Welcome to an edition of the Adventures of a Vancouver Locksmith. A series where we explore some of the more interesting jobs or situations we encountered. As one of the most popular locksmiths in Vancouver, I can’t cover everything I do in a month. So I will just include the stuff that I found interesting or something I think a commercial or residential client should keep an eye out for.

As always, if you need a professional locksmith that puts your needs first, please call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. We offer same-day service and the best warranty in town!

I was recently called to a property near English Bay. Now, this is one of my large real estate developer and property management clients so their needs tend to be unique. They have a large number of upscale residential and commercial buildings that they build and manage which means if they have one problem – it could mean they potentially have hundreds of the same problem throughout their buildings.

Sometimes, I never know how big or small the project will be until I get there.

On this call, I received information that half of the residents’ mailboxes had been vandalized. Someone had followed a resident or a visitor into the lobby then broke into the mailboxes to steal the mail.

Luckily, this property has two towers with two separate lobbies, so only half of the residents were affected. In addition, this was not a sophisticated attack. The perps just used their hands and body weight to peel back one corner of the mailbox panels and had limited access.

If you live in the Vancouver area or know someone who does, this is a fairly common story and the pattern is almost all the same. The culprits usually follow a resident or visitor into the lobby area, use their hands or a prying tool to bend back the panels, grab what they can and leave.

Vancouver Locksmith
Vancouver Locksmith

It may be hard to tell from the pictures but these are Riopel mailboxes. The three most common mailbox brands in Vancouver (in order) are CMC, Riopel, and Cendrex. The runner-up would be Wind mailboxes. You can usually tell the brand by locating the small sticker somewhere on the mailbox. Wind mailboxes have the word “WIND” embossed into the face of their mailbox locks.

If you see a small sticker with a locksmith company name and phone number, that is just a cheap marketing gimmick that some of my competitors use. On a side note, I never understood why anyone would use a permanent sticker like that, but I am seeing more and more locksmith stickers plastered on a lot of stuff. Even on hardware I installed.

In terms of mailbox repair, the two most common scenarios are as follows:

  1. The client has lost his/her mailbox key or their individual mailbox lock is broken.
  2. The building’s mailbox panels have been damaged.

For the first situation, I get a lot of customers whose first instinct is to call Canada Post. You may not know this but Canada Post has a Technical Services division that deals with THEIR and ONLY THEIR locks. Canada Post only takes responsibility for the Abloy locks located at your intercom and a central point on your mailbox panel. Their Abloy key allows them to enter your building and unlock the whole mailbox panel to deliver mail. 

Some buildings have a mailbox room as the mail needs to be loaded from the back vs the front. However, this is usually found in commercial buildings and rare in residential buildings.

So if you have lost your individual mailbox key or that lock is not working, you will need to contact your friendly neighbourhood Vancouver locksmith. Canada Post will not help you. In fact, if your mailbox is not lockable, they will usually stop mail service until it is fixed.

A professional Vancouver locksmith like me will replace your mailbox lock and give you two new keys. It’s normally a simple process and I do a lot of this type of job per month. Mailbox locks used to be so inexpensive that I used to give them to clients for free and just charged for the Service Call. Unfortunately, with high inflation, the cost of these locks has risen to the point that  I cannot do that anymore. Still, at around $15, it won’t break the bank.

If your mailbox lock is just broken and won’t lock, you can always try replacing the lock yourself. We sell them at our key store located in Downtown Vancouver in the SFU/Harbour Centre Building. Details can be found on our website at www.locksmithvancouver.com

However, most of the time, the mailbox lock won’t be a perfect fit and needs a little modification. So if you don’t want the hassle, you can call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. All of my mailbox replacements come with a one-year warranty on both parts and labour. I’m proud to offer the best warranty in town!

So what do you do when your entire mailbox panel gets damaged?

In my client’s case, the culprits were amateurs and the damage was fairly minimal. I figured that the panels could be bent back with minimal metal fatigue. The client had to contact Canada Post Technical Services and make an appointment. Their technician and I met on-site and while she unlocked the panels, I repaired the panels as best I could.

The after picture shows that the repairs fixed most of the problem.

Vancouver Locksmith

It is not perfect, but it’s close enough considering the cost of new mailboxes for the tower was $23,000 plus tax and that is the part only. The labour cost could easily be an additional 25% to 50%. Plus the wait time for new mailboxes is currently 16 weeks.

What was my repair bill to the client? Under $200. 

Sometimes it’s not that easy to fix. There is at least one crew in the Vancouver area who likes to remove the entire front panel during their heist. Mailboxes are made from aluminum which makes them lightweight and corrosion resistant, but it’s a softer metal and can be drilled or cut more easily compared to steel.

In that case, the client did have to replace their entire gang of mailboxes (that’s what a set of mailboxes are called). Fortunately, their building had less than 80 units and this was before pandemic-related supply issues and hyperinflation. So while it was painful to replace, their strata insurance covered most of the cost and they only had to wait about 3 weeks back then. These days, you will need to wait at least 4 months. During that time, you will have to pick up your mail from a rented postal box.

A lot of clients ask me what they can do to secure their building’s mailboxes. 

The best and most economical solution is to not let anyone follow a resident or visitor into the building. It sounds easy but it’s hard to do over a long period of time. Clients will get hypervigilant immediately after a break-in but will get lax over time. It’s just human nature.

By the way, CCTV systems will not deter criminals. Property crime is so rampant in Vancouver that the police rarely show up anymore. That is not to say you should not call them.

You will still need a police file number for your insurance claim and the CCTV footage may be requested by both your insurance company and the police.

In terms of upgrading the security of your mailboxes (what the security industry calls Physical Hardening), it can get really expensive! For example, Riopel makes a great locking bar solution but it requires a new gang of mailboxes plus a remodel of your mailbox area to fit the locking bars.

There are companies that specialize in custom metal enclosures for mailboxes but the cost is again really high.

In short, the best defence are residents who are security conscious and do not allow unauthorized personnel into the building. 

As always, if you want the advice of a professional Vancouver locksmith that puts your needs first, please call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. We offer same-day service and the best warranty in town!

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