Lock Pick Supply Wars - Some Crazy Days
Twenty Years Ago I started Supplying Lock Picking Tools - And This Happened...
Hello Lock Pickers
During the late 1970s and early 1980s Glasgow in Scotland was the scene of the notorious "Ice-Cream Wars", you read that correctly, that fluffy creamy, icey, deliciousness ended up being part of gangland murders, arson, shotguns, many people dead and all manner of other nastiness.
It started due to the highly densely populated housing estates of Glasgow's East-Side, and the ice-cream vans that soon exploited this market. Initially selling, well, ice-creams, the vans (that are still common across the United Kingdom) ended up selling other general corner-shop fare, newspapers and groceries.
An ice-cream van. Great for ice-cream, newspapers, and crack.
The markets were ripe for the taking and these routes became highly profitable. This profit increased even further when the innocent little vans, blaring out children's tunes and decorated with animals and other cartoons, started selling stolen goods and, predictably - although weirdly - drugs.
Soon the territories were violently protected. What started with threats escalated to shootings, with shotguns tearing through the windscreens of many a van. It carried on spiraling downwards until 6 members of one family died in an arson attack directly related to the ice-cream wars. Not nice.
The Doyle family had three visitors the night of the arson attack, 6 people died in total including kids, and a baby. These are the survivors. The court case went on for years and was major news across the UK, with the full extent of the ice-cream wars violence coming out.
Eventually corner-shops and other 7/11 type marts put an end to the ice-cream vans and the violence, and a sorry chapter in Glasgow's history came to an end.
What's this got to do with lock pick supplies, I hear you ask? Well, although not reaching these desperate ends, my story of getting into this game and some of the events that unfolded were in their own way extreme, shocking and thankfully, well behind us now.
I'd only been selling bump keys for a matter of weeks when I got into an argument with an eBay vendor. He'd sold me what were then called 'Depth Keys' - a set of keys that were each cut at 1 of the possible 9 depths, and used to measure the depths on cut keys. Yet, with a bit of tinkering, the deep cut keys in the set were also, to all intents and purposes, bump keys, and while eBay had banned the sale of bump keys you could still, if you were clever and persistent sell 'depth keys'.
So I got into an argument about the quality of these keys and ended up speaking with the vendor on the phone. Within a couple of weeks we'd become good friends, he ended up helping me out setting up my business, we met up a couple of times and he's an all round nice guy.
Anyway, in those early days he said to me "be careful, the locksmithing game is full of some of the most backstabbing, untrusting bastards you could ever meet". Oh how I laughed. Having had accidentally ended up in my fair share of (dis)organised crime in my younger days, the idea of the locksmithing tools game being in anyway dangerous was laughable. Oh how I laughed.
Within a year I'd already received a couple of death threats. No shit! The Forum on my lock picking shop had gained tens of thousands of members and all day long, me and the moderators were dealing with many underhand attempts of loads of new shops that had sprung up, trying to promote their ventures on the forum, while spreading lies about my venture through private messages.
A screen shot of the old forum users. Among those names there are some very naughty people. And some very lovely people who are still friends today.
One of my moderators received an email saying his family were going to be burned to death if he continued moderating my forum, and when he contacted the police they said the threat had come via software used by terrorist organisations to keep the sender anynymous. Understandably, he stopped moderating my forum.
I was gobsmacked! How low would these people go? Threatening a moderator with the death of his children! For what, moderating a forum. I realized, it doesn't really matter what game you're in, lock picking or ice-creams, greedy, lazy people will crop up anywhere and lack the necessary character to go about things the right way.
Another of my moderators, a person I had got to know through the forum and considered a friend was going through some hard times, Two family members were very ill - probably terminally - and he'd lost his job. Something like that, I don't remember exactly but he was going through some hard times. So I suggested he take a break from the forum and concentrate on his family.
No problem, I thought I was doing a good thing. He then sent me a DVD of 50,000 tunes which I promptly uploaded to my computer only to watch it cripple my computer and erase all my files. Yes, rather than understand I was trying to help, he took it the wrong way and assumed I was trying to get rid of him. Paranoid, yes.
So my new business, just 2 years in and I'd lost all my data. Not the end of the world, but a proper pain in the butt. Then there was Keith Richards. No, not the guitarist in world famous rock outfit The Rolling Stones (the daughter of whom I went to school with and know to this day - cool eh?) but a man from Northern England who was just another member of the forum.
It all started when he won a competition on our forum to win a SouthOrd 10 pin tubular pick (which we'd had SouthOrd design and manufacture). He said it never arrived and in a few months he was dead. Yes, dead.
After saying the prize never arrived, (and then trying to sell the same item just a few weeks later via private messages!) his emails got weirder and weirder - and I could tell he was not a happy chappy. Threats of 'putting me out of business', and 'condemning me to a life on welfare' (his actual words) So when I saw on the BBC news that he'd been shot by police outside his house after firing a crossbow at them, although I was surprised, I was not altogether shocked. I was however, and still am, happy I wasn't on the end of one of those arrows!
There were a few other incidents of dubious moral virtue and relationships between competing stores were strained at the best of times. I recently made up with one guy, whose shop is still going, which is amazing really since I think almost a dozen have gone out of business since those heady days of youthful aggression and overly ambitious competition.
So while not quite the ice-cream wars of Glasgow's East-Side, it was in its own way a baptism of fire for me, who just wanted to sell lock picks online, and now nearly a decade and a half later am happy to still be doing so, without the death threats, the police shootings, the terrorist encryptions, and loads of other unnecessary shenanigans.
It really is quite lovely! Getting old's not all bad.