Next step, creating a framework for accountability: the Valet Code of Conduct.
2012 we take back the streets.
UPDATE 3 - Feb 8 2011: Incident à Beyrouth entre un voiturier et un automobiliste, la blogosphère en ébullition
Par Elie WEHBE | olj.com | 08/02/2012
LIBAN L'affaire portée devant la justice; sur Twitter, les témoignages se multiplient.
Beyrouth, dimanche 5 février, 3h30 du matin. Samer Karam, qui sort d’une soirée entre amis, se rend à la rue Bliss, à Beyrouth, pour contenter une petite faim avant de rentrer chez lui. Il gare sa voiture devant le snack "Charlie's hot dog", un kiosque adjacent à "Zaatar w Zeit", restaurant et chaîne de fast-food libanais. C'est à ce moment que la soirée tourne mal.
"Avant même que je sorte de ma voiture, un employé de la société "VIP Parking Control" (valet parking) s'est approché et m’a demandé de déplacer mon véhicule en m’expliquant que cette place est réservée aux clients de Zaatar w Zeit", explique Samer Karam dans un entretien accordé à L'Orient-Le Jour. "J’ai tenté de lui faire comprendre que cet espace de stationnement se situe sur la voie publique et qu'il n'a pas le droit de m'interdire de me garer", ajoute-t-il.
Selon M. Karam, le voiturier s'est alors énervé et lui a crié dessus. "Il a essayé de monter dans ma voiture en ouvrant violemment la porte. Je l'en ai empêché à plusieurs reprises", précise le Libanais. "Mais il n’a pas renoncé et a tenté à nouveau d'arracher ma ceinture de sécurité pour me sortir de la voiture", poursuit M. Karam qui affirme avoir crié pour attirer l'attention des passants. "Il a fallu que trois hommes interviennent pour l'éloigner de moi", conclut-il.
Choqué, Samer Karam contacte la police à qui il explique l’incident. Selon M. Karam, le valet parking de VIP a, pour sa part, nié en bloc. Le policier en charge de l’affaire conseille alors aux deux hommes de régler l’affaire à l’amiable afin d'éviter de passer la nuit au commissariat.
UPDATE 2 - Feb 8 2011: Apology issued after valet attendant allegedly assaults motorist
By Emma Gatten
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: VIP Parking Control and Zaatar w Zeit apologized Tuesday after an alleged assault on a man by a valet attendant outside a branch of the cafe chain in Hamra over the weekend.
Samer Karam, the founder of startup Seeqnce, wrote on his blog Monday that he had been approached after stopping his car in a public parking space on Hamra’s Bliss Street by a VIP Parking Control valet attendant working for the restaurant Zaatar w Zeit and told the space was reserved.
According to Karam, the attendant succeeded in forcing his way into Karam’s car, and attempted to physically assault him before three passersby pulled him away from the car.
Chadi Habr, the managing director of VIP Parking Control, told The Daily Star Tuesday that the employee in question had been fired, and that the company was issuing an apology to Karam for the inconvenience caused.
“In no way does this incident represent VIP Parking Control,” he said.
Habr added that, contrary to earlier rumors, VIP Parking Control would not be pressing charges against Karam.
Zaatar w Zeit issued an apology to Karam Monday and added that the incident had been a “single accident” and that “accidents do happen whether with our own employees or with outsourced companies” and said it had attempted to contact Karam to resolve the matter.
UPDATE 1 - Feb 7 2011: Between talking to lawyers, emptying my schedule (to take a day off from work and go to court), catching up on lost sleep during time spent at Police Station, and dealing with PTSD, responding to frivolous PR statements by Zaatar w Zeit is not my top priority.
Beirut, Lebanon: On Sunday February 5 2012, at roughly 3:30 AM, a customer (let's call him Marwan) legally parked right in front of Charlie's Hot Dogs on Bliss Street, next to the American University of Beirut, in order to jump out for a quick bite (hotdog) before heading home for the night.
