(Guest writer shares his thoughts on the valet parking business...)
Regarding vehicle theft while your car is under the control of a valet parking service, I can tell you it is very unlikely to happen, but also very easy at many locations.
Out of over 1 million cars brought into the valet company that I work for, only 2 have gone to thieves.
The first security problem revolves around giving a paper ticket to the customer. Many customers lose their copy. If it has been dropped to the ground, anybody who knows what it is... can pick it up and use it to claim a car that isn't theirs, which is exactly how those two cars were stolen at our company.
After the first car was stolen, there was an emergency mandatory meeting of the entire valet department. The topic was theft and making sure the customer presents their claim ticket, which is actually pointless because if a thief presents a claim ticket they found, the claim ticket number matches our ticket number for a particular car. So there is no way a claim ticket can prevent this type of theft.
I mentioned going to a paperless system where our company has the paper copy in our possession and the customer does not have a paper copy, which they could lose, but instead has an electronic copy on their phone via picture. Everyone has a camera phone now and if a customer does not, for some reason, we will only under those circumstances give the customer a paper ticket.
I found it intriguing that the cars were stolen from our valet operation because our drivers are required to take the customer's copy of the ticket before releasing the vehicle, which is not a requirement at other locations I have worked at. The other locations were basically on the honor system and were not required to present their ticket at all, but only needed it to request their car.
I got the idea for paperless customer claim tickets from a previous valet job that had no issue with theft. The idea was rejected and a few weeks later another car was stolen!
Another issue with vehicle theft in a valet parking operation has to do with valet drivers not wanting to compromise their tips... because if a customer is in a hurry and does not have a claim ticket or identification handy, and if we take the time to contact the hotel desk or valet supervisor to get verification or approval, the customer will have to wait, and in many cases—there goes the tip.
It's a more risk = more reward situation for the valet worker... with no risk sometimes equating to no reward.
And if this happens enough times throughout the year, as a valet who plays by the rules, it hurts me. Whether I can take a nice vacation with my family or even be able to pay all my bills or not, that's what being stiffed because I did the job right can mean.
Written anonymously by "valet worker Joe."