What Not To Tell Your Safecracker

Too Much Information, Too Little Information,
and Just Plain Wrong Things To Say

When you decide to call someone like me to open your safe, there are a few things that are better left unsaid. The most important pieces of information are those that help us identify the safe by make, model, and rating or class.

This is because there are boxes, and there are boxes. We know that most people who look at a safe see nothing but a box, maybe with a dial, maybe with a push button keypad, maybe with a keyhole, and maybe even with two of the those three items.

But that doesn't help as much as if we can get more than just that. There are a handful of details that someone who knows what to ask will find helpful to know. When I know more than "a big old black safe" I can often tell you exactly how much you will pay me for the result you want me to supply. And that's usually the main question anyway.

Lacking any useful information about the safe, people who call for pricing most often compensate for their lack of descriptive information by giving details that aren't technically pertinent.

"It's really old."
This is subjective. In an age in which people get new cars, phones, computers, and household appliances every few years or less, to many people a ten or fifteen year-old safe can seem ancient.

Safes can be decades or generations old, and they often are, yet I hear all the time about safes that aren't much more than ten or twenty years old described as "really old."

If you know for a fact that your safe is pre-1950 or pre-1900, say so by all means, but it's better to wait for the questions if the thing just looks old and beat up. A safe used in a busy store can look decrepit after five years or less.

"There's nothing in it."
Why tell me this? We don't calculate opening fees according to what is or isn't inside the safe. It always feels as if I'm being told this as a hint that my price should be lower than if there is something inside your safe.

I don't care what's in there. Your safe's contents or lack of contents is none of your safeman's business, period. I try to maintain a professional disinterest in what your safe contains or doesn't contain. It's not like I expect a cut of the loot.

The only time I want to hear about your safe's contents is if you know for a fact that it's something toxic, explosive or noxious. In other words, guns, ammo, explosives, dead fish, poisons; anything of that nature. Knowing this sort of info might influence or constrain my technical approach. And yes, in some cases it might bias my fee, and yes again, in other cases it might cause me to decline the job.

"I'm in the middle of a divorce/relationship breakup."
Too much information!
Though I want the job, if I get the slightest whiff of this kind of situation, guess what? I'll refer you to someone else. When they involve ownership and possession of tangible assets and valuables, other people's domestic and relationship problems are at the very best touchy and uncomfortable to be around, and potentially dangerous at worst.

Consider: A lot of on-duty cop deaths happen when cops are summoned to domestic settings. Cops show up on every call armed and often in pairs or teams, and they still get hurt. I show up alone, unarmed except for a toolcase and a sharp tongue. People having interpersonal difficulties, especially those involving tangible assets, can be human powder kegs.

Not to mention litigious. I'm never in the mood to hear from lawyers on either side of a breakup after completing what should for me have been a simple job.

"I need my safe opened but I don't want you to drill it."
Guess what? I don't want to drill it either, but sometimes that's the only way.
I always have a go at using what I know to minimize my effort as well damage to your safe, but just as I get no guarantees, neither do you.

With respect to opening methods, the only thing I'll guarantee is that if it's unavoidable, any drilling I do will be repairable. In some instances repairs aren't practical, but I make such disclosures before going forward.

Don't impose your TV and movie-inspired notions on the safe opener. Quite often there's more to opening a safe than applying sandpaper to fingers and a stethoscope to the door. Being told which method(s) to use or not to use is like telling your mechanic to tune your motor but to use nothing but one wrench.

Whenever possible, I do zero to minimal damage during an opening. Drilling does not ruin a safe if it's competently done.

"It will be a really easy job for you."
Are you suggesting I should only be paid well for busting my hump opening your safe? If that reasoning holds true, then it would seem to me the guy who knows nothing and spends all day struggling to tear your safe open by brute force should get more money than me, because the same safe only takes me thirty minutes or less. Is that right?
You get the picture.

"You want four times as much as I paid for it to open it!"
First, don't you feel a at least a little bit dumb for paying even a dime for a locked safe before finding out what your total cost would be?

This isn't a game in which I try to keep my opening fee lower than your cost of owning the safe. What if someone gave you the safe? Would I have to pay you for a chance to work on it?

Following this line of thought, the second thing of this nature not to say is:

"How much? The guy who sold it to me said it would only cost about a hundred bucks (fill in whatever that fool told you here) to get it opened!"

And you never thought to check on this? You just believed him, shelled out your dough, and assumed I'd be bound to stick to pricing guidelines laid out by someone who isn't even in my business, right?

Think about it . . . why do you think the guy you bought it from didn't have the work done for that bargain price he told you about and sell you a usable safe for a higher price?



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