Marwan had just finished from a housewarming evening at a friend's place, and had agreed with another friend (Maria [an alias only]) that they would grab a bite on Bliss. She wanted a man2oushe, he wanted a hotdog.
Just as Marwan parked, engine still on, seatbelt still on, door still closed, a VIP valet guy by the name of Ali Mrad (actual name) comes up to his door, opens it to tell him that he can't park there. Ali claimed that he had reserved the spot for another car.
Ali (through VIP Parking Control) was working for Zaatar w Zeit (adjacent to Charlie's Hot Dogs).
Marwan explained to Ali that this is a public road, and that he (Ali) cannot reserve a spot. At which point Ali started shouting, and pulling at Marwan's car door to get into the car. Marwan frantically tried to close the door, pulling with all his strength to keep Ali out of his car. Ali was keeping the door open with one hand on the handle and the other on the frameless glass window.
Panicked, Marwan raised his voice, hoping to get the attention of passers-by, and managed to pull the door shut for a split-second before Ali reopened it with rage in his eyes.
This time, Ali lunged into the car, grabbing at Marwan, catching and pulling at his seatbelt (still on), with Marwan shouting at the top of his lungs with the hope of avoiding physical injury.
Within a few seconds, 3 guys pulled Ali off Marwan, out of the car, and onto the sidewalk.
Shocked and nervewrecked, Marwan called 112 (emergency police number), and waited until the Police arrived. Meanwhile, Ali continued to park cars and enter Zaatar w Zeit unobstructed, while the Zaatar w Zeit manager told Marwan that it was alright, and that shit happens, and that it wasn't necessary to escalate things, not once apologizing to Marwan or reprimanding Ali.
Here Ali is being pulled away from Marwan’s car…
By the time the Police arrived, Maria had joined Marwan, insisting on sticking around as a witness in case things got out of hand.
The Police arrived and asked Marwan & Ali to tell their stories. After Marwan, still shaken, described how the events unfolded, Ali proceeded to lie about how he was courteous, and how Marwan was insolent and that he (Ali) did not force his way into Marwan’s car or physically attack him.
Marwan, in the presence of the Police, was able to show that Ali was fabricating the story, which led to Ali rewording his story several times. Ali refused, however, to admit any fault, even though he was clearly told by the Police (then and there) that he was breaking the law by ‘reserving’ public parking spaces for commercial gain. Zaatar w Zeit’s manager also did not admit fault, and did not offer an apology, he simply repeatedly asked Marwan to let things go.
Marwan further explained to the Police that Ali was lying as he had left clearly visible fingerprints inside Marwan’s car window as he viciously forced open the door. The Police didn’t bother to check the car, and simply said that if the matter was not resolved amicably on the street, both Ali and Marwan would have to go to the Police Station. Had the Police checked the car, they would have noticed the window damage that resulted from Ali’s attack. The frameless window was pulled with so much force that the door no longer closed properly!
Marwan insisted on filing a complaint against Ali and his employers (Zaatar w Zeit and VIP Parking Control). Ali proceeded to state that in response he wanted to file a complaint against Marwan for insulting him. The Police told Marwan and Ali to follow them to Makhfar Hbeish (Hamra’s Police Station). Maria went with Marwan.
Marwan and Maria arrived at Makhfar Hbeish (Police Station). Ali Mrad, the Zaatar w Zeit VIP valet who had physically attacked Marwan was already inside.
The Police ‘Chief' (rank unknown) was woken up. He asked to hear each side of the story. Both Ali and Marwan told the story as they had told it earlier.
When the Chief realized that Maria was in the room, he sternly asked her to leave. She asked why, and he insisted that it is not her place (this is not a woman's place) to be in the Makhfar. She obliged, but stayed close to the door.
After Maria walked out, the Chief asked why matters weren’t resolved amicably, to which Marwan responded, “What is amicable about Ali physically attacking me in my legally parked car?” Marwan insisted on pressing charges.
