Lexus exposes the world of the valet

We have to admit that we've secretly pined for a position as a valet at some upscale nightclub or a sell-your-first-born-for-reservations restaurant. There is something intriguing about the prospect of rubbing elbows with the upper crust of socialites by driving their cherished rides that, in some cases, cost more than we'll see in net income over our lifetime.

Someone at Lexus PR seems to hold the lowly valet in similar standings, as evidenced by the site As a way of stirring up interest in the new Lexus ES, the 38-page (gulp) downloadable handbook will clue you into the vast curiosities of the valet world with details about their lingo, proper tipping principles and how to score the much sought after "jewel case" space in the front.

The full PR-massaged press release is after the jump, which has some entertaining tidbits and a historical perspective of the valet from the mouth of its godfather. It's certainly worth the read.

Aug 9, 2006 05:00 America/Los_Angeles

Cool Tips, Hot Spots and Red Bowties

Lexus Offers Behind-the-Scenes Look at Valet Parking, Reveals Results of National Survey

TORRANCE, Calif., Aug. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- It's no longer just for red carpets and country clubs. As greater convenience becomes a factor in our increasingly active lives, valet parking is now on hand at health clubs, hair salons, sporting events, doctors' offices, even grocery stores and cinemas. For many, it's fast becoming a way of life.

So what happens once a car disappears into "Valet Land?" What are the insider secrets valets don't share with anyone? And what should savvy drivers know before turning over their keys to them?

To answer these questions and more, Lexus has chosen the launch of its all-new ES 350 luxury sedan to introduce The Lexus ES Insider's Guide to Valet Parking -- an entertaining and informative behind-the-scenes look at the world of valet parking. The 38-page guide, which is available for free download at, also includes results from a nationwide valet parking survey commissioned by the automaker.

The Inside Scoop

According to the National Parking Association, an estimated 200,000 men and women currently work as parking attendants in the United States.

"Valet parking is a common ritual, but there's not much information about it," said Bob Carter, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "The guide has actually turned into a bit of an homage to parking attendants everywhere and uncovered both humorous and useful information for drivers."

Which car features excite valets the most? What's considered a good tip? Who gets the coveted upfront spot and why? It's all in the guide.

To examine regional differences on the valet scene, Lexus also dispatched journalist David Hochman to report on parking habits and traditions in four cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Hochman even spent a day "under cover" as a parking attendant at an upscale shopping center in Los Angeles, where he learned valet lingo (such as "Jewel Case," the premier parking spot) and the valet's mantra: "Smile, open door, greet, give ticket, rinse, repeat."

The guide also offers valuable advice from Herb Citrin, 83, a legend among parking attendants for having introduced the uniforms, the white-glove service and the name "valet parking" in the 1940s, and who has safely parked thousands upon thousands of vehicles.

Citrin is happy to report that 99.99 times out of a 100, valet attendants abide by the same basic principle he introduced at the first of what would become tens of thousands of valet-parking locations across America. "You give us your car," Citrin says with a proud smile any car owner would find reassuring, "We get it back to you safely." Although he does admit it's the one that got away that still haunts him.

It was the summer of 1965, and Citrin got a frantic call from a garage manager at a Polynesian restaurant in Marina del Rey, Calif. "One of our valets forgot to set the brake on a vintage 1937 luxury coupe in what kids used to call 'cherry condition,'" recalls Citrin, now a consultant for Valet Parking Services in Los Angeles, a company he founded in 1946. "It rolled down an incline and ended up in 15 feet of seawater."

Fortunately, mishaps like that occur once in a lifetime, if that. As John Van Horn, editor and publisher of Parking Today, an industry trade magazine, puts it, "Most valets are exceptional drivers because all they do is drive cars all day."

The Survey -- What Americans Nationwide Have to Say

On average, 61 percent of Americans use valet parking, according to a wide-ranging survey on parking habits and concerns conducted exclusively for the Lexus guide by Kelton Research.

The survey also found that Americans tip valets an average of $3 per vehicle, and 73 percent are confident that when they tip, they are tipping the right person the right amount. For most of us, manners matter most as the vast majority of Americans (87 percent) feel that the friendliness and politeness of the valet is the biggest factor in determining how large a tip one should leave.

Nationally, Northeasterners rely on valets the most (only 27 percent of them say they never use a valet). And, surprisingly, speed isn't much of a factor in customer satisfaction, the survey found. Americans are willing to wait up to an average of nine minutes for the valet to return their cars before becoming impatient, though younger drivers (ages 18 to 34) will wait only five minutes before getting antsy.

Then there's "car shame," that nagging feeling that the valet is judging one's vehicle. Interestingly, women are twice as prone to suffer from car shame as men.

What's the biggest fear about valets? That they take the nicest cars out for joyrides (64 percent think it's at least a possibility). One in two surveyed also worries the car will be returned damaged.

Martin Stein, president of the American Parking Association, encourages drivers to take notice of any attendant before handing over the keys. "Look for corporate uniforms and professional-looking valet signage, while checking to see if keys are securely managed and noting if there are sufficient attendants," he says. "You expect a level of comfort knowing you'll be taken care of, and you want your car back exactly the way you left it."

About the New ES

The third Lexus model to evolve out of the L-finesse design language, the all-new ES 350 emphasizes simplicity and contrasts in its significant design changes. From the first-time offering of a panoramic glass roof that covers the entire cabin to the distinctive wrap-around tail lamps and the low grille position below the headlights, the fifth-generation ES has been completely redesigned for a supremely confident stance.

"The ES redesign features sweeping curves and sculpted countercurves to convey a sense of graceful movement, with every curve drawn to inspire longing," says Carter. "Complementing the design are advanced, intuitive safety, performance and convenience technologies that allow the ES to respond as if it knows each driver personally."

The Lexus L-finesse design language is unique to all new-generation Lexus sedans and has its roots in balancing contrasting elements. The long hood, pulled-back cabin and short rear deck of the ES 350 are characteristic of the new L-finesse design theme, which recalls classic sports car proportions in a contemporary look.

About Lexus

Lexus has become synonymous with luxury since its introduction in 1989. By offering some of the finest quality luxury vehicles and providing benchmark customer service, Lexus has become the top-selling luxury nameplate in the United States for six years in a row. Lexus and its 220 dealers have repeatedly achieved high honors for both the products they sell and the customer service they provide as rated by the independent research firm of J.D. Power and Associates.

Source: Lexus

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