Most security requires installation which suits locksmiths just fine. The personalized expert advice, customer service and installation are what differentiate us from the on-line retailers and home improvement centers.

While you hear a lot about the demise of brick and mortar establishments, many locksmiths enjoy the rewards of serving their communities, and having an open door for those in need of a key. It’s called a showroom, and it is uncommon in the electronic security community where an 800 number may be the only manifestation that Joe’s Alarms actually exists.

Of course there is also a huge challenge facing the locksmith community, that of interlopers doing exactly that; feigning to be local merchants by placing ads and publishing phone numbers which actually connect to a distant call center rather then a local merchant.

What is a little different about locksmiths are that people do not give them much thought until they are faced with an emergency, and then they react by taking the course of least resistance in order to correct their problem.

Gale Johnson accurately pointed out in his December editorial that the lockout business is waning. Some of it is being drained off by tow trucks and taxi cab drivers. Some of the lockout business is vanishing because vehicles and locks are being designed to protect people from themselves.

So having a showroom is an excellent tool for bringing a client to view a demos and products on display. Walk-ins can also be lured to look while they’re getting keys cut.

The opportunities are endless. Traditionally typical items on display would be things like keychains, safes, cutlery, door hardware, or a rack of Lucky Line accessories.

When I recently received three inquiries for an inexpensive video surveillance solution, I got to thinking about over-the-counter sales. The shop where I am employed is definitely competitive when it comes to video surveillance. We’ve done a four-camera mom & pop convenience store, a 200-camera network for a school district, and everything in between.

But a single camera is tough to deploy. It’s hard to sell.

First there is a labor, and if it is a residence, you’ll have to be especially neat. Fortunately our shop has a veteran security installer who cut his teeth on wired residential systems in high-end residences. But these residential jobs take time, and time is money.

Then there is the hardware. Even if you have a camera you can retail for at $100, there is still the recorder, the cable, a monitor, and a power supply.

Also it seems that many customers are phobic about computers in general and networks in particular or at least uncomfortable dealing with the technology.

Some companies offer poor customer support or push for the sale without clearly explaining the installation and set-up required for the surveillance camera and DVR. It’s infuriating, isn’t it? There is no reason for this condescending attitude. So for many customers, hearing the words IP or laptop come out of my mouth shuts them down and they head for the EXIT. This where maturity and salesmanship comes in handy.

I tell them that I’m older than they are (probably true), and if I can do it, they can do it too. I tell them not to feel threatened, and we will get through this process together with no problem.

When a customer thinks he or she need video surveillance, it could be something as trivial as unleashed animals disturbing their trash cans or something of major importance such as an abusive baby sitter or a shoplifter.

For an investment of well under a couple of hundred dollars, you can offer a possible course of action. If your customer wants to do it himself, you can still make the sale, only you do not have to start your truck.

Dakota Alert

The Dakota Alert DVR-01 is a single camera solution which covers almost all the bases. It is self-contained; the camera and recorder are in one unit. Its small size makes it discrete, and it is easy to operate: easy to deploy and easy to connect to a computer via USB. Installation is inexpensive, and labor is minimal, since no cabling is required.

One client thanked me for showing her this unit but insisted on getting pricing for a multiple camera installation. Customer’s like to be offered choices, and the DVR-01 works as a low cost offering that dovetails with your professionally installed video surveillance offerings.

While I was getting to know the DVR-01 I spoke with Dakota Alert sales associate Matt Haefner.

More than 20 years ago, Dakota Alert started out as a small family business making driveway alarms that were mainly marketed to farmers, Haefner explained.

“ Over the years we have always tried to improve our products and expand the customer base that we serve. We always strive to give our customers the best products and support possible. If you call our company, a friendly and knowledgeable person will answer the phone. We also seek to treat every customer like a friend. By offering a high quality product that does what it is intended to do, we are able to help our customers’ peace of mind,” he added.

Dakota Alert’s customers include home automation, security and locksmith companies. This year, Dakota Alert will display its products at the ALOA show in Las Vegas July 13-14. (For trade show details, visit

“ Our DVR-01 and 2500 series are perfect value added products that locksmiths can offer their customers,” Haefner said.

The 2500 series has 4 form “C” relays and a 12 V DC output on the receiver. These can connect to anything from a light timer to an existing alarm panel.

Dakota Alert DVR-01 features include:

  • CMOS 640x 480 Standard Definitions
  • Battery life of 10 days standby 2 hours constant recording.
  • Can run plugged in with the included transformer.
  • Flashing LED indicates recording.
  • USB cord to attach and view videos on any PC or Mac.
  • Total recording time with included 4GB MicroSD card of approximately 400 clips.
  • Will accept up to a 32GB MicroSD card. When the card gets full, it will automatically delete the oldest clips and continue recording new clips.  

This product is not a weather proof unit. It is designed for interior or light exterior use. It must be protected from the elements. Check local and State laws regarding video and audio recording devices.

Ideal applications include: Nanny Cam, Convenience Store cash register, Cabins, Store rooms, Night surveillance, or Any location that you want to monitor when you are not there.

New on the horizon is the BBA-2500, a solar/battery powered unit that uses active infrared for perimeter detection

Haefner says Dakota Alert differentiates itself from other online vendors by offering a personal touch. “A real person in South Dakota answers the phone 8:30 AM- 5 PM CST and will help with any questions or concerns.”

A dealer program enables locksmiths to partner rather than compete with Dakota Alert’s on-line store, he adds. The dealer program has no minimum orders and allows for margin. “We don’t undercut our dealers.”

For more information on Dakota Alert, visit