Stephen is in serious trouble.

He slept through his (first two) alarms, then jolted awake with the desperate realization that he’s about to be impossibly late for work. In a rush, he flew out the front door, instinctively locking it behind him, before he noticed he’d forgotten the most crucial aspect to anyone’s morning routine: his keys.

And it’s not just his car keys that are on that key chain — it’s his home keys, too. That means Stephen’s locked out of both his house and his car and 20 minutes late for work already. What’s a guy to do in a situation like this?

Luckily, he’s got his cellphone, so Stephen quickly looks up the number for a few different local 24 hour locksmiths. He picks one, calls the number, and a worker tells him to expect a technician to arrive in approximately 40 minutes. Stephen screams, “But this is an emergency!” The worker on the other end says, “Oh, well in that case, look out for our truck in about 15 minutes.”

Stories like this happen almost every day across America. Sometimes the unfortunate, locked-out victims aren’t just outside their homes, though — sometimes they’re lost or broken down in the wrong neighborhoods altogether. Statistics from AAA reported a 36% increase in vehicle lockouts in July 2013 alone, meaning it appears that situations like these are happening with more frequency.

Locksmith services understand that accidents happen. That’s why they seem to be located in almost every neighborhood, and offer every kind of emergency plan available. Indeed, 24 hour locksmiths are quite prominent now. But when it comes to calling up a local locksmith technician, there are a few golden rules to keep in mind:

Only call one locksmith company at a time.
Certain stories get passed around about panicked customers getting locked out and calling three different companies in order to triple his or her chances of one arriving soon. Here’s a tip: Locksmiths hate this. Sometimes, all three services will be so incensed that they’ll leave the person stranded! Well, maybe not that extreme, but they’ll all be upset, and understandably so.

Be prepared to pay more for an emergency.
Yes, such things as 24 hour locksmith services exists. But that doesn’t mean you can call them up and expect the royal treatment at 3 o’clock in the morning. The cost will be commensurate with the nature of the call, and the more urgent it is, the more it’s likely to cost you.

Take steps to protect your property.
Locksmiths love getting your business, but if you can prevent their services, why wouldn’t you? Check your deadbolts to prevent break-ins before they happen. Always keep your jewels and valuables in a safe, secure place inside your home. It’s not rocket science — it’s just good planning.

Hopefully you learned a few things from reading this article. If you did, that means you (ideally) won’t end up like Stephen…and come on, no one wants to end up like Stephen.