In Search of an Upside

I fell for an Internet scam last weekend. Our key could unlock our deadbolt to the front door, but slid only halfway into the bottom lock. We were locked out. So I tried to break into my house without breaking anything. Luckily, our house was very secure. I decided to call a locksmith. And that decision, made in the heat of anxiety, was a costly one.

Under normal circumstances, I would do a lot of research before calling a locksmith. Read up on the best way of choosing a locksmith, or whether a locksmith was the best choice. I actually already watched a YouTube video about how to break into your own home. I knew that, because it was close to dinner time, my kids were likely getting hungry. And I was antsy. So I googled "locksmith" and clicked on the first ad from "locksmith-pros" that said, "$15 service fee." Even better, when I went to the site, I was promised that it was the lowest price guaranteed, and that it would start from $35 for home lockout. I called.

The woman on the other end of the phone confirmed the pricing and told me a locksmith would call me within 15 minutes. Sure enough, a man called me and confirmed the pricing. So I invited him to come over. I told him that he could destroy the doorknob; I just wanted to get in quickly. He pulled out a drill, drilled into the lock, hammered it once, and turned the knob. It literally took 1 minute.

He turned to me and said, "That will be $169."

I called up the service the next day, the day before July 4th, and demanded to know why my final bill had been $200. The manager, Jose, clearly had been down this road before.

"Did you get other quotes?"

"No, I had trusted your lowest price guarantee. And it said 'From $35.' "

"But it didn't set that minimum based on time."

"What else would be the criteria?"


"He used a drill and a hammer! Under what circumstances would it have been $35?!"

"If he started to drill and you told him to stop."

"So I got charged $134 for the swing of a hammer?"

"Are you complaining that he got you into your house too fast?"

It went on like this. I demanded a mailing address. He only offered a PO Box. I asked him if he had an LLC or S Corp. He told me he had a New York S Corp, but gave me a name that wasn't listed. He knew that I wasn't suing him, though I wrote a complaint to Google for its ads, and I went to the FTC web site.

But I also still had a busted door knob. So I endeavored to fix it myself. All of this time, I found myself bemoaning the experience, because I couldn't see how this was anything but a drain on my time, energy, emotion, and money (my TEEM budget!). And when I got the door knob, it came with screws that were too short for the door. And I figured I could listen to a podcast while I installed the door knob, but the installation actually took up all of my mental focus.

I got longer screws first from Ace Hardware, which were the right length and right type of thread, but the head of the screw was too big for the knob. Next I drove down to Home Depot, almost laughing to myself that a sixteenth of an inch on the head of a screw was consuming my evening. Home Depot was a ghost town, and was just about to close. A helpful man in an orange apron walked to me and offered to help. I showed him the screw I had, and asked him for help finding two that were two inches long. He grabbed a little green bag with a hole in it and handed me two.

"Have a Happy 4th."

I drove home, shaking my head over the fact that I drove 15 minutes away to get two 2" thirty cent screws for free. I had little to show for the whole experience, and had nothing of substance to think about. I had been away from family, away from friends, and driven nuts over a stupid door. I looked up above the stop light. Fireworks exploded overhead. I took my time driving home.