just as there are a variety of things that can make a job go quicker for all types of lock work. So how do we quote an up front price for locksmith services when every job, and every drive to every lock job, is unique? Isn’t a job that takes 60 minutes to complete worth more in billing than a job that takes 10 minutes to complete? In the mind of the consumer, it is.
But our answer, and most often the answer of all legitimate locksmith companies, is in average-based job pricing. We charge based on the service we are hired to perform, based on our knowledge of the average time it takes for that service, regardless of how long it actually takes to do a specific job or get to a specific job.
For example. We can unlock some cars in a few moments, but some turn out to be difficult and can take much longer. We charge a flat rate for the unlock service regardless of if we are in quickly or struggling to open the car. For the customer’s car we struggle opening, the customer sees us working hard, in the AZ 110 degree heat, sweat pouring off our forehead. This customer is always extremely happy they got such a great deal on the price.
For the customer where we open the car in just a few seconds, this customer may think, “It only took you two minutes to get in. That’s over $1000 per hour!”
However, it’s the exact same locksmith service performed. Only the perception of the service has changed. We were hired to unlock the car, we unlocked the car. And it’s at the same, agreed-to price, regardless of how long it takes us. Customers are paying for an exchange of service.
We quote a flat price for that service, a price based on the average time it takes us to perform that particular type of lock work and get to the location of the job. We perform that service at that price, every time. Sometimes we come out ahead (i.e. we get it done fast) and some times we don’t, but it’s unethical for us to charge the person whose car takes longer than expected to get into it any more than we quoted them. We also won’t charge the customer who’s car we got into quickly any less.
We recently heard this objection from a home owner. They had locked themselves out of their house on a Tuesday afternoon. Within 30 minutes our technician was onsite and had them in their home quickly. But instead of appreciating the fast service, the customer felt the price was too high because it didn’t take us long enough to get in — despite being quoted the price upfront when they called.
Would the customer have been happier if we sent an unskilled technician? One that struggled to get them in? One that kept them outside in the summer heat waiting? Would they have been happier if it were so much effort we gave up and had to drill their lock? That would certainly look like more effort, and when it looks like it’s more complicated, customers don’t tend to object to the price. Even though they are actually getting poor service (the locksmith can’t get in) because they see the struggle, they’re OK with the price.
When ACME gets you into your home quickly, most customers are very grateful, but a few fixate on the amount of time it took to open the door. After all, watching the locksmith get in is the only part of the job the customer sees. They didn’t see us drive across town to get there. They didn’t see the fuel that was used, or the insurance that was spent, or the salary that was paid. They didn’t see the countless hours spent every year training and certifying our team on the latest tools and techniques — specifically so we can get you in as fast as possible.
That’s what the charge to unlock a home or car is for. It’s not for the few minutes it takes to open the door, it’s for the investment we made to provide a technician that can get you in as fast as possible.
ACME Locksmith sends you the very best, certified, locksmith we have available to take care of you as soon as we can, as fast as we can. That’s how we roll.
So what might be a better response after a locksmith technician gets you into your home in just a few minutes?
“That’s it? How do I improve my locks?”
That’s a great question and one we can certainly help you with. Check out our favorite home deadbolts for our recommendations.
It;s the same for automotive key programming, one flat rate for all vehicles. And for home rekeying, one quote for every home with standard residential hardware. This last point is what prompted this discussion.
There is a small subset of residential hardware that can be rekeyed very quick under the right circumstances. REALLY quickly. Under the wrong set of circumstance this same set of residential hardware is a nightmare to rekey. We quote one price for the rekey service, and we stay at that price no matter what we run into. It’s ethical of us to stick to our price when it’s difficult, it benefits you, and it’s also fair of us to stick to the price when it’s quick, because we are performing the service hired to do for the price agreed to by the customer – to rekey their lock.
So why are locksmiths so expensive when it only takes a few seconds to unlock your home or car? They’re not.
What they are is good technicians that solved your problem quickly.
Our goal is to keep out prices as affordable as possible. We remain well under the national average for nearly every locksmith service we perform. And we also want to make enough money to stay in business and feed the families of our employees. Those are our goals. Average-based pricing allows us to quote customer quickly and simply, stick to the price no matter what the job, and provide a good value on the whole. We appreciate your understanding.
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