They have parked cars at a homeless shelter, at private homes and in open fields with little security in sight.
That is what some companies that claim to offer executive valet parking services for travellers from OR Tambo International Airport do, a City Press investigation has found.
And, while airport management says there are many companies offering these services, “none of them is approved, contracted or licensed by the airport”, except Executive Carport.
In the past three weeks, City Press posed as a potential client and made online bookings for valet parking with different companies, which cost R540 on average for a 10-day service – far cheaper than airport parking.
Owners hand their keys to a driver at domestic or international departures, and when they return, collect their vehicles from the same drop-off zone.
Many companies will not reveal their addresses to customers, citing security reasons, and vehicle owners do not know where their cars are parked.
However, Jacques Botha of DeZired Parking/DropZone Service, and Deon Beck of Airport Parking, did reveal their addresses, but said clients were not allowed there.
“We park the car 6km from the airport ... You can [come], but if it is a problem, there are 20 other companies that you can use at the airport. I have an old client base; if it is a problem for the client, then I just refer them to one of my friends – because most of my clients have been with me for more than 20 to 30 years,” said Beck.
The address Beck provided was of a homeless shelter. A man, who claimed he lived there with Beck and others, said: “We watch people’s cars when they are travelling. The cars are collected at the airport and they are parked outside on the street during the day. At night we park them inside the yard. I get paid R300 for three days,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Beck said his church gave him “permission to store my vehicles”. He confirmed that other people who live at the home help park the cars.
The shelter’s fund-raising manager said Beck was a shelter beneficiary and used its overnight facilities on an ad hoc basis.
“We are aware of Mr Beck’s valet parking business but do not formally support it. He runs the business on his own initiative. He is allowed to park one car, in the evening, like all other beneficiaries of the shelter,” she said.
Meanwhile, Botha said: “We have a couple of high-priority clients and their vehicles are here. They do not want people to know where their cars are parked. I can tell you where the car will be parked, but I cannot allow you to come to the property. It is for security reasons.”
But at the address he provided, City Press found expensive cars parked in an open parking area, and some were under carport structures.
The small area was surrounded by an old wire fence and a gate locked with a chain. The parking space was situated behind an open parking area demarcated for a restaurant.
There were no security guards in sight, just a notice on the wire gate that there were CCTV cameras.
Leigh Gunkel-Keuler, OR Tambo’s senior corporate manager, implored passengers and the public to take great care before using an “executive” or “valet” parking service.
She cited an example of a customer whose car was allegedly driven 1 935km and damaged by those who were supposed to look after it, and the insurance company refused to pay the damages.
“Consumers should know that airport management is aware of claims that some ‘executive’ or ‘valet’ companies have been known to leave vehicles on the street outside the Rhodesfield Gautrain station near the airport,” she said.
Pieter Rudolph, the lawyer for the SA National Airport Parking Association (Sanap) – whose members include several companies City Press approached for comment – accused City Press of “an extreme level of dishonest and underhanded conduct” for making “unsolicited” phone calls to “my client’s members and their employees, in which you have blatantly, deliberately and dishonestly presented yourself as a potential client”.
He claimed that City Press never visited Sanap members’ premises, but then said the newspaper’s actions “caused a severe breach of security and potentially placed in jeopardy the safety and security of our client’s members, their employees and their business premises, not to mention the whereabouts and safeguarding of the motor vehicles and assets in my client’s care”.
Malicious damage charge laid
Samukelisiwe Shozi opened a case of malicious damage to her property against Airport Parking Services (APS) last month.
In an email to her insurance company, Shozi said she dropped off her car and it was returned, 14 hours later, with a “cracked windscreen”, a “stolen car wire cover” and the “boot carpet and contents underneath had also been tampered with”.
“My insurance company approved the claim, but I paid the excess. The police dropped the case as they could not assist further,” Shozi said.
APS co-owner Alfred Storey confirmed that a case was laid, but denied the allegations against his company.
“There are plenty of clients who arrive here, and their cars have a chip on the windscreen. We have specialised persons to come and fix these chips for the clients at a cheaper rate. We phoned her and she was given the opportunity to fix the chip before the window cracks. She refused to have it fixed, then the windscreen broke when they drove it.
“Our company is doing everything in its power to prevent cracked windscreens by having specialised auto glass people to repair them.”
Shozi denies that she was ever offered a service to fix the windshield.
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