(CBS) — When you hand your car keys over to a valet you assume everything will be OK, but the actions of some valets could get you a ticket or, even worse, get your car towed.
Now the city is cracking down on parking valets as a result of disclosures by CBS 2 investigative reporter Pam Zekman.
CBS 2 went along recently as investigators for the City Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) made surprise inspections of valet operations at restaurants and other venues.
While patrons hurried in from the cold, city investigators checked valets for proper licensing, signage—and where they were parking cars.
They found four cars illegally parked by valets near Shaw’s Crab House and around the corner in a “no parking” zone.
“Yeah, that’s true,” a valet from Prestige Parking told Zekman when she pointed out that one of the cars was illegally parked.
“So these people could get a ticket from the city because you parked illegally,” Zekman pointed out.
“It’s temporary,” the driver said.
Inspectors issued Prestige Parking, the valet company for Shaw’s, 16 tickets, including four for illegally parking cars.
“Customers believe when they’re parking with a valet that their car is safe,” said Sherri Cianciarulo, deputy commissioner for compliance. “These customers could have had their cars towed.”
The owner of Prestige did not return a phone call requesting comment.
A spokesman for Shaw’s Crab House said: ”Valets should be parking legally, and that’s what we hire them to do. We want them to follow the rules and regulations. If they are doing something wrong we want them to stop it.”
At the El Hefe restaurant, inspectors found Reliable Valet Service parking cars without a license to operate there.
The city slapped Reliable with a notice of ordinance violation, which is subject to a daily fine of between $200 and $10,000.
“We don’t do anything there,” said Jack Kupiec, the owner of Reliable. But a sign for his company was in front of the El Hefe restaurant.
Kupiec told CBS 2 that he does have licenses for valet services at about 40 locations in the city and once had a license to valet for the previous restaurant located where El Hefe is now in business.
City officials say it’s important to make sure valet parking services are licensed by the city.
Otherwise, said Nick Giannoules, a deputy investigator, “People don’t know who they’re leaving their cars with, they don’t know who the attendant is. So, that’s a big risk to the consumer.”
At the Tiffani Kim Institute, a medical wellness day spa, inspectors found something they’d never seen before: stacks of fake parking meter receipts all with dates for the next day piled inside a cabinet used by the building’s valet service, PAS, LLC.
The valet on duty told Zekman he did not know anything about them.
The city believes that because the area has a lot of parking spaces that require feeding a meter, the valets put the receipts on the dashboards of customers hoping no one would realize they were counterfeit.
But the customer who leaves their car with the valet could wind up in trouble.
“They will get a parking ticket because the parking hasn’t been paid for,” said Charles Lee, a city investigator.
PAS LLC got cited for 40 violations that night, including 16 for possession of counterfeit parking meter receipts and deceptive practices.
“We had put the valet operators on notice that we’re going to be doing a crackdown,” Cianciarulo said. “We found a lot of violations this evening.”
Over four days, BACP investigators visited 35 valet companies and issued 229 tickets on charges that included failure to provide adequate receipts; failure to put parking valet placards in cars, indicating it was valet parked; and illegal parking.
The city asks anyone with complaints about a valet service to call 3-1-1. For more information about valet-parking regulations, click here.