Part 4: The Smart Way To Use Valet Parking Services

This post is about being a BALL BUSTER.

A lot of people complain about valets moving their seats. Since I'm 6'2" I moved seats all the time. It was important for me to do this to enable the safe operation of the car, especially with manual transmissions.

I turned the fan off. I turned the radio all the way down. And I lowered the driver's window. Being able to hear with better clarity saved me from backing out of a parking space into a passing car more than a few times.

Rookies, and even experienced valets, often don't take these precautions. So this is why I recommended you do all those little things in "Part Three."

When valet parking your car, it's really quite possible that the person you are giving your car to might have just been hired yesterday. (No kidding!)

As far as I know, there is no school that teaches a formal valet parking program. Instead, rookies come into the business and learn the hard way — by making mistakes.

You can sharply reduce your odds of having a problem by setting up the transaction in a way that scares off the rookies, and that is what this next tactic is about.

Step 4:  

Be a "documented valet customer."

If you are following my advice about using Real Valet Control, then you have a Valet Client Photo ID Card attached to the ONE key you give them, or a "Codeword Method" card. This alone can do a lot to influence the care and service you receive.

Let me just emphasize one more time how important it is that you have some form of key protection:

Thirty-two minutes later, the very civilized Mr. Sears (above) still doesn't have his keys. Please seriously consider getting one of my Valet Client Photo ID Cards or a "Codeword Method" card. It is really the minimum level of defense that you should be using when valet parking your vehicle.

You know that I also recommend placing a preemptive tip on the dash. This further influences the care and service you receive, and it sets you up to use Step 4, which is to have your own "vehicle damage assessment form."

Any truly professional valet service will have a system in place to identify and record pre-existing vehicle damage.

This could be a high tech bank of cameras that photographs numerous sections of the car. (Something like this would more likely be found at a casino or a busy resort.)

The more typical system is an illustration of a car on the valet's ticket. Before moving the car, they will walk around it and mark the dings, dents, scrapes and scratches on that illustration. 

They do this for their own records, so that if you later claim they damaged your car, they can pull out the ticket and show you that according to the valet, this damage was there earlier.

I advocate using your own form so that your particular valet transaction is taken more seriously.

This is a ball busting move. Some of my readers may not be comfortable with it. Here it is:

It's a good practice to use this form, though it may not always be practical, (for instance — when a big event is happening and it is chaos on the driveway, or if you are simply in too big of a hurry.)


Upon arrival, take an odometer reading of your vehicle and write it on the form. Then hand it to the valet and ask that the pre-existing damage be noted. 

As I said, it's standard procedure for any professional valet service to do a vehicle damage assessment of some kind as each car arrives, so filling out your form should be second nature to them. However...

...since they probably have never before encountered a consumer handing them a form like this, this is going to be a bit shocking. Especially when you make the additional request for them to initial the form.

By this point, they will have seen that you left a tip for them on the dash. This smooths things over.

If a valet is getting paid $4 an hour, and if you are giving the valet a "preemptive tip," there's a pretty good chance that valet will accommodate you. They are going to see it. They are going to want it. End of story.

If I were the valet worker, as my way of showing appreciation for your consideration in taking care of me, I would go out-of-my-way to park your car in one of the best, safest spaces in the garage, or on the lot.

Being a valet is a hospitality and service job. The valet's job is to provide service. If you make a reasonable request, and especially if a gratuity is involved, then that valet should be all over it.

But a rookie might have a problem when hit with the request to fill-out your form. They will likely be confused and think they might get in trouble for filling it out. So to make sure they are not exposing themselves to a write-up, or worse, they will be likely to call over a co-worker who is more experienced, or a supervisor or manager.


That's what you want!

Get that rookie away from your car!

The experienced valet will size up the situation quickly. He (or she) will see the tip on the dash, and they are going to want it. Without further delay, this valet should fill-out the form with various marks for whatever scratches, dents and other damage are found.

