Before valet parking, always use a smartphone to document your car's condition.

Trusting that a valet parking service will be flawless in handling all cars is a mistake. Accidents happen. You need to take precautions.

When valet parking, guard against sneaky damage by photographing the vehicle before handing over the keys.

When valet parking, guard against sneaky damage by photographing the vehicle before handing over the keys.

Interesting story...

I was speaking with Donnell, a street-smart fellow who rarely uses valet parking services.

One day he was in a situation where he had no other reasonable choice. Valet parking was the only option that made sense for him.

He told the valet worker he was really feeling uncomfortable about handing over his key. The valet told him they were pros and "Don't worry. We got you."

Donnell just didn't feel right about the situation, so he got out his smart phone and snapped shots of his car. 

Later, when he returned to get his car, a valet worker enthusiastically tried to rush Donnell out of there. However, Donnell wanted to look over his car first. And oddly, the valet appeared to be blocking Donnell's efforts to take a look at the passenger side of his car.

After Donnell told him to stop playing games, he got to see the other side of his car...

Yep, there was new damage! And of course the valet said this damage was there when Donnell brought the car in.

The manager was summoned. 

Of course, the manager said the damage was there well before Donnell had it parked by them, since his guys are professionals and don't make those sorts of mistakes. Additionally, he told Donnell that he had no way to convince him that it was their fault, so there was nothing further he could do about the damage. The manager was basically saying "case closed." 

At this point, Donnell showed the date and time-stamped photos on his smartphone that he took when he initially dropped the car off.

This evidence was the ace up Donnell's sleeve. The valet company paid for everything.

In telling me the story, Donnell said he knew he would have been screwed had he not snapped those shots at drop-off.

It's a good lesson for the rest of us.

Valet parking companies are experts at thwarting, dodging, and stalling damage claims. They are good at this. You need to have proof that they caused the damage. Using a smartphone is a great way to give yourself this type of protection.

I would also recommend shooting video of any change you are leaving in the car, and do an odometer reading.

Use the phone to also video or snap a shot of the arrival valet's face and name tag too. And make it obvious you are doing this.

If they are criminals pretending to be valets, they will probably run away at this point.

When you get the car back, start recording video. Capture the departure valet's face and go straight to where you left any change. Then direct the camera lens to the odometer.

If your change is missing, summon the manager. Tell them you want your change returned and that you demand a refund of the parking fee.

"When I pay for a luxury service like valet parking, I expect not to be robbed by the service provider. I want all of my money back."