Key fob mystery at Co-op solved

CARSTAIRS — The mystery of what was causing some people’s car key fobs from working at the Carstairs Westview Co-op parking lot has been solved, say officials.

A representative from Westview Co-op said that with a little help from a government agency they were able to pinpoint the source, which was a nearby consumer electonic device stuck in transmit mode.

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Stephen Kennedy, asset protection manager for Westview Co-op, said they became aware of the issue about three weeks ago.

“It surfaced on social media and with guest concerns,” said Kennedy. “Initially, we had done our own troubleshooting with a local radio operator, an amateur ham guy, who identified the frequency that was the concern. That frequency impacts a number of key fobs for imports and domestic vehicles.”

Kennedy said they shut all the power off to the entire store on Jan. 28 in an effort to see if something in the store was causing interference.

“The frequency was still being emitted,” he said. “So we got a hold of the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development of Canada. They attended February 1 and were able to locate the source. All they advised was that it was not in relation to our property. They said it was a consumer electronic device that was stuck in a transmit mode. They said it has been rectified and the issue is no longer present.”

Kennedy said that they are aware of all the various theories behind the mystery, including that it might have been an elaborate scheme by vehicle thieves.

“There was a lot of speculation based on the number of incidents of car thefts and such that it might be a criminal element trying to steal cars by jamming them — but that’s just not the case,” he said. “It was unintentional and non-criminal. It just happened to be a piece of faulty equipment that was not working as designed.”

The mystery of the parking lot key fob dead zone certainly grabbed the attention of local residents on social media. It quickly spread to provincial attention with CBC, CTV and other media outlets coming to town to cover the story.

Everyone had their own theory it seemed on what caused the mystery.

Carstairs resident Karin Zebedee told the Gazette outside the store she had heard of the issue but had never experienced it herself.

“I come here every day or every other day and lock my car and never had a problem,” said Zebedee. “But I heard about many people that do. It’s very puzzling.”

Zebedee said she had no idea what the problem could be. She said she has heard a few interesting theories.

“That it’s aliens,” she laughed. “Or maybe the guys across the street.”

Tonya Lowry works across the street from the Co-op at Your Dollar Store With More. She said she’s also heard the stories.

“I have no idea what it could be,” said Lowry. “Possibly the railroad? It’s a well-known problem around town. It’s all over social media.”

Lowry said her store has sold plenty of batteries since the issues began.

“We sell a lot of batteries,” she said. “A lot of people come in here thinking their car remote isn’t working. We’ve had numerous people in front of our store and Co-op not have their car start.”

© Virden Empire-Advance

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