That’s how she ended up accidentally locking her keys in her car last month. There was a time such a mistake could have cost any of us hours out of our day, but thanks to the invention of smartphones and “apps,” Logan was able to instantly search and find a locksmith to come to her rescue … or so she thought.
Logan needed answers to two questions: How much, and how long? The lady who answered the phone was cordial and informative. According to Logan, the lady quoted her a price of $29.99 to unlock her car door, and another $15 as a service charge. She also estimated the locksmith would arrive within one hour. Logan thought it all sounded reasonable and verbally agreed to the arrangement.
Logan had no idea she’d just been sucked in to one of the most successful rip-off schemes in Atlanta. What Logan and most folks don’t know is a handful of rogue companies buy up multiple phone numbers and multiple websites. While you think you’re finding an abundance of choices of locksmiths on the Internet, the fact is, a much smaller group of savvy marketers have figured out how to direct you to a central switchboard that dispatches freelance locksmiths from all over north Georgia.
I discovered this while researching a recommendation for locksmith services through my consumer research and referral website, www.TrustDale.com. My research found that every single locksmith I called estimated his or her time of arrival at “less than one hour.” The fact is, where you are has very little to do with which freelance locksmith gets the call. In Logan’s case, that one hour estimate became an hour and a half.
The locksmith arrived and instantly unlocked Logan’s door. She said it took him less than 30 seconds. She was ready to forgive the extended wait for him to arrive, and pay the $45 cost she’d been quoted over the phone. Uh-uh. The locksmith handed her a bill for $140. Logan told him there must be some kind of a mistake. “No,” he said, the bill was indeed $140. Logan refused what she felt was on-the-spot extortion and called the main office. She said the lady on the phone suddenly had amnesia about the $45 quote. Her new story was “it depends on the make and model of your car.” When Logan said they knew her make and model in advance, the excuse became “well, we sent you a really skilled locksmith.” Logan knew right then she’d been taken. She could have refused to pay, but standing there alone with an imposing male locksmith — wanting his cash — made her think otherwise.
How do you protect yourself? Tina Dungy, owner of Pop-A-Lock Atlanta, offers this advice: “If you find yourself in an emergency situation, first call a friend and ask for a referral. If that doesn’t work, consult www.TrustDale.com or the BBB. Another trusted resource is www.findalocksmith.com.” In this case, an ounce of prevention can be worth $144 of overpriced cure.
CORRECTION: Last week I incorrectly identified District 67 state Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston) as the Georgia House Rules Committee chair who helped kill a bill that would have capped lobbyist gifts at $100. The Rules Committee chair is District 5 state Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun.) I want to apologize to Hembree, that committee’s former chair, for the mistake.
For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, visit www.TrustDale.com, watch Dale on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5, and listen to TrustDale Radio Saturday afternoons on Newstalk WSB.