What happens when you valet park?

November 27, 2009 4:54:14 PM PST
If you went shopping today, you may have left your car with a valet at a shopping center or restaurant. But do you really know what happens when you hand your keys over to a stranger? One Houston woman found out the valet driver may not be bringing your car straight to a parking spot. With valet parking sprouting up across the city at restaurants, shopping malls, even gyms, this serves as a good warning for us all to keep our cars in mind, even when they're out of sight.

"I don't have a fancy car," said driver Megan Zambas. "I personally would choose a Ferrari over a Volkswagen."

Zambas' Volkswagen may not be fancy by her standards, but it did catch the eye of someone expected to protect it -- someone she doesn't even know.

"It's been a hassle for the last couple of months trying to figure out where this person is, who this person is, how he got hold of my car," Zambas said.

In fact Zambas began had no idea her car was sought after by law enforcement until she got pulled over.

She recalled, "A cop pulls me over, not for speeding, not for anything being expired, but because there's a warrant out for my license plate and my VIN number for my car under another person's name."

Zambas had never heard the name but eventually traced it back to a valet who parked her car outside a bar off Washington. By the time she approached the valet company to find the guy responsible for her ticket, Zambas was told he'd been fired, with no other explanations.

Liliana Rambo issues permits to valet companies and says the city has never received a complaint against Courtesy Parking Service, the valet company responsible for parking Zambas' car. Rambo said, "We have 29 valet companies that have a permit."

Rambo says valet companies seeking permits must fill out an application- and provide a background check and fingerprints for each of its runners. Runners must have a valid Texas driver's license and insurance of half a million dollars. The company must also pay a $1,000 fee to apply. While companies are required to renew annually, updating their work sites and employee turnover, that may not always be the case.

"It would very hard to try to police every single valet operator with the amount of people and the amount of valet that happens," Rambo said.

Making it hard for Zambas to track down the valet responsible for her speeding ticket and turn him over to police.

"I'm not going to pay it," Zambas. "I already paid the valet and tipped him well."

I contacted the valet company Courtesy Parking to ask about Zambas' case. So far, they've denied knowing anything about it.


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