In some cities, like Dallas, where our headquarters are located, valet parking is common. But, it can be an uncomfortable experience if you aren’t used to it. We’ve got some tips to have you feeling like a pro next time you realize that restaurant you want to go to is valet parking only.
Clean It Up
Before you head out, it would be common courtesy to at least throw away all the garbage collecting in your car. Nothing is more embarrassing than pulling up to the valet and realizing that you have weeks old fast food wrappers littering the passenger seat. You’ll also feel more confident if you’re able to leave a clean car with the parking attendant instead of the one with “Wash Me” written in the dirt on the back windshield.
Hit Up the ATM
Some places offer complimentary valet services, but it is proper etiquette to leave a tip. Make sure that you have cash on hand before you head out. It’s never fun to miss your dinner reservation because you had to track down an ATM at the last minute. We’ll give more advice on tipping in a bit.
Take What You Need…Hide the Rest
Make sure you grab all the essentials, like your phone and your wallet. Anything that you’re not taking with you should be hidden. While most valet attendants are screened and trustworthy, you do not want to end up a cautionary valet tale. Besides, you are protecting yourself from more than an inside job; even the smallest valuable could be an invitation for a thief to break into your car. Play it safe, and hide everything in the trunk for safety.
What to Do Once You’re There
Drive slowly, and watch out for any valet personnel who might be directing traffic or moving quickly to take cars to parking spots. You don’t want to accidentally run someone over!
When you reach the valet stand (or when the attendant approaches your vehicle) put the car in park. Some valets will open the door for you, others might not. Also, note that they will most likely open the doors for passengers before the driver.
Leave the car on, and make sure you leave the keys in the car. This just makes the whole process easier on everyone. Leave the door open until the valet has gotten behind the wheel. You don’t want to accidentally lock your keys in the car.
If your car has any issues that might come up while the valet is driving it, let them know ahead of time. They’ll definitely appreciate the intel.
Make sure you get your ticket before you walk away. Trying to get your car back at the end of the night without it will be a major headache.
Before You Drive Away
Be sure to thoroughly check your car for any damage. Driving away from the valet stand is similar to driving a car off the dealership lot; once you leave, all the responsibility is yours again. If you want to make a complaint about a scratch or a dent, you’ll have to do it right then and there.
The Tipping Point
The most stressful part of the valet experience for most people is handling the tip. The standard practice is to give a tip to the person who brings you your car at the end of the event. However, if you want to make sure they really take care of your vehicle, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to tip the person who takes your car initially.
Even if the valet service is complimentary, you should still leave a tip. It’s just good form.
But How Much Should You Tip?
Usually between $2-$5 should be perfectly fine. If you think the service was well above par, you can always tip more. And leaving a tip when you first drop off your car can almost guarantee that you’ll receive better service.