What is valet parking?
Valet parking is a parking service offered by some restaurants, stores, and other businesses. In contrast to self-parking, where customers find parking on their own, customers' vehicles are parked for them by a person called a valet. This service either requires a fee to be paid by the customer or is offered free of charge by the establishment.
A valet is usually an employee of the establishment, or an employee of a third party valet service. When there is a fee it is usually either a flat amount or a fee based on how long the car is parked. It is customary to tip the valet who actually parks the car.
However if the establishment does not have a charge as long as you use their facilities it is customary to tip at least $7.00. Some cars come with an additional key known as a valet key that starts the ignition and opens the drivers side door but prevents the valet from gaining access to valuables that are located in the trunk or the glove box.
Valet parking is most often offered (and is most useful) in urban areas, where parking is scarce, though some upscale businesses offer valet parking as an optional service even though self-parking may be readily available.
For example, in wealthy suburban areas in South Florida, hospitals offer valet parking for the convenience of patients and their visitors. On the other hand, where parking is not scarce, such as on South Beach condominiums and some nightclubs, it is used as a convenience to patrons. Some condominiums, like the Waverly (south beach) on Miami Beach, have such limited space for parking that the parking is valet parking only (to fit as many cars in as possible.
An advantage of valet parking is that it is possible to park more cars into the same space, in what is generally known as "stack parking." The reason is that the valet holds all the keys and is able to park the cars two or more deep, because he can move cars out of the way to free a blocked-in car.
Another type of stacking is what's called lane stacking. This is useful for events where guests arrive roughly simultaneously, say in the case of a wedding reception. The point of this procedure is to keep the lane (or lanes) of incoming traffic flowing forward so that guests are spared a long wait time for valet service. This is usually accomplished by designating one or two of the valets to be "stackers", who simply "push" the cars up fifty feet or so and prepare it for a quick "take-away" for a returning valet to park. The process is then repeated until all cars are parked, utilizing as much lane space as possible, meanwhile keeping the lanes moving.
An additional advantage of valet parking, aside from stacking, is that valets can park cars closer and straighter than some customers may park. This will save them space in the parking lot or garage, and prevent the inconvenience of going to different floors by cramming everything in.
Last but not least, an efficient valet service will have implemented (or at least prepared) a system to handle the expected number of cars and guests. This includes, but is not limited to, any of the following: designated greeters, stackers, and parkers, a system for marking car locations, and sometimes even providing shuttle service for valets at large venues in order to expidite car return times at the end of the event.
The whole basis behind valet parking is the luxury of the service provided. Most locations and events that provide valet parking do so to provide a higher level of service. This includes but is not limited to bring the car up front, having the doors opened for the guest, and in some cases extra services which include cleaning and detailing of the vehicle.
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