back to article Average Brit has three mysterious keys

British people carry an average of nine keys around with them, but can identify only six of those, with no idea what the other three came from, or what they unlock... The figures come from esure, who asked a thousand or so average people and discovered that women carry 10 keys, compared to a chap's eight, but the girls are …


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  1. david wilson


    >>"nine keys around with them, but can identify only six of those..."

    >>"...women carry 10 keys, compared to a chap's eight, but the girls are slightly better at remembering what they're for – only 20 per cent mysterious compared to a man's 23 per cent."

    So, women - 10 keys of which 20% (=2) are mysterious.

    Men, 8 keys and 23% (=1.84) mysterious

    So an average of 9 keys (OK) and 3 mysterious ones (33% - ???)

    And esure work out insurance premiums for a living?

    1. perlcat

      Easily explained.

      It's all those hermaphroditic alien overlords.

      If they can just find the invisible flying saucer, and figure out which key starts it, the invasion will get underway.

  2. durandal
    Paris Hilton

    IT angel?

    I'm not sure NFC would ever be it, but does Paris come a close second?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    these three keys open the doors to my illegal...

    actually you know I can't remember what they open.

  4. Bill Fresher


    10 keys on average for men?!

    I carry one for my briefcase. What on earth do I need more for?

    If I want to get into the house the butler will open the door for me, and if I need to take the car somewhere the chauffeur will take me.

    1. The Alpha Klutz
      Thumb Up

      "If I want to get into the house the butler will open the door for me"

      You leave him alone in your house?

      I lock mine in the garden shed before I leave. You can't be too careful these days, I once caught him drinking a glass of water. I told him that 'I do PAY for that water you know' and he gave me some cock and bull story about having human rights. Liberals today just can't live without their handouts!

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge


        Housemaid keeps an eye on the butler - I couldn't leave him loose in the garden shed, god knows what he might see......

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Sabine Miehlbradt

    Let's start the data collection

    6 on my normal ring - all of them accounted for.

    3 on a ring tucked away deep in my handbag for a certain emergency. One accounted for and the other two unlock bags/strongboxes I'm sure I do not own any more.

    Not Brit, but sounds pretty average.

    No keys hidden anywhere. Number of emergency locksmith (local firm, who knows us) hidden outside instead.

    Is that enough for some new statistics?

    1. frank ly


      These strongboxes that you have the key for..... did you sell/give them to wealthy people who own lots of jewellery? I've had an idea........I'd better not talk about it.

  6. Troy Peterson
    Paris Hilton

    And for those looking for an IT angel...

    Who needs and it 'angel' when you've got Paris? She's angel enough for me.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    "but the girls are slightly better at remembering what they're for"

    10 keys @20% = 2.00

    8 Keys @ 23% =1.84

    So I'd say on average its the men that do better here, not the girls.

    Which leads on to another question who is better at percentages IT industry folks or Journalists....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Lies, damned lies, and statistics

      A big thank you from a former student of Economics - just goes to show a good Economist or Statistician (or El Reg writer or AC for that matter :) can make the numbers say just about anything... much to the politicians' delight.

      Thank you for that, made me smile!

  8. GettinSadda


    "The figures come from esure, who asked a thousand or so average people and discovered that women carry 10 keys, compared to a chap's eight...

    ...though 10 was the average for men, with girls carrying eight."

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Minimalism FTW!

    A pocket-friendly 2 keys for me, on a key ring with no label or tag. I must be a freak.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    IT Angel???

    Wot, like this one:

  11. Giddy Kipper

    Lookout Bill ...

    This sort of thing attracts the ire of Sarah Davis! (See dumb Brits and TARDIS etc.)

  12. Andus McCoatover

    I feel like a retard...

    (no, I couldn't eat a whole one...)

    I've 2 keys. One for the door, one for the bike lock.

    Y'see, if one lives in Finland in a block of flats, nowadays you get a key/lock similar to the one on the right of the illustration*.

    Gets worse, it's illegal for a locksmith to create a copy. Even worse, same key opens your apartment (no-one else's) but also communal front door, laundry room, garage, store, bike shed.

    In short, lose the key, and EVERYONE'S lock has to be changed, and new keys issued.

    I think a grand'll cover it.

    Pisser if you're on the dole.


    1. Spartacus

      common key...

      One more reason why rfid tag keys are actually cheaper in the long run. Hotels have understood this for years....

  13. AJ 1


    Yet again I am proved to be average .....

  14. TheresaJayne


    Well i am average with 9 keys, and i know what they are all for,

    but then i also carry around with me another 6 keys of the USB kind.....

    and one Secureid tag (World of Warcraft)

  15. D@v3

    surely no real man has that many

    1 on work set

    4 (inc car) on personal set.

    Only key i have that i dont know what it does, was in my flat when I arrived. Couldnt find a lock for it in the first week of moving in, so gave up and put it back where i found it.

    1. Kar98


      Mail box. Front door. Car key. What else could there possibly be?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No angels at my house.

