What to do when valet damages your car...

That "hide the scratch" advice given above might work if the car is a dark color... Isn't it despicable though? Unfortunately, there are many tricks-of-the-trade like this.

If a valet damages your car, unless it is very noticeable damage, they will probably attempt to conceal the damage they caused. And once you drive away, that's it! If you find the damage later, they will tell you that a fair determination of where the damage happened cannot be made, and they will deny any claim attempt.

Damage happens a lot. And a big part of the valet business appears to be dodging damage claims.

So, if your car is damaged it's going to be you against them. Your opponent is highly experienced in these matters, and highly experienced at dodging, wiggling and squirming their way out of compensating the victims of their sloppy valet work. It's going to be an uphill battle... but YOU CAN prevail!

If you have just discovered valet-inflicted damage, the first thing you do is give yourself the right mindset. You're not a weak victim who lets people walk all over you. Instead, you're a victim who happens to be a steamroller, and you will not be denied the justice you seek.

It makes the battle so much easier if you discover the damage before you drive away.

People don't truly understand how to use valet services. They see how everybody else uses them and simply follow the pack... which is you hand over the keys. And when it is time to go you simply get in the car and leave.

That is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Unless you don't care if you got a new dent or scratch or whatever. Then it doesn't matter.

You cannot trust that these kids, or whoever they are, were perfect in handling your car.

You must VERIFY that they did the job to the standards you expected and paid them for.

This involves doing a vehicle damage audit BEFORE pulling away, and taking this step carefully and SERIOUSLY in an unhurried manner. Even if it is night-time. Even if it is raining.

Alright, let's get into the scenario...

You found the damage on location. Withhold the tip. Whip out your smartphone and take a photo of that valet's face and name tag. Ask the valet:

"How did this damage happen?" (Record the audio with your smartphone IF you know for certain that you are in a one party consent state.)

You might get a confession. (This would make your case much stronger.)

Ask: "Do you have any idea how this might have happened?"

You are gathering information. It could prove very useful, so listen carefully.

Ask: "How long have you been working here? Have you worked as a valet before? How long has it been since your last accident?"

Ask: "Where was my car parked?" 

"Who was the other valet that drove it? How long has this valet worked here?"

"Have they damaged any other cars in the past?"

Keep them talking. You are trying to get damaging information out of this person. When you have run out of questions, tell the valet to go get their manager. And while you are waiting, begin snapping shots of this damage while looking for additional damage. (Find all of it!)

Then look for witnesses. Use your smartphone to record their testimony. (Make it clear you are recording them.)

When you speak to the valet manager, you should be 100% confident and believe 100% that this damage did not exist prior to them moving your car. You will be blaming them. You will be demanding proper treatment with no bullshit. The manager should very quickly bring out a claim form for you to fill-out.

Demand an immediate refund of your parking fee(s). Do not delay in requesting this.

Request a sheet of paper. On this paper you will write your terms, so that everything is crystal clear.

  1. They will cover all repair costs at a repair facility that you approve of.

  2. They will cover the cost of a rental car that is comparable in quality and style to yours, plus the insurance costs.

    This means if they trashed your Mercedes, then you are getting a Mercedes rental car, not a Honda Fit or a Ford Fiesta. And they will be paying for all of it.

  3. You want free, unlimited parking at any parking locations of their's that you choose — for the next year.

  4. You want your drinks paid for at the bar, right now.

  5. And all you want to hear is "Yes. Yes. Yes."

If this valet operation is at a hotel, then get the hotel management involved too. Often the hotel's valet service is handled by a third party vendor, and the hotel management can bring pressure down upon the valet service to get this matter settled.

As compensation for your aggravation and inconvenience, you should push the hotel for concessions. This can involve asking for a dinner for two at the hotel's best restaurant, or a refund of your entire hotel bill plus a free stay in the future.

Just be reasonable and firm. Your demands should make sense. If they totaled your car, ask for a lot. If it's a scratch on a 20 year old clunker, they are going to laugh at you if you ask for too much.

Ask for things that are within their power. It's a great opportunity for them to win your loyalty for years to come. It's their chance to turn it around and have you so impressed that you willingly share the story of how you were so well treated after this happened to you, and you become one of their strong advocates for their brand.

But, if you are not getting cooperation, here are some ideas for your battle plan...

First, there are levels of pressure you can bring to bear upon them. These levels should come in steps, with each tactic bringing an ever higher level of pressure.

You don't go straight to all-out nuclear war.

Start-off by being cordial, yet firm. Screaming obscenities is more likely to hurt your cause and shut down the people who have the ability to resolve this matter. They will simply refuse to submit to this treatment. So take the high road and give them the opportunity to make it right. If they fail to do so, then this moves along to the next phase of your campaign.

Phase 2

If you are not getting cooperation from the managers at this location, then you reach out to managers who are the next step-up in the chain of command. Explain the situation. Specifically detail the redress you seek. Let them know by what time you expect to have this resolved. Then follow-up if they have not done anything.

Phase 3

Begin complaining on social media using the brand's Twitter address to call attention to your plight in this very public, out-in-the-open area.

Pause. Wait for a reaction. 

No response? Then escalate and amplify! Use other online channels to begin spreading the news, which is that you got burned while patronizing this business and nobody is doing anything about it.

Still no resolution? One possible next step is to offer your story to one TV news station. This type of media loves a good valet parking fiasco story. And the worse it is, the more they will love it. Being shunned by the responsible party adds even more appeal to the story.

But if no TV station is biting, then create your own media event. Make a sign and picket outside of the venue where your car got damaged, and invite all the TV news stations and the other members of the press to stop on by with their cameras.

Their participation often makes the opponent cry "uncle." Really!

But if this is not doing the job, then there is letter writing to be done to the top executives at the companies involved.

Sometimes valet companies are steadfast in resisting, and you are forced to file a claim through your own insurance company. 

If you discover the damage after you drove away...

...this isn't a good thing. And the more time that passes between when you were there and when you find the damage, the lesser your leverage.

Get back there as soon as you can and start with the steps I recommend. Brush aside any talk that since you drove away, they can't do anything about it. Just ignore that completely and press ahead for fair treatment. Be firm. Be resolute. And make it clear that you are not like everybody else who simply gives up. Make it clear that there is only one way this ends, and that is with them making it right.

The best thing for them to do is just accept this fact and move forward with bringing this incident to a close right now.

* * *

Those are some ideas on how to handle a damage situation. For more knowledge about how to best use valet parking services, I've prepared a 6 part series about intelligently using valet parking services. It begins HERE. Check it out!

Also, I found a good article on bailments (legal stuff). This knowledge can help you. Take a look.

Helpful Article: Always check your car for sneaky damage before driving away from a valet parking service.

Do you have any ideas on how to get a damage situation resolved? Leave it in the comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

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