grab keys
August 10, 2008 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I dropped my keys down the elevator in my apartment building. Is there any way I can retrieve them?

I was carrying an armful of laundry down to the basement, and dropped my keys. They fell down the elevator shaft. I'm on the second floor. They fell down past the first floor, to the basement (laundry level). From the basement, I can see the "bottom" of the elevator shaft - about 4.

Is there any way I can retrieve them with some magnetic pole/magnet on a stick device?

I do have copies, but lost like, my "member pass" keychain things, as well as keys when I visit family (which can be remade). This is more of a convenience factor, than dire necessity.

But seriously... has anyone had any luck with this? What kind of magnetic pole devices can I poke down into the 2.5-3" crevice?
posted by raztaj to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Talk to your super. They will likely be able to shut down the elevator temporarily and get in via an access door, or from the first floor with the car on a different floor.
posted by tomierna at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2008

Uh, don't start fiddling around sticking magnetic poles down elevator shafts. There are all kinds of stuff down there for the functioning of the elevator. If I caught you doing this I would evict your behind. Talk to the super...
posted by GleepGlop at 9:41 AM on August 10, 2008

Agreed with above - your super will likely be able to have a maintenance worker go in and grab them with minimal trouble. I would not try to macgyver a magnetic pole, as you would have to stop the elevator on the bottom floor and keep it there long enough to fish around, and I feel that there could be some unfortunate mishap involving the elevator doors that you would be responsible for.
posted by amicamentis at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2008

Fishing line + hook?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:01 AM on August 10, 2008

This happened to me a few years ago. Luckily the elevator was scheduled for some routine maintenance a few days later because the manager (who was more of a handy-man) said he wouldn't have any idea how to retrieve them himself.

If your manager can't (or won't) do it you might call the elevator company and ask how much it would cost to send someone out. It might be worth it if you'd incur costs like replacing a car alarm remote....
posted by Room 641-A at 10:05 AM on August 10, 2008

magnet + pole = possible electrocution or elevator damage.
posted by luriete at 10:09 AM on August 10, 2008

Thanks for the (reiterated) suggestions to call the super. not being fried and not being evicted > lost keys. I'll give the office a call tomorrow morning.
posted by raztaj at 10:40 AM on August 10, 2008

Just Nthing calling the supervisor. I just had this conversation with my dad actually, who's the electrical foreman for a large school district here. He said he has to send his guys out to retrieve something (usually keys) from an elevator shaft at least once a month. It happens.
posted by cgg at 10:53 AM on August 10, 2008

I've done this same thing with a set of keys in an upscale manhattan apartment complex, and was told in no uncertain terms by the management that they would not do anything to help me retrieve them. By prepared to get everything copied.

(Still hope your management is a lot nicer though!)
posted by Navelgazer at 11:20 AM on August 10, 2008

I had a friend drop my keys down the elevator shaft while we were filming something for her at 9pm on a friday, was a fun weekend waiting for maintenance to get me my keys on Tuesday. Just told the office and they had a maintenance guy get them though.
posted by DJWeezy at 11:24 AM on August 10, 2008

A gob of gaffers tape on a wooden pole is a safer way to go. It's usually ankle deep in grease down there. What needs to be done is to stop the elevator halfway up from the bottom floor and then reach down from outside through the open door, if you can. This can be done by pushing the emergency stop button, but that may sound an alarm. Some elevators have outside access doors to the pit.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:10 PM on August 10, 2008

Oh, the magic ingredient is an "elevator key," they're all the same, it's a T shaped metal rod, that is inserted into a hole on the elevator door, allowing the elevator door to be opened at any time from the outside.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:14 PM on August 10, 2008

Fishing line and a hook is most def your best option here -- that setup has snagged keys from sewers many times in my life. Also, like everyone else said, do NOT jam magnets and poles anywhere. A fishing line and a hook is small and almost certainly wouldn't cause any problems if you dropped it or it got tangled up somewhere, whereas a magnet and a pole of any type could potentially cause some serious damage.
posted by Damn That Television at 12:47 PM on August 10, 2008

Sounds like you've settled on giving your super/apt. manager a call, which is the right move. You don't want to mess around with the elevator, and you definitely don't want someone else putting in a complaint about you messing with the elevator—let the folks whose job it is to deal with this stuff do the dealing.

(And you have my sympathies. I have done this with my keys. The elevator is not the place to practice your behind-the-back tosses.)
posted by cortex at 3:39 PM on August 10, 2008

I agree with the above posts regarding not messing around in your elevator, but on a side note, speaking from several years of locksmithing experience... your keys are most likely brass, which is not magnetic.
posted by yoyoceramic at 5:09 PM on August 10, 2008

In my building, your keys can be retrieved for free if you can wait for the next regularly scheduled maintainence service call. If you must have them sooner, one must pay the fee for a service call.
posted by scottymac at 6:31 PM on August 10, 2008

I once retrieved some dropped beads (sentimental value) in a similar situation, by hammering a nail onto the end of a broomstick, then bending the nail into a hook shape.

Worked fine for me (around 5 min of messing about trying to hook the things) but I wouldn't recommend it, due to the safety aspects others have mentioned.

In my case, it was an old industrial kind of elevator in a warehouse conversion, and I spent a bit of time with a flashlight checking that there weren't any exposed wires or anything before poking around. There weren't too many of those, but the dead rats & discarded syringes were a bit offputting.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:25 PM on August 10, 2008

« Older Hawaii bound   |   Coolest burning bulbs? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.