You make a reservation online for valet parking and drive to the airport. A nice guy is awaiting you in the terminal. You give him the car key and go to the check-in area to drop off your bag. You feel pleased with the service, but on return you may feel less happy if it is an unofficial valet parking service.
Valet parking is convenient
The official service is different. We take Amsterdam Schiphol Airport as an example. You drive into the valet parking P6 garage at the airport and you leave the car key at the counter. In return you get a receipt. The garage is 2 minutes walking from the terminal and the parking costs €129 ($143) a week.
An agent will park your car on an airport parking lot in the open air. Shortly before your return the car will be parked in the P6 garage again. Thus, you can pick up your car where you left it: 2 minutes walking from the terminal.
Unofficial valet parking
You can even save the 2 minutes walking by parking in the P6 garage itself. Your car will remain in the garage for the whole period and will not be parked in the open air. In this case the price will be €332.50 per week.
However, you may use instead an unofficial valet parking service. Both at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport there are dozens of them. The same is true at many other airports around the world. Valet parking cowboys offer considerably lower prices than the official valet parking. Usually you will pay less less than half the price.
If you use their service you may find in the mail fines for traffic offenses. Also, you may note that the milometer shows a mileage of some 200 km (125 miles) more than when you turned your car in. Moreover, you may observe damage to your car.
Unofficial valet parking services usually have no garage or a guarded parking lot. They just park your car for free in a residential area or an industrial park. And they may use your car for driving.
Your car is driving 120 mph
A traveler who used an unofficial valet parking service shares his experience. While he is checking in he already receives a notification of his Mercedes that it is driving 194 km/h (120 mph). He calls the driver, but he does not answer the call.
In the evening he receives a notification that the car is driving 180 km/h (112 mph). Later on, gps-data show the car was driving on a highway. Also, it was parked in a residential area not far from the airport. When he picks up the car on return it is dirty and the tank is only half full.
He hires an attorney to claim damages, but this attempt fails. The valet parking’s only gesture is an offer to wash the car and get a bunch of flowers if they use the service a next time.
Some unofficial valet parking services may be reliable, but they are rare. This year, the police at Schiphol Airport received so far 110 notifications of problems with valet parking cowboys.
There are few precautionary measures you can take. You may take photos of the car including a picture of the milometer before you give the key to a cowboy. Then you have some proof of how the car looked like before you left it at the cowboys. But the best precautionary measure is using an official valet parking service.
Tags: valet parking, unofficial valet parking, traffic fines, car damage