A nearby small town newspaper recently ran a story about a local restaurant robbery. The story related how the safe with an electronic lock had been opened, without damage, perhaps by a method shown in an internet video. The author and the local policeman came to the conclusion that no electronic safe locks can be trusted, so they warned people to only use dial type locks. They are flat wrong.
The real story is that when it comes to safes and other security devices, you get what you pay for. The “safe” in question weighs 14 pounds and can be purchased online for $125. How much security do you think you can get for $125? It certainly was not appropriate for use as a restaurant safe because the paper-thin steel would never keep out a burglar. Further, when employees see a piece of light weight junk being used to store cash, they can come up with a plan to empty it. Certainly this was an inside job, and the restaurant owners are to blame for stupidly tempting an employee into committing a crime.
It is true that many of these cheap electronic locks can be defeated easily. Internet videos show how to open some of them too. (Certain low-end gun safes also use similar inadequate locks.) If this restaurant had invested in a real safe with a high quality electronic lock the safe would not have been opened without damage. There are many U.L. Certified electronic locks that will not leave you vulnerable to theft.
Don’t be cheap and stupid: When buying a safe for a business use some common sense about what you need to spend for security.
One part of the locksmith business I hate is when customers buy key blanks over the internet, then bring them in to our shop to be cut and programmed – for almost free, of course. They try so hard to save money it is kind of insulting. And fairly often they make their lives more difficult without saving money anyway.
With non-transponder keys for cars, motorcycles, etc., it is common for customers to pay more online just for the key blank than we charge for the key and cutting it, so they gain nothing.
Transponder keys, the keys with “chips” embedded in the plastic head, are cheaper online, but there are two important reasons. 1) Internet sellers frequently provide low quality off-brand keys, a high percentage of which cannot be properly programmed. 2) Online sellers pass all the risk on to the locksmiths who actually cut and program the keys. Those risks include wasting time on defective keys that will not program, keys that affect the car’s electronics or computer, and those times when the locksmith makes a mistake on cutting the key. The locksmith’s regular price factors in these risks.
Therefore, when key blanks are purchased elsewhere and brought to us to cut and program, we do not accept the risk – we pass the risk back to the customer. That means:
- We will be paid for our service, even if the key does not work.
- If the key will not program we will spend no more than ten minutes attempting to fix the problem.
- If the car’s computer or electronics are affected, our involvement ends.
- We will do our best to cut the key properly, but if the key does not work we will not replace it for free.
- We will not pay for towing the car or any other related costs.
If these policies are not acceptable the customer is welcome to go somewhere else. We assume all the risks and stand behind the products we sell, but we will not pay for problems brought on by internet sellers.
A great recent development in security is the electronic safe lock. The majority of gun safes, vault doors and commercial safesgun now come with them. They are easier and faster to use than traditional combination locks. Another advantage is that owner can easily change the combination himself, whenever he wants, without calling a locksmith or safe expert.
Well, while working on a project last week I discovered something interesting. One of the safe manufacturers told me they actually – intentionally – make it hard for consumers to find instructions on changing codes for their electronic locks. They do this because most of their dealers don’t tell the consumer how to change codes and don’t give them operating instructions. That way the dealer can charge a fee for going to the customer’s home and doing it.
I don’t know whether this is treating the consumer unfairly or not, but it seems greedy. We always provide personal instruction as well as owner’s manuals for electronic locks. We do charge when changing combos on mechanical locks because there is potential for the safe owner to make an expensive mistake.
When buying a safe, gun safe or vault door with an electronic lock, make the dealer give you instructions for the lock.