When valet parking roulette doesn't go your way, pitching your story to a television consumer reporter is an option.

Consumers usually get results when television media gets involved.

The customer turned his 1976 Saab over to a valet worker and assumed the valet knew how to deal with his tricky and very unusual car. Big mistake! The car was not drive-able afterwards. It turns out, the car's transmission sustained $3300 worth of damage. Yow!

The hotel denied his claim. But the customer was persistent; he got an expert to say this was not ordinary wear and tear, and then he got a local TV reporter involved. He won! The hotel's insurance company paid up, thanks to the heat the television reporter brought.

Most people would have given up.

Four lessons are to be learned from this story.

  • First, you should never give an unusual car to a valet worker. I worked as a valet for nearly 2 years and never encountered an old Saab like this.

  • Second, a lot of valets cannot handle manual transmission cars. They try to learn using customer cars! And things like this happen.

  • Third, from the very beginning, if you are having an issue with a valet parking service, you should be thinking about pitching your story to a television consumer reporter. Because when they get involved, usually the doors to resolution swing wide open.

  • Fourth, dogged persistence increases your chances of prevailing.

If you're a hotel operator... I think it's better if:

  • You pay more for professional valets that know what they're doing. Forget about hiring transient workers. Help your valets to make a decent living. They will stay longer, and you will be less likely to have incidents.

  • Use some marketing. Tell the world that you have an elite, professional valet team, unlike your competitors. Be proud of your valet department.

  • And when something goes wrong, own it. Make it right, and wow your customer while you're at it. Then use that incident as a marketing event.

    Turn it around completely from what everyone else does. In the process, you win peoples' confidence. They come to trust your valets more.

    If your valet service costs more, well—the perception that the consumer gets a higher level of care and professionalism for their money might make them think it's worth it.

When hotel operators are proactive in dealing with valet parking issues, they stave off potential ass whoopings to their reputation on the internet and on TV. It's just too easy for consumers to amp up the negative karma that businesses initially sting them with. 

By being proactive in creating a higher quality valet workforce, and in delivering a quality experience to customers who have been hit with an unfortunate glitch with your valet service, you are putting up a defense against negative buzz. And you create loyalty and lifetime customers who will probably advocate for your business at various times over the years.

Your competitors have no defense. For them it's all about the short-term picture. They provide a lousy experience to valet patrons who have suffered a glitch and then they ride-out the shit storm of negative buzz. Customer relationships die fast and ugly. Toxic energy is unleashed. The word spreads like an aggressive cancer. Brands are damaged. And the monetary loss probably is substantial. It's like an act of self-sabotage. Because it didn't have to go that direction. 

I'm puzzled why so many managers take shits on the unlucky few who fall victim to their screw-ups?

As for the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle, which is a part of this valet Saab story (above), I think they did an okay job in recovering the fumble. The consumer reporter went easy on them after they decided to stop resisting their customer's efforts to get fair treatment.

But it did take the customer more than a month to get a resolution. And he did not have the use of his car for all that time, which probably sucked a lot for him.