DRIVING GUESTS BACK

Source: The New Paper , Chang May Choon, Sat, Feb 02, 2008

Other guests, like St James regular Eric Ng, 30, a private banker, opted for the valet drive-back service. He was spotted with his girlfriend, looking a little flushed.

I approached him after he got into the back of his white BMW convertible and asked what he thinks of the drive-back service.

‘Damn good!’ he said with a laugh. ‘If I’m drinking, I make sure they take me home.’

A responsible driver indeed.

Mr Tang said some of their regulars would ‘automatically’ sign up for the drive-back service, especially if they are out to drink the night away.

Those who are tipsy and need a little more persuasion are advised not to risk having their driver’s licence suspended.

A third option is to take a taxi home and return the next day to collect their cars.

In the one year he has been working at StJames, Mr Tang claimed he has not met any aggressive guests who insist on driving themselves despite being drunk.

‘Some people are stubborn but after their friends talk to them, they cool down. So far, we haven’t met those who want to fight with us.’

On weekend evenings, a team of 20 to 25 valets are on duty. Their shift starts at 6pm and ends at 6am.

Most of them are in their 20s and 30s and have at least three years of driving experience. They take turns to drive guests back.

Mr Tang said they get up to 20 jobs on busy nights – especially on the eve of public holidays when people generally go out to celebrate.

Clients pay a fee of $50 to $60, depending on whether they are alone or with friends who also require a lift home.

Patience is a virtue on the job, said Mr Tang, who started out as a valet five years ago because he wanted to drive different kinds of cars. He once drove a guest home in his red Ferrari, he said with a laugh.

Each job takes around an hour to complete and usually entails a lot of waiting.

The car owner may fall asleep or be so drunk he cannot recall his home unit number.

So the valet stays with him until he recovers, then takes him to his doorstep before taking a taxi back.

Sometimes, the valet also gets requests to drive the client out for supper first.

Popular eateries include the nearby KTM railway station hawker centre and late-night dining joints along River Valley Road.

Mr Tang said: ‘Some customers invite them (the valets) to join, but mostly they hang around the vehicles.’

He added that his guys on the job outside also alert him if they spot road blocks.

In the two hours I was there, there were eight drive-back requests.

So, what happened to the drunken lady?

Mr Tang said over the phone later that he woke her up around 6am when the club was closing. ‘I asked her, ‘Miss, are you okay?’

‘She said she felt very fresh and then she drove off.’

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