Part 3: Top Valet Online Training Course

 

Other topics to help you quickly advance in valet competency...

"Posting up" is one of the things that wasn't mentioned in that "new hire training guide" you received yesterday.

Sitting, leaning against things... it doesn't look good.

The valet service you eventually end up working with is probably going to want you to post-up when there is nothing else to do. You would stand at attention with your arms behind you.

And there are different posting positions. Where I worked, two valets would post up at the front entrance, ready to open the doors. Other valets posted up beside the support columns that held up the canopy.

They also aren't going to be pleased if you are standing there playing with your phone. 

You can't have phone conversations with friends while you are supposed to be working.

I would recommend to you that you leave the phone at home, or hidden in your car. Because guess what? Valets lose their phones in the valet business!

They accidentally leave them in customer cars. Phones can slip out of a pocket sometimes.

We're running, squatting, twisting. Phones fall out of pockets. You can definitely lose it.

This happened to a couple guys I worked with. It's a miserable thing to go through. The last time it happened, the phone actually turned up 6 or 7 weeks later. The phone had slipped under the seat, and when the owner finally found it, somehow he figured out it belonged to one of us.

Another thing with phones is they can lead to accidents. Our company had an incident where a valet totaled 2 cars because he was texting. And I saw a collision with my own eyes that happened because the valet was driving while playing with his phone.

Now, some argue that the phone is a useful business tool enabling rapid communication... for example if you take a car to the garage and then the customer realizes they forgot their phone, the boss can just call you and say "Bring the phone with you." That's great. But I think when you weigh the advantages and disadvantages, based upon my 2 years of experience, it's best just to turn the phone off and not carry it while at work.

Lightning

Valet companies don't care if there is a lightning storm. Customers don't care. They want their car and they expect you to run and get it, right now!

Valets work outdoors. This is a definite hazard.

I came within 40 feet of a lightning strike when I was in the lawn business. The tree violently exploded right in front of my eyes. Large splinters of wood flew everywhere.

Holy shit.

I was never afraid of lightning until right then.

If there are tall structures around, this lessens the risk. But if you are dealing with a big flat parking lot, and there is an electrical storm happening overhead, this little bit of money you're making isn't worth your life. If it were me in that position, I would take a stand and say "Nobody is going out there until the danger passes."

Valet managers are typically young men who have moved up in the ranks from being regular valet guys. And they don't have the duration of life experience that I have. 

If they are expecting you to go out there while lightning is happening, they might need somebody to say "Open your eyes. It's not safe right now."

There are other ways you could get seriously injured while doing this work. Here's one:

Valet charged with shooting co-worker to death on Boston Street

Your own co-worker might blow you away! 

Don't make enemies with people on the street. If you treat somebody in a way that inspires their animosity towards you, it isn't a good thing. In writing this, I'm thinking about my time working in Philly. So many people have guns. You have to be careful.

Sometimes things go badly... like everybody wanting to leave all at one time, and there's nowhere near enough valets. The customers can get really angry. Like, a one hour wait for people to get their cars results in some really agitated people.

Sometimes arguments flair up among staff members. Sometimes drunk guests start a brawl. It's not typical. But I have seen a few incidents.

We had a guest who was being evicted by a security officer, and the guest sucker punched the security guy. My boss subdued the attacker until help arrived.

Anyway, try to avoid starting a fight with co-workers or anybody else. Be professional. 

If you do start a fight, it's a scandal for your employer and the venue, and you will probably lose your job.

Yes, this sort of thing happens. It almost happened to me one time. Some guy in a loud Porsche Boxster had just stiffed me. Then he called me over. I thought "Alright, here comes the tip." 

Now, I happen to think that if I'm bringing out a Porsche and it's a MANUAL, that deserves a higher than normal tip.

Okay, so the car is loud like it has a hole in the muffler. The convertible top is down and I am standing on the passenger side. So that I could hear him clearly, I stepped closer to the car. It turns out this dick just wanted directions. He was stiffing me again.

As soon as I finished giving directions, he popped the clutch while aggressively accelerating. My left foot was in the path of his right rear tire! That fuck'n asshole ALMOST ran over my foot! I got lucky — my reflexes swung my foot away in time.

It was very close.