    Door, front door, bike shed, bike, hot spare. Light, and a hook. And a keyring, ha ha.

    I never saw the point of actually carrying keys with no purpose, though the bleed key was arguably borderline. I did collect a bunch of mysterious keys when younger though, on purpose. As an IT bod, I actually like "normal" keys for their simple functionality and robustness.

    I've been thinking that electronic keys might be great for, say, corporate master key systems where you can just list all the doors each individual key can open. Though for emergencies you'd want at least some mechanical keys that might even open more doors when the power is out, as a safety measure. For a single home especially with just a single occupant, anything electronic would be plainly silly; power out or batteries drained and you're out in the cold. In hotels a magstripe card is fine; the front desk personnel picks up a card, hits a key, swipes a card, and has a fresh card to hand out to the guest that does exactly all it needs to and no more. They can indubitably be breached easily, but so can RFID and in fact most kinds of keys. Still, simple metal keys work pretty well.

    Yes, NFC could do it all wirelessly. RFID is also wirelessly snoopable and probably the easiest of all to clone with but a few swipes. I'd vastly prefer at least "wired" contact to keep the information bleeding to a minimum, and will resort to physical keys whenever there's no need to go electronic. Why borrow lots of ill-understood trouble?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Magstripe Cards

      Last year I was at college and it was based in a big office building. Each floor was protected with magstripe cards. We as "students" there where issued with cards that only worked for our floor. At the time I had a magstripe writer and was able to change all of our cards so we could take shortcuts through the building. All that was required was to change the first character on the card.

      (0 for all floors, 1 for ground floor) - then our unique ID number

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If you happen to have a magstripe writer, then yes.

        Those aren't ubiquitous, and neither are portable mechanical key cloners, though both do exist. It isn't even difficult to build a mold to quickly copy mechanical keys, and later clone them at leisure. Yet we still use mechanical keys, as they still have some quite attractive features suitable for everyday use. RFID tag writers are quickly becoming more widespread because the tags are becoming insidiuously widespread, down to passports and bank cards.

        NFC, worse luck, comes with a "writer" built right in, as it is but a software-driven RFID emulation. So swapping out codes, once you know what they are, is even easier and can be done with every handset unless someone else (operator, manufacturer) locks your owned device down somehow. And then you jailbreak it because you'd do that anyway.

        What you're complaining about isn't the general system but a failure of that implementation. It seems implemented with a naivette that is exactly like what I'm railing about with the pushing of NFC.

        To wit: That magstripe system could've been setup better: How many bits can it carry? How many doors and/or door combinations? How sparse a random coding can you make? You could even add a checksum or perhaps a cryptographic hash or some other way to make guessing valid values hard, then flag anomalies loud and clear and drop on the perp's (you know where he is as you know what magstripe reader is being offered invalid cards) with hotel security. Even false alarms are quick and easy to defuse under the guise of being helpful to the guest. That is but a little organisation and fits well with a model where there'll be security-concious personnel in the vicinity anyway. It wouldn't work so well for securing, oh, a holiday cottage or something, and it certainly doesn't work if the surrounding organisation is lacking regardless of where it's deployed.

        The security of such a system, in fact and when implemented properly, is resilient to easy changing of keys. So magstripe cards are "good enough" once the model and its failings are well understood, and cheap to replace. Altough for a new system now I'd probably use chipcards instead of magstripe cards, both are in use as are completely mechanical "hole" access cards and a variety of other cards. The idea being to get "good enough" security from cheap keys that are easy to disable as loss happens too often to contemplate having to replace locks or cylinders every time.

        I just don't see NFC adding much to the party, except a lot of "it'll be great when everybody has it!" agitprop and convenient ignoring of the drawbacks and complexity. Let's work on resilient security models independent of the actual technical implementation details first, shall we?

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Magstripe Cards

        Bah who needs a card writer...

        We used to clone cards the hard way.. using a reel to reel tape machine! well two actually, just swipe master card in machine 1 on play whilst swping clone card in machine 2 on record. job done.

        This will only do a straight copy so no editing unless you want to get 'reel' clever......

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    100% ID'd here...

    3 bunches clipped on one caribiner and I only carry what I need that day..

    1 car = 1 key

    2 work = 3 keys (door, fire safe, desk draws) + rfid fob

    3 home = 4 keys (front door, patio door, garage front, garage back)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very atypical here

    Fob 1: Car key - nothing else.

    (Usually that'd be my bike keys with ignition key, disc lock key, top-box key and pannier key, but it's busy having been crashed - ouch.)

    Fob 2: home keys - front door, back door, garage door, parents' front door, bicycle lock, handcuff key (your problem?), plus the obligitary USB key and traser.

    Fob 3: office keys - Front door A, front door B, back door A, back door B, electronic key for front door A, internal key for building A, internal key for building B, a suitcase key (don't know why it's there), and one solitary Yale key that I can't fathom a purpose for (I think it's for some of the internal doors in building A, but I've never had to use it).

