F.A.Q. / had a duplicate key made at a hardware store and it doesn’t work, why?

We have a lot of customers who go to a hardware store or a box store to have a duplicate key made, then they come to us to have it done right.

Remember that a locksmith is in the business of making keys. There are several differences when you purchase a key at a locksmith versus elsewhere. First, locksmith key machines are better. They are generally better quality and they are always kept calibrated. Most locksmith’s calibrate their machines at least once a month if not more, to ensure that the copy that the machine makes is as close to the key given to them as possible.

However, they are limited by the key you give them. If you give them a key that isn’t working, then duplications won’t help. Duplicating an already bad key makes another bad key. Most locksmith machines will make up to seven generations of key before the key is totally unusable. Other stores can only do three. Why is this? Its because these companies are not in the business of keys and locks. Generally you have to walk past a lot of other products to get to the key duplication area. Most of the employees hired to work these machines are rotated through, so they have very little experience or making and/or identifying a keyblank. (A common misconception is that you are looking at the head or top of the key to identify it.) You have to walk past all thes other products before getting to the keys and by the time you do, generally you will have added something else in your basket. If they make a bad key, then you have to return to the store and more than likely you will again walk out with something you didn’t go for. We have had customers go back two or three times for a good key before coming to us.

They have spent not only their energy with the frustration of having a key made that doesn’t work as well as their time to return and the money in gas it cost to get back to the store.

Locksmiths are invested in their equipment and every key blank they purchase comes out of pocket. A lot of hardware or big stores don’t have this issue. They are contracted by the key machine manufacturer and for every blank they mess up, they are exchanged one free one for that mistake. For every key a locksmith messes up, it comes out of their pocket. Locksmiths have a good incentive to make a good key, and they want their customers happy so they will come back. This is also the reason why getting a key made at a locksmith may cost a few cents more.

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Posted in: Key Duplication