Using a reputation damage campaign to force a business into remedying a valet parking fiasco.

Coins are going to go missing when valet parking a car. (They might all disappear!) If you don't want to lose your change or any other items of value, then remove them from your car before handing over your keys to the valet.

Coins are going to go missing when valet parking a car. (They might all disappear!) If you don't want to lose your change or any other items of value, then remove them from your car before handing over your keys to the valet.

A readers asks...

What can you do if a valet damaged your car door lock so it won't open and stole change that was in a closed compartment?

The company who offer the parking say it's not their problem as the valet isn't their company it's another one they use.

Can this be reported to the police and how do I get reimbursed for the change that was stolen and the £300 cost for the door being replaced with a new lock.


Theft of items from valet parked cars is a common problem. The ideal thing is to remove anything you don't want stolen before valet parking.

If you are going to leave something of value in the car, I would get out your smartphone, get video of the valet's face and name tag immediately upon being greeted by them; video tape the odometer, the fuel level, the car clock, and then the items of value you are leaving behind. And then videotape the exterior condition of the car, including all 4 corners, the wheels, and underneath the front air dam. That might prevent valet theft, and also shock them... since nobody does that.

Since you have experienced a loss, the big question now is can you prove they are responsible? If they forget to lock your car or roll-up all the windows and spare change disappears, I blame them.

If they have a dishonest valet who helped himself or herself to your money, certainly I blame them.

These stories of businesses screwing over their customers, like you describe—where they pass the buck, has become tiring. It's the standard method of operation for mediocre businesses, and mediocre businesses are everywhere.

I've been out of the valet parking business for a while. Now I sell furniture at a big furniture store. We use a third party contractor to handle all of our deliveries. When something goes wrong, like the drivers scraping a wall inside the customer's home, or the drivers damaging the furniture while bringing it into the customer's home, we don't say "Oh, the drivers are part of another company. It's not our problem. Deal with them."

Yes, our partner will be responsible for that damage, but we are the ones that step in with service in order to make things right and maintain our good relations with our customers. We take the lead in making sure things get fixed.

If we chose to use the method you describe in your email, it would eventually lead to a more widely damaged reputation and an erosion of business.

The business that you visited hasn't learned this lesson yet. They think it is okay to screw over their customers with lousy service when things go wrong.

And so now it is up to you to show them the error of their ways.

If I were you, I would give the business one last chance to get your resolution underway. And I would make sure that the top manager of this business gets this message.

What you describe is like somebody staying at a hotel and finding somebody else's hair all over their sheets. They complain to the manager and the manager says "Oh, we use a third party to clean all the linens. It's not our problem. Deal with them."

That is an argument that makes no sense to me.

In this situation I would say "I don't care about your business relationships or partnerships or alliances. I dealt with you. I paid you my money. And now you are going to provide me with this specific resolution... " and you list your demands. 

You make it indirectly clear that you are not weak, you're not going away, and it is in their best interests to get the matter resolved to your full satisfaction quickly, without further hassle to you.

Probably this will get you nowhere. So then you pivot into running an all-out reputation damage campaign using the facts of the case. And you make them sorry they ever doubted your resolve.

Report the theft to police? Sure. Why not.

And the damage to your lock... I guess they jammed a key in there the wrong way or it just might be a coincidence that your lock no longer works, but I would add this to your list of demands too, along with a refund of your parking fee.

Reputation damage campaigns involve use of the traditional media (TV news shows, newspapers), use of social media, like Facebook, and good old-fashion picketing where you walk around with a sign outside of the business which says you'll lose all your spare change if you use this valet service and XYZ business (that hired them) doesn't care.

You make a lot of noise. Attract news reporters to it. Maybe eventually your opponent will cry uncle to get you to stop the campaign. Or maybe they will try to weather the storm. 

My advice is to try to have fun with it instead of letting it stress you out. Get your satisfaction either with a quick resolution or by attacking their reputation. Just be careful about how you conduct the campaign. Stick with the absolute facts. Don't make anything up. Be precisely accurate in your claims.