I like dealing with residential ones because you’re dealing one on one and can get an answer quickly because it’s their house. With commercial, especially the bank customers, it’s tough to get a straight answer or to find the right person to deal with. For me it’s more gratifying when a residential customer likes your work and refers you to someone else. You’re working for people in your community who trust and refer you and that feels good.
Do you think you being a young locksmith at 26 ever gets in the way as far as your credibility with customers?
Maybe. When I first started since I was the new guy, I had a certain greenness to me. I don’t feel that way anymore because I know the product I’m working with and I’m more confident about what the outcome will be. When you don’t have confidence, then someone’s more likely to ask about how long you’ve been doing this.
How is the difficult economy affecting you guys? Are you being kept busy?
The key word here at DMD Lock is efficient. We have everything down to a science. We don’t keep much product around; wedon’t keep expensive hardware sitting on the shelves for seven months. We’re all over the Yellow Pages and the Internet. We get our schedule for the day and leave a little window in the day for emergencies or change of plans. The way things are now, you’ve got be as efficient as possible; you have to make the most of every opportunity. You can’t show up a half hour late; keep in mind these people don’t want to spend the money but usually they have no choice.
Do you see yourself still working as a locksmith in ten years?
JI do; this business has been around since 1970 and I’d like to keep it going if Justin decides to move on and do something else one day.
Where do you see locksmithing down the road?
It’s tough because of all the scammers out there. Locksmithing has been around since people needed to lock things up and you have these guys out there who are scamming people and giving the rest of us a bad name. Once they’ve had a scammer out to do the work, it makes them look at us more suspiciously. Honestly, I think locksmiths should have a union.
What would a locksmith union accomplish?
It would weed out all the carpenters and sheet metal workers who want to be a locksmith for a day. I can’t go on a job site and be a carpenter or a plumber. Why should they be able to perform locksmithing work?
I don’t think licensing does anything with guys coming here from a call center in New York; those guys are in and out in no time. You’d have to tick someone off pretty bad to have a report filed. Most people just chalk it up as a bad experience and move on. It does need to stop because it’s killing us.
No disrespect to other trades but I take pride in what I do. You do your job and I’ll do mine.
Do you keys going away?
People find solutions to every problem, that’s what we do. I never thought I would see this SmartKey thing. Who would’ve thought you’d be able to stick a little tool in the lock, turn it back and forth and magically the old key doesn’t work any more? I think the manufacturer has done a good job of making these locks idiot proof because we aren’t getting the calls to fix them like we thought would happen when the customer broke them.
Education is really important. Locksmiths need to keep learning as much as possible about the products so we always know much more than the general public. Sometime soon Home Depot will sell do it yourself access control systems and that will take away from us. People want what’s easiest and cheapest. With the economy the way it is people want to spend as little as possible.
What would you say to an 18 year old who’s mechanically inclined? Wwould you recommend locksmithing as a career?
I would but I would be honest and tell them not a lot of young people get into it and you might be discouraged about everyone else being higher than you on the totem pole. When I started going to association meetings I was impressed at how much knowledge these guys had and how tough it would be for me to catch up to them.
Wouldn’t it be same with other trades like carpentry or plumbing?
In those trades you see a lot of young guys on the job. A lot of my friends are carpenters or HVAC guys. There are lots of schools for young people to get training. With locksmithing, you have to do it to learn it. That’s where you can get discouraged because when you run into a problem you usually have to figure it out on your own.
For my second interview with a locksmith under 30 years old, I wanted to speak with Demetrius Heggs, owner of All City Locksmith in Philadelphia. He was 29 years old when I first approached him...