Frustrated With Big-City Parking? Pay a Gig Economy Worker to Park for You

seinfeld valet

I get a lot of Klout perks because I essentially live on the internet, and Klout just sent me a brand-new offer: $40 in Luxe parking credits.

“We selected you for this Perk because you create engaging content,” Klout told me. Awwww, thanks! Too bad none of your data miners figured out that I don’t own a car. (Can you send me the Fair Trade USA chocolate perk again? That was a great perk.)

But when I looked at the Luxe graphic, which featured a rolled-up-jeans hipster stepping out of a car as a man in a Luxe jacket held the door, I had a sinking suspicion that Luxe was some kind of service where you paid people to drive around the block and find parking spaces for you.

And, as it turns out, I’m only partially right. Luxe workers do not, thankfully, have to spend their days circling the block looking for parking spaces. Instead, the valets meet you at your car and drive the car to one of Luxe’s designated parking spaces. When you’re ready to leave, they go to the parking lot, get your car, and drive it back to you. For an extra fee, they’ll also return your car washed and refueled.

I have a lot of feelings about Luxe. For starters, it’s really weird to look at the animated photos on their website, because one of the actors they used for their Luxe valets is a former roommate of mine.

There’s also part of me that is wondering about how fair it is to have private Luxe parking spaces in cities where parking is already hard to come by. According to VentureBeat, Luxe “has partnerships with garages around town where it leases parking spots on a variable basis.” Nearly all city parking is paid, of course, but Luxe users pay a premium for privileged parking while making the parking experience slightly harder for everyone else.

I’m also trying to figure out how much Luxe valets are likely to earn. A recent Luxe valet job ad states that drivers earn “upwards of $20/hour plus tips & bonuses!” but the math doesn’t quite make sense on that. See, Luxe also states that service users pay “an average hourly rate of $5 for a modern convenience.” We also know, from Luxe’s website, that its parking spaces are often located 15 minutes away from wherever someone might be in the city.

So at 15+ minutes per car, a Luxe valet working at max capacity might be able to park and/or return three cars an hour (because it’ll also take time to do the car transfer and accept the next assignment). That’s also assuming a Luxe valet only works one specific neighborhood and all the car pickups are relatively close together. In one hour, the Luxe valet makes $20 but the three car owners only pay $15? Sure, the cars continue to bring in $5 an hour for every hour they’re in the lot, but… how do users pay $5 an hour and valets make $20 an hour? (And Luxe also takes a cut too, right?)

I am seriously struggling with the algebra. For a valet to make $20 an hour, there needs to be more than four cars in Luxe parking spots for every hour that valet works, and these cars need to be in excess of the cars the Luxe valet is currently parking and returning, since if you return a car at 4:22 p.m. the driver isn’t going to pay for the full hour.

If I think about it in terms of “okay, maybe if the average car spends two or three hours parked, bringing in $10 or $15, and it takes a Luxe valet 30 minutes total to pick up/return each car, earning $10…” it can start to make a little more sense. But my head is spinning, and that’s even before I factor in the surge pricing. As Luxe explains:

Our pricing is based on demand. During times of high traffic like rush hour or ball games, peak pricing may go into effect and prices will be higher than usual. We do this to incentivize more valets to work for us and minimize your wait times.

On the “Become a Valet” page, we learn some of Luxe’s other incentives:

We compensate you without hidden fees – like gas, car maintenance, etc. You take home 100% of what you earn.

We now live in a world where “you take home 100% of what you earn” is presented as a benefit. And where do Luxe valets park their own cars? BetaBoston provides an answer:

Valets are independent contractors screened by the company who can respond to those requests, sprinting, skateboarding, or scooting around a neighborhood.

Luxe corroborates this in its job ad, listing it as another benefit: “Exercise while you work! We hope you like fitness.”

So. Now that I’ve shared how I feel about Luxe, how do you feel about it? Is it just where our economy is headed? Also, can you do the math on that car parking problem?

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