Keys seem to be more trouble on the Côte d’Azur than anywhere else. If you don’t lose them yourself, then the family who have rented your place for the summer will do the job for you. If you lock yourself out in Cannes, then it’s usually cheaper to rent a suite for the night at the Carlton than to call in an out-of-hours locksmith. A couple of incidents reported to us recently show how seriously a locked-out resident can be ripped off. One lady, who is not in the first flush of youth, found that the key had jammed in her (rented) apartment door just as she was about to leave for a few days Up North. It’s natural for a bit of panic to set in, she couldn’t leave the place open, her train was due to leave later that day.
She found a locksmith in the Yellow Pages, who came round and fixed the problem in no time, replacing the lock cylinder and handing over six keys after the lady in question had signed various bits of paper she did not take the time and effort (poor eyesight) to read.
He left with a cheque for €850 for a job that was later independently priced at €150. The lady, who tells us she is proud of her fighting spirit, took the bill and her sense of injustice to the médiateur, who is something like a Trading Standards Officer in the UK. She was confident she could seek redress under the legal offence of abus de faiblesse, which is designed to protect people who are in a weak position for any reason – desperate, ill or old. She was told she shouldn’t have signed the papers (one of which turned out to be an “estimate”) and that nothing could be done.
A second incident reported to us with less detail involved a man who had locked himself out late at night and was charged €1300 for the out-of-hours service of another serrurier.
In both cases the locksmiths thrive and continue to operate legally. Hopefully these dreadful cases of exploitation will help readers to avoid being skinned alive – call a friend, ask for advice; don’t act hastily, do all the paperwork before the guy gets out his gold-plated tool kit.