Zirx, based in San Francisco, is the latest Uber-like on-demand valet service to pop-up, joining its local competitor Luxe Valet, along with Valet Anywhere, based in New York.
How do these services work? Using your mobile phone, you summon a valet to rendezvous with you in a location of your choosing, (as long as it is in the company's service area). Then an "agent," as Zirx calls them, meets up with you to take your car away, saving you time and effort in finding a parking space on your own.
Well, in big cities this could catch on.
But... for this to really work, in my opinion, the quality of the valet workers must be at the top. They need real professionals who know what they are doing, who take the work seriously, and who have the maturity not to engage in monkey business with the customers' cars.
They must be clearly above the kids at the typical valet service. And I think the only way this is possible is if on-demand valet workers are paid well, so that they stick with their jobs.
If on-demand valets aren't enabled to make a decent income from their labor (an average of $20+ an hour), then these hybrid valet services will get hit with the same problems as today's regular on-site valet services. And eventually there will be valet parking fiascos that hit these companies like torpedoes, causing big reputational damage.
This past weekend, news in England came out that an airport valet worker drove a customer's car at 98 mph. That became widespread news. It only takes one idiot to cause a lot of damage in this business.
By employing serious professionals who are in it for the long haul, that kind of thing can be avoided.
But if they can't make enough money, then the life cycle of their valet workers will be short. This is where many of the problems in the valet business happen. Rookies come in. They make mistakes. And they are more likely to abuse cars.
After they reach a certain level of proficiency, they leave. Then more rookies come in. It's a constant whirlwind of mediocrity that these new on-demand valet services would be wise to avoid.
As for tipping, I think the tip should be built into the service fee, because people stiff valets all the time. This is a poisonous element that damages employee morale and contributes to worker turnover.
If these new on-demand valet services can figure out the right compensation formula for their front-line workers, and if they put in place a "culture of care" that is superior to regular valet services, then they've got a real shot at making some inroads here.
The marketplace needs better, more professional valet services.