Valet parking horror stories and how to avoid them

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valet parking

This valet parking service somehow fails to inspire confidence. Image: paulswansen/Flickr/CC BY-ND

Valet parking may be convenient and time-saving, but according to many, it is taking a big risk. A recent article in Jalopnik said the valet’s Ferrari joy-ride in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is no exaggeration, and that hi-jinx of its nature are not uncommon.

Valet parking insider

In the Jalopnik piece, Travis Okulski , a former valet parker, wrote that he knows what goes on “backstage.” Therefore, says the article, he will never use valet parking again.

The horror stories below illustrate why.

Horror stories

Okulski wrote that valets are often young and inexperienced drivers. Inexperience combined with youthful male bravado can be a recipe for disaster. Employees often raced sporty or powerful cars in the cramped confines of the lot, wrote Okluski. Fender bumps and dings were common.

He wrote of one accident he witnessed on the job in which the front bumper was completely torn away from a Dodge Magnum. Instead of owning up to it, however, the valets hastily jury-rigged it back in place and let the owner drive it away.

Also, many valets, inexperienced at driving sticks, have caused damage to a multitude of clutches, according to Okulski.

The valet service that Okulski worked for offered a “VIP Service” for a larger fee. It supposedly guaranteed a space in the front of the parking garage. According to Okulski, the fee bought them no enhanced service and was offered only to people who had expensive cars and looked well-off.

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The nightmare continues

According to a post on Barking Dogs, a woman in Greenville, Texas wrote of driving to a local Starbucks only to be told by valets that she had to use their pay service in the lot. She refused and went inside to check with the coffee outlet’s management about the policy. She was told that valet parking was not mandatory. Yet, upon returning to her car, she found one of her tires flat and the valets laughing.

Similarly, a man posted that he as told by valets in a rainstorm that the entire parking lot at a restaurant was reserved for valet parking. He found a spot on the street half a block away and ate dinner in wet clothes. However, after complaining to the restaurant about his treatment, he was informed that there are always spaces in the lot reserved for self-parking.

A Texas man also posted on Barking Dogs that his business has lost thousands because of valets taking up all the public parking spaces around it:

“Valets were using public parking spaces as their own, controlling the whole street. I estimated they cost me over $150,000 in sales over this time by locking up the street.”

David Kiley, editor of AOL Autos, wrote that, when in a rush, he once used a valet service at the Detroit Marriott only to find later that the iPod in his glove compartment was gone. Further, he commented that these kinds of “disappearances” are hard to defend, unless you can prove that the item was in the vehicle in the first place.

If you must…

Valet parking is risky at any time. But if you must, here are some things to keep in mind:

If you have a sporty or powerful car, it is probably a better idea to park securely elsewhere and walk a little farther.

Don’t leave anything of value in the car. There is a good likelihood it won’t be there when you return.

Only give your valet the key to the ignition, never your keyring with your house key attached to it.

You may want to take your registration or any other papers that have personal information on them with you after leaving the vehicle.  The same goes for your garage door opener.

Inspect the car immediately when reclaiming it and point out any damage on the spot.


AOL Autos
Barking Dogs

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