How to Use a Parking Valet

Have you ever wondered how to appropriately drop off and pick up your car from a valet service? Doing it wrong can result in poor service and an uneasy exchange between you and the valet. Take these steps to ensure a smooth transaction and good customer service.


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    Pay attention. The number one reason customers get poor service from a Valet is because they are not paying attention to how the system works. Valet drivers and doormen have 2 objectives, serve you while making a good impression, and moving cars in and out of the loading zone quickly. If they cannot move cars quickly, customers become easily annoyed and upset resulting in a poor first impression of the establishment (for example, a restaurant) and lost tips for the Valet. You may be caught off guard by the rushed nature of the interaction between you and the valet, but this is not to be taken for rudeness. So pay attention to what other people are doing, and what the valets are asking of you. Many times customers are being loaded and unloaded on the curb of a busy street. This requires a lot of focus and attention from the Valet as well as the customer.
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    Approach the loading zone. Drive slowly into the loading zone and stop behind the car in front of you. Do not get out of your car until the Valet opens your door. Many times a valet will want you to pull forward or move to another position in the loading zone before you exit your vehicle. Watch for direction from the Valet.
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    Exit the vehicle. It should be the valet's responsibility to open the doors for the female passengers first. However, sometimes time and circumstances do not permit this. Make the judgment yourself about whether it is within the capability of the valet to perform this service. If there is a lot of traffic and only one or two valets, it may not be possible. When you exit the vehicle, listen carefully for instructions from the valet concerning price, closing time, and how to get your vehicle back. These details are very important. Some valet services may close earlier than the restaurant and leave your car somewhere convenient for you to pick up. If you don't listen, you may have to leave your car overnight and pay an extra fee.
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    Inform the valet of any problems with the car. You do not need to include every detail of the vehicle's performance, but if a door only opens a certain way, or the alarm is finicky, most valets appreciate this information.
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    Pick up your vehicle. Once you are ready for your car, hand your ticket to the valet standing closest to the valet stand (also known as the "doorman"), or to the Valet who asks for it. Generally, one or two valets run the stand while others retrieve cars. You can slow the process down by giving your ticket to the wrong person. Once again, don't mistake the rushed atmosphere for rudeness. Usually valets are under a lot more pressure when customers are leaving than when they are arriving.
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    Watch for your car. When you see your car, quickly gather your party and get in. This is the most common time to tip the valet. Valets usually pool their tips and divide them equally. Usually it does not matter who you tip. If you are paying a fee, this usually goes to the Doorman.
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    Carefully pull away. Watch for other traffic as well as valets. Be aware of your surroundings.


  • Be gracious and polite and you will usually get good service. If you want something above and beyond the normal service, just ask. Many times a polite customer will get more than what is expected.
  • Complimentary valet does not usually mean "free". A tip is still expected, unless a sign explicitly stating that tips are not to be given is present (which is sometimes the case at public services, such as large hospitals). If the service is complimentary, a tip between $5 and $10 is appropriate.
  • If you are paying for the service, a tip is still appropriate, usually between $3 and $10, depending on the level of service as well as the atmosphere of the hotel, restaurant, etc.
  • If you want to be treated like a VIP don't expect this to come cheap. Usually it takes at least a couple of visits to an establishment while tipping largely (usually between $20 and $50) to be recognized and remembered. Even celebrities can get treated poorly if they are not willing to pay.
  • Be patient, especially if it is busy. It is not unusual to wait 10 minutes for your car during a rush.
  • If your car comes with master and sub-keys (such as on many Toyota sedans), disable the remote trunk unlock and lock the glove box with the master key, then hand the valet the sub-key. The sub-key cannot open the trunk or the glove box, which will prevent the valet invading your privacy.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the establishment, drive by slowly to see how the operation works so that you are prepared when you pull into the loading zone.
  • Be sure to get everything you will need from your car before it pulls away. This includes cigarettes, cell-phones and purses. Valets will usually run to your car and get these items for you - but be sure to tip if you require this.
  • Often times, giving your ticket to your waiter before you leave will save the time you are waiting outside for your car.


  • Always leave your car keys with the valets if your car is parked in their zone. Even if you are only going to be five minutes the valets may need to move your car so they aren't forced to work around it. When you leave your car in the valet zone without leaving them they keys you cause a headache and longer check in times for everyone else trying to check in.
  • Don't leave your car in the street unless told to do so. This is often a traffic violation for which you can be held responsible.
  • Watch for other traffic when walking in the loading zone or near the street.
  • Rude behavior on your part can put one of your most valued possessions at risk for abuse or damage. If you have a complaint, take it to the manager. Usually they can resolve any issues you have.
  • Don't expect to take your car home if you are drunk. It is against the law for a valet to give you your keys if you are drunk.

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Categories: Driving Techniques