Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accurate answers? Part 3: Neglected facts and mischaracterizations lead to wrong conclusions

Neglected Facts by FWCLA and ALOA:

How locksmiths are trained.

Florida locksmiths are professionally trained. Check out FWCLA’s website. Their website touts “Florida West Coast Locksmith Association is all about education.” They have trainings scheduled every month as do other associations. Strange how they didn’t mention that, but then it looks like only the Associated Locksmiths Of America (ALOA) answered this question.

Locksmiths regularly receive training through local associations and locksmith suppliers who bring in safe, lock, equipment, tool and software manufacturers and vendors to certify locksmiths on their products. Locksmiths train to make their jobs easier, expand their services therefore gaining more business and service their customers better. They have file drawers of certificates and storefronts, warehouses, storage sheds and vans crammed with product and equipment to prove it. New locksmiths learn from long-time locksmiths and supplement their training at locksmith schools either online, distance learning, video or CD classes or attend classes at conventions or seminars. Most locksmiths feel it is not appropriate to be burdened with costly regulations and mandatory and continuing education. At an estimated $50 a credit hour, SB 658 is requiring 16 credit hours or an $800 burden on already professionally-trained locksmiths. Mandatory training of trained locksmiths will not stop the criminal element – only enforcement of current anti-fraud laws will do that.

Locksmiths certifying themselves?

When I interviewed Senate analyst Mandy O’Callaghan she said she had some concerns about whether or not the locksmiths were certifying themselves. She said she asked FWCLA lobbyist Janet Mabry about who would be doing the training and was told it would be the locksmith/employers or a major locksmith employer who would be providing the training.

Okay, so maybe Mabry just didn’t know what was going on in the locksmith industry. It’s possible. Maybe she was confused -- after all this is the lobbyist who every time she was asked at a committee meeting who she represented or every time she introduced herself or signed an appearance card, she couldn’t even get her client’s name right. She always said she was representing “Florida locksmiths” or “the Locksmith Association” instead of the Florida West Coast Locksmith Association. The first time I noticed it, I thought it was just a mistake, but after hearing or seeing the same faux pas on every committee video or tape recording, I began to wonder – was it intentional or is she really confused? Maybe overstating whom they represent is a normal “fib” for a lobbyist – I don’t know.

I explained to O’Callaghan that a large chain like Pop-A-Lock, that had their own training center, may be certifying their employees, but most locksmith businesses are a one- or two-person businesses and they do not certify themselves.

Questions 10 & 11 combined
What is the cost of regulation, including indirect cost to consumers and the method proposed to finance the regulation? (Question 11 addresses the cost to locksmiths and FWCLA and ALOA gave the same answer to both questions.)

Answer: ALOA and FWCLA state that the cost depends upon how many the state feels it can license plus the cost of administering the license. They list $500 (Illinois) every two years to $100 (N.C.) every year. They point out that it is less than $1 a day to maintain a license.

Not completely accurate
FWCLA and ALOA failed to address:

The cost to the professional locksmith would be significant as it includes licensing fees, mandatory and continuing education, as well as the cost to maintain and store records on customers and employees. All these costs would have to be passed on the public.

Question 12

Provide any previous efforts in this state to implement regulation of the profession or occupation?

Answer: FWCLA and ALOA state that Dade County had a locksmith licensing ordinance.

Inaccurate: Dade County has an existing locksmith licensing ordinance and it’s been operating well since 1995. FWCLA and ALOA did provide a link to Dade County’s ordinance in their answer, so it may have been a typo. Dade County’s ordinance does not, however, burden the locksmith with mandatory and continuing education. Miami locksmiths, who pay $600 every two years for a license, verified that the locksmith suppliers in the area invite vendors on a regular basis to provide certified training programs.

Question 13

Provide any other information the committee may consider relevant to the analysis of the proposed legislation?

