Recently I spent a weekend in Los Angeles, and I was staying at a friend’s apartment while he was out of town. This seemed like an ideal arrangement: he wasn’t using the place, so I could crash there and water his plants for him (I made sure he was fully aware that previous plants left in my care haven’t fared well: the only way I would ever have a green thumb is if I someday develop gangrene).
Figuring out how we would exchange keys was logistically tricky. Sure, you can leave it under the mat, but that obviously poses a security threat. My friend was also thinking about mailing it to me… but it seemed absurd for the keys to travel across the country twice. There had to be a better solution.
Luckily, I found Keycafe. I had never heard of this service before, but basically they are little safes where people can store keys to be picked up using a secure code. These safes (or Keycafe SmartBoxes, as they’re called) are located in cafes, bars, convenience stores, and other places with long operating hours (some are even open 24/7). It seems like a good idea for exchanging keys with cleaning services, and for AirBnB hosts to provide access to guests.
As of now, Keycafe is available in 10 U.S. cities (including LA) and 5 international ones. The person who owns the keys is responsible for the payment. They offer three different payment plans. The Pay As You Go plan charges $6.95 per key pickup, and 50 cents a day for storage. However, new users get two free pickups, which made this a no-brainer for my friend and me.
My friend called the location nearest his house, which was a bar in Hollywood, to ask about how it works. The person who answered the phone had no idea what he was talking about. Not a great start. But he didn’t give up: he found a location at a cafe near his office in Downtown LA. He visited, found the SmartBox, and left the key.
I received an email from Keycafe with a code in it that I could use to pick up my key.
When I arrived in LA, I went to the cafe. It was crowded when I got there, but I found the SmartBox right near the entrance. It was mounted to the wall, and was about the size of a chess board (I don’t know why I was expecting it to be bigger).
The screen prompted me to answer a few questions and type in my code.
Then, out popped the key. It was actually really simple and took less than a minute.
Keycafe users can request that the person who picks up the key return it via Keycafe, or can specify another return method (like leaving it in the apartment).
I want to say this worked out great for me. In truth, the Keycafe piece of it did work out really well! What didn’t work out so well was that the damn key didn’t work. I stood outside my friend’s apartment door FaceTiming with him and trying to open it for about a half an hour before I finally gave up. I ended up staying with another friend for the weekend, who was gracious enough to accommodate a desperate last-minute guest.
Let this be a lesson: if you’re going to lend spare keys to your friends, always test them first!
Has anyone else used Keycafe? How was your experience?