Bad things happen after people turn their cars over to valet parking services. It's just reality.
I see it as "valet parking roulette." Maybe you'll be fine and nothing will happen.
Or you will be among the unlucky ones...
...and enormous aggravation, inconvenience and stress will be the unpleasant bonus you get instead of the professional, luxury service you paid for.
I've been a valet worker and I have studied the industry. Here are 25 things that can happen if you have your car parked by a valet service...
- Bedbugs. This would be among my top concerns in using a valet parking service. Valets are in and out of cars all day long. They could unknowingly bring one into your car. And then it's in your house, happily laying eggs, and soon afterwards making your life miserable.
A lot of people have dirty, disgusting cars. When I was a valet, I could be in and out of 100 different cars during a shift. It concerned me a lot that I might bring a bed bug home with me. (I got lucky. No problems.)
- Unpleasant smells that linger in your car. One of the young men on our crew actually ate certain foods that would make farting on-demand easier. This clown would try to lay a fart just before getting out of the customer's car... simply because he thought it was funny. (College kid.)
So people would tip him. Then they would step into their car and get a whiff of what this valet left for them. He would even keep the windows rolled up to maximize the effect. Nice, huh? There have been valets on Twitter that brag about doing the same thing.
But farts are just one unpleasant odor you might encounter. How 'bout body odor? It can get skunk-like. After all, the men are running, exerting themselves. Some wear a heavy cologne to try to mask their odor, and that mixture of fragrance and skunk-like body odor can linger inside of cars for a while.
Some like to smoke. That putrid smoke smell can transfer from their clothes to your car's interior. They might even take a smoke break while sitting in your car. And that smoke might even be of the marijuana variety.
Or they just might have dog dirt breath, cough a few times, and there you go. Your car air is mixed in with that.
- Valets like to change your settings. They will move your seat, your mirrors, and your radio stations. They might even change your radio station presets.
I changed seat positions all the time. I considered it necessary for the safe operation of the cars. I never touched the mirrors though. And I usually turned the volume of the music all the way down, because I wanted to hear if metal was crunching or if anybody was screaming.
- Your spare change will disappear. It's common for that spare change you leave in the cup-holder to disappear. Some take a few coins. Others take it all.
Of course, they will take other things of value too. Say goodbye to your pens, your chewing gum, your ChapStick, maybe even your air-freshener. They will take the expensive stuff too: GPS devices, smartphones, cameras, computers, your iPod, your gun, and your weed OF COURSE! Weed is almost GUARANTEED to disappear.
- There is a real possibility of vehicle damage. And it is very unlikely they will tell you about whatever damage they did.
Deductibles are high in this business. So every damage incident is very costly to the valet company. They will strive to evade, dodge and stall every damage claim, sometimes no matter how clearly they are at fault.
Valet workers generally are not career professionals. Instead they are mostly under-paid young men (under 25) who, like all young men, are genetically wired to take risks and pursue pleasure. This means they won't do valet work for very long, and while they are on the job there is a good chance they are going to have some fun (aggressive and experimental driving... like seeing how fast they can go in the parking garage, seeing what a "neutral drop" is like—which means applying the gas while shifting from neutral into drive—seeing if they can swing the back-end out around the turns in the lot or garage... things like that).
Also, valet parking operators are prone to parking cars tightly together in order to get more cars into their lot (which means more parking revenue). Tightly parked cars are not in your best interests, because it makes it more likely your car will get dinged, dented and scratched.
- Most hotel and restaurant valet parking services probably are run by outside vendors. When something goes wrong, the hotel or restaurant typically says "Not our problem. The valet is an outside company. Deal with them. We have nothing to do with it."
That response is very typical, even at the fanciest hotels where you probably would assume any problem would simply be fixed without hassle or delay. It's just not the case from what I have seen. There are just too many complaints floating around the web.
The reality is: if a valet parking service at a big, well-known hotel brand screws-up your car, it's going to be a giant hassle... because they will not make a resolution easy to attain, unless you just happen to get lucky and encounter a truly rare hotel management team that doesn't run things like the others.
- Real possibility the valet company does not have adequate insurance. I recently saw a story where the valet company had coverage for damage, but no coverage for auto theft. A customer's car got stolen from the valets. And the customer was forced to sue the valet company to get compensated for his loss.
- The valet might get your car ticketed, and you'll never know it until the penalty gets big. Valets have parked their customer's cars in illegal spots. Those cars have gotten parking tickets. And the valets, not wanting to jeopardize their tip of course, throw those tickets away--so the customer never sees them. Then one day either the customer's car gets booted, towed, or just a revised ticket with heightened penalties for late payment shows up in the customer's postal mail box. And the customer is absolutely bewildered about how this could have happened.
- Your valet parked car might be used as a shuttle. That's what happens sometimes. They might use your car to drive others around the lot while they search for other customer cars. They might run errands with your car too, like to get dinner, or to buy Powerball tickets, or cigarettes. (If your car smells like food after you got it back, that's probably what happened.)
