Ask a Dilettante – Little Vests

My husband and I went out to dinner last night. The restaurant was valet only, and it cost $6. We didn’t really mind until we watched the attendant park the car just a few feet from where we were standing. Then, after dinner, we had to give a different valet guy a few dollars for a tip when he retrieved our car. Seems kind of ridiculous to pay almost ten bucks for a parking job when the car is never more than a few yards from the entrance to the restaurant. Is valet being offered as a service, or is it just a scam?

Dilettante feels your pain. She can remember back about ten years ago when restaurant patrons had the parking lot for self-parking. Valet parking, if it was offered at all, took place far enough away that attendants spent the entire night running, full steam, between restaurant and unknown parking place.

At some point over the past few years, there was a global shift in Houston restaurant parking. The valet and the customer have traded spaces. If you’re not interested in valet and wish to park your own car, you know about unknown parking place. It’s at least a block or two away. It might be a dank, mostly-empty parking garage with poor lighting, or it might be on the street next to a weedy, vacant lot with no sidewalk. Or, if you are unlucky enough to be on a street with multiple three-story townhouses that require a driveway every few feet, there is no place to park. Except for the restaurant’s parking lot, which can only be accessed by a car driven, recklessly, by a valet attendant.

So you keep driving, trying to act casual while your dinner companion repeatedly tells you to just valet the car and be done with it, dammit. You begin to explain why you will not just valet the car and be done with it, dammit, but you stop mid-rant because you see a spot. Ha ha! It’s less than a block from the restaurant! You come to a smooth stop, getting ready to throw it into reverse and back in only to find a “no parking from 9AM to 8AM” sign. Sigh.

It is at this point that Dilettante just keeps on driving. If a restaurant is going to make it that hard on the customer who is uninterested in handing over the keys to a guy in a little vest, the customer has the option to not hand over any money to the waiter (who might also be wearing a little vest).

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]