SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Ava Smith, Scott Bampton, Elizabeth White, Glenn Rossman

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Being Smarter About Valet Parking

A valet worker says industry is flawed. Discusses how you can command better, more diligent service while reducing your chances of vehicle damage

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As many make their way to winter-time auto shows to see the latest models, some might take advantage of valet parking to quickly escape the cold weather.

Ed Ryder, a valet worker in Philadelphia, has observed that consumers get it wrong when they engage valet parking services.

"The bulk of your tip should be focused at the beginning, when you drop off your car," says Ryder "because you cannot influence the care, or undo the lack of care your vehicle received by giving the tip only at the end, when your car is returned to you."

Ryder says if you have an on-going relationship with a valet service, tipping at the end is fine. But if you don't have that relationship, then it is more effective to tip at the beginning. "Leave your tip on the dash. Make sure the valet driver gets it, not the doorman," says Ryder. "That 'pre-tip' is really appreciated. It is likely to get your car parked in a better, safer place."

Valet work is a tipped profession with low wages. Ryder and his co-workers are paid just $3.83 per hour by their employer. He knows of others who are paid less than $3 per hour. "Some people see that parking is so expensive here in the city and assume we actually get a piece of the parking fee. Not true. We rely mainly on gratuities in return for the all-weather service we provide."

Ryder suggests being a "documented valet customer."

He continues, "To blindly trust a valet service to handle every car flawlessly, or to be honorable and forthcoming in disclosing damage they caused, is misplaced faith… it isn't realistic. Because damage happens, and deductibles are high, which means every accident is costly to a valet service."

One of the flaws of the valet industry is low pay, Ryder says.

"When you pay people so little, they don't stay. Where I work, we have two groups of valet workers: college students and those who are in transition, looking for their next job. The low pay does not cultivate the professional career valet. Instead, it flushes workers out. They move on. Rookies take their place. And beginners are more likely to make mistakes and cause damage."

Ryder says market pressures keep valet pay low, resulting in more frequent employee turnover, which leads to an overall lower-skilled, less experienced workforce. It is the inspiration for a new business Ryder has formed: ValetForms.com

Valet services have been growing in popularity, but education in how to properly and effectively use these services is lacking, says Ryder.

His new company offers the "Valet Service Evaluation Form," a notepad of forms meant to force valet services to provide the utmost in care and diligence in handling a consumer's vehicle, because the form strongly positions the user for compensation if anything goes wrong, such as damage, missing items, excessive mileage, or missing fuel.

Ryder says if something happens to your car while a valet has the keys, it is up to the consumer to notice the problem before driving away. But merely noticing damage or missing items and complaining about it often does not lead to a satisfactory resolution. This is because valet companies expect you to PROVE WITHOUT QUESTION that they are liable for whatever the issue is. The burden of proof is on the consumer, not the valet company.

Ryder's valet form for consumers is intended to provide that proof while spurring the valet service to provide the highest level of care when handling your car.

Ryder: "It's valet parking roulette. You never know if a beginner or an expert is going to be driving your car."

"Pre-tipping and documenting everything is the smart way to valet park. Using the form is likely to set-off alarm bells, resulting in the more experienced supervisor parking your car instead of a rookie, because the form is going to spark concern and inspire extreme diligence."

To see his form and learn the strategy behind it, along with how much to tip, visit ValetForms.com

SOURCE ValetForms.com LLC

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