1. Think twice before you buy a locked safe at a flea market, estate sale, or auction. It’s probably going to cost you $300 or more to open it, and chances are, all you’re going to find is mouse poop.
2. Contractors stink at installing dead bolts. I can’t tell you how many times I go out to rekey one or let someone in, and I find problems. If it’s not installed right, it won’t protect you.
3. A lot of us do undercover work for the cops. We make keys for them and get them into places at 3 a.m. so they can set up surveillance equipment or put the bugs in place. It’s part of the thrill of doing what we do.
4. When you buy a new house, always have your locks rekeyed. Otherwise there’s probably a master key out there that can easily open your home.
5. You’re supposed to check ID before you open anything. But half the time when someone is locked out of their house or car, where do you think their ID is?
6. The biggest mistakes people make with their safe: spinning the dial too fast, trying to open it before it’s unlocked, and forcing it closed when there’s obviously a problem.
7. I’ve seen my share of dead bodies. It’s always a bad sign when the landlord calls to get into an apartment, and nobody’s seen the tenant for ten days.
8. Don’t feel bad if you have to call me twice in a short span of time. I once had a guy lock himself out of his house three times in one day.
9. Never tell me, “Don’t worry. It’s an easy lock.” Every time someone says that, it takes an extra ten minutes to get it open. It’s the kiss of death.
Sources: Tom Rubenoff, a hardware salesman and former locksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts; Charles Eastwood, who operates Locksmith Charley in Phoenix, Arizona; Bob DeWeese, a locksmith in Baltimore, Maryland; and Rick Bayuk, owner of Karpilow Safe & Lock in Bridgeport, Connecticut.