Shanghai Scrutinizing Lockout Service From Unlicensed Vendors

March 13, 2012
Many residents and realtors turn to the small stalls because the average lockout charge is $4.74, much less than professionally licensed locksmiths charge.

The small, but often convenient service provided by locksmiths has come under scrutiny after a craftsman was caught helping a real estate agency's staff break into a downtown apartment without authorization.

The unlocking service, found at roadside stalls, lacks supervision so people who get to know the craftsman can have them open doors almost anywhere. The real estate agents had the door to an empty apartment unlocked so they could show it to a customer without the permission of the owner last Friday in Putuo District.

"The boss is leaving, no business," said the wife of the locksmith, surnamed Shi, who has been taken by the police for inquiry. The woman said Shi usually provided the service to those he knew, including the real estate agency staff.

According to the police investigation, the staff said they were eager to reach a deal with the customer who was shown the apartment.

In real practice, Shi is not alone. "Usually the people who find me are those who live in the locked households and we have known each other for a long time," said a locksmith surnamed Zhu, who has a stall in the Zhangyuan residential complex in Jing'an District. "I will be more careful when those strange faces come to me," said Zhu. Zhu said he will ask people to write down their ID numbers on a police-designated book, and when he arrives at the household he will ask neighbors whether they know the people who were locked outside.

One can find such services for about 30 yuan (US$4.74), or more for a complex lock. Many residents turn to the small stalls because professionally licensed locksmiths charge much more. At roadside stalls, the workers go to the households once the price is negotiated. Residents suggest property-management staff or community staff be present during the unlocking process. In the recent Putuo case, the property-management firm apologized to the owner and said supervision would be strengthened.

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