A couple and a parking service are apparently at odds over who is responsible for the company's valet giving the pair's 2014 Mazda CX-9 to a stranger with no ticket outside the Joe's Crab Shack entrance in Newport Beach.
The screw-up happened Saturday night to Josh Gelle and his girlfriend Jodi Abadie, who emerged from the seafood joint and gave $5 and their ticket stub to the on-duty valet, who came back and told them another valet already gave their ride to someone else.
"Our first reaction was 'Where's the hidden camera?'" Gelle told KCBS/Channel 2. "We're looking around. 'You're kidding.'"
The couple could not question the valet who gave the car away because his shift had already ended. Gelle says Abadie pulled out her cellphone to record the conversation because the story they were told kept changing. Watch her in action here:
I can still hear Abadie's incredulous "You just gave it to him?" ringing in my head.
"The story we were given is that some guy showed up in a taxi cab, drunk, got out and said his name was Josh and pointed at my car and they gave it to him," says Gelle, who was also told the stranger had an Ohio State University tattoo–but not a valet ticket.
Joe's Crab Shack at the 2600 block of Pacific Coast Highway claims it is not responsible for the lost vehicle, that its independent valet contractor is. To Santa Ana-based LAZ Parking's credit, as this is being sorted out, it has given Gelle two rental cars and paid to change his home and office locks because keys to both were handed to the Boozy Buckeye.
"The safety and the service of us customers is of the utmost priority," the company said in a statement. "We take this incident seriously and once we have all the facts, we will act accordingly."
But since the KCBS story originally aired on Wednesday, Gelle says he has been told by LAZ Parking that he should report the loss to his car insurance company. The couple emphatically told the station that they do not think it is fair that they should take the inevitable hit to their insurance premiums. An insurance expert agreed, telling KCBS, "The company is responsible. Period. The company has to make the people whose car was given away whole again."
Speaking of the company, LAZ released a second statement: "Regrettably, it appears our company policies and procedures were not properly followed, and we have apologized and are actively supporting the customer whose vehicle was affected. We take this incident very seriously and once we have completed our review of the incident, will act accordingly."
The Newport Beach Police Department investigation of the theft includes an examination of a nearby business' surveillance video.