About hiring a valet parking service for your restaurant... PART ONE

Valet parking leads to disgruntled customers. Period.

If I had a restaurant that didn't really need valet parking, then I would avoid bringing this service to my property... because too much goes wrong.

Cars get damaged and then nobody informs the customer. They drive home and later realize they have brand new valet-inflicted damage. The valet service then tells them: "I'm sorry but we are not liable because you drove off the lot... and now a fair determination of where the damage actually happened cannot be made."

(Valet services at experts at dodging damage claims.)

Then the customer appeals to you for a remedy. Are you going to pay the repair bill? Probably not. If you're a typical restaurateur you're going to say it's the valet company's problem, not yours. Talk to them.

Now you have lost a customer, and all the business you could have had with them in the future, along with all the positive word-of-mouth they could have produced for you over those years.

When a customer is screwed-over by a valet service, there is a good chance they are going to tell people about it. 

Their story of woe will be told to their Facebook friends. They will have a photo of the damage on their Instagram account. They will embarrass your business by posting the photo on Twitter, and they will be sure your Twitter followers have a good opportunity to see and know how lousy an experience they had at your business.

They will give you a 1 star review on Yelp and share the complete story there.

They will strike at your online reputation on TripAdvisor too, and who knows where else?

They might even reach out to a consumer reporter at a local TV station. News stations LOVE valet parking fiasco stories.

Are you getting a picture of the risks?

Well this is just part of it.

Valets move the seats. Sometimes they adjust the steering wheel. Sometimes they move the mirrors. This annoys a lot of people.

And many valets can't keep their fingers off the stereo. 

They'll change the station. Sometimes they will even change the presets.

Does it get any worse?


The spare change in any cup-holder will be highly likely to disappear.

Sunglasses can disappear, especially if they are the expensive kind.

Valets will take the phone charger.

They will take any snacks left in the car.

Gum? Yah, they will take that too. Valets will even steal an air freshener.

And definitely the weed. That weed is as good as gone.

And of course if you have money stashed in the car, or something of value like an iPad or phone, or even your music... all of it can easily disappear.

And then there are the problems of keys disappearing. Yes valet services do lose keys. Sounds bizarre, right? But it happens. Probably the most common way keys are lost is when valet workers leave keys in other peoples' cars accidentally. When those cars leave, the keys leave too, and nobody has any idea where the keys could be.

Notice I wrote "keys," not "key." Most consumers make the terrible mistake of giving valet companies the keys to their lives: house key, office key, mail box key, and on and on. So when a valet service loses somebody's keys, it becomes a major stressful event for that person.

Next we have the matter of aggressive driving.

The workers are typically young men who naturally don't have a fully developed, mature brain yet. Genetically they are wired to pursue adventure, risk, thrills and pleasure. Which means they are going to do some hot-rodding!

There are fake radar detectors that are actually surveillance cameras. Some cars have built-in surveillance abilities. So there is the very real risk of video footage featuring one of the valets at your restaurant making the evening news because they went 50 mph in a parking lot and did a few power slides with your customer's car.

Typically, valet managers are not spending any time observing how their employees are driving the cars. Behind the boss' back, monkey business certainly happens at many valet parking operations. Some brag about it on Twitter. (They're proud of it.)

When you get a celebrity customer who doesn't tip the valet, guess what? The valet is probably going to tweet about how this high profile customer of yours is such a cheap, classless chump because he didn't even tip a dollar to the valets at XYZ Restaurant.

Do you think that customer and his/her guests will be back?

When they're bored, valets are going to shoot selfies and ussies of themselves in front of your building giving the camera their middle finger while laughing.

They might even post a video of themselves singing a tasteless, profanity-filled song while in uniform in front of your business... because they're bored. 

Unfortunately, valet workers have even killed people while on the job. Venue operators can get dragged into big lawsuits this way.

So are you sure you want to hire a valet parking service to park and retrieve your customers' cars?

Something else that goes wrong... under-staffing.

People go crazy with irritation when it takes too long to get their car back. And long waits happen all the time.

Something else that happens: cars disappear! 

Sometimes a valet will give car keys to somebody who portrays themselves to be the vehicle owner when in reality they are just criminals looking for an easy way to get a car.

Sometimes crimes of opportunity happen... where a valet has left a car running with the keys in it... and suddenly the car is no longer there.

Sometimes a criminal merely grabs a bunch of keys out of the unlocked valet kiosk, runs to the parking lot, and begins pressing key fob buttons to see which car is nearby (so it can be driven away).

Besides all of this, then there are the mannerisms of the valets. Some will be completely rude, unfriendly, and show no urgency towards retrieving a car. Some will belittle a customer for giving too small a tip. Some will make inappropriate romantic overtures towards ladies, even if they clearly have dates.

Typical valet parking services bring a lot of risk to businesses. This is reality. Problems will happen. There will be angry people. There will be people who attack your online reputation because of the lousy valet service they received. It's going to happen. And you will lose customers from time to time.

Is the valet service worth it? Will the benefits of having it outweigh the negative aspects of it?