The Customer Is Always Stupid


With the prominence of keyless cars that require only a “key fob” to be carried inside the car and a start button to be pressed to get the ignition going, a whole new set of problems have arisen at work.  Here are three of the most common scenarios.


The customer walks off with the fob in their pocket.  The car will still run, but once it’s turned off it can’t be locked or restarted.  Most cars beep loudly when the key is not detected, some don’t make any noise, instead just a small key symbol may flash silently on the dashboard.  If we notice it fast enough, we may catch the customer inside.  When we do, a lot of the interactions go like this:

Me:  “Excuse me Mr. or Ms. so and so, can I get your car key from you?”

Customer: “It doesn’t have a key, it’s keyless.”

Me: “Can I get your key fob from you then?”

Customer: “It’s running, you don’t need it.”

Me: “I know it’s running, but once I turn it off I won’t be able to lock it and I won’t be able to start it up again.”

At this point they usually dig around in their pockets, find the key fob and hand it to me.

Second Scenario:

If we don’t catch them in time to get the key fob on the way in, we park the car, and mark the ticket so that we can grab it from them before we run to the parking lot.  A lot of those interactions go like this:

Customer hands us the ticket.

Me: “I just need to get your key fob from you so I can start the car.”

Customer: “I don’t have the key, I gave it to you.”

Me: “We didn’t get a key from you.  The car wouldn’t start once we turned it off, so it’s not in the car either.”

Customer: (getting testy) “Look I gave you the key, you guys probably lost it.”

Me: (trying to be patient) “Can you check your pockets for me just to make sure you don’t have them before I go look in your car again?”

The customer is usually annoyed, convinced we lost their keys and that we’re the stupid ones. So with reluctance they will run their hands over their pockets.  Wouldn’t you know it, nine times out of ten they find their keys and hand them over in embarrassment.

Third Scenario:

This one usually starts well after the customer has left the restaurant and either gotten home or to their hotel.  This is always a phone call, and it happened to me last night.

They call the restaurant in a panic telling the hostess or the manager that they used valet and didn’t get their key fob from us when they left.  Usually a valet talks to the customer on the phone, and it’s always a delicate balance of trying to explain something in the same way you would to a child.

Customer:  “We used valet tonight, and we didn’t get our keys back from you.  It’s keyless, I think you forgot to give them to us.  We didn’t notice until we got to our hotel.”

Me:  “Did you check the cup holder?  We usually put the key fobs in the cup holder or hand them directly to you when we return the car.”

Customer: “I looked, we don’t have them.  You didn’t give them to us.”

Me: “We had to have the key in the car to start it and bring it up to you.  Have you tried to start it?  Does the car tell you that the key is not detected?”

Customer: “I guess I’ll check again and call you back, but I know you didn’t give them to us.”

Usually we never hear from them again, because they have the keys.

Last night they called back.

The first call came from a woman, the second one came from her husband.  They didn’t find the key, and they had to get somewhere by 6am the next morning.  We got their phone number, hotel, and room number.

They said they were at the Westin, and that it was a rental car, so I walked over to the hotel so I could look in their car and make sure.  I remembered bringing the car up and putting the key in the cup holder.

When I got to the hotel I called the man.  He was foreign.  I had a hard time understanding him, and he had a hard time understanding me.  I told him I was at the hotel, and I’d like to look in the car and try to find the key.  He was surprised I got there so fast, and I told him I walked over to the Westin on 6th St.  He told me he was in another Westin 20 miles away.


I asked him if he tried to start the car, and reminded him that you had to have your foot on the brake and the door shut for the car to start.

This is when he told me that they had just gotten their bags up to their room and he hadn’t checked the car yet, which was what I asked them to do when they had called 30 minutes earlier.  He still assured me that the car wouldn’t start, so he knew the keys weren’t there.

I got him to agree to look in the car and call me back.  I gave him my cell phone number.

30 minutes later he called back.  Guess where the key was?

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