Written By: Barry Campbell, Managing Director SOPL
Integrity - Skill - Education - Industry Participation
An interesting website has recently popped up. It only amounts to one page, but it is devoted to bashing the Society of Professional Locksmiths. It is interesting because it reveals far more about the writer of its content than it does about the SOPL. In fact, virtually everything it says about the SOPL is completely inaccurate. But, if it is true that you can be judged by your enemies, the writer makes me even more proud to be involved with the Society of Professional Locksmiths.
For obvious reasons, the writer chose to remain anonymous. I don't want to refer to the writer as Mr. X; that is so overused, but for brevity's sake, I'll refer to the writer as Mr. Y. For someone who wants to maintain anonymity, Mr. Y sure picks an odd way to start off his rant. Mr. Y claims to be a locksmith. He says his grandfather and cousins were all locksmiths. Further, he says that his brother was the youngest master locksmith, apparently earning those credentials when he was in the 9th grade (which might make one wonder about the real value of those credentials). He also claims that his cousin “was the youngest girl Master Locksmith,” Lastly, he claims that they have been in business since 1946 and that they “are all members of the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA).”
If all that is true, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, it is not hard to identify Mr. Y, though he never identifies himself. If not true, then the folks actually meeting those criteria may also have a bone to pick with Mr. Y.
Mr. Y states that he was recently approached and asked to join the SOPL, which he refers to as an organization, but then takes immediate issue with his own term, stating that the SOPL “is not really an “organization,” per se, just a money-making business disguised as an “organization.” I am not sure what his confusion is, with regard to defining the word 'organization,' but his own attempt at clarification only causes him more confusion. My only guess is that he lacks any understanding of the various forms and structures of organizations.
The SOPL is, in fact, an organization. It hardly qualifies as a business, for profit or not. As anyone who has joined can attest, membership fees are routed through Harvey Arkawy's company, and are quickly disbursed for the background checks, identification cards and resources available to all members, including costs associated with maintaining the web site, forum, related software, etc. Those funds are also used for promotional material used at the various trade shows.
Neither myself, nor Harvey, nor Tom Lynch are making any money from these funds, though we have each invested thousands of hours into making the Society of Professional Locksmiths the premier professional locksmith association. Yet, the benefits are quite real, and are available to all members. The companies we partner with are not paying the SOPL, they are discounting their products and services to our members. Plus, all we ask is that members be active, which earns them virtual dollars, which can be applied to future membership fees or fees that might be associated with certain seminars and training programs. It is entirely possible for members to recoup their original membership fee as soon as they join and to maintain their membership without ever making another payment from their own pocket. So, Mr Y's claim that the SOPL is a money-making business just demonstrates his complete and utter ignorance of our organizational structure. I have nothing against making money, but Mr. Y seems incapable of comprehending how an organization can put principle before profit.
Mr. Y says he “did a little checking,” but it must have been very little. He should have at least looked at our FAQ page, which might have addressed most of his concerns. Again, he insists on applying a normal business model to the SOPL and assumes there is an “owner,” but if he read the page, he certainly did not understand it. It says,
“[T]here is no president of the Society of Professional Locksmiths. There is no board of directors. There is no secretary. The society is guided by consensus among forward-thinking professionals who recognize that true harmony and knowledge comes through a diversity of opinions. Special councils are currently engaged in the discussion of future operational concerns, but for the moment it is a "peer group organization" working together to address a variety of issues."
Yes, as Mr. Y found (or anyone who cares to check will find) Tom Lynch is the Director of Operations, as well as founder of the organization. And, yes, Harvey Arkawy is the Administrative Director. I was just a little offended that Mr. Y failed to mention that I am the Manager of Operations. And, I was more than a little offended (as anyone who has met or knows Harvey would be) that Mr. Y, without any further comment or explanation, chose to make fun of Harvey's last name. I thought that kind of thing ended with grade school, but Mr. Y has proven me wrong. The fact is, there is an interesting story behind the name, which Harvey would be happy to relate, though maybe not to someone who appears to be intending an insult when asking. “what kind of a name is Arkawy, anyway?”
While no one would disagree that Tom can be opinionated and outspoken, anyone who knows him realizes that he does it out of love for the craft. Harvey is kind of Tom's alter-ego, gentle and soft-spoken, but with a similar desire to promote the industry and help its members.
Mr. Y then reminisces about how he remembered a time when his grandfather was the only locksmith in the county, and decries an old advertisement for locksmith training. These statements seem a little out of place in his rant, but I do think help to understand his pathology as he goes on.
Mr. Y seems to believe he has proven something when he states that he cannot find that the Society of Professional Locksmiths is incorporated or listed as a non-profit in New York, Pennsylvania, or California. Given that we have never made any such claim, I am not sure what he thinks he has proven. Again, Mr. Y seems incapable of understanding anything other than a standard business model, but as our Mission Statement makes clear:
- The Society of Professional Locksmiths (SOPL) promotes the educational advancements and economic interests of its members. It is committed to improving conditions and raising standards through the delivery of education and peer review.