The Chief responded that if Marwan insisted on pressing charges, he (Marwan!) would have to spend the night in jail, because pressing charges would require that both Ali and Marwan stay in jail until 'Police Operations' opened up the next day. Maria overheard this, and is a witness to this statement.
Though the Chief's statement about spending the night in jail didn't make sense, Marwan didn't want to take the risk of challenging him without a lawyer present, and so decided to try the peaceful route.
The Chief led Marwan into his private office, where he explained to him that he should just let it go, and that (repeating this 3 times) the companies (Zaatar w Zeit and VIP Parking Control) will be fined 3,500,000 Lebanese Pounds (over 2000 USD) for using public parkings for private commercial activity. Marwan felt this was an acceptable outcome, and so told The Chief that a simple genuine apology from Ali would go a long way.
The Chief called Ali in, and asked him if he felt responsible for what happened. Ali continued to insist that he didn't do anything wrong.
The Chief then asked Ali to apologize to Marwan. Ali insisted that Marwan should be the one apologizing. The Chief then insisted that Ali apologize, and assured him that in return Marwan would apologize. Ali eventually apologized, though not genuinely.
It appeared to Marwan that matters had been resolved, until the Chief asked him to enter another room, where an older policeman (let's call him The Writer, as he was responsible for writing things up) was instructed to prepare documents for both Ali and Marwan. Marwan didn't quite know what the documents were until Ali was asked to sign a Mahdar Dabt (a fine) that referred to a heated ‘exchange of words over parking on the street’ (no mention of the attack). Whilst filling in the Mahdar Dabt, Ali lied blatantly about his ID (or lack thereof), first saying that he had left it home, then saying that he had never been granted an ID (mandatory National ID) in the first place. The police caught the lie, and asked him about it, but chose to ignore that Ali was blatantly lying about his identification card. Marwan started feeling uneasy as things didn’t seem right.
Shortly thereafter, Marwan found himself asking the Writer if he expected him to sign a similar document, to which the Writer responded “yes”.
Marwan, shocked, asked the Writer, “How is it possible that the victim of the attack, who was attacked in his car, while still wearing his seatbelt, is being fined?” Marwan refused to sign the document and asked for further explanation.
The Writer responded with a fit, saying that if that's the case, then Marwan will be spending the night in jail until 'Police Operations' open up the next day. He proceeded to say, “Either you sign this tonight, or you spend the night and sign it tomorrow.”
Marwan asked the Writer flabbergasted, "Are you seriously telling me that I'll be spending a night in jail if I don't sign a document that puts me at fault in this physical attack on me in my car?" To which he responded with an even greater fit, closing his book, and telling Marwan sternly, “You'll be spending the night here then!”
At that point, The Chief is called in, and Marwan asked him why he is being fined for an attack that he was the victim of. He responded with "I thought I had made that clear to you earlier. Because you chose to come to the Police Station, the only way you can get out is by signing this document and accepting the fine."
Overwhelmed, exhausted, uncomfortable, and not wanting to spend the night in jail, Marwan told the Writer to go ahead, seeing as it would be negligible in terms of cost, and the Writer assured him that the fine would not appear on his record (sijil). The Writer proceeded to fill in that Marwan is at fault for a “heated exchange of words in a parking incident”, without any mention of being physically attacked in his own car, and with no reference of the perpetrators (Ali, Zaatar w Zeit, VIP Parking Control) or that Marwan was legally parked to begin with. When Marwan asked for the wording to be changed to state the facts, the Writer refused to do so and said, “If you dont want to spend the night in jail, you need to sign this as is.”
Against his will and better judgment, Marwan signed the document.
Marwan has to appear before a judge on Wednesday / Thursday to pay the fine.
Zaatar w Zeit and VIP Parking Control
should be held accountable for:
- the physical attack on Marwan
- the fine that Marwan was forced to sign
- the threats of incarceration that Marwan received
- the psychological trauma that was inflicted on Marwan
- using public spaces for private commercial benefit