Most people believe they know what they're doing when turning a car over to a valet parking service. What about you? Let's see:
- Before valet parking...
a.) I clean the car out of all valuables.
b.) I turn the stereo to a cool station.
c.) I make sure my car is clean.
d.) I do nothing special. I'm busy!
- After arriving at the valet location...
a.) I leave my keys in the car and collect the valet claim ticket.
b.) I leave the car key in the car and collect the valet claim ticket.
c.) I shut the car off, step out of the car with the key in my hand, I use my smart phone to photograph the valet's face, then I photograph all sides of my car, and then after I receive a claim ticket and I'm certain this is a real valet worker I hand over the one key necessary to operate the car.
d.) I put a tip on the dash in front of the steering wheel, take my claim ticket and go.
- If I am about to valet park at a 5 star property and need to leave things of value in the car, it is likely I'll have no problems because it is a 5 star property.
- If I am driving a full-size pick-up...
a.) The chances of something going wrong are no different than other cars.
b.) The valet will be happy to have leg room.
c.) My chances of damage will be higher.
- If I am driving a manual transmission car...
a.) Of course the valet company will be able to handle it.
b.) Valet companies always have at least one manual transmission expert working.
c.) The lifespan of my clutch will almost certainly be shortened.
d.) Valets will learn how to drive stick with my car.
- When claiming my car from the valet service...
a.) I should have a tip ready to go, $2 or more, no coins.
b.) I understand that the tip is included in the price of parking.
c.) If I find they moved my seat, no tip. Screw'em.
- And typically when my car is returned...
a.) I tip the valet, get in my car and go.
b.) I photograph the valet's face, inspect every square foot of my car's exterior, I make sure nothing was stolen from inside the car, verify that the odometer shows they didn't take my car on a trip, and if everything is okay, then as a courtesy I tip the valet.
c.) I tip the valet, get in my car and go. Later I double check that I have no new dings, dents and scrapes.
- When tipping a valet worker...
a.) I tip on departure, after I get my car back.
b.) I tip on arrival and departure.
c.) I don't tip because I don't usually carry small bills.
- If a valet parking company damages my car...
a.) They will accept responsibility. Their insurance will cover it.
b.) The valet probably won't tell me about it, and might even position the car in a way so that it is unlikely I will see the damage they caused.
c.) They will probably tell me the damage was already there when I first arrived.
d.) They will stall, delay and avoid any damage claim I pursue with them, even though everything is clearly their fault.
- If I am valet parking a rental car...
a.) Who gives a shit? I bought the damage waiver. They can do what they want with it.
b.) It is more likely they will give my car away to somebody else.
c.) Rental cars should never be valet parked.
How do you think you did?
- Making sure the interior of your car is not disgusting would be a considerate thing to do. Lots of people have pigpens for cars.
However, the most important thing to do is to clean your car out of all items of value before you leave home. So the best answer is "A."
Don't leave anything in your car that you don't want stolen. This includes phones, GPS devices, toll highway transponders, spare change, your gun, your iPad, your weed, your air freshener, your pen, your gum. There are valets who will steal anything.
Valets also are prone to neglecting to ensure that all windows are rolled up and all doors are locked.
- Answer "A" would be a mistake. Never give the valet more than the one key necessary to operate the car. Because valets lose keys. And if you give them all the keys to your life and they lose your ring of keys, you're screwed. So don't do "A." In fact, make sure you bring a spare key to your car with you—in case they lose the key you gave them.
Answer "B" is better, since it involves one key. But to just collect the claim ticket and go on your way is not how it should be done.
Answer "C." This is more like it. Shut the damn car off. I don't care what other supposed experts say. Shut it off and keep the key in your hand.
Use your smartphone to photograph the valet's face. If they are a phony valet, they will probably be running down the street within 3 seconds. The photograph move is meant to flush out a criminal posing as a valet.
You shut the car off and keep the key in your hand so that it is more difficult for a criminal to hop into your driver's seat and peel out of the driveway.
And by having control of the key, you have control of everything else.
Walk around your car and snap photos of your car from all angles. These date and time stamped shots are your proof of the vehicle's condition immediately before their valets started driving it.
When you are done snapping photos, and if the valet is still there, collect the claim ticket, then hand over the one key necessary to operate the car. Then put that claim ticket safely in your pocket. It's like currency. If somebody else finds it, they can use it to claim your car. SO DON'T LOSE IT.
As for answer "D," preemptive tipping is a good idea. More about this shortly.
- The answer is "B." It doesn't matter if you are valet parking at the fanciest place. Valet workers cannot be trusted to secure the car or not to steal things from your car. (Reality.)
- The answer is "C." If you valet park a full-size pick-up truck, the chances are definitely higher that it is going to get damaged.
Generally, valet workers learn to drive with small cars. When they get hired to be valets, they usually have no experience at all in driving these larger vehicles. And if the parking facility has lots of tight turns and tight spaces... it means trouble for you.
Pick-up truck damage happens way too often in the valet business.
- The answer is both "C" and "D."
It's difficult to hire valet workers who have manual transmission competency. Expect your clutch to get fried, and for the valets to be learning how to drive stick-shift cars by practicing with YOUR CAR. (Really.)
My recommendation: avoid valet parking if you have a manual transmission car.
- The answer is "A." Don't give them coins. They hate running with change in their pockets. A $2 tip is the absolute minimum. And that is a cheap tip too. Tipping one dollar is a smack in the face.
If valet parking is free, you still need to tip. Don't be an asshole.
- The answer is most definitely "B." You have to find the damage before you pull away. If you find the damage after you have left, it's too late. Your chances of getting compensation for that damage drop to near zero.
You must do a damage audit immediately. Make sure everything is okay before you tip that valet. If the line is long and you are holding up traffic, it's a "tough shit" situation for them. Do your inspection. Be thorough. It is absolutely critical that you check your car over thoroughly... unless you don't care if they diminished the value of your car by screwing it up.
- I recommend "B." Deploy the bulk of your tip on arrival to influence the quality of care your car is about to receive. Five bucks on the dash is good.
As a courtesy, if everything is okay and there is no new damage, $2 on the way out is a nice thing to do.
Tipping only at the end is not good use of the power of the tip. That tip does nothing to undo any lack of care or respect your car received. But a nice tip upfront is more likely to be appreciated, and more likely to get your car parked in a better, safer space.
- The answer is B, C and D. Sure, they probably have insurance... with a $5000 deductible. Maybe even a $25,000 deductible. So this means every damage claim hurts them badly.
They are experts at dodging damage claims. It's not going to be easy to get a fair resolution, unless you get lucky somehow.
- The answer is B and C.
That damage waiver you bought for your rental car will probably be useless, since it only applies to authorized drivers of the car, which means the exact people designated in the rental agreement.
From what I have read with car rental agreements, nobody else is allowed to drive the rental car unless it is in writing with the rental company.
Also, it's easier for people to assume a rental is their's. They will tip the valet, get in your rental like it is their rental, and drive off. Rentals can look the same. And sometimes valets get sloppy with checking claim tickets. So if somebody is acting like a rental is totally their's, the valet might just give it to them.
Everybody does it, but it is not a good idea to valet park a rental car that you are responsible for.