Home > Contemplations > Valet Parking Tipping Etiquette

Valet Parking Tipping Etiquette


Tips for Valet Parking by Keri Potipcoe

24 Hours: Tips for Valet Parking by Keri Potipcoe (Click to enlarge)

Tipping. It’s a part of North American society that we deal with on a regular – some of us daily – basis. For certain services it is expected that you tip. Get a beer at a bar? Tip the bartender. Eat at a restaurant? Tip the waiter. Take a cab somewhere? Tip the driver. Have your car parked by a valet service? Tip them. But for parking valets who and when do you tip?

This was the question my friend Keri (aka @keriblog on Twitter) set out to answer. Keri is a journalist and wrote an article on January 9th about proper tipping of people who work as parking valets. Above is a screenshot of the article which I recommend reading because this blog post is a response to her article. (You can find the article yourself by going to http://eedition.toronto.24hrs.ca/epaper/viewer.aspx, clicking “Calendar” in the top bar and choosing Wednesday, January 9, 2013, and then going to AUTONET on page 20. Also, check out more of Keri’s stuff on her Autonet.ca Bio and Archive page here.) For all of you wondering who want me to cut to the chase, I respectfully disagree with her findings. (For the most part, below my little list I do discuss when I agree with her.)

It all started about two weeks ago when Keri tweeted the tweet below:

I read it and was thrown by the idea of being expected to tip valets twice because of the concept that the parking and retrieval of the car are each separate services. Therefore, much as a I am all for the awesomeness that is Keri as a writer and person, I had to disagree and here’s four reasons why:

  1. If I retrieve my car myself can I pay the valet service half price? If it is two separate services I should be able to!
  2. If I park my car next to where the valets park valeted cars and walk over to the stand when I am ready to leave, hand them my keys and tell them the make and model of my car and ask them to go retrieve it for me, will they? Of course not! Even if I am willing to pay them full price there’s no way they’re going to retrieve my car because I didn’t use the valet service to begin with.
  3. Stop Here For Valet Parking Sign via Amazon.comOne of the problems Keri mentions is that if you drop the car off with Jimmy it might be Roger who picks it up and when you tip only one of them the other gets shortchanged. Sounds like it sucks and is unfair, right? Well, by the rules of averages it should work out just fine for both Jimmy and Roger. It might not work out on that day but over the long haul it should.
  4. Keri told me I am not allowed to say that we assume they pool their tips. Fine. I won’t say it. What I will say is that if they are worried it won’t average out then they should pool their tips but the customer doesn’t care if they do or they don’t. If they don’t, quite frankly, that’s not the customer’s problem.

However, I do agree that you should tip on the drop off as well as the pickup if you are expecting a special consideration from the valets like keeping your car in the driveway because you’ll be back relatively quickly or keeping it parked right up near the front so they can retrieve it quickly because you may need to leave in a hurry. In cases where the service you receive is expected to be special or over-and-above the norm, I am all for tipping both valets and tipping them well – more, even, than Keri suggests in her article.

As I mentioned in #4, Keri knows I am writing this post and she asked me to link her to it when I am done writing it and have posted it. Therefore, I’d like to know (and I’m sure she would too):

Who do you agree with? Do you have your own opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

Valet Parking sign via amazon.com

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  1. mark Hoffberg
    January 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Of course the valets said you should tip both ways. Just like how every year there’s another percentage on the minimum on the restaurant bill.
    My tips are service based. I’ve worked in tip industries and a tip is earned. Good service = good tip.

  2. January 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Hey Dan!

    I’m going to respond to your four points, in the order they are listed above:

    1 – No, because when you buy in, you buy into the idea of the whole thing. Although I would get a kick out of watching you inform the valet nah, you’re going to retrieve it yourself, and how they’d handle that – probably with this face :O then :S ahaha.

    2 – I’m not sure I understand this point. Re-read it several times, I’m missing something. However, I do know you wouldn’t be able to leave your car in a prime location (the valet parking lot) without paying.

    3 – Maybe. I’m not convinced, and “the long haul” could be a very long time.

    4 – I like the part here where you do what I told you to do 😉 jk. And while I agree with you, and it’s not the customer’s problem whether or not they pool their tips, I’d guess that the decision to pool tips comes from the top down, and isn’t up to the guys actually moving the cars, who probably could use the money the most. I suppose you could ask, “you guys pool your tips?”… I do that sometimes, same as “you work on commission?”. Like that.

    Lastly, I think we can both agree on one thing – you get what you pay for!

    I suspect we will forever debate this, but that’s okay, because we will always have lamp. I love lamp!

    • March 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      Hi Keri!

      Can’t believe it took me so long to get back to you and reply to your above comments but…

      1- If you’re required to buy “the whole thing” I fail to see how they are separate services. AND I will have you know I have actually told valets that I would go get my own car before when I got tired of waiting and could see my car parked in the parking lot. Most recently this happened at a wedding in New York (State) in August 2012.

      2- The basic question of this was, “If I parked my car myself and wanted the 2nd service (car retrieval) of the valet would they do it?” The point of the question wasn’t whether or not you’d be able to get your car close to the valet lot, it was a theoretical.

      3- Indeed “the long haul” could be a very long time but is that the consumer/customer’s problem? I think not.

      4- I have asked some random people about the tipping etiquette and the overwhelming response was that you tip once when you valet your car. Clearly, the valets shouldn’t be relying on the management looking out for them in this regard and it is up to them to organize such a thing for themselves if it is such a huge issue.

      Yes, lamp always and forever! At least we can agree on this! 😀

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