• Jul 17th 2012 at 3:00PM
  • 237
Using the valet can be a risky choice (Credit: mil8, Fl... Using the valet can be a risky choice (Credit: mil8, Flickr).
Are you like me when you hand over the keys to a valet parker? It often feels like handing my 10-year-old son a very sharp knife and asking him to cook dinner for six.

It turns out that the stories of valet parkers in the movies and TV are pretty much true; the wild joy-ride in a Ferrari taken by a valet parker in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the episode in Seinfeld in which a hygiene-challenged valet parker left a permanent stench in the car so foul that Jerry Seinfeld's character let the car be stolen.

It is convenient, especially when one is pressed for time. But there are plenty of nightmare stories. A couple of years ago, I valet parked a car at the Marriott Hotel in Detroit, and shoved my iPod into the glove-box before I handed the keys over. The next day when I went to retrieve it ... gone. And there was no way to lodge a complaint at that point, because I could not prove it was in there.

Our friends at Jalopnik.com this week have a piece written by Travis Okulski, who says he always parks his own car having been a valet parker at a suburban mall.

According to Okulski, here are the things you want to keep in mind before handing over the keys, especially to a kid who looks like he or she is not old enough to drink legally.

1. Don't hand over a powerful luxury car to a valet parker. If you throw the keys to a Mercedes S65, Bentley GT or Audi R8, you are asking for trouble. Valet parkers race these cars even in cramped parking garages.

2. A lot of valet parkers, especially the young ones, don't know how to drive a stick-shift, or at least not very well. That smell is not coming from the kitchen of the restaurant you just valet parked at; it's the odor of clutches burning.

3. If you must valet, and you can afford it, and your car is expensive, seriously consider throwing the parker extra money to park it in a good spot and look after it. But even then, says Okulski, you can get hosed if the parking crew is unscrupulous.

4. Look over your car when you get it back, especially the bumpers. Okulski recounts a story in which the car in question had a bumper nearly detach from a car and the crew hastily re-attached it so it looked okay.

5. Do not leave anything of value in the car. No cameras, iPods, smart phones, radar detectors, etc. Items like this will walk with valet parkers, and trying to get satisfaction is very difficult because of how difficult it is to prove the item was in the car when you handed it over.

