It is VITAL to inspect your car for new damage when it is time to leave.
After you valet parked your car, if everything went according to plan, those valet guys were a tiny bit spooked.
They probably wrote on their ticket "manager only" or "experienced only" or "VIP," because they realized they definitely don't want anything happening to your car.
Though it is always possible that you're dealing with morons and they didn't figure out that you are risky.
So you can't trust that they handled your car perfectly. You're going to have to VERIFY that they did the job right.
When you are ready to blaze out of there, call the cashier.
The phone number will probably be on your claim ticket. Give the cashier your ticket number and tell the cashier you want your car on the driveway in 10 minutes, 15 minutes, whatever window you choose to give them.
(Some valet services have an app or use a text messaging program to facilitate this.)
Giving them advance notice to bring out your car is simply the fast and easy way to get out of there. But be careful not to give them too much advance notice, because if you take too long, they might actually re-park your car. And that's not good, because it adds two more spins to this round of valet parking roulette, which means a higher chance of problems.
When departing, YOU MUST inspect your car for new damage!
Now your car is there waiting for you. Have a departure tip ready to go. But before handing it over, do a complete vehicle damage audit using your form. (Or if you didn't use the form, check your car for new damage anyway.)
A lot can be at stake here, so take this SERIOUSLY.
Begin your inspection at one of your wheels. Scan the outer edges of the rim in a circle. Study it carefully for fresh grindings (caused by rubbing against a curb). If you see a silvery powder on the sidewall of your tire, your wheel just got scraped.
Then scan every inch of the car's body near that wheel.
Move your head. Look from different angles to see if there are any new dings.
Check under the front air dam. Look for new scrapes that may have been caused by driving your car onto a curb.
Study your front bumper. Did they kiss a wall? Look at the corners of the bumper.
Proceed to the other side of the car and study those wheels. Scan the body. Then look for new damage on the rear bumper.
If it is night-time, use a flashlight. Be professional about it, not like an amateur.
And BE THOROUGH!
If you find new damage later, it's too late.
They will say that a fair determination of when and where the damage actually happened cannot be made. And your claim will be denied.
IT'S UP TO YOU TO FIND THE DAMAGE!
You should assume that the valet service will not be forthcoming about damage they caused, unless they really screwed-up and the damage is impossible not to notice.
BE CERTAIN they have delivered flawless service. If you are clogging up the flow of their driveway, DON'T BE A MR. NICEGUY AND LEAVE. No. Take your time and verify that your car has not suffered any new damage. Only when you are certain everything is okay, ONLY THEN do you hand over a departure tip for a job well done.
And don't forget to verify that no excessive mileage was put on your car using the odometer reading you recorded earlier on your form, or with your smart phone.
I know I've made valet parking sound pretty bad...
BUT IT CAN BE A VERY BENEFICIAL SERVICE!
Because it enhances your safety...
There was a rash of nasty muggings outside a Las Vegas casino where a major poker tournament was happening (above). It was believed that these criminals worked in teams, where somebody inside was looking for winners who were leaving. They would notify their accomplices outside. Then an attack and robbery would happen. People can be killed this way.
A similar thing can happen late at night in a lonely big city parking garage.
The valet industry has its problems, but your safety should be paramount. And using a valet service can keep you waiting in a safe place while your car is brought to you. So in this way, valet services have a lot of value.
It's a situation where being cheap could cost you your life. And I'm not kidding. People have been shot and killed in street muggings because they chose to save some money by parking on the street in a dicey neighborhood.
NOTES ABOUT EVENTS
Your chances of a problem will be higher when you valet park while an event is happening.
It can be difficult for a valet manager to predict how many cars will show up for an event. If the event has been under-staffed with valets, order can spiral downward into chaos QUICKLY.
Under these conditions, there is simply no time to do vehicle damage assessments, whether on their ticket or your form. They are going to park the cars as fast as they can.
During this crazy rush, it's not difficult to forget to lock a car door, or fail to ensure that all the windows are up.
In a crisis situation, when there is an overwhelming flow of cars waiting to be valet parked, it is likely a valet manager will send out an SOS for help. This could mean that other valet workers from other locations (who work for the same valet company) will rush in. It could also mean that people employed by the venue, who have no valet experience, might also step in. All of these outsiders probably won't be fully knowledgeable about the danger spots on the route to the garage, and in the garage.
During times like this, things are more likely to go wrong. Somebody's key might disappear. Cars can get lost... because the person parking it either failed to write down the vehicle's location coordinates, or wrote the wrong location information. When this happens, valets must run all over the garage looking for it, floor by floor. This can definitely slow down service for everybody who is waiting to leave, because it ties up manpower.
When big events conclude, it's not a good thing if you are not among the first people in line at the cashier's booth.
A big event with hosted valet parking is better for you. "Hosted" means it costs you no parking fee. Hosted valet parking also results in a faster moving line at the cashier's booth.
If the parking isn't hosted, and if there is a sudden issue with slow credit card processing, the growing crowd of people waiting to pay for parking can create an unpleasant vibe. People reach a breaking point after standing around a bit too long, and things can turn ugly in the crowd.
If the event is still under-staffed when everybody is coming out, that's a bad thing. It can mean long wait times to get your car back. (I've heard of waits lasting more than an hour when an unexpected rush happened.)
Another problem with a busy event is the chance of vehicle theft goes up. Your car could be stolen right off the driveway if the valet service isn't being diligent with safeguarding the keys.
Should you valet park during an event?
If you want to get out of there quickly, then probably not.
And if you are concerned about heightened chances of problems, then also probably not.
In "Part Six," I'm going to cover things about manual transmission vehicles, over-sized vehicles, and what to do after finding damage or things missing.