If for some reason the valet refuses to initial the form, get their name and write it on the form yourself, and do this in a way so that they see you writing their name.

NOTE: Don't rely on their name tag being accurate. They may have lost theirs and could be using somebody's else's name tag. So ask them their name.

Have the valet point out the damage they found, so that it is clear to you.

A further ball-busting move is to photograph that damage, which could be especially useful with existing grind marks on your wheels, because fresh NEW grind marks can happen. 

So the experienced valet is likely to accommodate your form request and also likely to take-over the care of your car.

It will be quite clear from your Valet Client Photo ID or Codeword Method card and vehicle damage assessment form that you are NO ORDINARY VALET CUSTOMER.

They will know that they absolutely cannot screw-up with this car. (Because you know what you are doing.) 

The rookie will be directed to handle another car. The experienced valet will be the one to move your car. (It's much better for you when a valet — who has moved thousands of cars — is the one handling yours, rather than somebody with barely any experience.)

Step 4 ends with you receiving your claim ticket and walking away with the completed form in your pocket. (This form should not be left in your car.)

NOTE: It might be a good idea to say to the valet "Hold still. Look straight ahead." and snap a photo of this person's face. This would flush out somebody who is impersonating a valet worker. It might sound crazy, but incidents do happen where the valet customer hands their keys to somebody who is pretending to be a valet worker. And then their car is gone!

If you have the slightest apprehension that something isn't right, listen to that feeling. Pause. Turn the car off. Remove the key from the vehicle. It's time to be a ball buster.

Ask: "How do I know if you are a real valet?"

Say: "I need to take a photo of your face.... (Whip out the smartphone. Take a shot.) What's your name? Let me see your driver's license. (Photograph the driver's license. Make sure it is a clear shot. Then put the phone away.) Which company do you work for? Where will you be parking my car? How much does it cost? What is the procedure for getting it back? Can I call ahead of time to have it waiting for me? What's the number? Is there anyone else here who can verify that you are a real valet worker?"

Make sure you get a claim ticket. And this valet should be wearing a uniform and should have a name tag.

No uniform? No name tag? There could be a problem.

If it still doesn't feel right — AT ANY TIME — no need to be polite in this situation. Fuck it. Just get in your car and LEAVE!

Encountering an impostor valet is not very likely, but sometimes criminals will do bold and foolish things. And valet impersonation DOES HAPPEN. Anybody that has valet parked cars before has a good understanding about how to pull off this crime. If you sense the slightest thing is amiss, just pull away. Park someplace else.

Okay, so WHAT IF you don't want to be bothered with using a form? Here's the next best thing:

  1. Get out your smart phone and snap a shot of your odometer.

  2. Turn the car off. Keep the key in your hand.

  3. Put a tip on the dash. Say "that's for whoever is moving my car."

  4. Point your smart phone at the valet and snap a shot of his/her face.

  5. Snap a shot of their name tag.

  6. Point to the car and say: "Just so you know, it's recording. You should be extra careful and responsible with this car."

    Say it even if you don't have a video surveillance system in the car. (That's right. You bluff.)

  7. Document the condition of your vehicle with the video feature of your smart phone. Go to each rim and get a close-up. (The valet damage most likely to happen will be fresh rim scratches.)

    Shoot video underneath the front air dam. This is another area which is very vulnerable to sneaky valet damage. They can easily grind that front-end on to a curb.

    Take your time and video-tape your entire car. You are putting on a show here, making it clear they better not mess-up with your car.

  8. Get the claim ticket. Put it in your pocket. THEN hand over THE ONE KEY NECESSARY TO OPERATE THE CAR.

    One key. Not every key you have.

  9. If you are leaving any items in the car, then you should have video-taped them too, though I strongly recommend AGAINST leaving anything you don't want to lose in the car.

This is how you help to defend your car from sloppy valet work.

Whether you went hardcore at this stage or not, the next step that you ABSOLUTELY MUST DO is check your car for new damage when it is time to leave.

I will teach you about this in "Part Five."