When he came back, I told him about what had nearly happened, in a cordial way. He complained to the hotel! How twisted is that? He didn't give me a chance to step away from the car, almost put me in the hospital, and he was complaining that I bothered him with this.

My boss told me I should have just kept my mouth shut. (Which I disagree with.) 

You will be running into screwed-up people like this.

Another very real danger is somebody forgetting to put a car in park. Even I have done this. If somebody with my experience can do it, anybody can do it.

I was in a big hurry. I put this car in park real quick and hopped out of the car... but it didn't actually go into park. It began to roll forward. A t-bone collision with another parked car was imminent! But I managed to stop it in time.

That was embarrassing!

I have seen other valets do it too. And valets aren't the only ones who can make this mistake.

Long before I worked at the hotel there was an accident involving exactly this sort of thing. It pinned a valet's legs against the bumper of another car (he was getting luggage out). He eventually died months later as a result of complications from that injury. 

Driveway safety is a serious thing to be concerned about. Be especially careful if there are little kids around. They don't comprehend the danger that exists on "the ramp."

Little kids can dart right in front of you. They could be behind you, out of sight of the mirrors. You really need to concentrate when you are moving these cars.

Reverse

One thing I would definitely advise against is driving fast in reverse. Any time you are backing up, you are at heightened risk of a collision. 

I've seen new guys showing off by backing up way too fast on the driveway. You don't need to prove your driving skill to the guys. And that kind of recklessness is a sure-fire way to make the manager re-evaluate his hiring decision.

 

If you manage to stay in the business for any good length of time, you are going to see damaged caused by valets backing up.

I can say that as a new guy, you are much more at risk of causing one of these incidents. You must always be extremely careful with backing up. Make sure there is no bike rack on the back. If there is, this requires the vehicle be parked in a safer spot so that other valets are less likely to back into the rack.

The customer is number one.

When a customer arrives, it's action time. You must now play the role of the eager, enthusiastic and friendly valet.

If you are an introverted person, then consider this an acting performance. The driveway is your stage. The customer (and your boss) is the audience.

It's natural to be uncertain of yourself when you're new. But as you handle more and more cars, the whole act becomes a routine thing.

It probably will be exciting to drive all sorts of nice cars. I drove so many of them that it actually became no big deal to me. I drove them just like any other car.

My personal favorites were:

  • a Tesla Roadster — it felt like a go-kart.
  • a manual transmission Jeep with the top and doors off — I simply enjoyed it.
  • and I always enjoyed driving a 662 horsepower Shelby. That was my kind of car. I felt right at home in it.

I drove fancier cars, of course. A Rolls Royce gets you instant respect on the road. People give you extra room. Those cars are big. Sort of like driving a truck. 

We had a regular guest who often had a Rolls. One day his driver scratched a rim on it. The owner said to him "You just cost me $4000."

(Some valet services will not accept high value cars because they don't have the insurance coverage for it.) 

If you ultimately get to drive a real exotic, like a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maclaren or Ford GT, then you achieved something in your valet career that I didn't. Super fancy sports cars like that almost always stayed "up front," and the valets didn't touch them.

If you do get the chance to drive one, you can't play around with it. They are far too dangerous. My neighbor killed himself in a rented Lamborghini, along with his passenger and another driver — who was working 2 jobs to support his 6 kids. My neighbor was the Fonzie of my neighborhood. He had a modified Buick Grand National that ran on alcohol. He even raced it at drag strips. So he was experienced with fast cars. But he fucked up, and that was it. Really sad. Especially because the guy who is now with his wife is nowhere near as cool. (That guy wanted to fight me over something dumb. Huge disappointment that I got this nerd in my neighborhood now. WTF...) I don't think my neighborhood friend really understood how fast that car was. 

You will probably see other valets driving cars roughly. That is unprofessional. Ordinarily, this turns into a monkey see, monkey do sort of thing, and everybody on the team ends up driving like this.

Take the job and your responsibilities seriously. Don't be like the others.

(And if you have the chance to drive a new Tesla, which you probably will, know that the owner can figure out where you drove the car and how fast you probably drove it.) 

Social Media

My recommendation to you is not to post ANYTHING on social media about:

  • working as a valet,
  • where you work,
  • who you served, no matter how famous they are. 

I have seen some really dumb shit posted on Twitter by valets, like bragging about:

  • driving fast,
  • being high on the job,
  • drinking on the job,
  • farting intentionally in the cars, etc.

