MGM Resorts valets fear shrinking income as parking fees rise

As MGM Resorts International gears to increase parking rates at its Las Vegas resorts Wednesday, the valets who park customers’ cars are expecting their income will shrink even more.

“It’s all about corporate greed,” a longtime valet told the Review-Journal last week after the company announced it would raise rates 10 months after implementing fees that range from $15 to $25 for valet and $5 to $12 for self-parking, depending on the resort.

MGM officials said in a statement Tuesday that the company’s parking strategy is a change that carried “unavoidable consequences.”

The valet, who asked not to be identified because he fears losing his job if he speaks to the media, said his income has plunged by $20,000 a year as a result of MGM implementing the charges.

Another valet, who also asked that his name and job location be kept confidential, said he has had to take a second job because he can no longer pay his bills since MGM began requiring customers to pay to park.

‘Everybody is hurting’

“Everybody I work with is hurting and a lot of them have had to work two jobs,” the valet said.

The workers say the increase that is taking effect on Wednesday will only worsen matters. The reason: Most of the rates fall on even dollar amounts that don’t require any change. For example, $18 a day was the rate for four to 24 hours at Bellagio, Aria and Vdara. If a customer paid with a 20-dollar bill, the employee had an outside chance of getting to keep the extra $2 as a tip. But now, the 24-hour rate at those hotels is $25 and it isn’t as likely that any change will find its way to the valet.

The valets have mixed feelings about what impact the implementation of parking fees at Caesars Entertainment properties last week would have on them. Some think it won’t have any effect while others believe there will be fewer parking at MGM resorts because Caesars rates are cheaper and local residents can still park free in self-parking when customers scan their Nevada driver’s license at a gate at the garage.

Fewer cars, fewer jobs

The valets say they’ve seen fewer cars since paid parking began. They theorize that a number of local customers are staying away — a tactic some of MGM’s most vocal critics have advocated — while those from out of town opt to pay less in self-parking instead.

One valet said on some recent weekends when valet lots usually are nearly full that they’re about half empty.

With fewer cars to park, MGM’s contracted parking management company, Chicago-based SP+, has laid off runners and ticket writers. In some cases, SP+ has scaled back hours to part time so they don’t have to pay benefits. The loss of health insurance has had a big impact on the family of a valet employee who just received a cancer diagnosis.

The valets said when paid parking took effect, employees, through Teamsters Local 986 received a $2-an-hour raise, but that increase hasn’t come close to making up for money lost in tips.

Representatives of SP+ and the Teamsters did not return calls seeking comment on what, if anything, they can do for the employees.

“It’s just horrible,” one valet said. “We could always count on a little extra money in the summer when people are here on vacation, but last summer, it was really bad and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it. And the worst part is that corporate doesn’t really give a crap.”

Guests not happy

Guests also aren’t happy with some of MGM’s policies.

A senior citizen who asked not to be identified said she and some friends went to an event at the Monte Carlo on one of Southern Nevada’s windiest days and when she received her ticket, it blew away. She told MGM authorities what had happened and that she had only been there about two to three hours. But instead, she was assessed a lost-ticket charge of $30.

“I feel totally ripped off,” she said in an email. “Maybe that is why they tell you to take your ticket instead of leaving it in your car, hoping you will lose it and they can gouge you for whatever amount they want. I was expecting to pay anywhere between $5 to $10 gladly, but $30 is a complete outrage.”

MGM officials have said the company’s $90 million parking initiative, announced in January 2016, would generate revenue to build a new $54 million, 3,000-space parking structure near the Excalibur, close to T-Mobile Arena to add parking for arena events.

In addition, the company said it would invest $36 million in upgrades and enhancements to existing parking facilities. MGM’s current parking lots lack improvements available through technology, including space availability and way-finding systems.

Company officials have declined to provide parking revenue figures.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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