I was doing some web surfing and found yet another on-demand valet parking company. This one is Swayo in Boston, which is operating in private beta testing mode right now.
They join Spotlight Parking, which is not yet operational. (I will take a guess they are waiting for Boston's snow to melt?)
Valet Anywhere is operating in New York City and lists San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia as their next targets.
Zirx is up and running in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.
Luxe Valet is running in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They have plans to expand to Boston, Chicago and Seattle.
Caarbon in San Francisco has gone quiet.
Vatler is another on-demand valet parking company in San Francisco that has gone quiet.
I found a help wanted ad for Luxe Valet in Chicago today. I was surprised to see that their valet workers are hired as independent contractors. This means the valets will be paying 15.3% of their (declared) income for social security and medicare taxes (instead of splitting the tax with their employer).
It means if Luxe can't figure out how to make their business succeed, their valets will not be entitled to unemployment compensation.
And my greatest concern is that their workers apparently have no protection from injury through an employer provided workers compensation plan.
These valets are running, skateboarding and using scooters in busy urban environments. As Luxe Valet expands, it probably is inevitable that work related injuries are going to happen.
Just a few days ago a valet in Cleveland was struck and run over while holding a driver's side door open for his customer. A witness tweeted that the victim got dragged 160 feet. He's lucky to still be alive:
That night he was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Can you imagine the cost of that emergency care?
I'm assuming his employer's workers compensation insurance plan will be paying for all those bills and providing this young man a level of wage replacement while he recovers.
That's what employer provided workers compensation is for — to provide a safety net when a work related injury happens.
Here's an incident where the customer intentional drove her car into the valet.
It's easy to get hurt in the valet business.
When I was a valet worker, I nearly got my foot run over by a customer who was in a big hurry to leave. A foot has 26 bones in it. I could have been out of work for a long time. My foot may have never been normal again after that.
I also got injured twice on the job with running related injuries.
It's easy to make a mistake and get hit by a car when you are in a hurry to deliver fast service — so that your customer is pleased.
It's easy to fall on a slick surface and get hurt.
It's easy to screw-up, trip and land on your face.
It's easy to have heat exhaustion sneak up on you.
Valet companies expect their workers to run for cars when lightning storms are raging overhead.
Auto accidents happen.
I know of two valets that died from their work related injuries, both involving crush injuries.
And what if you get mugged while on the job? These are urban environments. Things can and do happen. Criminals like to steal smartphones. Violent carjacking is always a possibility. A criminal may assume that a valet is loaded full of tip money. As an on-demand valet, you probably are on your own with no posse of fellow valets nearby to help you out, or to provide the element of deterrence.
If you somehow get hurt on the job, it looks like it's tough luck if you are valeting for Luxe. (It appears Zirx has a similar setup. UPDATE: 5/18/15 Just saw a Zirx help wanted ad which says they provide "occupational work insurance while working." Good. At least there is some protection.)
A lot of traditional valet companies pay their workers peanuts — as low as $2.13 an hour in 19 states. That's shitty.
But it's also shitty, in my opinion, to go the 1099 route and not provide financial protection for the people that are hustling their asses off to provide prompt service to valet customers in all sorts of weather conditions.
This is a flaw.
I hope these workers are paid well in return for what they are giving up by submitting to being independent contractors.