Top Gear Philippines

I’m not a fan of valet parking. In fact, I never avail of this service even when I’m already running late for an event or a meeting. I just park the car myself--however far the parking area is--and just walk the distance to my destination. It has to do with my total aversion to the idea of letting a stranger touch my car. Heck, I won’t even let a friend drive my car. It’s not that I’m selfish; it’s just that I consider my car to be personal property. Like boxer shorts, to be perfectly honest about it. You wouldn’t want someone else to wear your boxers, right?

It also has to do with my lack of trust in valet parkers. In my mind, I picture them driving a customer’s car roughly, not braking smoothly for a hump, doing hard acceleration on the way to the parking area, even slamming the door hard. I mean, I pamper my car to the best of my ability, and to have someone else manhandle it is probably enough to send me into a violent fit. Although chances are I wouldn’t even know what happened to my car.

And that’s the nagging part about valet parking: You have no idea what will happen to your car from the time you hand over your key to the moment you get it back. Unless perhaps you install a hidden camera inside the car. But isn’t that a lot more trouble than parking the car yourself?

Earlier this month, I got an invitation to a carmaker’s Christmas party and the invite indicated that valet parking service would be offered. When I asked the PR manager as to why there was a need to specify the availability of valet parking, I was told it was because parking space around the area was scarce. On the night of the party, instead of bringing my car and leaving it to the care of someone I hadn’t even met, I just hitched a ride with a colleague.

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Indeed, when we got to the place, we couldn’t find an empty parking slot in the vicinity. So we had no choice but to entrust my friend’s car to the valet parkers. Here’s the interesting part: A few days after the event, our technical editor Ferman Lao--who had also turned over his car to a valet attendant at the party--told me that when he surrendered his valet ticket to retrieve his car, the attendants mistakenly got another person’s car from the parking area. Fortunately, Ferman is an honest guy (it probably also helped that the car they were giving back to him was a lower model than his own car). But can you imagine this happening to your own car? What if your car is identical to someone else’s, and one of you inadvertently drives off with the other’s vehicle?

In the city of St. Louis, Missouri, in the US this past week, a valet-parking scandal broke out when an anonymous person who identified himself (or herself) as “Valet Underground” posted a series of videos on YouTube showing what valet-parking attendants at a Hyatt hotel routinely did to the high-end cars of clients. In the video, you can see the valet parkers burning rubber and drifting with the cars entrusted to them. You can only imagine how the cars’ owners would feel once they saw the clips. It is presumed that the person who posted the videos was a coworker of the culprits.

This is precisely the reason I don’t let a parking attendant touch my car. Well, there’s also the issue of pride. My car being small and famously frugal, I don’t want other people secretly laughing at me as my car pulls up the driveway amid luxury sedans. Then again, if I owned an expensive car, I’d have a bigger reason not to let a stranger drive it.

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Did you ever bother reading the fine print on most valet-parking tickets? It says there that the establishment is not responsible for any losses or damages your car suffers while in the custody of said establishment. In reality, such a disclaimer is a scam. It won’t hold water in court. Anyone offering valet-parking service should and will be held liable for losses or damages to a customer’s vehicle. But they put the disclaimer on the ticket anyway just to discourage people from seeking compensation should an incident occur. Because they know “incidents” are part and parcel of the valet-parking business.

Now, why labor over some stupid fine print when you can avoid it altogether by parking the car yourself?

Vernon B. Sarne
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