The risks of using a brand new on-demand valet parking service.

If you have to catch a plane, add in an hour of cushion time if you will be using an on-demand valet parking service.

Busy Boston... where finding a convenient parking space is an issue.

Busy Boston... where finding a convenient parking space is an issue.

When a new "on-demand" valet parking service rolls into town, it can be tempting to try out the new service, since generous discount codes may be circulating on the internet. Those who are among the very first in a city to try on-demand valet parking PROBABLY will receive timely service. 

But as the buzz of the new services spreads, the potential crush of users puts you at risk for having issues.

First, you might think that you will just roll-up to your destination and the valet you ordered will be there waiting for you. And you might think that this is going to be super convenient and will save a lot of time.

But, SOMETIMES the request for a valet meet-up—that you assumed was rock-solid—gets abruptly cancelled as you are moments away from the rendezvous point. When this happens either you send in another request for a valet and hope this transaction actually materializes in a prompt fashion, or you abandon Plan A and find a parking spot on your own.

(I have seen the complaints on Twitter. Sometimes people plan their morning in a way that makes the valet hand-off vital, and then they are taken by surprise when the app suddenly cancels their request.)

If you are successful in getting a smooth valet hand-off, there is a risk it could take a long time to have your car returned to you.

If you have a time critical mission, placing your vehicle into the possession of any valet service is risky. But a brand new on-demand valet service is even riskier because the parking facility your car was parked in could be a good distance away.

Some people have complained of hour waits to get their cars back. And it may not always be the valet service's fault:

Other times there can be technical issues or other growing pains...

On-demand valet parking is a difficult business to run. When the service is under stress with a crush of activity, if they are not prepared for it, you could be in for a miserable delay.

Since all the workers are brand new, there is a very real possibility that they have zero valet parking experience and zero familiarity with your model of car. This can invite all sorts of negative possibilities, such as...

...if it begins to pour rain while they are driving your car to the parking facility, they might not be able to figure out how to activate your wipers. This increases the chance of an accident with your car.

* * *

A traditional valet service parks their customer's cars nearby. On the other hand, an on-demand valet parking company leases parking spaces in a less expensive parking facility that probably will be a good distance from your location. This means they are driving your car longer, which increases the chance of an incident.

Brand new valet workers definitely pose greater risk. I recommend you read through my article: "The special risks of brand new valet services..."

There is one big advantage to on-demand valet parking... LOWER CHANCE YOUR CAR WILL BE STOLEN.

On-demand valet parking services require a hand-off code before handing over the keys to you. In comparison, a lot of regular valet workers will hand you the key if you merely act like you own the car.

And when your initial hand-over takes place, your car is the only car the valet is handling, so it's not going to sit with the engine running unattended, which is another way criminals steal valet parked cars.

Though if the valet is doing a vehicle damage assessment* before driving away—while your engine is running, it certainly is possible an opportunistic criminal could hop into the driver's seat while the valet is inspecting the passenger side of the car.

To lessen this possibility, turn your car off upon meeting the valet and place your ONE CAR KEY into the hand of the valet (after you have verified their hand-over code).

FYI: With any valet service, damage can happen. Be sure to thoroughly inspect your car immediately upon receiving it back.

Of course, all of the usual valet parking shenanigans are still possible with on-demand valet parking...

I am wondering how long it will be before a dashcam captures footage of an on-demand valet abusing a customer's car... (?)


* A "vehicle damage assessment" is usually done by valet companies prior to moving any car. The valet will study the car for dings, dents and scratches and jot down damage notes on an illustration of a car on the valet ticket. This information is later used to defend against any damage claims. 

Related Article: Zirx offering "$500 signing bonus and up to $30+ per hour" for valet workers in San Francisco. (Article discusses beaten down moral of some of the valet company's front-line workers.)