How do you get a "do not copy" key copied?
April 23, 2005 10:37 PM   Subscribe

I live in a condo complex with a pool, and there's a key to get into the pool. Naturally, I've lost the key. The condo management wants $150 for a new one, which seems a little excessive. Unfortunately, it's a Medeco key, and from Googling around, it looks like they've done a good job of locking up the market so that people like my condo manager can jack you up.

I'm sure the $150 fee discourages people from getting extra copies to give to their non-resident friends, but really, it's not like the facilities are worth driving across town to use.
Does anybody have a source for Medeco key blanks? Right now, I'm willing to try filing my own key (I can borrow one to copy).
posted by spacewrench to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Locksmiths and key cutters generally refuse to copy "bonded" keys like the ones made by Medeco. There are legitimate security reasons for this, and unfortunately it seems your condo manager is taking advantage of the situation. I would imagine that making your own copy of the keys would violate some strata regulation. You probably will have to bite the bullet, hand over the $150, and be more careful with your keys in the future.
posted by randomstriker at 10:46 PM on April 23, 2005

My old university used Medeco and people seemed to always find a locksmith who was willing to make a copy, no questions asked. Try the small desperate looking ones.

I don't know if it's true or not since I am not a locksmith but the high price could be because of the cost of the blanks used to make the keys.

I was once told the replacement cost for a set of keys I was given was so high because the blanks had to be specially ordered from Germany...

I just thought it was a lie to ensure you took extra care not to lose them.
posted by toftflin at 11:12 PM on April 23, 2005

No, Medeco blanks are pricey, and duplication is more expensive in terms of labor (the keys are cut differently). Of course, there's supply and demand at work too.

I do not know what prices are reasonable, however.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:17 PM on April 23, 2005

If it says Do Not Duplicate on the key, it seems that some Locksmiths will pay no mind if you take the effort of covering it up with nail polish.
posted by drezdn at 11:43 PM on April 23, 2005

eBay? [there's even some kind of cutter!]
posted by fionab at 11:47 PM on April 23, 2005

If I recall correctly (it's been a while), Medecos require a specific cutting machine, or the blanks are simply expensive. Either way, I've had them cut for around $15 each. I was in a similar situation, where I thought I was being taken for a chump.

Actually.. Medecos copies might have to do with using a tool to measure the cuts, and writing down a sequence, which is then transferred to the cutting machine, it may not be a "contour tracing" mechanism, should you care.

I see you're in LA.. In NYC, key duping is as plentiful as pizza, and if you bring in a printed piece of paper authorizing the copy, it's fine.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:12 AM on April 24, 2005

Seems like your best bet, to start with at least, would be to listen to toftflin and drezdn. The main thing is to not give in to the evil-condo-manager-asshole at any cost if at all possible.
posted by wsg at 2:28 AM on April 24, 2005

Does medeco make a bunch of different kind of keys? Because in New York, the local locksmith-at-the-hardware-store always did Medeco keys for a couple bucks more than regular keys... The last time I had a medeco lock was actually 8 or 10 years ago, but I remember noting the additional cost at the time... We got a Medeco lock through some NY Safety group at a discount (and they made a big deal about how great this lock was), after a neighbor was burgled (this was back when living on Avenue A was a mite risky). But we never had trouble getting copies, and I don't think they ever cost more than $5. But maybe that's a different sort of key they make? It was for a deadbolt lock.
posted by mdn at 7:55 AM on April 24, 2005

Just an added note for renters (I assume you're not one because of the condo aspect of things), but if you replace a do not copy key with a serial number with another one without, or with a different serial number, be prepared to pay the $150 out of your security deposit when you move out and they refuse to accept your copy, anyway. I'm not sure that a condo board would have this kind of issue, since I don't know what happens to keys in the sale of a condo, but in rental terms, I speak from experience.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:06 AM on April 24, 2005

Condominium management is hired, supervised, and can be fired by the (elected) condominum Board of Directors - the owners. If $150 is unreasonable, the Board can direct management to change the amount. If you haven't already done so, I strongly recommend that you talk to a Board member, to see if he/she is (a) aware of what you consider an inappropriate charge, and (b) feels that that the charge is or isn't appropriate. You can also attend a Board meeting (I'm sure the Board meets at least quarterly), and raise the issue (either by requesting this in advance or at the "open mike" point in the meeting - a Board member can advise you on this). And, of course, your best chance of getting a change is to be reasonable, polite, and willing to listen to the other side, as well as being assertive (but not aggressive) in bringing up the matter.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2005

Thanks, everybody. I did make the tour of distressed neighborhood lock shops, and found a couple that would cut the key -- if they'd had the blanks. One shop told me they can't order blanks without some sort of paperwork, and it looks like you may need a special cutter to actually make the key. Good deal for Medeco and their direct customers, but not so much for people caught in the middle, like me.
If I owned this place, I might consider going to board meetings, but I'm only renting, and my experience with condo boards (including the board member who lives next door to me now) is that they're peopled by busybodies with no business (or any other kind of) sense, who get a vindictive thrill out of sticking it to you. (My neighbor gleefully told me about how the board had decided to require all the units to install new garage doors -- "we picked the most expensive kind!" He was crestfallen when I told him I'd be sure to tell my landlord -- my wallet had, heretofore, escaped the board's clutches.)
posted by spacewrench at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2005

Vandalize the lock! Then they have to replace the lock and distribute new keys!

*not actually inciting you to commit a crime, I'm just sayin'.
posted by Jazz Hands at 11:49 AM on April 24, 2005

For what it's worth, the fee was almost certainly approved by the condo association Board of Directors, so don't expect relief there. $150 does sound more punitive than anything else.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:59 AM on April 24, 2005

I'm sure the reasoning behind $150 is so you don't keep the key after moving and don't go around giving keys to your friends at a more reasonable $15 bucks a pop.

So therefore, it's extremely unlikely that they will waiver on the cost.
posted by o0o0o at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2005

Spacewrench, if you are renting, they're probably gonna hit you for the $150 when you move out. Especially since you already mentioned losing the key. If you can get a copy made, and stamped 'Do Not Duplicate', make sure you lie to the condo management and say you found the old key.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:57 AM on April 28, 2005

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