Click And Wait A Long Time To Collect

Posted in life on September 13th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

This click-and-collect offered by a few retailers is an odd thing. I’d used it with fair success with Argos; after all, standing in an Argos branch and actually thumbing through the laminated book of dreams is never a very uplifting experience.

But when trying to do something similar with a couple of lots of timber from Travis Perkins, it always took twice as long as just turning up as they never seemed to be able to find the order and having found it spent ages head scratching before they remembered how to use their online order system. So I’d given up on that.

Then I needed a phone upgrade. The 3G coverage has been getting really patchy as they roll out the (stupid as we didn’t really need it) 4G. Well my old phone had done OK; I’d calculated it needed to serve for three years to make the cost of buying it cheaper than having on a plan; and it had.

I wanted a Galaxy S4. I figured the S5 had been out a while, wasn’t much of an upgrade (the last thing I need is a reminder of my state of health), and that the price of the S4 must have come down. Which it had. £100 cheaper than a year ago.

I had a rummage around on Amazon but the only models were Marketplace items and the feedback seemed to be that the majority were grey imports whose guarantees were iffy.

However Carphone Warehouse, who I’ve always had good experiences with, had one. I could have ordered it online, but it said that a local store had one. So I clicked and set off to collect. Mistake.

The first guy couldn’t find the order and actually took my phone out the back with the confirmation text message! And he was picking it up by the screen and thus managed to move several desktop items!! Then a second guy weighed in and after quite some head scratching, located the order and then the phone. I held my breath as they carried it towards me, but mercifully the seal was unbroken and I didn’t have to have that argument.

Then I was told that they’d accidentally entered that I’d paid cash, and would I mind popping to a supermarket cash point and getting the cash!!! Now this branch is the one at the end of the Victoria line in South London, and I didn’t fancy popping around the corner to attempt to ferry several hundred pounds in cash!!!! (I’ll stop with the exclamation marks – you get the idea.)

Only by borrowing a screen and a browser and by ordering another phone was I able finally to pay for the item with the planned debit card. I was prompted to make this post because today the email arrived noting that I had failed to pick up my (first) order.



Posted in entertainment, locksmithing on September 2nd, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

I quoted for a job last week, involving a couple of key changes. Straightforward enough. The person got back to me and let me know that the landlord was sorting the door out after all. Fair enough.

Yesterday the enquirer (the person, not the bastion of highbrow journalism) came back to me asking for a quote to finish the job that the landlord’s locksmith seemed not quite to have completed.

They had elected to replace a lever deadlock with a thumbturn cylinder-operated deadlock, which is fair enough as it seems it was a communcal door (I hadn’t been told this) and it’s the correct thing to do for fire safety. Now the cylinder used was the ubiquitous “euro” profile – very, very common and very, very stupidly designed. A euro profile cylinder has the shape of the head in Munch’s ‘Scream’ – very, very appropriate. However, the fitter had hacked out a vaguely circular hole where the keyhole had been. And left it at that! No rose, no escutcheon. Just a ridiculously large misshapen hole.


Posted in locksmithing on August 22nd, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

I went to open a wooden shed door with my usual collection of picks. However, whereas most sheds have a simple two- or three-lever lock at best, this shed door was secured with a five-lever British Standard mortice deadlock. (It’s not linear, it’s logarithmic: a five-lever lock is ten times better than a three-lever lock and hundreds of times better than a two-lever lock. Add in a BS rating and you’re looking at a serious picking challenge. I recognized the lock through the keyhole (which is as much of a challenge for locksmiths as opening the things). And I although I have a dedicated pick, it’s in rather a big tin which isn’t in the regular bag.

However, rather than go back for the pick, I had a go with a general-purpose approach; more what you might call “proper” lock picking. This kind of thing gets more and more difficult as you get older and hearing and touch both dull and the hands aren’t as steady as they were (even before “lunch”).

But, Yay! I opened it.

Oil Pressure

Posted in life on August 20th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

Jumped into the van for the last job of the day, fired it up and pulled away. Now you get used to all sorts of irritating dings and dongs in modern vehicles, so of course they don’t serve their purpose because there are so many of them and they are so uniform that you end up ignoring them. However, this ding persisted as I pulled away and glancing down there was a red STOP illuminated as well as the oil pressure warning light. Oh dear. That looked expensive.

However, a bit of research on t’ internet the next day revealed that it’s almost never the oil pump – phew – it’s often the sensor itself that’s faulty. (Another case of warnings of questionable value!) And if not the sensor, it could be a clogged filter. Well the oil filter sounded cheaper and more doable, so I clicked-for-collection, a replacement filter from a well-known motoring chain. Then I wondered about sourcing the sensor. I know my local garage man gets regular deliveries from an outfit called Europarts, so I had a look to see where they were located. Result! There’s a branch in a little industrial estate just down the road; and they have the part; and it’s no more expensive than the filter.

I collected the sensor first and then went to the orange shop’s branch to pick up the filter, which they’d just informed me they had ready. When I picked up the filter, I could see that they’d obtained it earlier that morning from Europarts! Now I know the better order in which to do things!

