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May I park your car, sir?

Where else in the world but in Mexico City would a Best Buy store have valet parking? But sure enough, there is one in this capital. At the attached parking garage, you can’t park yourself. A valet must do it.

I don’t drive a lot in the city. But when I do, I’m always struck by how many places don’t allow one to park one’s own car.

The local Telcel client service office has an attached lot. But valets do the parking, and the ticket stub says you should pay 30 pesos ($2.30) for the service.

Like all big cities, upscale restaurants and large hotels offer valet service. But even modest restaurants, gyms and stores have valets who will park your car for you. Yes, and even Starbucks have valets (h/t to @el_reportero).

This came to mind the other night when a banker friend ranted about how all the on-street parking in our district seems to be reserved for valet parking. It’s true. While parking spaces along streets may seem to be a public commodity, here in Mexico City valet services block them off, preventing public parking and profiting from their use.

It would take serious digging to find out which city official keeps an outstretched palm to allow this. It’s one of the many ways that small levels of corruption affect every day life here.

For those who have resources, it’s a huge benefit. Someone will always find you a space. But for those without, there simply is no place to park.


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How about the grocery store? I pay one guy to unload my cart and then I pay another to load my bags. Then when you walk outside there's always a guy following you in the hopes you will pay him to load your car. It's surprisingly continual.

I've always said that the most successful Mexicans do nothing. They must have culture shock when they travel internationally.

Bob Lee

This is a way of life in Mexico. It is appreciated when there is no parking space. Get used to it. Thank God for small favors.
Canta y aguanta
Aclimatar o aclimorir
Buena suerte

Tim J

Dear readers: I love getting your email but appreciate it if you could post your comments for all readers to see rather than just little ol' me. They are interesting. So I take the liberty of posting them myself

Tim J

Got this comment via email from a brilliant reader in San Diego:

Back in the late '70's I spent a summer in Guadalajara at a language program and was struck by a similar pattern at the local copy-shop. You handed the material to be copied to a clerk and he would do the deed for you. I thought it was a way to employ people, plus it was more personal than in the US where one could go to a place with a copier, put in the money, get your copies and leave without a single human interaction. Viva Mexico.
Valet takeover may be different, but I think the principle is the same.

Then this comment also via email from a reader named Shirle:

I thought of this at first as a way to keep more people employed and at least doing something "productive."

However, you take is probably the sharper one . . . .

pink schnoid

regarding the guys who "watch over" cars while you go shopping or whatever, it is sort of an annoyance that is an unofficial way of the local governments to provide a "service" for people without delving into welfare doling out or providing any real money for the unemployed via government funds...

they government tolerates this practice and sometimes the guy "watching over" the cars will get a few pesos in kick back...it sort of bothers me because if you are out and about all day you can end up dispensing un chingo de pesos for this "service"

there is the hint of threat involved, for sure...

Tim J

Hi Mike, I've found the 'watch the car' phenomenon across much of Latin America, particularly in Central America. It's not much money but there's also a bit of a threat involved. Pay me to watch your car or you might come back to find a mirror missing and a big scratch.



This also reminds me of the sideline business of getting paid to watch over people's parked cars. When visiting Mexico City on business, I saw my friend often pay local men hanging out on sidewalks to "secure" his car while his car was parked. Kind of an informal valet service.

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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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