Answer: FWCLA and ALOA state that “many consumers falsely believe that all locksmiths have had a background check and have some proficiency in their trade. There is no way to evaluate this unless locksmiths show that they have a license. With the advent of ‘Phony locksmiths’ defrauding and overcharging the public all over the country, the public is demanding that something be done.” The legislators are then directed to the ALOA’s website page with the 201 “locksmith” stories.

Inaccuracy #1: FWCLA and ALOA did not cite their documentation that determined what consumers do or don’t believe. Florida consumers can rightly believe that professional locksmiths are proficient because they are professionally trained and they actively acquire skills and training to enhance their service and livelihood. Consumers also are likely to presume that any professional trades person would be proficient in their trade. We assume, for example, that car mechanics are proficient in what they do. Most pay for their own schooling and training. Some of them get certified on particular cars or systems as locksmiths can get trained on specific locks and systems. But car mechanics are not required to be licensed or required to take continuing education classes and neither should locksmiths.

Inaccuracy #2: There is an evaluator. The marketplace is the evaluator. It evaluates car mechanics and professional locksmiths alike. Those who don’t measure up lose clients and eventually go out of business. With the advent of the Internet, consumers can go to government or association sites to assure themselves that they are calling a legitimate locksmith.

Inaccuracy #3: Apparently, the “public demand for something to be done” is not very high as locksmith scams are not even listed as one of the top 83 scams on the State’s consumer protection website administered by State Attorney General Bill McCollum.

McCollum’s office lists only one current “locksmith” investigation on its website and it’s for David Peer’s call center. Peer’s already sitting in a Missouri jail cell as that state’s Attorney General sent the U.S. Marshals after him for fraudulent crimes against Missouri residents and mail fraud.

According to Rachel Slone, media contact for McCollum’s office, there have been 62 “locksmith-related” crimes in Florida in the last 3 years or an average of 21 per year.

Slone said, “We have one active ongoing investigation and several of these complaints relate to this active case.” She said that she could not reveal the name of the person in the active case since the person was unaware of the investigation. When asked if they were locksmiths or those posing as locksmiths, Slone said, “We won’t know until we complete the investigation.” (See link below.)

According to Sonya Perez, the media contact for the Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department, where a locksmith licensing ordinance has been the law since 1995, there were 31 complaints against locksmiths in the last 3 years or an average of 10 per year. Perez, however, could not state how many complaints were against any of Miami-Dade’s 450+ registered locksmiths and how many complaints were against those posing as locksmiths.

According to Judy Pepper, President of the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida, there were five complaints against locksmiths in 2009 in Central Florida with a total of 81 throughout the state. South East Florida counties had the highest number of incidents with 53. Unknown is whether they were locksmith complaints or “locksmith” scammer complaints.

According to Terrance McElroy, spokesman with the State Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the department did not have a lot of complaints against locksmiths in 2009. He said it would be difficult to pull out specific data due to the way they input and track their information. Once it becomes a frequent complaint, they categorize it. Locksmith complaints have not been categorized.

“I don’t think we’ve had an excessive number of complaints,” McElroy said.

Totals from these agencies for 2009 for the whole state
    21     Attorney General’s Office
    10     Miami-Dade Consumer Services
    81     Better Business Bureau
    ?     Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services
        – too small to categorize
    4     Newspaper articles

How many of all these 116 reported incidents are duplicated to more than one agency is unknown. Let’s assume for arguments sake that 50% are against professional locksmiths – that figure would be less than 60 complaints in the entire state. I personally think these are mostly “locksmith” scammer complaints.

I did begin checking counties on Florida’s west coast when I heard a television reporter state in a news report that there were hundreds of locksmith complaints. The four agencies he listed were the Better Business Bureau, the Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services and both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties’ consumer protection agencies.

Pinellas County has the information online and there were 5 complaints all against David Peer. In Hillsborough County, there were 2 complaints (1 against Peer) in 2009. Apparently, the reporter’s figures don’t line up or, under time constraints, he may have relied upon the west coast locksmiths he interviewed to answer truthfully.

