Valets vie for craft's crown

Okay, so what exactly happens when you leave your car at the door and toss your keys to the valet?

  • transportation, business, shopping and ownership concept - customer and salesman shaking hands outside

Okay, so what exactly happens when you leave your car at the door and toss your keys to the valet?

Well, judging by this week’s Saturn Valet Challenge, you’re in capable hands: these guys are pretty good, even when they’re in a hurry.

The fun event, held on a closed course at the CNE, pitted eight valets from Toronto hotels and restaurants against the clock.

They faced four tests:

  • Moving a Vue Hybrid that blocked an Aura mid-size sedan.
  • Driving the Aura through a slalom and into a parking space.
  • Backing the Aura up to an Outlook, the brand’s new crossover, and packing boxes into the Outlook.
  • Parallel parking the Outlook.The winner, who did it all in 1 minute and 41 seconds, was Ben Watts, 22.He has parked cars at the Park Hyatt Hotel on Avenue Rd., at Yorkville Ave., for 2 1/2 years.

    He won a trophy, bragging rights and a week’s use of an Aura early next year.

    Naturally, valets had to drive a little faster than they would on the job — or so they said.

    A couple of entrants racked up penalty points for clipping road cones or less-than-stellar parking.

    “I didn’t touch any pylons, which is a good thing, because in our garage they’re solid concrete,” says Watts.

    He also thought to check first for a power liftgate when loading the SUV. Fortunately, it had one, which helped him cut down his time.

    Most of the other contestants were slowed down when they tried to close the hatch manually.

    By the way, those movies where the valet jumps into the sports car and takes off for a joyride — does that really happen?

    “Not at the Park Hyatt,” Watts says quickly.

    Participants offer this advice for success in the field: be professional, follow the customer’s orders and treat every vehicle with respect — although some may get a little more.

    “One guy left me his Porsche Carrera GT,” recalls second-place finisher Dimitri Petropoulos, who works for Northern Valet Services at Splendido Restaurant, on Harbord St.

    He was “so careful” of the $500,000-plus car that “I only parked it a few feet in front of me.”

    Service above and beyond has its material rewards, too.

    “I love helping my guests,” says Adem Abdurahman, a six-year veteran who works at the Sheraton Centre on Queen St. W.

    “We have a customer who brings his Mercedes in, and he’s very rich. He usually tips $50 to $100.

    “One day, he brought it in and it was very dirty. He’s very busy, so I decided to wash his car. He was surprised I’d done it, and he gave me a $500 tip.”

    Besides a healthy tip, valets also appreciate it if you’d take any unnecessary keys off your ring.

    “So they’ll fit in the valet box,” explains Matt Hiez, who parks at Centro Restaurant, on Yonge St., north of Eglinton Ave., for Northern Valet.

    Oh, and take your pets with you. Pets?

    “Yes, people sometimes leave pets in the car,” Hiez says.

    “It can be difficult when you want to get in the car and the dog doesn’t know you.”


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