Louis, Mo., Feb. 22, 2012 –
, is the focus of several complaints
from St. Louis area customers who say they were lured by low
advertised prices, but then charged much higher fees by workers who
responded to service calls.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests caution when dealing with
the company, headquartered in Center Line, Mich. The company
has more than 150 complaints nationwide and an “F” grade with
the BBB, the lowest grade possible. Meni Agababayev
of Sterling Heights, Mich., is the firm’s president.
“I was stunned,” said a Chesterfield, Mo., man who said he was
charged $265 by a Run Local Locksmith worker who spent five minutes
breaking into his daughter’s locked house shortly before
Christmas. The man said the family had been attracted by a website
that advertised a $15 service call.
“I could have gone over there and broken out a window and replaced
it for 40 bucks,” the man said.
The BBB has registered more than 20 complaints involving the
business from Missouri and Illinois. Most of the Missouri complaints
are from the St. Louis area; most of the Illinois complaints are
from Chicago or nearby communities. The company failed to
respond to nearly 100 of the complaints.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, urged Run Local Locksmith and
other businesses that use bait-and-switch tactics to be more honest
with consumers about their pricing. “For an Internet site or a
call center to quote a $15 service fee is misleading when their
charges are typically $100, $200 or more,” she said.
“If the cost to get into a house or car could run into the
hundreds of dollars – even for relatively simple jobs –
potential customers have a right to know that in advance,” Corey
A 64-year-old woman from Florissant, Mo., said she called Run Local
Locksmith last fall after locking herself out of her home. She
said an employee who answered the phone told her that charges start
at $25. Based on that, she estimated her maximum expenses at about
$100. When the locksmith handed her a bill for $235, she said
she told him, “you’ve got to be kidding,” but gave him her
charge card. She said she believes she was a victim of
A woman from Ballwin, Mo., said a company representative told her by
phone last July that the cost of opening her locked car would be no
more than $50. But when the locksmith arrived, he told her the
price would be $210. She said she agreed to the cost because “I
was desperate to get into my car.” She said the locksmith did $700
in damage to her passenger side door, causing a water leak. “I
wouldn’t recommend them to anyone,” she said.
Other customers recounted similar stories, saying they felt
pressured into paying much higher than expected costs. In some
cases, they said, workers intimidated them, needlessly damaged their
homes or cars or did not provide upfront estimates before doing the
Juan Tolbert, a spokesman for the company, told the BBB in a written
statement that Run Local Locksmith has “always given the customer
the chance to accept or decline charges, as we have never performed
a job and then requested an extra fee to be paid.” He also
said that the company has paid out thousands of dollars annually in
refunds and credits to customers “where there was merit to the
claim or complaints.
“In any industry that services thousands of clients, it is
expected to have a margin of unsatisfied customers and our margin
runs below two percent,” Tolbert said. He said the company
tries to perform its work to “the best of our abilities and
On its website, Run Local Locksmith calls its rates “considerably
lower than our competitors. We are proud to drive our costs down to
serve you more efficiently.”
Agababayev, Run Local Locksmith’s president and owner, has a
website named for him, www.meniagababayev.org
which describes him as an “online business pioneer,” “king of
the online world” and a “renowned business tycoon.”
“He is a trustworthy businessman who believes in nothing more than
customer satisfaction,” says the site. “He has taught his
workforce to treat all his customers humbly and with patience. This
is the reason he is adored by all his customers and his workforce
Registration information identifies Agababayev as administrator of
the site and Run Local Locksmith as the name of the
The BBB and Federal Trade Commission
offer the following tips for consumers looking to hire a locksmith
company for emergency work:
- If you are locked out of your car and have roadside assistance
service such as AAA, call them first.
- Research locksmith companies before you need them. Keep that
information in your purse or wallet in the event you need such
services in the future.
- Get an estimate from the locksmith for all work and
replacement parts before work begins. Do not trust
estimates given over the phone.
- Ask for identification. Make sure you have a locksmith’s
full name, the company name and contact information before
agreeing to work. Reputable locksmiths should ask for your
identification before accessing a vehicle or building.
- Make sure the locksmith has insurance coverage in case there
is damage to your home or vehicle.
- Pay by credit card in the event you want to challenge the
- Contact the BBB for a company’s Business
Review by calling 314-645-3300 or going to www.bbb.org.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO,
Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or
314-681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org;
Bill Smith, Investigator, 314-584-6727, email@example.com