    In total, today I'm carrying 16 keys today (should be 19) and I'm certain what all but one opens. And that one I could find out in 5 mins.

    Why the hell am I carrying this many keys around?? Stupid work...

  19. Anonymous Coward

    I feel a bit like a weirdo here...

    I've just checked and I have 16 on my keyring - and I 'don't even own a car! But at least I do know what they are all for...(9 - house + garage + gate + shed, 1 desk, 2 computer locks/cables, 2 brief case, 1 safe deposit box in Switzerland and 1 for S&M elite club down the road).

    But I really do have

  20. Pink Duck

    2 keys too many

    One for my car, one for my house - but I usually only ever carry one at a time.

    I long for a future where my phone can provide access to house, transport and small payments for that magical key-less future.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    "Five per cent of people make that easier by putting an address tag on the keys."

    If you're that daft, you DESERVE to be burgled.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Not quite as bad

      Someone I used to live with (housemate) put just the road down on it, because he lived in two places. I pointed out that could let people burgle it, and he said "how?" I replied that they walk down the road pressing the car open button on the key, and burgle the house it stood on the drive of.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    i want to tell you in excruciating detail wot keys i have

    its so interesting.

  23. Stephen Hunt
    Thumb Up

    Sounds about right

    I have 8, or which I'm not sure about 3.

  24. A J Stiles

    What I've got

    On one ring: Front door rim lock, front door mortice lock, back door (PVCu so only 1 key but locks in 4 places), my mother's front door, Tesco clubcard.

    On other ring: Work outside door, work downstairs door, work upstairs door, work contactless thing which you hold near a sensor to open the door.

  25. Aldous

    keys by the door

    Always amuses me where people leave their keys, then they wonder why the £20k+ car with alarm immob etc gets nicked by a sod with a fishing rod through the door .

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Keys by the door

      Rather have them near the door and lose the car than burn in a house fire because I couldn't get out.

  26. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Of course

    Just let some stranger look at your keys for your house car safe etc...

  27. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Mysterious keys are not a mystery

    Not for me anyway. I have no idea what two of my keys open but that's because they are simply ballast, and two - for a car I no longer have - are simply to give the keyring bulk.

    Alter the nature of the universe (well, that small area which is my keyring) and it confuses the hell out of me. I keep thinking I've lost my keys due to lack of weight, or simply forget to pick them up as I don't seemingly recognise them sitting on the table.

    Paris: Cos that's what you are probably thinking, but it works for me.

  28. Stevie Silver badge


    Oh for the days when you could just do what everyone else did and hang the door key on a bit of string behind the letterbox.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's only one key in our house

    It hangs on a piece of string behind the letterbox.

    An insurance salesman once said that we couldn't insure our household contents unless we bought special security locks, so we put the insurance premiums in a savings account instead and this year we're using it for a luxury cruise to the Cayman Islands.

  30. VeganVegan


    just name the 3 mystery keys Mon-, Don- and Tur-.

    Now that you know who they are, they are no mystery anymore. Doesn't it feel so much better?

  31. Eddy Ito

    I don't understand

    Key rings on that side of the pond must be made of seriously tough material if so many people can't be bothered tossing an unidentified key, or three.

  32. JaitcH

    Only three? I wish

    I keep stashes of personal stuff in 6 countries I visit most frequently; plus we company offices and facilities dotted all over.

    I counted my keys on my 'local' ring - 10 - and on my travelling key ring - 19. All our stuff is company supplied and our guy in the stores carefully number locks and keys so there is no confusion.

    P.S Don't think cylindrical keys are safer an appropriate number of 'rods', equalling the number of 'slots' in them, attached to a vibrator (such as a engraver) can unlock these devices. There were soft drink dispensers in the canteen of the old police headquarters in Toronto and the only way the vendor could stop theft was by fitting large steel bands, with equally large large locks to stop theft.

  33. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    I find this curiously reassuring

    Only last week I was looking at my keyring wondering "What the hell do those ones open?" and thinking I was going senile. But if everyone is in the same boat, my memory is no worse than - what were we talking about?

  34. heyrick Silver badge


    I carry three - front door, car door, and the server key switch.

    But don't think we're a good statistic, for when we bought this house, there was a ring of keys hung up by the electricity meter (old fashioned keys). 8 or 9 belong to the house, some to internal doors that hadn't been locked in decades. The other dozen? Absolutely no idea!

  35. irw
    Thumb Up

    Is that all?

    I recently discovered a bag containing about 250 keys in our office - and we have no idea which locks they are supposed to unlock ...

  36. BitBotherer

    I wonder

    Like a password? If you get picked up by the police and do not tell them what the keys that you have forgotten about are for, is it an offence?

  37. vic 4

    That explains it

    We've noticed a few times that very heavy items in the front garden have moved, I've always put it down to people thinking about nicking them and then releasing they've got no chance without some lifting equipment (and given the access/width of the street they would be noticed). Guess they were looking for keys.

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