This is precisely why you should attach a codeword message to your key, or a valet client ID card.
A Santa Barbara woman bought a new BMW. She was celebrating the purchase with friends at a nice restaurant. But after the meal was over the valets gave her the wrong car, and then another wrong car.
It turned out, they had given her brand new BMW to somebody else, and that driver wrecked it!
This sort of thing happens in the valet business, even at the biggest, most well established valet parking companies.
It comes down to poor management.
They offer cheap pay, provide no raises, and force their employees to rely on the whims of customers in whether they make a decent buck or not through gratuities.
In this business there are good shifts, so-so shifts, and lousy shifts—where the tip income stinks.
When a valet worker gets too many bad shifts in a row, they think of quitting.
Low pay keeps the valet worker life cycle short.
And when experienced valet workers leave, rookies replace them. And that's when things go wrong.
Rookies that are poorly trained don't verify claim tickets. If somebody merely behaves like a car is their's, especially if they are holding a ten or a twenty in their hand, the rookie valet will gladly hand over the keys, and close the driver's side door for them, (while flashing a big smile).
To defend against this sort of incompetence, I recommend using a valet client ID card. This is my little innovation. Here it is:
This is a plastic card, the same size as a driver's license. Your photo is on the front. The idea is if somebody is claiming your car and their face does not match the photo on the valet client ID card, then that becomes a big red flag to even a rookie valet.
On the back it warns the valet workers that you are a sophisticated user of these services, and that you absolutely will be checking the car for new damage, so they better not screw up.
The phone number is your number. Valet workers sometimes unknowingly and accidentally leave customer keys in other peoples' cars. And then those keys are never found.
With the phone number and the offer of a reward, you at least have a chance of getting your key back if a valet loses it.
Another advantage to using a valet client ID card is if the valet workers place your key on the wrong hook in their key storage area, they will be able to find it quickly by looking for the key with your photo on it.
Overall, a valet client ID card helps to prevent massive hassle, inconvenience and loss.
If anybody wants one of these cards, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
An alternative is to use a codeword card. This is something you can make on your own. Here is an example:
This is not quite as good as the valet client ID card, but it is certainly better than just handing over a naked, undefended car key.
In conclusion, valets absolutely give away cars to the wrong people. And they absolutely lose keys.
If you use these services, or expect to in the future, you should get prepared to defend your car from valet incompetence. Valet parking roulette goes okay most of the time, but not everyone gets lucky all the time.