Locking Yourself Out

I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to locking my key inside. I’ve done it before; left it at someone’s house, had it held prisoner in a mailbox by an Airbnb guest who refused to meet me to check out, left it at home and was unable to get in the building without the vigik, I mean my history with keys in France is really bad. But the thing is, I never had to worry about that before I moved to Paris. America is a much simpler place when it comes to keys...

This time I really fucked up because I moved into a new flat and was given two sets of keys. I planned to leave one set with someone who lives near by. I have their key so if I ever needed my spare set, I would always be able to get it. However I locked myself out the second day I was in my flat, before I could give my spare set away. 

At first I thought, I’ll contact the landlord, the landlord must have another set (what landlord doesn’t?), but I was told by the agency there were only two sets and I had both of them. I stated to panic. I had heard that opening a door in Paris could be very, very expensive. There are horror stories about 1500€ keys, and breaking locks, and outrageous sums, you could spend one month’s rent just getting back into your apartment. I was afraid.

I started an exhaustive google search and found tons of websites. A lot of them advertised “starting at 39€”. Most are like ASAP services so you need to call a number, but I had a particularly bad incident with a delivery guy earlier in the day so I didn’t want to chance it. 

I was in no immediate hurry because I still had the key to my old apartment and could hole up there in the meantime. Plus it was 10pm. I emailed like 50 different services. It turns out you want to not be in a hurry because you really want to get quotes. But it was Friday night and oddly enough Parisian locksmiths weren't hustling for business. 

Just an added note, if you lock yourself out on the weekend there’s a 100% charge on top, and if it’s at night, there’s a further 50% tacked on. It’s safe to say, if you’re looking at a career change Parisian locksmith might be it. 

So one guy emailed me back straight away. He spoke English too but he told me “I’ll be there in 20 minutes” without confirming with me if I was home or what the price would be, and when I emailed him back to tell him such, our rapid fire email exchange came to an end.

The next place I tried was mydepanneurs.fr. There was an Engie logo so it seemed legit. The advertised price (70-130€) was higher than the 39€ other sites quoted as starting at, but the website let’s you make an appointment online and promises a call back within 20 minutes. The guy didn’t actually call me back until over an hour later. He didn’t speak English so he asked to connect on WhatsApp because I guess texts are easier to understand. He said he could come out straight away, but I was at Chatelet and it was 11:30p. My apartment was at La Tour Maubourg so getting there would be after midnight.

The added bonus to my problem was the fact that I had the rare Parisian building without a digicode pad. In order to get into my building you must absolutely have a vigik or you have to scroll through numbers and call the apartment and then they can let you in. So if he was going to get into the building he would have to call my neighbors. I had only been at my place for 2 days, and it seemed like a ghost town, so there was probably little chance of someone going into the building, and I thought it would probably be rude to ring up people’s apartments at midnight. 

I ended up spending the night at my old apartment and having my employer find me someone. There was a key place/shoe repair off of rue Cler she had me go to. The man at the store told me he could call someone he knew. I waited and the guy showed up 30 minutes later and followed me to my apartment. The price was going to be 150€ (cash of course) but what could I do? I needed to get into my apartment. 

He took out a sheet of plastic the size of a normal piece of paper. First he popped open the building door. Then we went to my apartment door and he slid that piece of plastic in the door jam and voila! Took him all of 3 minutes. 50€ a minute. He gave me his number and told me to call him directly if I ever needed help again and he drove away on his scooter.

This was an expensive lesson I did not need to learn. I had already developed a key phobia since moving to Paris, now I was going to be even more manic about it. 

I should state that simple door opening (which is what they call it when the door hasn’t been securely locked, where the door just slams behind you and you don’t turn the key twice to lock it), this is the lowest price of the lock problems. Some reviews on websites say that they were quoted one thing and then tacked on more for labor. Someone else complained that the locksmith broke their door lock, and the person had to get it replaced. A lot of people complained about other hidden fees. I would just say be careful about it. Have backups of your keys stashed around places in Paris, leave one with your guardian, and if you absolutely must call a locksmith, don’t panic. Believe me I went through the 5 stages of grief that day, but you’ll get in. It will cost you, but it’s just one of those inevitable shitty French things (like getting stuck in an elevator at least once, which has happened to me). 

To be on the safe side, find a locksmith that you can trust beforehand. Look for the shoe repair places with the key service or just find a key service place and ask them about who you might need to call. And also try to keep those annoying junk fliers every building gets. They also lost help with opening doors.