Did an Embassy Suites valet take her Saab for a joyride?

Remember the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where a valet takes a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT out for a joyride? Brandi Mahoney claims it happened to her when she stayed at the Embassy Suites Portland – Downtown in Portland, Ore., recently.

How does she know someone took her car — a 2006 Saab convertible — for a spin? Her on-board navigation system told her.

When I parked the car, I looked at the dashboard program and it said .5 miles to your destination. We went upstairs to change for dinner. We came back down to leave. They brought my car around and we got in.

The GPS now read 20 miles past your destination. I valet parked my car again and asked the attendant to be careful and explained what had happened.

He immediately started yelling at me that nothing was wrong and his drivers wouldn’t do that.

Mahoney spoke with someone at the front desk, who assured her the situation would be taken care of.

The next day I picked up my car just before check out. I immediately saw that the dashboard now read 194.5 miles past destination! I was shocked!

Do people really do this? I mean, other than on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? I called the valet manager over. She took a piece of paper and took down my name and number.

I had to rush off to a wedding rehearsal at this point. I tried to call and file a police report but the officer said I couldn’t and I needed to contact the manager and the corporate office.

I called the hotel to see what was going on. The manager on duty said that I needed to talk to a different manager who was out. I asked for the general manager’s voicemail and he said there was not a general manager.

Mahoney says her car hasn’t been the same since her stay at the Embassy Suites. It makes a clicking noise and the brakes squeak as well. She reached a hotel manager by phone, who promised to send her a claim form.

He said if a team member took the car, they would notice them being gone for three hours. I asked if there were any cameras in the garage. He said no. How are they going to even find who did it then? I was told if anyone really did take it, they again would notice them being gone.

My husband said I should let it go because it is causing me so much stress but I just can’t. I feel that everyone is giving me the runaround when I have proof. I also took a picture of the dashboard and still have my mileage log at work. What should I do or can I do? Should I let it go? Valet parking was definitely not worth the $28.

I contacted Hilton, which owns Embassy Suites, on Mahoney’s behalf. It replied to her immediately and said it would investigate. Yesterday, she received the hotel chain’s answer.

The manager of the Hilton said that they found no evidence that my car was taken. They said they interviewed the valets that worked that day. I asked what had been done besides interviewing them. He said an audit (done by the valet worker) showed my car to be in the garage from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

He also stated that there was only one valet worker there for the late night shift. I asked that besides the one hour my car was supposedly there and the interviews if there was anything else done. No.

I know for a fact — 100 percent sure — that my car was taken. I have my mileage record from work as well as the picture that it was driven past the destination.

He said in order for them to process the request, I have to “list my demands” as to what I want as well as any damage to the car. I am not sure what to even put. I will find out tomorrow if there is damage. I guess what is frustrating me is that I know for a fact it happened and because they have no cameras and interviewed employees, they are in the clear.

Damages to cars inflicted by valet services are some the most difficult to mediate, because it’s hard to prove someone from the hotel or valet company was responsible.

Related story:   July 18, 2007

David Trumble, a spokesman for Hilton, said the hotel’s general manager is still in negotiations with Mahoney, and that he expected a resolution soon.

“I don’t think they have any conclusive proof that the car was taken on a joyride,” he added.

But if Mahoney didn’t drive the car another 194 miles, then who did? And who gets stuck with the repair bill?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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