At one time almost every comic book had a Charles Atlas advertisement on the back page. The comic advertisement always showed a 97-pound weakling who was at the beach and had sand kicked in his face by a bully. The weakling took the Charles Atlas course, built a strong body, and went back to the beach to beat up the bully. Charles Atlas was a body builder who claimed he was once that 97-pound weakling but went on to become a champion body builder. Followers of the Charles Atlas body building system were reported to be famous people such as Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On Wednesday, June 5th, ABC aired a program called The Lookout (available online at http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VDKA0_lt9m888v/nightline-65-the-lookout). One 17-minute segment concerned the locksmith business. Mike Bronzell, from ALOA, was one of the commentators on the show. Video cameras were set up. An actress who was supposedly locked out called several locksmith companies to unlock her door. During the broadcast several locksmiths were shown and only one tried to pick the lock. The other locksmiths either used a drill to ruin the lock or pried the jamb and door apart to gain entrance.
My interest is centered on the real owners of these locksmith businesses. ABC showed how they traced phone calls from one local locksmith to a small office across the country in Oregon. Calls to the Oregon office were funnelled to another office in Texas. Switchboard operators in Texas then called people waiting in towns and cities around the country to handle local lockouts.
Imagine the amount of planning, telephone switchboard setups and manpower these companies must have in order to handle local calls in metropolitan areas coast to coast. ABC interviewed the owner of one of these locksmith businesses. There appeared to be a Rolls Royce in the driveway. The owner told ABC that he was doing nothing wrong. His workers are just helping people when they are in trouble. If any of his workers have overcharged, it is not the owners fault, they are all sub-contractors.
Add to this the type of locks most homeowners have. We already know that diecast or brass cylinder plugs only put up a two-minute fight against a drill bit. Previous videos of so-called locksmiths show them easily twisting off locked knobs with a pipe wrench. This simply shows how inadequate our basic locking systems are. It also denegrates the fine profession of locksmithing. Until we have residential grade hardware that is not so susceptible to very simple forced entry attacks, these so-called locksmiths can operate with no experience while making a fortune.
Where does this leave honest, hardworking locksmiths? We have essentially become 97-pound weaklings surrounded by bullies. Every quasi-locksmith which ABC interviewed, plus the owner they interviewed, all spoke with an accent. They have come to our shores, discovered a weak spot and legally filled a need. There is not one, but many of these comglomerates. If something is found illegal about one conglomerate, two more take their place.
Good, honest, security product installation and servicing work is still there. These one week wonders are not equipped either with knowledge or tools to do most of the jobs we do on a daily basis. But the cloud that hangs over locksmithing will remain until there is a more meaningful way to enter our profession than by just listing a name and number in the phone book or on the Internet.