Parking garage damage is a popular sub-genre of complaint on this site. It seems every month I get a request for help from a hotel guest who valet-parked their car and had it returned with a ding or dent.
Take Nikki Browning, for example. She recently valeted her Volvo while she was a guest at the Se San Diego Hotel. The Se is a luxury property in the Gaslamp District where it costs $36 a night to park, which is among the most expensive rates in town.
Shortly after I checked out and left valet, I noticed that the rear bumper of my car had sustained damage. It looked like the valet backed my car into something in the garage.
The bumper had two large scratches and the paint chipped off in two sections.
Of course, the valet said nothing and let me drive off with my car in this condition. I immediately called the hotel and reported the damage. The hotel manager referred me to the parking company and told me to file a claim with them.
Several days later, a representative from Ace Parking called her. She filed a claim with them, sent them photos of the damage and also got an estimate to repair her back bumper. The repair cost came to $455.
But Ace Parking denied her claim, saying that she did not report the damage to the valet when she left the garage and that there was insufficient evidence it had caused the damage. The company pointed to a disclaimer she’d received with her valet ticket that limited its liability.
Browning then contacted a manager at the Se to make her case. The manager said the hotel wasn’t responsible for the damage and referred her back to Ace Parking.
However, I paid the Se San Diego to valet my car. It seems unfair that they are refusing responsibility, since I paid the hotel directly for parking. I spent approximately $825 at the hotel during this stay.
Does this sound right to you?
It isn’t unusual for a hotel to outsource its valet parking, and it appeared Ace Parking was denying her claim on a technicality. So I contacted Ace to get its side of the story. I heard back from a claims manager, who reiterated the company’s firm denial.
She did not report her claim prior to leaving the facility. There are times when we deny claims that aren’t reported prior to leaving the hotel but we don’t just automatically deny claims for that reason.
We do our own investigation and there are many claims where we are able to determine that we did cause the damage in question. When that is the case we do accept full liability.
Sometimes there is video evidence, witness evidence or even physical evidence that allows us to know or at least feel sure it did happen while under our care.
So Ace is suggesting its own investigation on her damaged Volvo showed it didn’t cause the damage, and that it may have been pre-existing.
End of the story? Not quite. Ace was so upset that Browning was continuing to pursue her claim, it felt that it needed to give her a piece of its mind. Browning followed up with me a few hours later:
A manager at Ace Parking called me, irate that I had contacted the hotel. He asked me what was wrong with me and why I was “wasting my time pursuing this ridiculous claim.”
It got so bad that I actually ended the conversation by hanging up on him. Talk about customer service!
I’d love it if you could write something about this to warn other travelers about the Se San Diego or the perils of valet parking at hotels. I now know to fully inspect my car every time the valet hands me the key.
My pleasure. There’s no reason — none whatsoever — to yell at a customer. Unless there’s a fire in the building, and even then, you do it politely.
So, bad Ace for losing your temper with Browning.
And I agree, of course, that you should always check for damage when you pick up the car. You’ll find a lot of parking services inspect your car before they take it and ask you to sign a receipt. Why not do the same thing yourself?
(Photo: dix ie law/Flickr Creative Commons)