In general, people don’t like to pay for parking.
That’s according to Ben Akbary, CEO of Quality Parking Service Inc. based in Woodland Hills, California.
Some people don’t like to tip the valets who park their cars, either.
Maybe it’s because there’s confusion over how much to tip valets and when to tip them. Maybe customers simply don’t typically have cash on hand. Whatever the reason, there are some misconceptions about parking attendant tipping etiquette.
Gary Lewis, VP of Operations at Park Inc. based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette based in New York City, and Akbary offer their insights on why, when and how much to tip valets:
Why Tip Valets?
Valets work hard. Not only are they responsible for transporting vehicles safely, they also need to work quickly and efficiently – even if there is inclement weather, such as wind, rain, heat and snow.
Akbary, whose work used to take him to Chicago regularly, remembers seeing valets who were parking cars in the winter wearing full face masks that were covered in ice.
“Recognizing your parking attendant/valet by tipping is not only a common courtesy, but especially so if the service meets or exceeds expectations,” Lewis explains. “In the end, you are possibly trusting one of your most valuable material possessions – including what resides therein – to the hands and care of a possible stranger. Gratuities are a way of appreciating, or taking care of those who take care of you.”
It’s also good to remember that most parking attendants are paid an hourly rate. Gratuities help round out their take-home pay.
“Tips are a very important part of a valet parking attendant’s income,” Akbary says. “One of the main reasons they work for valet parking operators is to go home at the end of the night with cash in their pocket.”
How Much Should You Tip Valets?
Customers should tip valets anywhere in the $2 to $5 range every time they pick up their car, according to Meier.
For exceptional service, customers should consider tipping more. For instance, Akbary recommends a $10 tip.
When you’re considering how much to tip valets, Meier also recommends considering the venue.
“In terms of how much to tip, take into account the establishment,” she says. “Is it a casual beach pavilion you are dropping it off at or a luxury five-star hotel? You should tip higher or lower to reflect that level of the establishment.”
Does the Venue Matter?
Should you tip valets at every kind of venue?
Valet services operate in all sorts of places – from hotels and restaurants to health care settings and event venues – and the etiquette is different based on the location.
For instance, if you’re dropping your car at the ER, your valet might not expect or even accept a tip. The same goes for private events, such as weddings. In this instance, the hosts might tip out the valet themselves – and ask their guests not to tip for that reason. But that really depends on the host of the event, Akbary says.
For hotels and, however, tipping is fair game – even if the valet service is offered as a complimentary restaurant service.
“If the service is good or great, let the parking attendant know you appreciate their efforts by tipping accordingly,” Lewis says.
When Should You Tip Valets?
“You do not need to tip a valet when dropping off your car,” Meier says. “Think of it like placing an order for a drink at a bar. You would not tip when you place the order, only when you have received your drink.”
In other words, tip your valet when picking up your car.
At the end of the day, tipping your valet is a way to say “thank you.”
“It’s a sign of gratitude for good service to tip your valet,” Meier says. “If you take your car out multiple times and tip each time you pick up your car, it also ensures your car will be taken great care of.”