Most everyone has used a valet to park their car at some point in the past. And most everyone has also either wondered if the valet would mistreat their car because it’s a piece of junk or take it out for a joy ride because it’s … not.
While their job looks simple and boring on the surface, many valets get to have super cool moments where they drive exotic supercars, meet celebrities and get great tips (that aren’t always money, according to our interviewee below).
That’s why we reached out to Royal Valet owner Mike Phan, a valet himself in Orange County for 10 years before he ventured off to start his own valet business. We asked him every question that’s ever gone through our minds while dropping off our car at a valet, and more — for instance, which car owners give the best and worst tips?
Find out all the secrets your favorite (or maybe just your last) valet has been hiding from you below.
1. What is the most expensive car you’ve driven?
“McLarens to a Bugatti, and my favorite … GTRs.”
2. What’s the biggest tip you’ve gotten?
“The biggest is a $100 tip from a very generous lady. I refused to take it but she complimented me on my service and said that she had never seen such a hardworking valet attendant before.”
3. Are you less careful when it comes to crappier cars?
“Definitely a no. I treat all my customers’ cars as if they were mine, but if a high-end car were to pull up, I usually give them the option of parking it themselves or have me park it.”
4. When it says the “lot is full,” is it really full?
“Not really. We say full in order to get more spaces for our parking lot and to get the overflow of parked cars parked first, then we can get new customers in.”
5. Do you bend the rules for luxury cars?
“No, I tend to treat all my customers the same and always give good service. If the person wants the extra service of keeping their car upfront, they will tip more to have us watch over their cars.”
6. Do valets ever look through your stuff?
“I’ve worked with attendants where, yes, they do look at your stuff but only if you treat them bad. We’ve seen weed, extra money laying around, iPads, phones and panties … yes, we’ve seen it all when we get into people’s cars.”
7. Do valets ever take cars on joyrides?
“Yes, I’ve seen workers taking advantage of the long stretch road to test out cars many times, but they will get caught. Simply, if you want to make sure your car is taken care of, tip beforehand and after. Attendants will remember this and will make you a regular.”
8. Which car owners give the best tips?
“Middle class cars, I’ve noticed. Anywhere from $3 to $5. Most high-end car owners tip $2 to $3.”
9. Which car owners give the worst tips?
“High-end class cars. I can remember working in Newport Beach and getting high-end cars in high amounts … they don’t seem to tip much.”
10. How much do valets typically make? Are the tips split evenly?
“On average I would say, $9 an hour with tips. Tips could range from $3-4 an hour. Tips are usually divided evenly in hours or through a pool-take system.”
11. Why should I tip valets?
“Hardworking college kids! Haha, but honestly, if you’re pulling up and want to be taken care of, tip the attendant first ($5 is good to start) and it will ensure he will keep it close. Tipping shows your appreciation for that attendant that ran for your car to get it back on time!”
12. How often do cars get damaged?
“On a daily basis, rarely. I’ve been working for 10 years, and I’ve only seen two valets who damaged the customer car when backing up.”
13. What happens when it does happen? (Do they ever just not say anything if it’s minor?)
“When something does happen, the valet company will have insurance papers to fill out. Then the manager should be there to take care of the situation. Most cases, I’ve seen customers lying about damages when coming back. When customers pull up, attendants will check for prior damages and mark them on the ticket stub.”
14. What’s your craziest story on the job?
“ A couple going at it in a MayBach with the windows down. Girls flashing their pair as a tip!”
15. Have you met any famous people?
“Yes! I’ve parked Dana White, Sean Jackson, Erick Aybar, Carlos Mencia and my all-time favorite customer … FLUFFY (Gabriel Iglesias)”
Bonus: What is something about your job that most people wouldn’t know?
“We get tired of the saying ‘That’s my Lambo’ when in reality it’s not. It gets annoying at times, and we will brush it off. Yes, we do park cars miles away and will do our best to retrieve them as quickly as we can. We’re not Olympic runners. ”
Bonus: What’s the greatest advice you can give for anyone who uses valets?
“If you’re going to a busy place and you know it will take a while to get your car back, tip beforehand. Ask the attendant to try and keep it close. This will get you in and out quickly. We don’t care if your car is a 80s junk or a Lambo. We are there to provide a service. Another thing: If you tend to valet at the same spot, tip beforehand and after. The attendants will remember this and they will make it a norm to keep your car upfront.”