Johannesburg - It’s safe, convenient and efficient. Your car’s collected before your departure from the airport, stored securely and returned freshly washed at the drop off zone.
Valet services from the airports are widely advertised and used, but how can you be sure about the service you’re getting. Or even, how safe is it?
On 6 December 2016 last year Sandra Nolan handed her car to a valet service at OR Tambo to store while she was overseas. Almost a month later, when she returned, she discovered it was in a state.
“Consumers must be warned about using these services," she said. "I’ve been lucky in the past, having used them more than a dozen times with great success.
“In December, I thought I’d try someone new. I searched on Google, saw quite a few listings for valets at OR Tambo, and selected Airport at Best Care Parking.”
They promised a “stress-free” experience and “awesome service”.
The owner, Tshidiso Moqhoishe collected the vehicle and off Nolan went, confident in the service because it operated off airport grounds. Or so she thought.
“Without any disclosure from the company, I discovered that, in my absence, the car had been driven 1935km, there was a chip in the windshield, the front bumper had been ‘fixed’ and there was a hole in the undercarriage.
“I noticed these transgressions as soon as I returned home from the airport, and spent the next three weeks emailing quotes for reimbursement and calling Mr Junaid Tshidiso Moqhoishe, who is the owner of the company. He insisted that an employee used my car, yet Moqhoishe’s name detail was saved in my car’s Bluetooth device.”
While Nolan was away, somebody seems to have had quite a party in her car over the festive season, not only damaging it but causing a serious dent in her 30,000km maintenance plan, effectively robbing her of more than a month’s worth of driving cover.
She’s cautioned not all such services can be trusted and that there’s crooked valet parking at the airports “and by crooked I don’t mean they don’t know how to park straight or in a designated space”.
Moqhoishe claims the damage was “a minor scratch on the bumper”, blamed a staff member for causing it, and that Nolan hasn’t provided him with proof of the mileage.
He had collected the car himself (which explains the Bluetooth), that valet services operated freely at the airports as they’re “public roads” and that he was in talks with Nolan to arrange for a professional panel-beating on her vehicle.
What he couldn’t explain was the almost 2000km on the clock. He claims Nolan has no proof of the odometer reading, when it is clear on the invoice and in “before” and “after” pictures.
He’s also planning to open an operation at Cape Town International Airport.
Where he parks the vehicles is anyone’s guess. Airport at Best Care gives a company address as being on Plataan Road, Edleen in Kempton Park. But from the street, it looks like a residential home that doesn’t seem to have undercover parking and no clear storage facilities.
Nolan told me last week: “I finally met the owner, Tshidiso Moqhoishe on Sunday, and while he seems earnest about preserving his company’s reputation, he is not committed to resolving the problem.”
I approached OR Tambo International Airport about the valet services. They said they were well aware of the pick-up and drop-off services: “These are independent operations that are entitled to meet passengers at the drop-off and pick-up points outside the airport, which remain public areas that are freely accessible to all.
“Unfortunately, it is not within the authority of the airport to regulate or control these services. As in all matters involving the purchase of a service, we would advise consumers to take reasonable steps to verify the standing and background of these companies, particularly considering that the service involves handing over your car keys to a person you have most likely never met.
“Consumers should exercise particular care with any company or service that has ‘OR Tambo Airport’ in its name. Use of this name can provide a false sense of security and the impression that the business is somehow officially associated with the airport.
“In this particular case, we must emphasise that the company that provided the service to this consumer is not associated with or authorised by OR Tambo International Airport to provide these services on behalf of the airport or from the airport premises.
“As OR Tambo International Airport has no contractual or concession relationship with this provider of valet services, we are not able to intervene on the consumer’s behalf. The complaint would thus need to be taken up with the South African Police Service or through the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.”
Granted, it’s not occurring on airport property (which is why the Ekurhuleni metro police are stationed on the road outside OR Tambo to police speeding and lengthy drop-offs so enthusiastically) but how about putting up notices to warn drivers?
Then again, it’s always advisable to exercise caution: don’t trust every business that crops up in a Google search; check for references/reviews; don’t hand over your car keys to a stranger - he could be a crook and you’ve just given him your car; and always keep evidence by taking pictures of your odometer. If ever, you need proof.