I try not to valet park my car. I don’t see the point of paying for something that I could easily do myself and then walk a little extra. I especially don’t see the point when it involves someone else driving and parking my car away from my beady-eyed glare. The risk of scuffs and dings is just too great. Also, I don’t want anybody running away with my car.
And thanks to what happened to this guy in Houston, I am now a doubly—nay—triply paranoid valet customer.
Carlo DiMarco valet parked his Porsche Panamera at a DoubleTree Hilton one night last year. And when he came out to pick up his car the next morning, it was gone, reports the Houston Chronicle. “Valets allegedly handed the keys to someone else,” said the newspaper, “who drove off with the $120,000 sports car, which has never been recovered.”
If you’ve ever observed a valet parking stand, as I have because I have that kind of time, you’ll know that this kind of thing really isn’t that hard to pull off. Most valet services will give you a claim ticket. If you lose it, but you are adamant enough about which car is yours, generally they’ll give it to you without issue.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the incident took place at night. The hotel staff “told DiMarco that the valet parking service’s “midnight crew” had given the car to another individual at some point after DiMarco checked in,” and upon viewing the surveillance footage, it appeared that two guys walked “up to the valet stand, the attendant giving one of them the keys, and the unidentified men driving off in the car.”
The car was parked in front of the hotel instead of the garage, which is also typical valet behavior: park the cool sports car right out front because it does well for appearances.
Understandably, DiMarco sued.
According to the suit, after reporting the car stolen to the police and to the hotel, the hotel staff told DiMarco that its valet services were provided by an independent contractor, so he should take it up with them. DiMarco argued that the parking attendants were wearing DoubleTree by Hilton uniforms.
Since then, it’s just been circles and circles of hell. The hotel lawyer told DiMarco that the hotel isn’t liable for the theft because he didn’t park the car with the hotel. The valet service’s insurance company denied the claim because the property damage policy doesn’t include theft. (Which, shouldn’t it? People steal cars all the time.)
Reports the Houston Chronicle:
The events of that night are now at the center of a lawsuit filed recently in Harris County District Court against Hilton Worldwide, the franchise owner, the property management company and the parking vendor. The complaint alleges negligence and fraud and seeks unspecified damages between $200,000 and $1 million.
DiMarco’s own insurance company offered him only $68,000 to replace the Panamera, which was worth almost twice that. He took out a six-year loan for the car and has to continue paying $2,000 a month in car payments.
The car’s monitoring signal stopped working hours after it was stolen. It could have gone anywhere: in a shipping container to be sold overseas, or chopped up for parts.
DiMarco, who now drives a Ferrari FF, no longer gives up his keys. “He parks where he is directed and tells the attendants that if they have to move his car, call a tow truck and send him the bill.”
Can’t say I blame the guy.
Via Road & Track