“Why leave the door unbolted?” asks Tony Baker, finding out the hard way, with a growing family, that consolidation in lock makers seems likely to benefit thieves more than consumers ….
I am unsure who I am most angry with – B&Q, Yale Security Products, insurance companies or myself. There is a story here and it all started with a complaint.
“We can’t open the front door, the key won’t turn properly” was the chorus from my daughters on returning from university last weekend. My son and I managed well enough but when my wife sided with my daughters, I knew I was in for a new lock.
Hardly necessary I thought. The present lock was excellent. It had served us well for 17 years. One of the best when we bought it, an Ingersoll high security lock. We had invested a fortune in seven keys. In the old days you had to send off to Ingersoll for extra keys. Costly but each key was engraved with its own unique number and the message prohibited copying.
I went to my local locksmith for advice on a new lock. “Back in five minutes” was the message on his door. A wander about town for around half an hour saw me return to the very same message. No, he had not popped back and gone out again as I kept close watch on his door during my walkabout.
So it was off to the DIY superstore for a replacement lock. Nobody had heard of Ingersoll but I eventually discovered virtually all the locks were made by the one company. Yale had bought Ingersoll. Yale had bought Union. Yale had bought Chubb….and Williams had bought the lot.
The display was impressive in B&Q and quite similar to Homebase and also Focus Do-it-All. They too could have been in the same company.
I searched for a good lock. One that met a British standard. One approved by the mighty insurance industry. My choice from the dozens before me rapidly reduced to just two. They were the most expensive but I thought very reasonable at only £50.
When I made my purchase of a Yale Total Security BS3621 Insurance Door Lock I thought it strange that there were only two keys. The cheaper door locks had three keys. I really wanted seven. Why not provide a choice of two, four, or six keys with these premier locks?
I installed the lock. It is beautifully made, a real Rolls-Royce of locks. I am proud to be an owner and it has enriched my life – just a little. But I needed my extra keys. The first four key cutting shops I visited all cut Yale keys. The price varied by shop from £1.50 to £3.50. The one thing that was consistent was the shake of the head as they told me they had never seen a Yale key like it. “It must be a new one” they all said as they reluctantly turned down my custom.
Back to my local locksmith who was by now open. He knew the key as he sold the very same locks at a not very bargain price of just over £79. He could cut extra keys but not at his usual Yale price of £2.50. My keys would be £5 each as it was a security lock. He received my custom and seemed pleased.
So what are the messages? Great price for the lock from B&Q but what about the key warning. I see now why they do not cut extra keys in their shops.
The general insurance industry is a bit bigger than Yale and all its associates, so why have they not sorted them out. There is a clear incentive to buy poorer locks which are much less secure and a real bonus for the thief. It is hardly surprising that domestic theft claims exceed £500m every year.
I was somewhat naive to expect that the customer counted for something. I should have been alert but I could not find any Yale small print and did not think to search for extra keys for my lock before buying it.
But it is Yale who must come out worst. A good product ruined by weak customer focus. They should be encouraging people to buy better locks, with extra keys. After all who needs only two keys? Why not charge £5 more and supply four keys. The cost is hardly significant when you can buy the same lock from two different outlets with a 58% difference in price.