This is a common question for consumers and it's not limited to the locksmith trade. There are so many different price strategies employed by businesses that the consumer of a service is easily overwhelmed. In this article I will attempt to clarify why there are differences between businesses and what you as the consumer should look out for.
Callout Fees, Service Calls & Service Call-Outs
... They're all the same thing! The difference is that some locksmiths will charge a low callout fee and then add the service to the bill at the end, and some locksmiths charge a total price that incorporates a call out fee. For example:
Locksmith A: Quotes a $55 callout for a lock-out (when a customer is locked out of their property. When they finish the job the cost is suddenly $120 or more. The locksmith explains that the cost of unlocking the door is seperate to the call out. That is, $65 to unlock the door.
Locksmith B: Quotes $95 for a lock-out. This includes the opening of the lock and the service call.
Who would you choose? Well the difference is that Locksmith A is often more successful in getting the work as they play on the customers ignorance. Locksmith B is a more honest approach in my opinion as there are no hidden fees, but it does look more expensive initially.
ALWAYS check the total price before you use a service. This example is on the lower end of the scale of ripping people off. I have heard of locksmiths charging ridiculous amounts on-site and intimidating customers when they question the price.
Difference Between 'Normal Office Hours' & 'After Hours' call-outs
A locksmith callout during the day varies but after hours the callout is expected to increase according to the time of the night. Why? There must be an incentive to the locksmith to wake-up in the middle of the night and drive for 30-minutes each way and work. If prices didn't increase outside office hours and on public holidays what would be the motivation to spend time away from friends and family?
Benefits & Disadvantages of using Third-Party Marketing companies to source your tradespeople
While there is an obvious place for advertising for businesses wishing to increase sales, a recent issue plaguing service-based businesses is the abundance of third-party marketing companies wanting a piece of the pie (for not doing much but jacking up prices). There are a few different strategies that I have seen pop-up in recent years:
Pay-per-quote: HI pages and others currently use this model which is gaining a lot of heat on their social media at the moment from disgruntled tradies. Essentially, the company gets a quote request from the customer asking for quotes to fix a certain issue. The company then sends copies of the request to about 3 tradespeople and each compete on price and sometimes skill/quality etc. (Price wins most of the time unfortunately). The tradesperson pays for that lead without the gaurantee the quote request is genuine, or the customer is not just 'kicking tyres'. They will also not be guaranteed the job is still open. Now multiply that number and you can see how this form of lead-generation can cost a lot of money... which gets passed on to you, the consumer.
Percentage based fees: Airtasker have set-up their business based on ths model and while this is a better option for the tradesperson/service-person, the consumer ultimately ends up paying the add-on fee. The saving grace is that there is lots of competition and this puts downward pressure on price. These platforms also retain money from the customer before the job is completed assuring the tradesperson gets paid. On the other end, the customer can look at reviews and completion rates to find a reputable worker. Beware! On bigger jobs the %15 fee can amount to a big difference.
Both of the above examples have a lot of problems... Unlicenced contractors and scammers can under-cut honest businesses and the customer won't know any better until down the track when they are broken into because a lock wasn't installed correctly, or they have faulty wiring or leaking pipes. Check reviews and ask for examples of previous work.
Other associated costs
A locksmith business is set-up to provide unique services. We do multiple jobs during a day and often work into the night and early morning if on-call. We drive for hours every day: tolls, wear-and-tear on vehicles, insurance, petrol, and time all cost money. Locksmiths also require security licences and our insurance premiums are quite high. Advertising is incredibly expensive and we are not gauranteed customers every day. When you take out all of these expenses, then take out tax, our profits are not massive.
We compete with dodgy handymen and amatuers who know very little about the operation of locks and what can be used where. Building codes are seldom followed by these operators and the result is strata regulations broken and customers required to replace doors and door hardware. Undercutting on price is rampant as they don't have the same overheads. Ultimately however, they create more work for us as we fix their stuff ups. For the price difference of a hamburger who would you choose?