Part 2: The Smart Way To Use Valet Parking Services

You need to take an active role in defending your car.

Valet parking can be a terrific service. But it is not carried out with flawlessness every single time. THIS IS REALITY. My message to you is don't rely on luck or fate for things to go perfectly. Take it upon yourself to shape the outcome of your valet transactions. It's not difficult to do.

There are several aspects to using "Real Valet Control."

In Part One I ended the post by discussing the importance of safeguarding your keys.

NEVER give the valet service ALL of your keys.

Give them just one key — the one key necessary to operate your vehicle. (And it's a great idea to keep a spare key with you.)

I strongly recommend that you get yourself a "Valet Parking Photo ID Card." It's the size of a driver's license. It's made out of plastic. And you attach it to your car key. (This is my creation.) Here it is:



There are numerous benefits to using an ID like this:

  • The ID card sets you apart as a sophisticated, knowledgeable, high expectation customer. When they see the warning on the back, which guarantees that you will be looking for new damage, it makes them think "Whoa... I better be careful with this one."

  • Greatly reduces the chances your car key will be given to the wrong person. This DOES happen. Often a new valet worker will feel uncomfortable about challenging a customer who is acting like a car is their's, yet says they can't find their claim ticket.

  • And generally, too many valets are sloppy about verifying that they are indeed giving the keys to the right person.

  • Lost key more likely to be recovered. If they make the mistake of leaving your key in somebody else's car, WHICH DOES HAPPEN, your phone number will be on that ID card. You will have a much better chance of having that key returned to you.

  • Less likely you will experience delay when leaving. If your key has been improperly positioned on the cashier's key-board, your keys will stand out easily because of the attached ID. But if your key looks like everybody else's, and there are 300 keys on the board, it could take a while before your key is finally found.

    It's also possible this could happen:

  • They might give your car to somebody else, and it will be YOUR fault IF THIS HAPPENS: If you lost your claim ticket, it's possible the person who finds it can claim your car. But with your photo attached to the key, it will raise red flags. The ID really could save you from having your car given away.

  • Makes it easier for you to get your car back if you cannot find your claim ticket. If you can't find your claim ticket, having your face attached to the key will make it easier to get your car back.

  • Most importantly, your valet client ID card will have impact. It's going to surprise them. It's going to modify behavior. They will want to be EXTRA CAREFUL with your vehicle... not like this:

In summary, the Valet Client Photo ID will minimize the chances of a headache caused by a valet service, and it can save you from wasting your valuable time. They will be more likely to lose somebody else's keys instead of yours.

So I strongly recommend getting one. They are not expensive. If you want one, just click HERE.

An alternative is to use the "codeword method." Here it is:

Above: Front & back shown.

Above: Front & back shown.

Yah, I know... there's a naughty word on there. Simply, this is communicating in their language. (I also have "Please Do Not Mess Up My Car.")

Business-card-size. Download a sheet of them HERE. (Free.) 

Here is the logic behind it:

Valets often don't verify. If somebody is holding a ten or twenty and acting like a car is their's, the valet probably will want to get that tip in their pocket AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. And they definitely don't want to do anything to jeopardize that tip (like by challenging them for the claim ticket.)

I can tell you from my own experience that some people are miffed when told to show their claim ticket. Others act like it is SUCH AN INCONVENIENCE to dig it out of their purse or to go through their pockets trying to find it.

And if they are taking a long time to find it and if it is busy, the valet might just say: "You look honest. I believe it's your car. Here you go." And then the keys are given away. (I did this... often. Yes, me. The professional.)

If there is a line of people waiting for their cars, or if the driveway is in chaos with cars everywhere waiting to be parked and even more cars clogging the street waiting to get in, there is no time to wait an extra minute for somebody to show proof that it is their car. As a valet, you trust your gut and risk it, and then move on to parking or retrieving the next car as fast as you can.

With the codeword method, if they can't find their claim ticket, then at least they can say their codeword. In this case, the chances of giving the key to the wrong customer are greatly reduced.

A card like the one above tells valets it's okay to ask for the claim ticket. Like I mentioned earlier, since many valets don't have much experience, it is not unusual for these rookies to be timid when it comes to challenging a customer to show their claim ticket.

Back when I was a valet, the doormen were supposed to write the customer's name on the ticket. Often we could not read their writing. And often the spelling was difficult to pronounce.

So a simple, easy-to-read codeword helps to make your car more secure... because you are forcing them to use it.

When your car is presented to you, you show your claim ticket and say your codeword, which you will have memorized. Simple.

But if somebody else tried to claim your car and had no idea what the codeword was, that is going to be an immediate red flag for the valet. The valet probably will call over a supervisor or manager to deal with the situation. And then they won't let the car go unless their is proof that the person claiming the car is the owner.  

Download it. Print it out. Select the codeword you want to use. If you want to get fancy, cut a 2 x 3½ inch size section off a cereal box, and then glue the front and back "codeword card" graphics to it. Put a hole in it. Slip a key ring on it it. Boom — you're ready.

There's more to learn. Look for Part Three of this series!