Suckering valet companies into paying for damage they didn't cause. Should you do it?

People who deliberately set-out to cheat a valet service into paying for vehicle damage — which in reality they are not at all responsible for — appears to be rare. But there are people who do attempt to defraud valet parking companies this way.

Notice the cameras along the wall. These systems can save valet companies a lot of money in reduced damage claim payouts.

Notice the cameras along the wall. These systems can save valet companies a lot of money in reduced damage claim payouts.

Above, a bank of cameras records the exterior condition of each vehicle that valets drive through this parking garage entrance chute. Some casinos, resorts and and high volume hotels have these fancy camera systems. For high volume valet parking operations, anything that can lower damage claim payouts is an important tool.

But most valet locations either cannot afford a set-up like this or it is logistically not feasible.

The industry standard is for the valet worker to inspect the car as soon as it arrives. They walk around it and note damage on a small diagram which is usually printed on a section of the valet ticket. Often these damage markings are not comprehensive. Sometimes this entire damage assessment step is skipped.

Sloppy or non-existent "vehicle damage assessments" by the arrival valet will open the door to claims fraud.

There are generally three categories of damage incidents:

  1. Damage caused by the valet service.

  2. Damage caused to a vehicle before it was handed over to a valet service, which the vehicle owner is unaware of.

  3. Damage caused to a vehicle before it was handed over to a valet service WHICH THE VEHICLE OWNER KNOWS ABOUT.

Some people have figured out that it's possible to bring a damaged car to a valet service, then accuse them of causing the damage in order to get the car repaired for free.

It's a low-life thing to do to a business, but people do this, and if you are accusing a valet service of damaging your car, the first thing a valet manager will be looking at is whether your claim is legitimate or an attempt to screw them into paying for damage they are not responsible for.

From time to time, category 2 damage claims happen. People are nervous about using valet parking services, they get their car back, and suddenly preexisting damage they never noticed before pops out at them and they begin making waves about it. 

So the valet companies rely on their employees to find this damage when cars arrive and document the damage so they can better defend against these types of claims.

But then there are the category 3 damage claims. The scoundrels who are attempting to cheat a valet service into paying for damage they didn't cause will generally OVER PLAY the role of the aggrieved car owner. They over act. The behavior displayed becomes exaggerated. And this subtle difference in behavior casts immediate doubt in the eyes of the valet manager on who is to blame.

I remember one customer was accusing us of damage that didn't match with our parking operation. There was just no way we could have caused this particular type of damage. Then the customer identified more damage. Then the customer accused us of driving his car for miles. The customer was screaming, cursing, near the point of tears. It wasn't the normal behavior that customers exhibit when they find new damage. It was just over-the-top.

In the end this customer's claims were denied and the customer was told not to return.

Some of these amateur con artists probably think the valet company has great insurance and the scam won't hurt the valet business. But that's not how it works.

Valet companies generally have very large deductibles. It could be $5000, $10,000, $25,000. So every damage claim is deeply painful to these companies. And whether a claim is legitimate or not, most valet companies will do all they can to stall, dodge and evade any payout. 

So if you're thinking you're going to pay $20 for valet parking somewhere, then make them pay for your preexisting dings and scratches, you can expect to be in an uphill battle. It isn't going to be easy. And if the valet service is using a camera system to document your preexisting damage, you can pretty much forget about pulling this stunt on them.