Set aside for now the question of whether valet parking represents an indulgence leftover from the pre-collapse heyday or a convenience necessary in congested parts of town. There are larger issues at stake.
For instance, there we were at The Mansion on Turtle Creek waiting for the guy to bring our, um, classic bit of Americana around and mulling over plausible excuses. You see, we forgot to pick up some cash before pulling up to the valet stand. And although members of the Burning Question crew spread out to search the restaurant entrance and bar area--mostly the bar area, as it turns out--for an ATM after dinner, we still ended up with only our plastic and a lame apology.
As it turns out, we're not the only ones who rely on those handy debit cards for day to day transactions.
OK, we "forgot" a second time.
But in this cash-averse culture, many people travel without good old-fashioned stash of Benjamins, forcing them to leave valets in the lurch. "It happens two or three times a night," claims Nick Camp at Al Biernat's.
Some bars and restaurants provide 'cash back' service if you ask. In the rush to sign the bill and head elsewhere, however, it's easy to forget this possibility, as well. So what should an otherwise considerate diner do when they approach a valet stand empty-handed?
"Checks are fine," Baadsgaard says. It turns out that, on occasion, cash-free folks will use the old 'do you take a check' line in hopes of getting away scot-free--and with a clear conscience. Unfortunately for this opportunistic group, many valets earn wait staff wages, meaning they rely on tips for their livelihood. They are, therefore, quite happy to oblige.
So forget about this excuse. Skip 'where's the ATM' and 'catch you next time,' too--they've heard both, over and over and over.
Maybe the question should be this: why do valets put up with skinflint guests? Well, when folks actually pay up, it can be a somewhat lucrative position--perhaps $60-$80 on good nights. Then there's the fresh urban parking lot air, bursts of exercise and, of course, the opportunity to cruise around, however briefly, in Porsches, BMWs, a Ferrari now and then, and our much admired...collector's, yeah, collector's vehicle.
We're serious. Heads turn every time we pass Collision King.
Anyway, when you don't have cash because, say, an innocent misplacement of the decimal caused accounting to delay a month's worth of reimbursements, what should you tell the valet?
"Honestly, just let us know," Camp explains. "If people don't, it's like 'what did we do wrong?'"
Tips supposedly reflect a guests opinion of the service rendered, after all. So, in answer to this week's Burning Question, simply tell the guy you're out of cash and throw in a sincere "I'm sorry." Easy--although if you plan to go back one day, it's best to bring a little extra...you know, just for karma's sake.
One day we'll write about our once-in-a-lifetime visit to The Mansion. --Dave Faries