Safe Opening: Money Is Never "No Object"

How do I even know that the person who hires me to open a safe actually owns it?

This is most worrisome when it involves residential calls I get at night.

For Instance:
A caller from a residence needs to have a safe in a home opened, and right away.

I never know if the caller actually owns the safe or if Aunt Mary's crackhead nephew is taking advantage of the fact that Aunt Mary is traveling, or in the hospital, or whatever.

After all, it's work, and we all need to work. And work of the of the service-to-your door genre commands higher fees in almost any night, weekend, or holiday situation. So of course I'm interested.

Typically I ask a lot more questions of residential safe owners on night work than I might in the daytime:
What's the matter with it?
Do you know the combination numbers?
Is it one that you open on a regular basis?
When was the last time it opened successfully?
Are you sure you're entering the combination correctly?
What is the maker's name?

Those are among my most basic questions. Then I ask even more questions, too many to enumerate here. I end up with a much better idea of what I might be up against by the time I've asked my questions.

But I'm also listening closely and trying to pick up on the caller's demeanor and presentation, at least as much as I can in a phone conversation with a complete stranger. In other words, I'm listening for big and small warning bells of the sort that amount to clues that the whole thing is legitimate or not. Nervous, tense, confused, what?

It's easier to feel comfortable about working for a commercial establishment after hours than for a home owner. True, many homeowners can't be around in the daytime to have me over to do my work, because they have to work, too.

If the conversation progresses to a point where I'm confident I know what the caller has, I ask if he or she is interested in knowing my price. Of course they always are, everyone is, especially when it comes to a price for a service most people have never had to contract for.

Thus a loud warning bell sounds quietly in my head when I hear answers like "no, I don't care how much it costs, I have to get it opened."
Or, "please just come and do it, I'll pay you cash."

Both answers are suspect. Everyone cares about how much they will be charged.
And offers of cash for night work (such as opening safes in residences) sound dicey.

So that sort of thing puts me on alert even if all the other answers and info that has gone before during my Q&A sounded like it was on the up and up.

That's when I tell them my terms, usually to the effect of an exact price, and that I prefer checks or credit cards for such work. Furthermore, I tell them, the person paying me must show me valid state-issued ID, and the address on the ID must match the address where the safe is. Same goes for a check, with respect to matching imprinted address to the address where the safe is.

Not finished yet -- assuming all that's fine with the caller, I tell him or her that my policy when doing after-hours work at a residence is that before heading for the address I call the local police department, identify myself and my business, and tell them the address I'm visiting, what I'll be doing there, and who I'll be doing it for, and the license number of my vehicle.

You'd be surprised how often this disclosure kills many jobs deader than a doornail.

Judging from how quickly such callers cancel altogether I have to assume that something about it was El Wrongo.

Fact: Legally, I don't have to do any of the screening I described.
California has laws about locksmiths verifying ownership of motor vehicles when opening them or making keys for one, but not one that says anything about the legal obligations of safe technicians when we open safes for people.

My reasoning is pretty simple, mostly CYA-based. First, I don't want to be involved in any legal disputes or criminal proceedings that might happen later about my having been a party to giving the crackhead nephew or whoever access to Aunt Mary's treasure box.

Second and perhaps more importantly, I don't want to even be on premises if there's a marriage or relationship breaking up and one of the involved parties wants to have a look in the safe. This situation happens a lot more often than the crackhead nephew syndrome.

I've heard it said that a notable percentage of cops who get killed or injured on duty are involved in calls that come under the heading of "domestic dispute," where emotions tend to get in the way of otherwise rational people's thought processes. Cops have badges, power of arrest, radio contact with backup units, and guns. Some of them still get hurt while handling domestic disputes.

That's why I listen hard and ask a lot of questions on those jobs. And that's why I'm just as happy when many of those calls don't turn into jobs.

safecracker

Note to readers: Please feel free to comment and post your thoughts about this and any of my posts. Don't worry, I'm pretty thick-skinned. Thanks.

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