30 Under 30: Jay Ricciardi

This is my third interview with a locksmith for the “30 under 30” series and this is the first one conducted with one who is an employee and not the business owner. Jay Ricciardi works for Ed Fitzgerald, owner of Arnold’s Safe and Lock in...

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Give me an example of what you’d like to learn more about.
Masterkeying is easy now and I’m impressioning and picking locks. It’s the stuff I’ve never done, like installing an electric strike. I have no clue how because I’ve never done it. I see myself being given the chance eventually.

How do you think the public sees locksmithing in general?
When people hear I’m a locksmith, they think I have car-opening tools in my trunk. People think it’s like magic. They need the locks changed on their house and they think I could do it without having the right tools, etc. with me.

Do you remember the first time you were successful at impressioning and how it felt?
I think it was a Ford pin tumbler or a Chrysler because they mark real well and it felt great, like a great accomplishment. I went out to do a car once which I normally don’t do because I’m in the shop, and impressioned it in about 15 minutes and it felt great.

Do you continue to practice? What’s different now than when you first started here?
I do practice but to be honest we have less people here now and I have less time for it. I did get good at it because I practiced whenever I could. A whole lot of steering columns come in here so I do get to do it often enough.

Do you have particular work that tends to be yours here?
Not really. When there’s a large project like a master key system, Harry would do it because he’s so much quicker at it than I am. He’s been here for many years and has pretty much trained me to this point. For the most part, if you wait on a person, then you do the job. It’s much rarer now for me to not be able to do what comes in over the counter. Same thing with the phone; you talk to them then you do it.

Is the importance of how we answer the phone underrated?
Yes, I have learned that. When I first started I wasn’t too good at getting all the right information because I didn’t know yet what was important. I’m better now; I make sure I get things like a full name, address and phone number and ask them to be as specific as possible about what they need. Now it’s a routine and it’s set in my brain. I don’t get real specific with getting the manufacturer of the locks because they usually won’t know anyway.

It can be tough to get information from customers. What kind of responses do you get when asking people about their car?
They have no idea what year the car is and that boggles my mind every time. It could be an 1985 or a 2005 and they don’t have a clue. Most people don’t even give you the model when you ask for a year and model over the phone.

You mentioned earlier that you enjoy things computer related. Was this an interest of yours before you began as a locksmith?
Yes, I went to a business school for web design and I did the web site for Arnold’s here. I’m interested in technology in general. I’m intrigued by the biometric and retina scan technology but you could see it’s not going to be a hot seller until the kinks are worked out and the prices come down.

Do you feel like an important part of what goes on here?
Not as important as I’d like to be but I understand why. I’m working with a bunch of guys that have all been here for at least 15 years and I’ve been here for only three.

Since you wait on customers and answer the phones, you’re the face of the company to many people. How do you think that’s gone so far?
It’s gone well; I’ve adjusted to the customer service thing well, I think. Again, for some reason I enjoy the face to face more than the phone. The phone is different; it’s hard to communicate the way you can in person.

Did you have any mechanical background or have people in your home growing up that worked with their hands?
My dad’s handy; he’s not Bob Villa but he’s OK. I didn’t do it much and never thought I’d be doing something for a living where I would be using my hands like this every day.

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