We all have cars. We may not use them every day, but we all have cars and have to rely on cars whether we like it or not. They are a part of our culture and help us cope with living in such a large city. As car people, one thing we all deal with are valets. Maybe you use them because you want to feel entitled or maybe you are running late or maybe you are just bad at parking and they are a good excuse: we all use are valet. The job is the simplest form of service because there is no relationship with you and the person driving your car unless there needs to be a relationship as a result of the server going above and beyond their duties or below and far away from good service. At this simplest level of service, what constitutes good and bad? From using valets for years, we have a few takes on what makes a good valet and what makes a bad valet.
Good: You Are Seen Right Away
When you pull up to a valet stand, what should happen? You shouldn’t have to wait in your car or get out looking around, waving your hands at anyone you see running by: you should be seen! You don’t need a sparkling hello and pat on the bottom as you exit your car; however, it’s always great when you pull up to drop your car off and are seen immediately. This is when it matters most as you are usually running late or trying to get somewhere in a timely fashion: if you have to wait five minutes to have your car taken care of, that’s a problem.
Bad: You Can’t Find The Valet Stand
Similarly, it’s one thing to clearly see the person at the valet–it’s an entirely different thing if you can’t find the valet at all. Many don’t have a light or person waving a wand or whatever to signal you in. This shouldn’t be an issue: if you have a sign that says valet and then there isn’t a valet stand, fix the sign or clarify because it’s not fun to be aimlessly driving around blocks looking for a place to drop your car off when you are already late.
Good: The Door Is Open For A Passenger
This is a little thing but pushes good service to great service: opening the passenger side door. The driver is always taken care of and the passenger is usually forgotten. Of course, there’s bigger things to worry about than making sure someone else is opening the door for your date; however, if someone else takes care of everyone else in your party as you handle tipping and finishing the transaction of getting your car back, water under the bridge! It’s an added bonus that many neglect.
Bad: All Of Your Levels Are Changed
This happened to us last Friday when we valeted at the Burbank Airport only to return five minutes later since we missed our flight: EVERYTHING was changed. From the height of the driver’s seat, the angle of the driver’s seat, the rear view mirror, the side mirrors–everything was different! It was as if three monkeys assumed driving our car, one handling the pedals, one handling the wheel, and another handling the mirrors, requiring them to set everything askew in order to make their ragtag driving operation possible. Naturally, some level of change is understandable–but everything without setting things back slightly? That’s super lame.
Good: The Removal Of Ticket Stub
This one is the basic test for us: the removal of the ticket stub from the windshield wiper. It’s such a small, unimportant-but-important detail that, when taken care of, brings the valet to another world. There is nothing more annoying than forgetting to remove a valet ticket for a week, resulting in some water damaged and dried out piece of paper waving to you and every other driver in the city everywhere you go. When the valet effortlessly removes the ticket as you slide into the car, they get a big thumbs up as that is good service. It’s a detail that shows that they care for you.
Bad: Your Car Is Pulled Up Kind Of In The Street
This happens a lot actually: your car is returned a little *too* closely to traffic. Nearly every time we visit Village Idiot, our car comes back nearly parked in the turning lane on Melrose, which is not a quiet street. You have to wait until traffic stops for a second to jump in, nearly throwing your tip at the valet so you both avoid getting clipped by a car. This shouldn’t be that hard: try to pull the car far away from traffic–or find a new place for cars to be retrieved! No one would like to end their night hit by a car. No one.
Good: They Tell You They Are Closing
It always sucks when you get out of a late dinner or late night or whatever and go to grab you car just to find no one there to tell you where your car is. This happens a lot actually and it’s super annoying. However, when you are alerted of the valet’s closing, everyone is happy! Either when you arrive, getting a simple, “We close at 11PM!” as you exit your car or when they find you dining or wherever to tell you they’re closing, it’s great to hear and disallows any of the panic and annoyance of not knowing how to get into your car. The valet at Niko Niko on Vermont is super good at this, letting everyone know when they close and will track you down to say they are closing. That’s dedication.
Bad: They Can’t Find Your Key
As we have a shitty Volkswagen New Beetle, of course the key is broken and can’t fit on a key chain. Thus, you have to hand over the little square key instead of a key chain for them to hang on something. This happens just about every time we go to that (terrible) valet at the bottom of the parking structure underneath the Crate & Barrel on Beverly Dr.: they have no idea what happened to our key. Nine times out of ten, it’s in their pocket and they forgot or it’s in the drawer underneath the stand. This is just inexcusable: you don’t go to a daycare to pick up your kid and have a moment of, “OH SHIT: WHAT IF THEY LOST MY CHILD??” That’s unacceptable. Granted, cars are not children; however, they are expensive and a big part of our lives–and replacing a key is pretty costly if you don’t have a spare.
Good: You Get A Water Bottle!
The old valet outside of Las Perlas Downtown was notorious for this: offering water bottles to guests as they wait for their car. I can name very few valets that do this but, boy, what a great bonus for you after you’ve been out and have to pass the time as they grab your car. There’s no downside to this at all: it’s just service at its best, helping you in a way you didn’t know you needed help in. Yeah, they aren’t giant Fiji water bottles–but they don’t have to be: they just have to be enough to hold you over from the time you approach the stand to the time you get back into your car. This is a great little bonus!
Bad: Something Is Missing From Your Car…
This has maybe happened once but is always alarming: the valet took something! Unless it’s trash, this is just unacceptable. Moreover, if something is missing from your car like, say, a bumper–that’s even more unacceptable! I’ve never witnessed the horror of things missing or ruined as a result of using valet but I have heard stories and they are like nightmares realized. This shouldn’t even be on the list but, because it has happened before, it is on the list–and is the most unforgivable item.
What do you guys think: what makes a good valet and what makes a bad valet? Leave your additions in the comments!