By Mike Rush
St. Louis (KSDK) - It's a locksmith company that has many people keyed up.
Run Local Locksmith is accused of scamming customers with bait and switch tactics that leave them with outrageous bills.
But is that really the case?
In a special 5 on Your Side undercover investigation, Mike Rush finds out and confronts a worker connected with Run Local who may have wished he could run from our questions.
It's a position just about all of us have been in, locking our keys in our car or house.
NewsChannel 5 used two interns as part of our undercover camera investigation to find out what's behind customer complaints to 5 on Your Side and the Better Business Bureau about Run Local Locksmith.
Customers like Karen Lund.
"I grabbed the wrong keys when I was leaving the house," said Lund.
After finding Run Local Locksmith boasting unbeatable prices online from her neighbor's house, they were on the way.
"I thought 50, 75 maybe $100 at the most," said Lund.
But the final price was $235.
"I really don't remember exactly what I said. I probably thought something unkind," Lund said with a laugh.
Ben Anderson is a licensed locksmith in the Belleville area and a member of the Associated Locksmiths of America.
His rate to unlock a car, "in general, it would be a $50 charge."
Other locksmiths quoted us slightly higher prices, $65 to $75.
Which brings us back to our undercover experiment to see how much Run Local Locksmith would charge us.
On two different days, our interns each put keys in their purses, locked them in our Ford Escape and called Run Local, which boasts "fantastic, quick response time" on its website.
After waiting more than an hour and a half on one day, a guy showed up and quickly seemed to lay the groundwork for an inflated bill on this basic job.
"These are not easy ones," he told our intern.
The locksmith went on to say, "I was supposed to be off today but, you know, I was on call for emergency service or whatever so..."
"Okay, looks like what we have here, the emergency lockout service call is $49 and to open the vehicle is $140," said the locksmith.
A total of $189.
"I'm getting pretty upset watching this," said Anderson, when we showed the undercover video to him.
Remember, Anderson charges $50.
[Reporter]: "This guy charged $189."
"Yeah, that's insane. There's no way to justify that," said Anderson.
The locksmith called out to help our intern opened the door in about three minutes. After that, we confronted him.
[Reporter]: "My name's Mike Rush. I'm with 5 on Your Side."
"Yeah," said the locksmith.
[Reporter]: "We wanted to ask you about your billing practices today."
The man, named John, says he's with a company called Able Locksmith, which works with Run Local. The day before another guy also sent by Run Local charged $125 for the same job on the same car.
[Reporter]: "And you charged $189."
"Right. It's considered emergency lockout service is what I got the call from," said John.
[Reporter]: "Who told you it was an emergency?"
" I was on call for emergency call," said John.
[Reporter]: "How is a customer supposed to know if you're on call for emergency call for emergency rates or..."
"I don't have all the questions," said John.
Our conversation continued as John waited to be paid.
"All right, you're going to have to leave me alone now," said John.
[Reporter]: "Well, we're in a public area. I'm just trying to find out, are you cheating your customers?"
"No," said John.
John originally charged $49 dollars for Run Local's advertised $15 service fee.
The reason for that, "I haven't seen the advertisement. I don't know what you're talking about," said John.
He eventually knocked the bill down to $150 and took our cash.
"That makes me sick that they can take advantage of customers like that," said Anderson, as he later watched the video.
Rush asked Lund, "So, what do you think is going on here with this company?
Lund replied, "Rip-off."
And she wants to send a warning she hopes you'll remember about this company with questionable pricing.
Run Local Locksmith is not run locally. It's based in Michigan and contracts out its calls to locksmiths in 47 states.
A representative says told 5 on Your Side customers always have the option of not paying the prices, which are discussed before the work is done.
He also said he was going to investigate to find out why the locksmith charged $49 for the service call when it is supposed to be $15.
The Better Business Bureau recommends you research locksmiths before you need them and keep the information in your purse or wallet.
Also, get an estimate before the work begins, and if you think it's too much, turn them down.