Is Your Safecracker Qualified?

When You Call A Safecracker

If you need a safe opened for any reason, it's natural to expect whoever you hire to to be able to do the work. After all, why would someone accept a job they don't know how to do?

You might be surprised to learn that a lot of people who advertise safe work are not as qualified for many of the jobs they accept as the people paying them might expect.

Many will take your call, come and visit, look at your safe, then excuse themselves for at least a day, maybe more, saying they have to "research the job." They might even take photos and perhaps some measurements before going off to do their "research." Often when this happens they will also not give the opening price until after they do their research.

In some cases this is reasonable. I'm well-equipped and very experienced, and sometimes I have to do exactly this. However, it's pretty damned seldom. I routinely ask a lot of questions before I invest time going to visit a safe needing opening.

When I'm done asking questions, I usually have a very good idea of what safe I'll be opening. Often enough I know exactly what the customer has. When I reach that point I usually give the customer either an exact figure for the opening or at least a well-defined price range, based on the make. model or at least type of safe, as well as the circumstances of the lockout.

Reason? If I visit the safe to see what it is, that takes time, expense, and effort. Lots of my callers have no idea what safe opening can cost. Many react with price shock when told.

Safe opening prices are a vast unshopped frontier for most consumers. Especially those consumers who have no knowledge beyond what they've seen in movies or TV, and think it takes minutes, and costs less than $100.00. So it's much better for me to get a price-based refusal before investing any travel and on-site time.

What about the safe openers who routinely make a first trip but nearly always have to put the safe opening job on hold while they scurry off to do "research?"

This shouts "inexperienced" to me. What happens quite often is the person is going to get on line at one of several technical forum sites (that are closed to the public) and ask others who are more experienced what to do and exactly how to do it. Many even ask how much to charge.

Safe opening as a specialty is becoming a popular pursuit for more and more locksmith companies that used to routinely avoid or turn down the work. The reasons vary, but one primary reason is that in the past couple of decades safe opening has become increasingly accessible to locksmiths without as much training, experience, or understanding of the work as they should have before tackling such jobs. Moreover, most states don't have any restrictions on who can hang out a shingle and solicit this work.

Among the safe opening tools available to them are photo and diagram collections of safe interiors, complete with measurements and sometimes instructions that tell exactly where to drill and what to do once the hole is made. In case the erstwhile safecrackers are not able to handle a complicated task like operating a ruler and making a mark at the right spot, there are even drilling templates they can (and do) buy. The templates attach to the safes and often serve to reduce many opening jobs to almost a paint-by-numbers undertaking.

I see the questions being asked on line, often the same questions over and over. Many of the askers even need advice on which template to use, which makes me doubt their understanding all the more. Upon reflection, however, perhaps templates aren't such a bad idea. Many of the askers can't even accurately copy down and report the maker's name they saw painted on a safe needing opening; why would it be reasonable to expect that they could copy a supplied measurement and transfer it accurately to a safe?

Most experienced and competent safe openers do not go to the well unless they're ready to fill the bucket:
Customer calls, asks cost of job.
Safe opener asks some questions, gets an idea of the safe and the problem, quotes a price.
Customer says "okay."
Safe opener gose to the job, brings the knowledge and tools, opens the safe, gets paid, goes.

In other words, one call, one conversation, one trip, job done.

More Tips on Hiring a Safecracker (in California, at least)

Lockmsith Licensing:
Even though I don't consider myself a locksmith per se, the State of California does classify me as one. As such, the state also requires that I have a valid Locksmith License before I'm legally entitled to do safe or lock work.

In states that require licensing, one of the thorns in the side of licensed locksmiths is unlicensed competition. I don't mind one little bit if a customer asks me if I'm licensed. In fact, I appreciate being asked.

Contractor Licensing
California also requires that people doing the work I do also have a California Contractors License and bonding to gop along with that. This is in the interest of consumer protection.

Furthermore, licensed contractors in California are required to include their Contractor License numbers on all forms of advertsing. This includes in their websites, phone ads, signage on trucks, business cards, stationery, and invoices.

If you don't see a California Contractor License number in the ad, chances are because the company isn't licensed. Caveat emptor.


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