Bagels and Locks

July 9th, 2012

I’m here at the Glasgow airport pondering the complete insanity of society as a whole. Just a passing thought as I munch on a chocolate bar for my not-so-nutritious breakfast. Caffeine in any form is welcome at dawn’s early light. I’d much rather have a bagel but instead find myself contemplating ‘locks’. No, not a fine Scottish smoked salmon (what we would call ‘lox’ in New York City), but the locks I found for my traveling security which turned out to be a most interesting excercise in industrial engineering. Ah well, who is John Galt?

While spending the night here awaiting confirmation of sufficient bank funds to head for London, I lost a luggage lock for the suitcase I normally check at ticket counters before boarding a flight. This led me to the WH Smith store which has branches in all of the UK airports I’ve visited thus far. Among the many useful items carried for our traveling convenience are luggage locks. The brand I looked at were the lowest priced and the label said ‘gadget shop key locks for better luggage security’.

Upon closer inspection it seemed that all the keys looked identical which is certainly impossible for anyone in the independent security industry to contemplate manufacturing. Apparently someone must have determined that luggage security is rather unimportant because the two separate packages I purchased contained keys which opened all three locks. In other words, anyone who pays four pounds, ninety-nine pence for their own lock and key set might well be able to open MY luggage, should I be so foolish as to use this particular species of lock on it.

I spoke to the two counter workers in that shop who did not appear at all surprised when I brought this to their attention. While expressing ignorance at how many among the traveling public might be aware of this problem, they informed me that their company purchases them for sale and that it makes sense for the other keys to open them because airline security needs to be able to do this for inspection purposes. In my experience as a lady passing middle age here in the middle ages, airline security is supposed to have master locks which open numerous kinds of locks. They also have the right to break any lock open which doesn’t respond to their key formats. I know because I’ve gotten luggage back minus the locks placed on them. The label on this brand of luggage locks states they are expressly ‘produced for WH Smith SN3 3BX UK’ and that they are ‘easy to open’.

I thought that last line on the label referred to the ease with which the package itself could be opened by the consumer but appear to have been mistaken. Perhaps Consumer Reports ought to review luggage lock integrity in one of their upcoming investigations. In the meantime, I have to go now and find airport security because part of an article I was writing last night is missing from my luggage today along with the rest of that notebook.

POSTSCRIPT: My notebook has reappeared, YEAH!
PPS: I’ve discovered another brand of locks with interchangeable keys at the Poundland in the UK. A visit to one locksmith also revealed their lower price luggage locks to have that same problem despite a shiny bright brass appearance. One of the store owners remained in denial, stoutly avowing he hadn’t seen me open one lock with the keys attached to another but his partner made plans to return them to the vendor!

Categories: Letters

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