Question 14

Name of the person(s) completing this questionnaire and the entity or interested party that he or she represents.

Signed by:
Ken Kupferman, CML, Florida West Coast Locksmith Association
Tim McMullen, ALOA.

Accurate if you don’t count the omissions: Kupferman served as the President of ALOA from 2007 – 2009 and was on the ALOA board for the previous 6 years. Strange he didn’t mention that in the questionnaire or on his appearance cards or in person when he either testified before the committee hearings or showed up to speak.

FWCLA, by the way, was listed as an ALOA Affiliate on ALOA’s website in 2003, but dropped that designation somewhere along the line -- maybe as they began to get more politically involved.

McMullen is the Legislative Manager for ALOA

According to a State of the Association article in the July 2009 Keynotes magazine (page 33), “. . . ALOA played a proactive role in locksmith legislation by providing assistance with the passage of locksmith licensing and related bills in Alabama, California, Maryland and Virginia; monitoring and assisting with the process of introducing locksmith licensing bills in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Rhode Island. . . “

From what I could discern ALOA answered all 14 questions and I‘m crediting FWCLA with 7 answers, although it may not be that high and of those, 3 were inaccurate or distorted the facts. At least 6 of ALOA’s answers either neglected to tell the full story or were complete mischaracterizations and some had multiple inaccuracies.

I don’t know what “assisting with the process of introducing locksmith licensing bills in Florida” means to ALOA, but it appears to be more than just assisting especially when both people signing the questionnaire are leaders in ALOA.

Obviously, there is only one interested party in this questionnaire, only one group seeking to regulate Florida locksmiths – ALOA.

Next post (which may be next week):

I’ll be drawing some conclusions on this situation plus sharing how one locksmith almost single-handedly stopped locksmith legislation in his state by educating his fellow locksmiths what that law would actually cost them. Hope to have these two written the beginning of the week. Then I take two weeks off – to continue writing my former publisher’s memoirs. Then I’ll be back at it. Finally, thank you to all those that wrote such kinds words to me about the work I’m doing. I appreciate it.


Associations – check out the associations’ education (training) pages or notices

Central Florida Locksmith Association First Coast Locksmith Association
Florida West Coast Locksmith Association

FWCLA listed on ALOA’s June 2003 website as an affiliate:
Associated Locksmiths of America
ALOA’s locksmith listings

Podcast of March 3, 2010 – Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee (Video is no longer archived but audio is in the form of a podcast) Scroll down to the Committee’s March 3 podcast. You can also scroll down to the March 22 podcast of the Public Safety & Domestic Security Policy Committee and hear Mabry say she represents Florida Locksmiths..

Janet Mabry’s appearance sign in Packets&FileName=ANRPC_ACTN_3_3_2010.pdf

This link is very long, so go to, then select committees and scroll down to “General Government Policy Council.” From there select the Agriculture & Natural Resources Policy Committee. Once on their page, select “All Council and Committee Documents” from the Committee Document section and select the March 3rd Action Packet. Page 5 lists Janet Mabry signing in as a lobbyist for Florida Locksmith Association.

Miami-Dade’s Locksmith Ordinance

Consumers can file or check out complaints at the following links:

County level - Most counties have a Consumer Protection Ordinance and agency that
handles complaints. Go to the local county page and look for the link.
Also, go to local police or sheriff’s office.

State level -
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Office of the Attorney General of Florida
To check out current investigations, go to:, click on the “Search Active Investigations” link on top of the column of investigations. Type in the word “Locksmith” and see David Peer’s investigation show up.


  1. Great research! Very much appreciated by many professionals in the locksmith industry.

  2. Services of an emergency locksmith and even someone opening a care could not have been better described. Good read. we as locksmiths really offer a lot of different services although to some it seems as if we only unlock locks and charge a pretty penny for it.