The final irony is that the two spanners I had to obtain for the rather large metric nut challenges were each more expensive that the filter and sensor combined. All my large spanners, mostly inherited from my Dad, are weird imperial and American sizes. Still, a couple of large metric spanners are bound to come in useful.

It turned out to be the oil filter. So now I have a sensor spare.

And come to think about it, I had the Berlingo serviced not so long ago, at a large Citroen dealer. One is forced to wonder what they actually do at these services.

Hardwood Doors

Posted in advice, life, locksmithing on July 24th, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

If you’re lucky enough to be getting a new hardwood door, have a go at asking the carpenter, as diplomatically as you like, to use pilot holes and to wax the screws – at least on the locks.

I’ve lost count of the number of times where I’ve gone to take a lock out of a nice door and found that at least one of the screws is actually only half a screw or even less, because no pilot hole was drilled and the screw head snapped off during fitting, Hardwood is … well, hard, you see.

And today brought forth a door where pilot holes may have been drilled but the screws had become very set in their ways and weren’t going to come out without threatening to snap at any second. A bit of wax from the end of a candle onto the thread would have prevented all that. (I’m told that carpenters who take a devil-may-care attitude to their eardrums have been known to use a little extemporized wax.)

Auto-bolting Doors

Posted in advice, locksmithing on July 16th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

There’s a variety of door that makes me nervous. It’s a multi-point locking system (such as you would find on most uPVC doors), but there’s a little dingus that fires a couple of the bolts as the door shuts. It seems to me to combine the worst aspects of deadlocks and latchlocks. If a gust of wind locks you out, the door is partially deadbolted, so it’s much more difficult to get back in again and yet the door isn’t fully secured.

If you have such a door, make sure you know if it can be held back (i.e. no bolts fire as the door closes) and how the hold-back is operated.

Personally, as far as wooden doors – as we typically find in Central London – are concerned, I’m coming around to the opinon that a combination of roller-bolt rim lock and mortice deadlock are best. There are almost no doors left where the rim lock is all there is; when you’re out you’ll almost certainly be relying on the deadlock. And when you’re all in, a manual shoot bolt is one of the best opions. And a roller bolt – properly fitted – let’s you hold the door shut as you pop to the mailbox or the bins yet lets you back in with a push.

All these fancy auto-dealocking rim locks are just expensive and troublesome, for no great gain. Of course, it you do have only a rim lock then a rim lock that can also be deadbolted becomes important.


Posted in life, locksmithing on June 24th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

What is a “callout charge”? As I see it, it’s a charge that some visiting engineers make prior to even starting to charge for labour or parts. I (and most other locksmiths) don’t do that. If, on the other hand, a “callout charge” is the minimum labour charge, then I do do that. (I go a bit further, though, and make no charge if, through no fault of the customer’s, the job can’t be done.)

Most customers – especially if they’ve ever called out a plumber or a boiler engineer or … – completely understand this kind of “callout”.

Occasionally however, there are complaints: “But I can assure you that it’s only a very simple lock! It will only take you five minutes.” Of course, there’s the petrol, the parking, the van and equipment depreciation and the travelling time. And what looks like a simple lock from the outside can be anything but. And for every job you do go to, there is some other job you are not going to.

Not The Best Day

Posted in life, locksmithing on June 22nd, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

Oh dear! Out of five calls, not one turned into a job. There was the booking that got cancelled when the landlord found a spare set of keys. There was the customer collecting quotes who didn’t call back. There was the stuck communal door with a queue of people forming, just as I’d served (a rather splendid) lunch. There was the customer who just gibbered … Oh dear!

Don’t Poke

Posted in advice, locksmithing on May 30th, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

There may be one or two cases in a thousand where a paperclip or some eyebrow tweezers suceed in getting a snapped-off latch key out of the cylinder. Mostly, however, paperclips and tweezers just drive the snapped-off fragment deeper and deeper into the cylinder. So when you do eventually call the locksmith, instead of extracting the broken key with – yes – a key extractor – they end up having to drill and destroy the lock.

So please don’t poke at a snapped off keys prior to calling us.

And if someone says, “Look, how about a blob of superglue on a cocktail stick?”, restrain them, physically if necessary.

Wobbly Woodwork

Posted in advice, locksmithing on May 22nd, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

We had another lockout yesterday where the snib had been set before the door was then slammed shut.

The ‘snib’ is one name for the little dingus on many nightlatch locks that allows you to lock the bolt in – good – or out – only good if you’re inside and the door has been shut. (On high-end nightlatches like the Yale #1 (or #2) or the ERA BS nightlatch, the little button only works to hold the bolt open and allow you to pop out without the door locking behind you; it doesn’t work to lock the bolt shut.)

With a sound door and door frame, if you incorrectly used the snib to lock the bolt out whilst the door was open and then tried to shut the door, then the door would simply fail to close all the way, the bolt bouncing off the frame’s keep. If, however, you have a small bolt, as on the short versions of many Yale locks for example, and if the carpentry or wood surrounding the frame’s keep are poor, then the bolt might be able to be slammed into the keep thus locking you out if you’re on your way out.

So, a) use the snib intentionally and properly; and b) get your woodwork unwobblified.