- Your manual transmission car very likely could be used to train rookie valets in how to drive manual cars. I've seen it where I worked... rookies who have no idea how to drive stick-shift being taught by their supervisor using a customer's car.
It is very difficult to hire valet workers who already have this skill.
Some may say they know how to drive these cars, just to get the job. A short time later there is that burning smell in the air (that's your clutch). I have smelled burned clutches many times.
- The valet service could lose your keys! This totally happens. And customers are taken by complete surprise by it. They never even considered that all the keys they own could suddenly be lost forever.
How does it happen?
Sometimes the key is merely misplaced on their board of keys. It gets placed on the wrong hook.
Other times it gets tangled up with another customer's key, and your key is mistakenly given away with the key it is now tangled with.
Losing keys sucks for everybody. A common mistake by valets is to leave the key for the car they just parked inside of the car they have just brought out.
The departing customer drives away, and there goes the key to the car that was just parked. It is gone!
TIP: Never give he valet more than the one key necessary to operate the car. And always bring a spare car key with you for just in case.
- A valet parking service can easily give your car away to the wrong person. When I was new at the job, if a customer acted like a car was their's, I just gave it to them. That's right, I didn't check the claim tickets! Because where I worked, people often showed that they were annoyed to be asked for their claim ticket. And I didn't want to jeopardize my tip. Plus, we had security cameras, so I assumed nobody would be dumb enough to steal a car with all our cameras around.
Unfortunately, there can be times when a customer truly believes a car is their car. So they hop in it, drive away, and only later does the valet team realize that somebody took the wrong car. This is more prone to happen with rental car users.
- Through poor security practices, your car could be stolen from the valet ramp. I remember one time we had a chaotic rush. Cars were piling up in our front driveway area. Forty-five minutes later there was one last car to move off the driveway. It had been moved to the very far edge of the driveway probably by one of the doormen, and it was still running!
For 45 minutes it sat parked with the engine running! In the heart of the city! Where any street bum, any mentally ill person, any criminal walking down the sidewalk could have easily taken it, and in the chaos we would not have noticed it.
It was just luck that nobody took it.
We left keys in cars all the time. We left cars running unattended all the time.
Fortunately, we never had one of our cars stolen, but it happens. I see the news reports. It happens even in places where you would never expect it to happen. There is almost always some idiot nearby who will seize upon a crime of opportunity.
When a valet service gets sloppy, cars do sometimes disappear.
- You could unknowingly give your car to a fake valet. This is fairly rare, but it does happen. I am guessing that the criminals who do this have valet experience and know how to act like real valet workers.
The customer comes out to ask for their car back, and the real valets have no idea what they are talking about, and they say: "We never parked that car. That is not one of our claim tickets."
- Your car could be parked under a leaking pipe, or under a leak in the garage. Water that seeps through concrete can damage your paint permanently. It's the limestone.
- Your car battery could go dead. Yah, sometimes valets forget turn the lights off. Or they turn your headlight setting from "auto" to off. The next thing you know the police are pulling you over, because you assumed your headlights were still on auto, and the city street lights made it difficult to realize they were actually off.
- A valet might simply decide to take your car for a spin. Especially if you have a nice car, and he plans on quitting today.
- It could take forever to get your car back. If a valet service is unprepared for a high volume of demand or if a few guys don't show up for work, or if a valet forgot to mark on the ticket where he (or she) parked your car, your wait could be agonizingly long. Thirty minutes. An hour. Longer. You never know.
- If it rains, other situations can arise. For example, they may have neglected to close your sunroof.
- Unknown exposure to liability. Valets do sometimes have bad accidents. They have even killed people with their customer's cars. Besides all the hassle, stress, and inconvenience that goes along with having a wrecked car, you could be drawn into a lawsuit too.
- Dumb mistakes happen... like a valet could step out of your car while it is running and still in drive. Seconds later your driverless car crashes into something. Yah, it happens.
- Sometimes valet workers lose cars. This happens when the valet who parked the car forgot to write the car's location coordinates on the ticket (common), or they wrote the wrong coordinates. If the key fob is the kind that doesn't activate the lights, and if there is no alarm button on the fob, it probably is going to take a long time to find the car. It will also slow down service for any others who are waiting for their cars, because lost cars consume manpower.
- Extreme joyride potential. About a year ago a car parked with a valet company at Gatwick Airport in England got driven an extra 842 miles. The valet company denied it. But traffic cameras caught the car in 4 different counties on 7 different days. Busted!
- Home burglary exposure. If you give the valet your house key, he could snap a photo of it with his smartphone and have a key made using that image. (Yes, this technology exists.) Then they can check your GPS device or your vehicle registration papers in the glove compartment for your home address. (Or if you leave your garage door opener in the car, one of the valet's friends might use it to burglarize your house.)
- You could become a target of revenge if you are a lousy tipper. Stiff a valet and the next time you park your car with them, something might go wrong with the service.
Am I missing any? Please let me know in the comment section below.