If you're affluent enough (lol) to be using valet services, you might've wondered at some point how those young 20-something drivers in cheap, ill-fitting suits are treating your Maserati? Or, if you're like me, you might've wondered what the equivalent of spitting in burgers would be for those parking cars of the rich and wannabe famous.
Turns out, your worst nightmare (or greatest hope, depending on where you fall in the class war) may be true after all. To get an idea of what valet drivers do for fun, we spoke to Taylor, a former valet who's worked at high-end restaurants, art galas, and the occasional private household party.
The shenanigans range from irresponsible to illegal. Park douchey at your own risk.
VICE: So how long did you work as a valet?
Taylor: I've been doing it for a little over a year. Mainly high-end restaurants, and occasionally the odd private event or hotel. I used to work events like the AGO [Art Gallery of Ontario] and the ROM [Royal Ontario Museum], [but] mostly rich people's houses though. So even house parties have their own private valet's going on?
Yeah, like, Christmas parties and stuff so their friends wouldn't have to worry about, y'know, parking their own fucking cars. Why'd you take this job?
I really liked cars, and it seemed like a part-time job that pays more than minimum. The money can be very good. Sometime I got paid a $55 [€48] flat rate, or sometimes it was $12-15 [€10-13] an hour. Is that the kind of person that gets into it: people who like cars?
They were mostly brown guys… [laughs] (I'm brown.)
Every single person who gets into valet does it because they like cars, and because they think it'll be a good way to make money and hang around cars. Lots of valets are into tuners as well, you know, with their greasy little Honda Civics that they've tried to tune and put stickers on. They'll even bring them to events and rev them up and have their hoods up, showing off their rides while they're working. That sounds really embarrassing.
Yeah, it is. Their cars are normally shit. So what kinds of cars would you regularly be driving?
Maybachs, McLarens, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, pretty much everything. Alright, so tell me about some of the crazy stuff you did on the job. How'd you start getting up to trouble?
Well, as soon as they started yelling at me, "You have to be faster, you have to be faster!" It was like, well fine, but if you want me to be faster, it meant I was driving the cars harder and not being as careful. That meant we'd be speeding on public roads on the way to the parking garages and speeding in the parking garages too. And you're doing it in really expensive cars that aren't yours. Alright. What about stuff you'd do for fun?
Well, you know, if it wasn't busy and you got a cool car, you'd go the long way to park it. [Or] you'd go from zero to 60 in an alleyway that's like, barely half a block long with two-way traffic in it. For me, it was mostly just driving the cars really, really fast. I'd never do anything really stupid like burn the tires. Actually, wait, that's a lie. What about the people you worked with, did they get up to anything crazy?
I worked with one company where you'd just see people take off with cars that weren't theirs. You'd be driving behind them, and they were supposed to take a right to the parking garage, they'd take a left, and then you wouldn't see them for another 20 minutes. So they could be doing anything, you'd have no idea?
Nah, they just took off. There was another story I'd heard about a guy who got an Audi R8, so a pretty expensive car. Now, the parking lot they were parking at was on a roof. The guy who owned the car realized he'd forgot something in it, so he went up to the parking lot to go grab it. When he went upstairs, he walked out to see the valet doing donuts in his car, on a roof. Having a good time. Jesus. What happened?
Well, the valet was fired, but the damage was obviously done. So what happens when someone screws up on the job and there's damage done?
[laughs] Well, the company just pays for it, that's all. If it was just a "whoops" and you didn't do anything stupid on purpose, it's fine. If you get caught doing donuts or pulling the handbrake or something stupid, yeah, it's your fault, and you're going to get fired. But you crash a car [by accident]? You just fill up the paperwork and carry on with your day. But as far as the crazy stuff you're doing that doesn't get caught, I guess that's just something that'll be on the driver unknowingly?
Yep, and we don't normally get caught. I mean, driving the cars fast isn't the only thing. I've seen drivers smoking weed in customers cars, I've seen people driving drunk and driving high. We also blatantly steal out of the cars too sometimes. One guy—he was a fucking idiot—ripped a radio out of a car. He was fired obviously, 'cause he was a fucking idiot. I'd grab some gum or cigarettes out of people's cars, just one. Or I'd borrow their lighter. Stuff like that. How do people get away with driving drunk and driving high?
There's nobody watching us! You're working by yourself pretty much. It's just you and another valet driver just like me. Did you ever find any weird shit in people's cars?
Nothing crazy, but I've found pot, half-drank bottles of whiskey in the cup holders. Oh, fucking dogs and kids as well. What's it like finding a live animal or kid unexpectedly?
Fucking terrifying! Kids, they normally tell you, but first of all, why would you give your fucking child to a valet, you don't know who I am? This is how kids get stolen. Earlier, you mentioned another kind of stealing: scamming customers.
Yeah, so what we'd do is offer a premium package. You'd say, "oh, you've got a really pretty car, if you want, we can park it out front so you can show it off." Then we'd tell them instead of paying $10 [€9], you'd have to pay $50 [€44]. And people fucking went for it! There's no such thing as a VIP package. If they said no, we'd still park their car there anyway. What made you quit?
You know, I got tired of it, and moved on to better things and have a better job now. It's pretty surprising that people ever hand over their cars to you, after hearing about all the shit you guys pull.
Rich people don't care, man. It's also sort of an insurance fee. If I park the Ferrari on the street and someone crashes into it, my company is liable. But if they do it themselves, it'd be their problem. A lot of the stuff though isn't [obvious] damage, or damage you can see. Most of the damage could be from cold starting cars, changing gears aggressively, riding the clutch, that sort of thing. Would you ever let a valet park your own car?
No. I drive a manual, too, so no way. Follow Salmaan Farooqui on Twitter.