If you’re a member of ALOA you more than likely already know that the April edition of Keynotes featured the annual “Pricing Survey”. If you’re a subscriber of the Locksmith Ledger you’ll recall that they published their price survey in January. And if you know other locksmiths you’ll know that the mere mention of a price survey is enough to elicit multiple expletives and the typical “negative Nancy” attitude that we’ve all grown to love and appreciate, or at least tolerate. I can’t help but wonder: why?

If you ask any locksmith why they don’t like pricing surveys, you’re sure to get one or more of the following reasons:

  • “They’re inaccurate”
  • “They don’t account for X, Y, or Z”
  • “They’re too low”
  • “They’re worthless”

Here’s the thing, they’re just questionnaires. Differences between your prices and the survey’s findings don’t mean you’re wrong and everyone else is right or vice versa. They’re never going to be a perfect metric because, like all polls, surveys, etc., someone, somewhere is going to take exception with the method or the respondents. That’s just reality.

Short of some masterful analysis software that can account for and pump out data to adjust for every single variable under the sun, you’re never going to get a 100% accurate, foolproof price list. It’s foolish to think that, however, because that was never the intent or goal. It’s equally foolish to discredit a metric because it fails to be anything less than perfect or comes even remotely close. Even if they aren’t the perfect metric, they are a metric and there is value to them.

To the new guys or the guys looking to branch out and offer new services, they’re at least a starting point and that’s better than nothing. Those are the types that truly appreciate this metric and data.

Let’s say I want to start an access control company. Maybe I’m well versed in IT and want to branch out into access control full-time or maybe I’ve been an access control tech for an institution my entire career. Whatever my background, understanding, at the very least, how access control-related work is billed is beneficial to me. Learning typical “billing codes” from others in the industry is beneficial to me. If I didn’t, I might just assume that rather than bill individual tasks my peers may just bill hourly. I mean, how or why would I know any differently? If you have enough types do that you’re more than likely going to end up with unintentional undercutting. Oddly enough, I hear plenty of locksmiths complain about others charging too low for certain tasks, perhaps there is a correlation there?

We don’t all inherit businesses or work for other businesses prior to getting into this industry; let’s not be naïve. If someone can get a semblance of how others may price their work, no matter how vague or circumstantial, it’s still better than nothing. There’s still plenty of real world experience needed to fine tune pricing but I don’t see the reason to get up in arms about surveys or immediately discount their worth. After all, wouldn’t you have appreciated one less lesson learned the hard way?

I think we all owe it to the industry to participate in price surveys. Furthermore, I think that even if we disagree with them vehemently, we should hold our tongue – you might not see the worth but, trust me, others do.