Choose a locksmith before you're locked out
Sujata Deshmukh thought it was just a simple problem that would require a quick, inexpensive fix. The door to a room in her Jacksonville, Fla., home was locked from the inside and Deshmukh could not access it from the outside.
She first checked Angie's List and found some highly rated companies, but she was concerned her job would be too small, so she opted to search in the phone book for a company.
"I thought it was a pretty trivial thing," she says. "I was basically shopping around for price. I thought it'd be easy and I'd find a local guy really cheap."
Deshmukh was quoted a $35 fee to unlock the door and a 15-minute response time. Nearly 45 minutes later, the locksmith arrived and told Deshmukh the cost would be $149. When Deshmukh protested, the locksmith "became very defensive and rude," she says.
25 percent of Angie's List members polled felt overcharged by a locksmith.
"Because I have young children at home and not a lot of time to call various locksmiths, I told him to pick the lock — even though I was outraged about the sudden price increase. It took him just a few minutes to pick it."
As our feature story "Locksmith scams point to widespread problem" reveals, picking the wrong locksmith could lead to price gouging. According to a recent online poll, two-thirds of respondents have hired a locksmith — and 25 percent thought they were overcharged for that service.
Deshmukh says she felt duped but she didn't let the locksmith leave without offering a warning. She was going to report her experience online.
"My only recourse was to let him know I was posting a review on Angie's List," she says.
Though there are a number of stories similar to Deshmukh's, we found that the large majority of the locksmith reports on Angie's List are positive. There are certainly some negative reports — and those can help you identify which companies to avoid — but more importantly, the good reports offer an indication of which companies you can trust.
Only 14 states require some kind of licensing for locksmiths, which means consumers need the extra level of protection and information Angie's List can provide.
My advice is to find a reputable locksmith before you need one. It's much easier to be taken advantage of when you're in need of quick help and at the mercy of the first locksmith you call.
Check reports on Angie's List, rather than relying on the phone book, an Internet search or directory assistance. Then, call the company to get an estimate on their services before you agree to have work done. Ask details about their pricing and available hours. Do they have emergency hours? Do they charge for mileage or have service-call minimums?
Once you find a service provider you're comfortable with, store that company's information in your purse, wallet, or cell phone — some place you're likely to have access to if locked out.
You can also program the number for Angie's List in your phone: 1-888-944-5478. Our staff is available six days a week to help you find reputable service providers.
Deshmukh learned from her experience and, while she hopes she's never again in that situation, she won't rely on the phone book to find a locksmith. "Next time, I'm going to use the List."