An August 9th Yelp review for the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco says after the customer complained to management about rude treatment from the valet, that valet confronted them and yelled at them (in front of his boss). Later, the customer discovered that their 3 week old car had been KEYED.
Most valets are young men, and they definitely have the potential to be vindictive.
If you slight them somehow while also burning them on a tip, and if they get the chance... look out. There is a chance they will try to exact some justice, some valet karma.
I have read a lot of Twitter posts by valets. One said he would push the windshield washer button until the car ran out of washer fluid as his method of revenge.
Others seem to take pride in releasing well-timed farts in the car. (They brag about it on Twitter.)
Mistreatment by the customer also invites rough driving of that person's car. The chances of them getting a little payback certainly rises when you get the valet parking transaction off to a bad start.
Sometimes it's not really your fault... the previous customer angered them, but now your car is about to pay for it with heavy acceleration, hard braking rough cornering, and sloppy parking — which could mean the infliction of minor damage — like a car door being touched against a wall, or the front air-dam uncaringly being grinded against the curb as the car is pulled into a spot.
Some valets simply have a rough time controlling emotions. I've seen it firsthand. All it takes sometimes is one stiff and they are punching-bag-angry... and suddenly they hate their job and don't care if they get fired.
Either avoid valet parking altogether OR give them a gratuity when you hand them your keys. Tipping up-front is smart use of the power of the tip. It's appreciated. And it can save your car from mistreatment.
In fact, I believe it is more important and more effective to tip on arrival. You cannot influence or undo any lack of care your car received by tipping only on departure.
When I was a valet and received a "preemptive tip," I usually made extra efforts to park that car in a superior space with a lot of room around it. From my point of view, a customer who treated me with that kind of consideration deserved extra care.
Valets can be paid as little as $2.13 per hour in 19 states. This is the federal minimum wage for tipped employees. And I have actually seen help wanted ads offering valet positions for no wage — tips only (illegal).
So tips mean a lot in the valet business.
If the author of the Yelp post had handed out a few dollars on arrival, there probably would have been no problems. I'll take a guess that the previous customer somehow crushed that valet's morale. A simple preemptive tip might have helped.
Whether the valet in question actually purposefully damaged the car, who knows?