6. Leave the valet key only, not the keychain with your house-keys on them. Doy. That's why they call it the valet key.


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  • 237 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      never again will I valet, because of a past experience; Passanger side door was scratched. When I complained to the manager, he assured me that expenses will be paid. Stupid me, next day I valet again (same place. Note: hotel), someone left urine in a bottle.
      velasura
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now that's the way I like it, uh-huh. Way to go jnj1023! If these parking areas had hidden cameras everywhere like they have them in stores and banks, then the author would not have to be writing this article.
      BUBBA
      • 3 Years Ago
      Love using valet, but here in southern calif, you need to watch your butt , most of our valet`s do not speak a word of english , and they are hired right from the border, every time this is the case, i alway`s ask for the supervisor to come over, i have had too many door ding`s they do not care at all about nice things in their country, employeer`s need to go to jail for hiring them .
      Gilbert
      • 3 Years Ago
      DUH! Who needs a $200,000 car in the first place. They are only status symbols that provide the owner with bragging rights. If the bozo owners weren't so intent on flaunting their wealth they wouldn't have these problems.
        dhudzin222
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Gilbert
        Who needs a $200 thou car? Because they are made and someone can afford that price - so why is that a concern of yours, you libtard ....
      tommygee43
      • 3 Years Ago
      None of you people live in NYC............. Parking spots cost more than your house................
      Fed Up
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lazy people who use Valet Parking deserve what they get. If they parked their own cars most of them would help work off their fat asses.
        MaryAnn
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Fed Up
        Really. I use Valet parking at the hospital monthly. That's Methodist in Houston. Never have I had a problem. It costs a whole THREE dollars more than regular parking. The valets are curteous and helpful. I once left a few dollars laying on my seat. Thought for sue it would be gone. Nope. Wasn't evern moved.
        Welcome MSGT
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Fed Up
        How about people with no legs that got blown off fighting for your right to say what you just did.. Does that fall under lazy fat asses?
      Doug Burr
      • 3 Years Ago
      Take A Pic of what`s in side of the car, and a pic of the person who is takeing the car,and ask to be notafide of who well have the key on the nekt shift, or the name`s of all who work`s thire.
        cafebeege
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Doug Burr
        Sounds good and smart. The bummer part is that the whole point of valet parking is it's supposed to save you time. Doing all that is not going to save time, and the way people are today with "customer service", bet they'd act like you were asking them to fly to the moon and back ....;o/
      • 3 Years Ago
      OK...I have several problems with this very biased article! First of all I would like to say that I have worked for the same Valet company in South Florida for 16 years, sometimes for extra money and when I was out of work I did it full-time. If you are dealing with any reputable business who offers Valet Service, they should have enough sense to hire a company with not only an untouchable reputation for profesionalism, but the courtesy to not charge the customer a fee! Most companies, like the one I work for, opperate by the establisment paying the owner per Valet per hour and the valet works only on tips! So you are right when you say "tip well and ask for a good spot," but if you simply be polite, tip well and ask the Valet if it is possible to park it yourself, unless restricted by the establisment your request should be honored without question! Even though I am a Valet, I refuse to do so when the company has the gall to charge a fee upon what they are receiving from the establisment! When it comes to leaving things of value in the car, if you have to leave things in the car you need to point out to the Valet that the items are there and make sure they lock if not all the vehicles, please make sure mine is locked. If something does go missing and you don't make a complaint and/or ask for reimbursement, that is dumb on your part for many reasons! If it is a reputable establisment, especially a Marriot Hotel, they should have no problem honoring your word and reimburse you for the item in question. There are always going to be dishonest and disrespectful employees (just like the so called friend of the author of this article) that slip thru the cracks and if nobody complains you are allowing them to continue working and hurting not only others, but the establisment's reputation as well as the Valet company's reputation! Speaking of dishonest and disrespectful, these are the reasons people with expensive vehicles or people who care about their investment Valet to begin with! There are always people looking to break into cars for simple things like a GPS and there are people who don't care about their vehicle who kick open their doors right into your car causing damage; these are the reasons most people Valet, to keep their vehicle safe! There are always going to be mistakes made every now and then, but that goes with everything and every reputable company will not only cover the damage or inconvenience, but they will admit to their mistakes as well!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sure there are several horror stories about valet parkers and valet companies, it is not a perfect world. But most of the worse cases I have heard comes from "Flight by Night" Companies runned by guys that just want to make a buck. They are very cheap, making it very hard for legit companies like us to keep running without a stragle. Mostly, you can blame the owners of the establishment for hiring a company that does not have the track record, does not have the management team to hire, train and supervise the parkers as the level needed to have a 1st class experience. Most of these "Cheap/Fly by Night" companies don't even have Insurance. They hire people without the proper pre-screening to select the best people. At our company, we have a pre-screening process where the prospect valet needs to provide; 6 month driving record, background check, pass employment verification (And we call to verify), etc. We provide our own training even if the employee has experience working from other companies. We don't trust other companies. In the training they have to drive a manual car up a hill and stop in the middle, to make sure he knows how to keep a car stopped in a hill using only the clutch and the brake - Someone that knows how to drive won't burn the clutch. We have a General manager and 3 Supervisors that supervise all valets every day. Check for 30 different points to make sure they give the best service we can provide. To know more... or For our top service 202 253 3502
      • 3 Years Ago
      I absolutely love the generalizations that are so easily and readily made everyday throughout this country from the all-knowing talking heads. My husband has been a valet runner for 13 years. He is now 37 and I can assure you from countless hours spent at his place of work (a large casino/hotel), that whatever this author thinks is happening with valet runners and how they treat cars, is not in fact happening. In fact, the worst horror stories I have heard are about the disgusting and filthy conditions that some people keep their cars in. There are losers and scumbags in all walks of life, but, hey, let's judge every person of every profession by the one or two bad eggs...that's intelligence.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I totally agree with you. The ignoramus who wrote this article should work as a valet attended to truly understand the meaning of a valet worker. Perhaps then will he write about the injustices the valet attended go through!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      i worked valet but for 3 years at a bus terminal...i never stole anything never went for a joy ride and never scratched a single car! customers always let there valet keys to me and even if i was off the customers didnt let anyone else park there car and i enjoyed good tips ....2 new guys were fired on the spot for taking joy rides and damaging there cars. its better to be a good person and not take advantage of peoples cars.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Good job mate. God's always watching.
      Paul C. Duncan
      • 3 Years Ago
      When I was 17 I was a valet at a club called metro 700 & I can tell you MANY A CAR was damaged & they tought me how to drive stick on any car it never mattered. It could be a yugo or a porsche. & because many were too drunk to see the damage (or tip) we would raid the ashtrays for change. dig it all out, take the quarters & dimes & make it look like it did before by putting a couple of quarters on top. This is why I know unless I have no choice, I park it myself. Otherwise, I take EVERYTHING OUT & I tell them there is a self contained/powered digital camera in the car so I know whats going on. Ill even tell you a trick I did. I fixed my phone to take a pic of my hand waving in the car (but nothing else) no outside view that is & save it for quick access & then, I tell them about the camera, make them think it is on, start the video & wave my hand inside as they watch the video & they think... it is "live" knowing that, they take better care of my car
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