A valet service giving your car keys to somebody else is probably unimaginable, right? Like, how could they be that dumb, right?
But it happens. Everyday. Somewhere.
Most often this mix-up occurs with rental cars.
Unfortunately for the owner of a 2012 Audi A7, things went drastically wrong when a valet gave the keys away to a thief... who then smashed the car into a power pole, and caused 4800 electricity customers to lose their power.
Here's the story:
So why did that happen?
Well, the car owner could have lost the claim ticket, and whoever found that ticket could have then claimed the car. In this case it's the car owner's fault, not the valet's.
But most likely the valet failed to ask for the claim ticket. The thief may have simply acted like it was his car. And if he was tipping the valet with a $10 or $20 bill, the valet probably wasn't going to do or say anything to cause the loss of that tip.
I wouldn't be surprised if this valet was a recent hire. There always is a new guy on the valet staff. Rookies in their late teens or early twenties often lack the confidence to challenge a person for proof that a car is really their's.
And if a valet manager is not on top of their game, the more experienced valets will slack-off with checking claim tickets too.
Valet parking is a commoditized service. Wages can be very low. In 19 states, valet companies can pay their valet workers as little as $2.13 an hour. (When I did this work, my wage was $3.83 an hour, which was $1 an hour above Pennsylvania's minimum wage for tipped employees. And there was actually talk that management was considering a change to $2.83.)
Valets rely on gratuities. There are many times when the work of a valet is not equitable. After a few bad shifts in a row, valets begin to think about quitting. They begin to feel exploited by their employer. Their morale and job satisfaction often goes up and down based upon the tip action, or lack of it.
The low pay of this business causes experienced, seasoned valets — who know what they're doing — to leave. Yes, the best, most skilled, most experienced valets leave. Rookies take their place. And rookies are much more prone to making dumb mistakes.
Anyway, this isn't the last time a valet will give a key to the wrong person. It will happen tomorrow, somewhere. The end results may not be as bad as what happened at Atlanta's Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, but the keys will be given to the wrong party at some point somewhere tomorrow. Check Twitter and watch for it.
I spent 2 years in this business. It's the same shit over and over again. Nothing changes.
A good defense against your car being given away to the wrong person is to have a photo of your face attached to the key. I make these, and I call it a "Valet Client Photo ID Card."
You can see what I'm talking about here: ValetClientid.com
It's a simple $20 solution. But few have the foresight to actually take this preventative step. They instead assume that taking spins at "valet parking roulette" will always go their way. Big mistake.