It happened again. According to a news report by WSOCTV, another Charlotte-Douglas Airport valet worker has been accused of stealing a gun from a customer's car.
Charlotte's Channel 9 has shown that they LOVE to report on valet parking fiascos at Charlotte-Douglas. Any chance they get to hit the airwaves with a valet-parking-gone-wrong story, they jump on it. Car crashes, joy rides, gift card theft, gun theft, auto theft, long wait times... they are all over it, (apparently). They even reported that a valet customer complained about their car being infested with ants after leaving it with the airport's valet service.
Knowing that local media has an appetite for valet parking cartastrophies, you might think that the company now in charge of CLT's airport valet operations would be hyper vigilant about making sure that bad things don't happen... because the valet parking industry is extremely competitive, and it's just bad for business to have negative press floating around like that.
Well, what it boils down to is it's just part of the struggle of being in the valet business. It's difficult to hire and retain quality talent when your business model does not support paying a live-able wage.
Here is testimony from one of their former valets at Charlotte-Douglas as written on Glassdoor.com:
"They sell you on a hopeful dream of making lots of money when you barely make over minimum wage. You work hard for little pay and management collects tips when they don't contribute to daily operations." (September 9, 2015)
So, according to WSOCTV's report, the valet took a gun he found inside of a customer's car and sold it for $200. And now he has been charged with a felony.
First, if you valet park your car and leave a gun in it, you're being dumb.
Second, valet workers generally don't make much. In my case, I worked at a 5 star, 5 diamond property in a big east coast city. My average wage during my last year there was $15.28 per hour. That includes my $3.83 per hour pay plus tips.
At CLT airport, according to job posting information on Ameripark's website, you don't work more than 29 hours per week if you get hired as a valet by them.
Twenty-nine hours max. That's it. And when you're done your shift, you're probably too worn out to work a second job. Or your body just needs time to recover from all the running.
Let's suppose a CLT valet earned what I made per hour and worked the maximum number of hours allowed per week: 29 hours x $15.28 = $443.12 per week. That adds up to $1772.48/monthly.
If that valet worker never took a vacation, made what I did, and worked the maximum 29 hours per week, that adds up to an annual income of: $21,269.76
It's unlikely that would happen though because injuries happen, especially with the feet. (I had to take time off for foot pain and then later because of "runner's knee.")
And then you subtract taxes (yow...), and then all the money it takes just to live (rent, electricity, cable TV, car payments, car insurance, health insurance, food, monthly cell phone bills, beer, weed, credit card payments on accumulated debt). You get the idea... there's nothing left.
What it all adds up to is valet workers don't make much. And if an opportunity pops up to make a little extra, like by scooping the spare change out of your cup-holder, there is a good chance they are going to do it.
I've been watching internet chatter about the valet industry for a while. And I know there are valet workers who will steal even your chewing gum.
If they will steal like that, certainly there are some who will take the more valuable things, like cameras, ipods, computers, jewelry, guns, marijuana, etc...
And even if they don't steal what you leave behind, it is quite possible they will forget to lock a door or ensure that all windows are rolled-up, and a passerby will then exploit that situation (which then gets blamed on the valet).
In conclusion, valet workers can be desperate people who will steal if tempted with opportunity. Remove that opportunity. Bring an empty car to the valet area. Keep your valuables at home or take them with you. It's the smart thing to do.
And for valet company operators... You need to find a way to cultivate the career professional valet... by paying more. When you get amateurs who don't last and who don't take the work seriously, things go wrong. And you might end up on the news.