Journalists are always looking for stories, and dumb valet tweets could be used in one of those stories.

You should also be aware that at any time a television news crew could rig up hidden cameras and perform a sting operation with YOUR valet service. 

All you should be doing is driving the car reasonably, without other team members in the car, parking it, locking it up, and leaving. Don't linger in the car. Don't sit there with the air conditioning on, playing with the stereo, looking in the assorted bins in the console, talking on your phone, making yourself at home in the car, etc. It could all be captured on video.

It's business only. Just park it and go. Be professional.

Discretion

Discretion is a part of the job. If you got stiffed by a top athlete who just signed a $20 million contract, you don't go on social media to tell the world what a chump he is for not tipping.

If the mayor walks by you appearing drunk and fondling a known prostitute, you don't whip out your phone and snap a shot, or disclose it on social media.

If a high profile guest is stoned out of his mind, or left sex toys in their room, this is information you keep to yourself. It's called discretion.

Similarly, you need to be careful about what you say to people. Some people don't want to have any conversation with you. They don't want to be bothered. Others are friendlier and don't mind revealing what the purpose of their visit is or where they are from. 

Some will have just had a shitty experience inside the property. Often in this circumstance, they will not be treating you in a pleasant way. As I mentioned in yesterday's training manual, if a customer is clearly disgruntled or dissatisfied about something, try to get some details so that the venue can follow-up with the customer to try to salvage that customer relationship.

You're going to be on the receiving end of mistreatment by customers. This is part of the business. Try to let it roll off of you. Don't take it like a dagger to the heart. Let it go and move on to the next customer encounter.

You are not doing transactions. You are creating experiences for your guests.

People enjoy the luxury of having somebody rush to open their car door, assist them with their luggage with eagerness. Make it seem like you are glad they are here. You have the power to uplift them, to make them feel special. Go for it!

And when they are leaving, thank them for visiting your specific property and say that "we all hope to see you again soon."

It will set a good example to your fellow valets. It will show your boss that you are on-the-ball, and it probably will boost-up your tip income, which will impress your team.

Every interaction you have with a guest is an opportunity to earn a tip.

If they are doing a group shot, volunteer to shoot the photo, and shoot at least 5 from different positions. I say "one, two, three" then I snap a photo. "One, two, three" then I snap another photo. They think I'm a professional camera guy.

If they look lost, ask how you could be of assistance.

Learn your local area so that you can give directions and point people towards local businesses and attractions.

Build your value to them. This is how you get extra tips.

Determine how the valet service wants you to handle minor damage.

If a scratch happens, if a ding happens, a dent, whatever... do they want you to be proactive in telling the customer, or do they want you to keep your mouth shut and hope that the customer doesn't notice it?

In my own experience, I found that if a car got damaged, the boss didn't want to hear about it.

Where I worked, the deductible was $25,000. That meant that any damage that happened as a result of a valet's negligence was very costly, and painful.

Most valet services will dodge a damage claim if at all possible. Yours will probably be a scoundrel about these matters too.

Though if the damage is bad, I observed that usually we would take responsibility for it.

The problem with causing damage is it can result in your firing. So don't damage any cars.

An opportunity to be beyond ordinary.

This valet position you seek doesn't just have to be a means of making a few bucks. It can be an opportunity for personal growth and a vehicle to develop your customer service and hustle skills. And it can be the springboard to better things.

From my own experience, I found a disconnect between the valet company's upper management and their front-line employees. And they apparently didn't even realize it.

I saw flaws in the business everywhere. I saw morale problems. And I saw internal politics. Internal politics was actually more important than effecting beneficial change. The company said they were interested in shaking things up, but it was all just talk. Business as usual was all they were interested in.

They said they cared about their people. But it was all a big lie.

Maybe you are the one to bring about the change this industry needs? Maybe you will pioneer a new and better version of this service by starting your own valet company someday? It is within reach if this is what interests you.  

So far you have gotten an overview of the valet business, you have seen the new hire training guide I wrote for the valet service at a luxury hotel, and you received additional information today to accelerate your learning curve.

I recommend you get some insights from the consumer's side of things by reading through my 6 part series titled "The Smart Way To Use Valet Parking Services."

Then proceed to the final installment of the Top Valet Online Training Program, which will be Part 4.