Mr. Y then attacks Tom, realizing that, “this Lynch character is on a crusade AGAINST, yes I said AGAINST, locksmith licensing.” Again, I'm a little insulted that does not reference me, but it is certainly not just Tom. He does not offer any reason why locksmiths should support licensing and seems astonished that we do not support licensing though we have shown, over and over on our news blog, that licensing fails to protect the consumer or put scammers out of business (the usual excuses supporters cite). Moreover, licensing can create the kind of unreasonable entrepreneurial interference referenced in the Mission Statement.
He then questions “[W]hy the media doesn’t due any due diligence on this bird is beyond me. I guess they’re just lazy.” Funny, because we question whether the media is not just being lazy when they don't research the results of licensing where it has been put into effect. As in any other industry they would find, as we have repeatedly reported, that consumers aren't protected any more than existing laws already provide for, scammers get licenses wherever necessary and continue to operate, prices increase, and competition is limited.
Mr. Y then complains that, “[N]ever mentioned is the oldest and most respected industry association, ALOA.” Oldest, yes; but most respected is increasingly arguable, especially when they do actively support the proven failure of licensing.
Mr. Y says, “Lynch seems to take great delight in “investigating” other locksmiths that are supposedly operating scams. I grant you that there were and are con artists in the locksmith industry, just as there are in practically every trade. Why is he doing this? I submit that it is the oldest trick in the book, Lynch is trying to divert attention away from himself.”
Logic apparently evades Mr Y, as he is saying that Tom is diverting attention from himself by drawing attention to himself by opposing licensing.
He then adds that, “like the newspaper ads of old, it looks like the so-called “Society of Professional Locksmiths” is nothing more than a scam in and of itself. Its ulterior motive is not, as is implied, to represent the locksmith industry but to sell “training,” tools, and to promote other businesses which cater to the locksmith industry, such as dispatching, “lead-generation”-type services, all at a nice tidy little profit.”
As another locksmith said to me, Mr. Y's description of SOPL activities is far more applicable to ALOA, of which he claims he and his family members are all members. The flaw in his logic here is that Tom is opposed to the locksmith licensing laws that would benefit him and the SOPL because it would require locksmiths to take courses offered by the SOPL's Security Technical Institute which offers training accredited by several of the states that require licensing. In opposing licensing, Tom actually stands to lose potential profit because locksmiths would not be legally forced to take that training. But, as I stated before, Mr. Y does not understand the concept of putting principle before profit.
So what can be learned about Mr. Y from his tirade against the SOPL and Tom Lynch in particular? Aside from the background he provided despite choosing to remain anonymous, we know that his family's business once operated without competition. Now that he is facing increased competition, he looks to restrict that competition through legislation rather than improving his own marketing and services. Given his lack of understanding of different business and organizational models, and that his business was apparently handed down to him; he would likely have great difficulty starting a business from the ground up today, especially if others erected legislative and bureaucratic hurdles as he would do to those wanting to start a new business today. I'm not saying he is a bad businessman, in fact he may be doing quite well, but his focus seems singularly on profit, not principle or even quality of service, which may also explain his desire to have licensing restrict his competition.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, an ALOA member, and if Mr. Y is typical of their membership, I am glad I am not. I do know that ALOA has a Code of Ethics that Mr. Y has violated by his diatribe. Not that I would expect them to enforce their own Code, but they should. ALOA members should be embarrassed by Mr. Y's unfounded accusations against others in the trade. Several people have successfully managed to be members of both ALOA and SOPL, including Mike Bronzell who is part of ALOA's scammer task force. I would think that Mike would be especially offended by Mr. Y's suggestion that the Society of Professional Locksmiths is any type of scam. Mr. Y should be aware that Mike has also said, on numerous occasions, that licensing doesn't work.
Disturbingly, at the same time Mr. Y's site popped up, several internet directories were used to suggest Tom was a scammer. Is Mr. Y responsible? Probably, but we don't have proof of that, yet. Fortunately, the directories seem willing to help us investigate the libelous posts. They don't seem to appreciate being misused like that.
The funniest thing is seeing Mr. Y, a proponent of licensing, behaving so unprofessionally. Once again, proving our contention that licensing has nothing to do with professionalism. Of course, it is always difficult to expect anything credible from those who make anonymous accusations.
Barry Campbell, owner of Altic Lock Service and Managing Director of the Society of Professional Locksmiths. Barry is a graduate of Valparaiso University with a degree in Criminal Justice. He has worked in private security, investigations, and loss prevention. He is the author of A Homeowner's Guide to Residential Door Security. barry also is a former Professional member of the International Conference of Building Officials and a current Building Safety Professional member of the International Code Council.