And what is "locking the brakes"?
Road bikes usually have a quick release brake system so you can easily pull off the tire - what happens is the brakes are then "disengaged" so when you clamp down on them they will sort of slow you, but they don't have the force to actually brake the tire. Not ideal.
It is an easy mistake to make if you aren't used to removing your front wheel.
I have a quick-release front wheel, so I can take it off and put my bike in the back of the car when I'm going out of town. Caliper brakes are designed so the brake pads are really close to the rim (let's say the pads are 1" apart), but the tire is fatter than the rim (say 1.5" wide). So when you want to pull the wheel off, you release the brake and the space between the pads opens up so you can just fit the tire through. So when the brakes are "off" they are 1.5" apart, when they are "on" they are 1" apart.
If you forget to reset your brakes, when you need to stop you have to squeeze more
to get them to touch your rim. And often they will just polish the rim nicely, but not slow you down much. It can be a little scary.
I take my wheel off and on regularly and I still
forget to reset my brakes about 1/3 of the time. Usually you figure it out the first time you stop though.
It's certainly not the OP's fault that they were unfamiliar with bike brakes and couldn't troubleshoot. It was an issue of "operator error" and they should stop badmouthing a perfecty serviceable bike. Never lend them anything, including your time. (eg/ you wouldn't want to help them move in case the quality of your heavy lifting didn't meet their expectations)