Thursday, December 15, 2022

Review: Minute Key kiosk machine for copying door lock key

A Minute Key key copy machine showed up at a nearby Wal-Mart years ago. I'd been meaning to try it out but didn't have any keys to copy until recently in late 2022. When I finally went, the machine was in the corner of the store behind the registers. It wasn't hard to find even though they had moved it since the last time I went to that store. The machine was big and labelled well enough that I saw it half-way across the store -- check the Minute Key website or Google to know what to look for. Only thing I had to keep in mind was that it was likely placed by the checkout.

The Original Key
I needed a backup of a door key which should have been a fairly common Kwikset KW1 blank. The original key was likely a copy of the original which isn't recommended for copying keys -- all I got so not much I could do.

The Process
There was no line. This was my first time using a Minute Key machine and it was fairly straightforward. The upper portion was a big touchscreen with instructions. Below the screen was a slot to stick the key into and a credit card scanner. Lower was a window to see the carousel and innerworkings of the key cutting machine. And finally even lower, there was the slot for the completed key to be dropped into. 

Following the touchscreen, I tapped a button to start the process, inserted my key, waited for the machine to clamp and scan it, got confirmation the machine was okay with the key, browsed the blanks, chose a blank, paid, and waited for my key to be cut.

I did not time how long it took to cut the key. The actual cutting part felt pretty fast. Figuring out how the machine worked, waiting for the scan, choosing my key, and paying for it took much longer for me. Payment took the longest because the first card swipe failed and then I saw the option to tap which worked quickly.

I was a little surprised at the price because my research suggested the price was $4.99. However, the dates on those sources were months/years ago. This being 2022, I expected some increase based on inflation and I was not disappointed. If I remember correctly, the machine showed prices of about $6 for the most basic brass key and about $7 for the more "advanced" (i.e. ones with designs) keys. 

I chose a pink key for $7 + tax just because it was supposedly aluminum and I never had one before. With this choice, the machine offered a buy two $7 keys and get one $6 brass key free deal (not sure what the exact conditions of this offer were). I skipped the offer as I only needed the one copy. However, if I did go with two $7 keys, I would have gotten 3 keys for $14 + tax which is $4.67 + tax per key. A nearby corner store was offering $5 per key a few months back.

The Copied Key
Once completed, my pink key was dropped in the Minute Key machine's pickup slot -- it definitely felt lighter than my original brass key. I didn't feel any excess dirt or metal debris. When I brought it home and finally got a chance to test it, the key worked and opened the lock. The new copy felt different in how smoothly it went into the lock and when turning it -- this was mainly to do with the difference in materials (i.e. aluminum vs brass). Next time I need another key, I'll get a brass one to see if there's really a difference. However, as a copy of a copy done by a vending machine, I was relieved that I paid $7 for a functional key. The copy and original keys looked identical at the cuts when I compared them side by side.

I managed to copy a key at a competitive price without having to talk to anyone by using a Minute Key vending machine. The only concern I had was having to go through the company if the key didn't work -- that and having the machine jam/stall after it took my money. Not having anyone to talk to does have its disadvantages but I'm planning to go back. The machine and company website provided instructions on what to do if the keys didn't work so I was never that worried.

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