March 8, 2010 10:48 AM | By Tom Wilson, MSN Autos

Valet tales: The dirty truth



Sordid tales of parking lot attendants abusing customers' cars are classic lore, but there is another side to the story. We examine both points of view - and find they are equally ugly.

Be wary of the risks before handing your pride and joy over ...

If you haven't watched the popular Internet video of parking lot attendants gone wild at the Downtown Hyatt hotel in St. Louis, Mo., it is worth a gander. After viewing this disturbing clip, which shows smoking burnouts and cars drift-sliding between the parking structure's massive concrete pillars, we bet most self-respecting car owners would rather drop their toddler off at a biker bar for a playdate than let another flippant valet get behind the wheel of their precious automobile ever again.

Of course, stories of crazed parking lot attendants abusing customers' cars have been social lore since the days when Ford's Model T was the most popular machine on American roadways. But now that everyone from the Jackass generation (kudos to you, Johnny Knoxville) wants to be a star and can capture video with their cell phones and post it to the Web, what were once the private hijinks of a few buffoons are now some of the most commonly clicked cinematic masterpieces on the Internet.

But how often does this type of abuse take place?

Valets gone wrong

Oops!

While the St. Louis video is hilarious (if you don't own any of the cars featured, of course), we scoured the Web and found plenty of similar stories of dented fenders and scratched paint caused by real or imagined valet miscues, and came up with a few that will have you shaking your heads in disbelief.

For instance, not too long ago, a well-meaning but overenthusiastic valet employed by a well-known Dallas restaurant used a patron's car to chase a thief fleeing with another customer's Lexus LS 460L. The chase was something out of a Hollywood movie script, with 180-degree turns and the predictable metal-to-metal bumps and scrapes that one would expect from such a high-octane pursuit. Of course, both vehicles were trashed in the exchange.

In British Columbia, a valet jumped a curb outside the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel and careened through the plate-glass doors that fronted the busy international-departures terminal, eventually stopping near the Delta Air Lines check-in counter. (I wonder how much that piece of luggage would cost to check in.)

Every car owner's fear when having their vehicle valeted ...

Another valet, employed in Boca Raton, Fla., crashed a car through a second-floor concrete wall. The vehicle landed in a heap on the sidewalk below. Luckily, no one was injured. According to the report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the attendant reportedly drove the 2001 Lincoln Town Car forward into a red Toyota, and then shifted into reverse and plowed through a retaining wall. The vehicle's owner, who was patiently waiting for the valet to retrieve his Town Car, stepped out of the hotel lobby just as it landed. The valet company supposedly blamed the incident on a stuck throttle.

And finally, here is a story about a valet from Grand Rapids, Mich., who was just trying to have a little fun. He borrowed a customer's Hummer H3 and took it on a 240-km joy ride. The chic boxcar was gone for five days before the valet company bothered to notify the owner, who was traveling at the time, that it had been stolen. A quick call to OnStar had the vehicle located, disabled and recovered by police within minutes. The result: One of the company's valets pled guilty to unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

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