Trust your gut, and take these extra precautions before handing over the key to your car.
In this scene above, the driver is taken by surprise with mandatory valet parking and he allows himself to be bullied into handing over control of his car.
Don't be like that guy.
You need to follow a certain protocol.
If suddenly approached by someone who says they are the valet, here is what you do:
- Does the valet have a uniform and name tag?
- Are there others nearby wearing the same uniform?
- If there is no uniform, then you give no key. Time to drive away, IMMEDIATELY, without further discussion. Do not hesitate. Your conversation is immediately over and you are driving away.
Why? Because there are people in this world who will portray themselves to be valet workers, and after you hand your car over, it is nowhere to be found. Or it gets wrecked. Or used in a crime.
- If the valet seems legit, let's ask some questions:
Which valet company do you work for?
What's this going to cost me?
Where will my car be parked?
How do I get my car back?
Can I call before I arrive so that my car is waiting for me?
How long have you been working here as a valet?
You ask these questions before getting out of the car.
Any fake valet will stumble here. If you get the slightest doubt about the authenticity of this valet, drive away.
If the valet says he (or she is new), tell them to get you one of their experienced co-workers. (There is always a brand new rookie. Valet workers generally don't last long.)
Put a cash tip on the dash. I recommend $5 at most places.
- When the second valet shows up, ask how long they have been on the job. You're looking for an air of confidence, something that tells you they know what they're doing.
If you feel inclined to be a ball buster, you might also ask how many accidents they've had while on the job.
- If all seems good, turn the car off. Keep the key under your control. And use your smartphone to snap a photo of the valet's face and name tag, while blocking the pathway to your driver's seat.
At this point, if they are a fake valet, they will be running down the street.
- If they are still there, hold on to the key and walk around your car with your smartphone in video mode. You need to capture video of all sides and corners of your car, including video of each rim and underneath the front air-dam area.
- When you are done documenting the condition of your car, ask if he (or she) will be the one parking your car. If the answer is yes, tell them the cash you left on the dash is for them.
- Get the claim ticket. If they are not giving you a claim ticket, then something probably isn't right.
- Once you have the claim ticket, only then do you hand over the key. Notice that the word is key. NOT KEYS. Don't be lazy and hand over your entire key-ring. It is a big mistake to hand over the keys to your life... because valets do sometimes lose keys.
And you SHOULD keep a spare key on you, for just in case your key gets lost.
- Put the claim ticket in a safe place. Not in your car. But on you.
If you manage to drop the claim ticket, whoever finds it can claim your car. So definitely do not lose it.
I highly recommend you take additional precautions, such as using a codeword card, like this: