'It was a learning experience:' Locked out? Be careful who you call

If you get locked out of your car, you want a locksmith to come quickly. But calling a business without vetting them first can have consequences. Mark Merkel bought a banged-up Dodge Charger to keep him busy this winter. Then he lost the key. "I read online that a locksmith can come to your house and make a key right at your house," said Merkel. On a referral, he used LocksmithDirectory.com.

The dispatcher sent a locksmith so promptly, Merkel couldn't be there. "I thought $500 would be enough to cover the bill so I put $500 inside of this car," said Merkel. He was $130 short, so Merkel's wife paid the difference and got a new fob. But there was a problem.

Mark Merkel

"Although it does open the doors and lock the doors, the vehicle does not recognize this key fob," said Merkel. Merkel called the locksmith but got no response. He called Locksmith Directory and was told the man would come back, but he didn't. "It was a learning experience," Merkel said. At a local dealer, Merkel got a working fob for $340 less than the locksmith charged. Contact 6 reached out to LocksmithDirectory.com, which said it takes all complaints seriously but doesn't do any vetting. In its terms and conditions, it says there's no promise that services 'will be safe, accurate, or reliable' nor that 'providers are licensed, qualified, or available.' Nadav Hazaz owns Lockstar, a BBB-accredited business and says those directories are horrible for his industry. Hazaz says he hears daily from customers about bad experiences with locksmiths found through online directories and Google. After Contact 6 reached out, Merkel got a $400 refund from the dispatcher. Locksmith Director told us 'when complaints are brought to our attention, we do our best to help customers resolve them to their satisfaction.' "I wasn't looking to hold them responsible," Merkel said. "They came to me and offered to make things right with me." Locksmith Director told Merkel they no longer list that provider. Contact 6 isn't even 100% sure who he was, as there was a name on the truck, but it's a common one. The business we tried didn't call back. In full disclosure, Merkel has a daughter who works at FOX6. 14 states currently license locksmiths, but Wisconsin is not one of them. You can check if a business is registered with the state, on the website for the Department of Financial Institutions. That's always a good idea, but keep in mind: A lot of one or two-man shops won't be listed because they don't have to register. Read online reviews, too. If you can't find much, that's not a good sign. A representative with Locksmith Directory shared this with Contact 6:

"We very rarely receive customer complaints of any sort and have never received an inquiry from an investigative consumer reporter stemming from a consumer complaint. We take all consumer complaints seriously and endeavor to fully investigate them. Please note that we are a directory that helps connect consumers with local locksmiths, however as we note in our terms and conditions, we are not making recommendations nor doing specific vetting. Nevertheless, when complaints are brought to our attention, we do our best, like in this instance, to help consumers resolve them to their satisfaction. "