Safe Opening: Photos For Price Quotes

Safe Opening Prices:
Wanted: Usable Photos Of Your Safe 
When It Needs Service

When your safe needs service there are a few things you can do to help the servicing go smoothly. 

Used Safe Prices
Blue Book for Safes

Safe ID

When you need a price quote for safe work, the first order of business is to tell the safe company what you have. When the safe company knows what you have (make, model, rating (if known), the price quote will be that much more comprehensive. This is especially important if your safe won't open because of a mechanical problem.

Case in point: As I was heading out one morning the phone rang. When I answered, a distressed-sounding lady began breathlessly telling me about her company's emergency:
"Our vault won't open, and we can't open our business until it opens. Can you come right away?"

Such calls usually qualify for immediate attention. A call from a business that can't operate until it has access to safe contents automatically takes priority over a routine combination change or servicing job. Second, she uttered one of the magic trigger words . . . "vault."

A vault opening has the sound and feel of major work. Safe lockouts versus vault lockouts are like comparing the shooting of squirrels to shooting lions. And when it's a lockout on something substantial, like a high security safe or a vault, safe technicians tend to behave like dogs who chase tossed balls into heavy traffic, as in There. Is. Nothing. But. The. Ball.

Thus, vault lockouts are the safe technicians' tossed balls. On the morning of this vault lockout there was nothing to stop me from putting everything else on hold and going straight to the job. So I did, happily anticipating interesting work and a nice payday.

When I arrived I was taken to the locked vault . . .

A "safe" is a box locked by a combination or key lock. "Safe" sizes can be anywhere from shoebox-size to six-plus feet tall, but on their best day they still qualify as boxes, however strong.

A "vault" is a room or enclosure locked by a combination lock and a heavy door with multiple bolts. A person can walk into and out of a vault.

To sum: A "safe" is a box, a "vault" is a room.

The "vault" I was there to open was the size of an average microwave oven. Not a "vault" in the strictest sense of the definition, but the model said "Meilink Val-U-Vault." This was the safe maker taking advantage of the overarching ignorance of consumers.

In other words, I'd put the rest of my day on "Hold" and rushed to a blazing false alarm. The "vault" was indeed locked, but it wasn't a vault as far as strict definitions go. If I'd seen a photo of that box before dropping everything and rescheduling my entire day to accommodate that problem, I wouldn't have done it. Instead I'd have told the caller I could do it, but not right away. Often in such situations a caller who hears words to that effect will call another company in hopes of getting a faster response. Fair enough, as far as I'm concerned.

Safe technicians rely on specific dimensional information when opening safes. A drilled hole that is off-target by 1/4" (sometimes less) changes a job's complexion, from easy to a day-long technical odyssey. Much depends on the technician being able to identify what you have.

So it's best not to rely on verbal descriptions, especially if you don't know safe and vault jargon. Getting usable information via phone used to be hard on everyone involved. Camera phones, text messaging, and emails have mostly solved that problem, though. Thus you can help yourself by being ready to supply photos. When the service company can positively identify your safe they can give more accurate price quotes.

That is, as long as your photos are useful.

Following is advice on how to take useful photos.

1) Full frontal view

This should include the entire safe front; door, frame, and wheels (if any). This is NOT the time for artsy angles, lighting, and dramatic backdrops. Do those shots after the safe gets opened and restored to usability.

2) Close-up frontal view of dial, keypad, or keyhole.

If you're photographing a dial, first turn the dial and leave it set on the highest number. Make sure any numbers, words, or other markings visible on the dial or keypad are clear and readable in your photo. If the dial has numbers viewable only from above, try to shoot one photo looking downward from about a 45 degree angle.

3) View of dial/keypad and bolt control handle.

Taken together from a downward angle; you want to show not only the handle-to-dial placement, but also the handle's configuration and show where it projects from the door.

4) Take a close-up of any labels or tags attached to the door or body.

Useless if not legible, so check your photo results for clarity before you send them.

5) Take a photo of at least one entire door hinge.

Safe door hinges come in a wide variety of shapes.

Remember: Blurry, poorly-lit, or out-of-focus photos are a waste of everybody's time.

Instead of waiting for whichever safe company you call to ask for them, take your ID photos before starting your search for a safe technician.

That way you'll have them ready when asked, which translates to time saved.

Comments/questions are more than welcome.

Ken Dunckel
Safecracker Safe and Vault Service
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area


Popular posts from this blog

Antique Safe Prices & Values: "How Much Is It Worth?"

How To Dial A Safe Combination

Safe Boobytraps: Tear Gas and Unknown Contents