Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Navigating the rules of the valet

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

A car arrives at valet during the opening of the Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Sunday, October 27, 2013.

Head to most casinos, restaurants, shopping malls and attractions in Las Vegas, and chances are you’ll have the option of leaving your car with a friendly attendant. Free valet service has become a valley staple.

Much like free drinks for gamblers, free valet service began as a competitive amenity hotels and casinos used to lure visitors. Today, the service has evolved from a selling point to an expectation, and has spread beyond resorts to malls and attractions.

But navigating proper etiquette can be tricky — even for locals.

Who can valet?

Unless otherwise indicated, valet parking is open to anyone visiting the property or attraction.

Atypical valets

Valet parking isn’t just for resorts anymore. Some examples of other places to have your car parked:

• The High Roller: Not many carnival rides can claim to have valet service, but the High Roller observation wheel at the Linq can. The world’s tallest Ferris-type wheel shares parking with the shopping-dining-retail promenade, which offers valet parking tucked just under the High Roller’s massive support columns.

• Hospitals: Though the luxury of valet service and the urgency of a hospital visit hardly seem a fitting pair, valet parking is fairly common at the valley’s major hospitals and health clinics. Operators offer non-emergency visitors expedited entry as a way to reinforce customer loyalty and satisfaction.

• Malls: From Fashion Show mall on the Strip to downtown’s Container Park, shopping centers across the valley have taken up valet parking to lure customers to their stores.

• The airport: McCarran International Airport’s valet service allows you to drop off your car and head to the terminal in less than a minute. In this case, however, the luxury comes at a price. Airport valet service costs $6, plus $1 for each hour, with a daily maximum of $23. The valet also offers car washes and detailing for an additional fee.

• Gyms: Saving yourself a walk from the parking lot to the treadmill might seem counterintuitive, but a number of gyms in the valley, including Las Vegas Athletic Club, offer valet parking.

When can you valet?

Valet services typically are offered seven days a week, but operators can limit the service to hotel guests during high-traffic periods, including weekend nights or special events. When in doubt, arrive early — or slip your attendant $20 to see the “valet full” sign temporarily disappears.

How much should you tip?

Valet service may be free, but tipping is a must.

William Werner, a professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration who researches tipping, says the average tip for a Las Vegas valet is $2. A $5 tip is nice but not expected. Because most valets pool their tips, it’s appropriate to tip attendants on the way out but not necessary when dropping a vehicle off.

What if your car comes back damaged?

Although valeting ensures someone will keep an eye on your car, it’s no guarantee that a scratch or dent won’t occur.

Most attendants take inventory of existing damage before they park a car, but if you believe your vehicle has been damaged while in their care, bring it to their attention. And the sooner, the better. Most properties will take responsibility for damage that occurs on site, but only if you can prove that it’s not your fault. Doing so becomes tricky once you leave the parking lot, so be sure to take a closer look immediately if something seems off.

What if your car is broken into or stolen?

Next time you valet, check the back of your ticket. Chances are, it’s plastered with disclaimers that claim to absolve the company of responsibility if your car falls into the wrong hands.

Most of the legal mumbo jumbo won’t hold up in court. Legally speaking, leaving your car at the valet is considered a bailment — the transfer of personal property to someone for safekeeping — and it is the responsibility of the person in charge to keep it safe while under their care.

That said, the caretaker’s responsibility extends only to property he or she is aware of — such as the vehicle — and doesn’t usually apply to valuables left in the car. If you have valuables, notify the attendant and ask to leave the items in a hotel safe during your visit.

Ultimately, responsibility for burglary or auto theft will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

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