To key or not to key
October 20, 2009 8:33 PM   Subscribe

What is the probability that the worst will happen? My girlfriend lost her keys. What are the odds that someone will find all the right places to use these keys?

The details: We live in the East Bay. She works in San Francisco. She took the Bart this morning and is positive that her keys were in her backpack around lunch time. The lost keys include our car key, our house key, our mailbox key and her work key. What is the probability that someone will find these keys (were they possibly stolen?) and know where to use them? Should we re-key everything?
posted by AlliKat75 to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
Did they have any identifying information on them? Tags?

I lost my keys recently and didn't bother re-keying. Eventually they were mailed back to me via my grocery store club card tag that was with them (just a barcode, so I didn't worry about it)
posted by stray at 8:36 PM on October 20, 2009

Depends on whether the thief knew her, or whether it was random. Further depends on whether her address(es) were in the backpack.

If (random & no address) then probability approaches zero.
posted by zippy at 8:38 PM on October 20, 2009

I've lost my keys once in New York -- nothing happened.

granted, I didn't have any identifying information on them. So they wouldn't have known what to do with all the keys.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 PM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: I don't think there was any ID info. I'm not sure if there was anything on her work key that would identify where she works. Probably not, but you never know.
posted by AlliKat75 at 8:40 PM on October 20, 2009

Let the people at her work decide, I wouldn't bother to rekey your house unless your address was on there. And make sure they're not in the couch or something (sorry if you already thought of that)
posted by kathrineg at 8:54 PM on October 20, 2009

I can't even figure out what half of the keys in my own pocket are for, so I wouldn't give much concern to someone finding random keys.

Sadly, if they vanished from her backpack, someone on the subway or behind her probably took them deliberately. And if she takes that train often, especially at the same times, that person will be behind her again one day... and, sorry, but could pretty easily follow her home or to work to see where those keys they got last week go.

That said, you are (now?) going to worry about this for a long time and it's going to fuck up your sleep. So rekey the single important lock on your house for an $80 "non-urgent" locksmith appointment, or replace the lock yourself for $29 at Home Depot and a Sunday afternoon project. Now you can rest without those nagging thoughts popping up all the time.

Notify your employer, which is your responsibility to do anyway. Ignore the car, which anyone can steal without the key, and don't fret about the mailbox, which has a way too high risk/reward balance for any but the most stalkerish thief to bother with.
posted by rokusan at 8:59 PM on October 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

TO answer your question: Slim to none.

Rekeying would be a waste of money mostly. Locks only keep honest people out anyway.
posted by Gravitus at 9:15 PM on October 20, 2009

I agree with rokusan. The possibility that a thief targeted your girlfriend and knows her routine would cause me to lose some sleep. I would have a locksmith put a new lock on the house just for peace of mind. Probably not necessary, but to me the money would be worth it.
posted by JenMarie at 9:25 PM on October 20, 2009

I would have a locksmith put a new lock on the house just for peace of mind.

Installing a new lock where an old one was is just about the most trivial project ever.

It takes about five minutes. I mean literally five minutes. It takes me longer to open the stupid packaging than it does to replace the lock. And a new deadbolt should only be about $30.

Rekeying on the other hand requires a locksmith. It's actually pretty straightforward, but does require a brand-specific rekeying kit that you'll never use again. You'll also need a key grinder and a coder.

Rekeying would be a waste of money mostly. Locks only keep honest people out anyway.

Both of these statements are completely true. Buy a new lock instead of rekeying.

And 99% of locks are a joke. I can bump a Schlage or a Kwikset lock faster than it takes you to find your keys. And given a few minutes, I can pick many other locks you might give me.

The only non-joke locks are high security locks used in government installations. And you're looking at $150 or more per lock. And if they aren't installed correctly, in a sufficiently built-up door and jamb, they're no more secure than a Kwikset. Even if installed correctly, they're still rated in minutes to open... the idea is that if it takes ten minutes to open the lock, the men with machineguns will notice something's up and take care of the threat.
posted by Netzapper at 11:29 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Kind of weird to lose them out of a backpack and not be missing other things.
I would change my home lock.

It really only takes 5 minutes and a screwdriver to change a lock. Easy.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:54 PM on October 20, 2009

I don't think you're in any increased danger, but I think the peace of mind alone would be worth re-keying everything.

It just so happens that I just had to re-key everything in my house, and it was surprisingly cheap and painless. First, get a screwdriver and take off every lock you want to re-key. Put all these suckers in separate plastic bags to keep their parts together. Get someone to house-sit for you (it's not lockable in this state of course) and take the whole lot of them to Lowes (or whatever equivalent you may have around there). Go the the security section, find the locksmith desk, and tell them to re-key all your locks.

Here's the only tricky part - you need an existing key for them to use. Who the heck has an extra key that isn't already used for something? The solution is just to ask them to give you a key from their trash bin - every time someone buys three lock sets and has them re-keyed to use a single key they are required to throw away the extraneous keys that don't work anymore. The workers aren't actually allowed to give you one of these keys, but odds are they won't know that.

All told, it'll cost you $5 per lock and will take around an hour. I think that's more than worth it just to be able to forget the whole thing.
posted by Willie0248 at 12:13 AM on October 21, 2009

I've lost my EVERYTHING keys three times (I'm fun like that) once in Arkansas, and twice in Los Angeles All were places I lived in - nothing happened. Hope that eases your mind a bit.

After a while, in L.A., I changed the deadbolts myself after a trip to the hardware store. It was very easy. I am lazy.
posted by Kloryne at 1:01 AM on October 21, 2009

What zippy said, but also; if you do re-key the old keys will immediately turn out to be in the couch, or possibly even your pocket.
posted by Phanx at 5:41 AM on October 21, 2009

There are these newish locks made by Kwikset that you can rekey in about 10 seconds. You put the old key in, turn it, put in the key you want to rekey to and turn again.

I like them a lot and they are supposed to be bump key proof.
posted by zephyr_words at 7:34 AM on October 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you for all the advice. I knew I could count on the mefites. I think we will change our house lock, just for the peace of mind.
posted by AlliKat75 at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2009

I like them a lot and they are supposed to be bump key proof.

I haven't encountered one yet... but, from what I've heard, they've totally beaten the bump-proof locks. It does make bumping more difficult, and it does require that your bump key be really properly cut (as opposed to a ten-minute file job). But, it's still bumpable.

Not to mention that it's still pickable. In fact, if you can really "rekey" it in the way you're describing, I bet it's easier than ever to pick.
posted by Netzapper at 8:52 PM on October 21, 2009

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