Field service is a ’round-the-clock endeavor for Alex Kamand, owner of Kamand Locksmith Service, an emergency mobile locksmith company that will pack up the van and hit the road whenever a locked-out customer calls in.

Kamand’s dedication to his job means a willingness to get up from the dinner table and drive across town at a moment’s notice.

The Job

Alex Kamand

Alex Kamand

Despite advances in digital home security, Kamand, who has been a locksmith in San Francisco for 20 years, says the two most common calls he gets are usually pretty straight-forward: home lockouts, and home lock replacements (often requested by recently split couples). Customers also call about car and office lockouts and key replacements.

The Tools

Kamand’s van — a Ford EcoLine E250 — doubles as a mobile workstation. He keeps about 300 of the most common brands of key with him, plus a key-cutting machine, which is bolted down in the back of the van.

“We had it installed professionally,” Kamand says. “Once you get it in, you’re not going to get it out.”

He also keeps a key-grinder on hand for broken keys that snap off in a lock. He’s also got several screwdrivers and drill bits, and dozens of replacement locks, deadbolts, combination locks and high-security digital locks.

Depending on the call, Kamand either drills out or picks a lock, analyzes it, then cuts a new key to fit. Simple, right? Not always. For instance, with newer automobiles, a key isn’t enough — a locksmith has to plug into the car’s on-board computer to pull a code that allows him to clone and program a computer chip that gets embedded inside a plastic key cover. “It’s very hard to manipulate,” he says. “So that can get expensive.”

Keeping Customers

Locksmith jobs inherently involve bailing people out of tight jams. Kamand’s trick is being quick. When a locksmith arrives quickly, does the job efficiently and is courteous, customers feel a huge sense of relief, he says — even if the price is steep. It’s a eminder that providing a truly valuable service in a friendly way trumps cost considerations, Kamand says.

Craziest Call

“I once got a call from an old man who was locked out of his house,” Kamand recalls. “And in San Francisco, at night, all these Victorian homes kind of look alike.” We’ll chalk it up to the customer being very tired or it being quite dark out, but turns out it was the wrong door! “I’m working on the front door, and all of a sudden a lady comes out and asks me what I’m doing,” Kamand says. “She says, ‘No, he lives next door!'”

That was a good reminder to Kamand to make sure costumers show ID that includes their address before prying open any front doors.

More: The Good, the Bad, and the (Really) Ugly of Port-o-John Cleanup.

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ABOUT Ian Stewart

Avatar photoIan is a veteran journalist who has covered sports for various news outlets. Previously, he was managing editor for an electronic-book publishing company and a public relations writer.