Parking Assistants in Brazil
One of the common complaints by Brazilian drivers is the lack of parking spaces. They are not only scarce, but might also be “monitored” by not-so-welcome assistants. This article will explain this situation and the flanelinha job.
Parking your car in Brazil might be challenging. In big and medium sized cities, finding a spot in the street quickly is happening less frequently. And that is not the only issue. Once a parking space is detected, your problems might be just beginning.
It is very common to find a person standing next to an empty spot, signaling that your car will fit. This informal — and in most cases, illegal — parking assistant is known as a flanelinha in Brazil.
Flanelinhas basically keep an eye on vehicles parked on the street to get some change. Some of them ask for the money in advance, usually setting a price, while others only ask for some sort of contribution afterwards. Their approach also varies, since some stay in the middle of the street indicating an empty spot, while others remain seated waiting for a car to park.
This activity can also be seen in other countries like Mexico, for example, where they are called franeleros. In the Brazilian cities of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, and Brasília in Distrito Federal, this profession is regulated. Contributions to people watching over cars are allowed, but flanelinhas cannot put a price on the service, nor threaten drivers physically or verbally.
Caution and Recommendations
Even though this informal job might sound harmless at first, it could be problematic, as some of these assistants can exhibit hostile behavior, or even damage the vehicle of those who do not agree with this practice.
Unfortunately, it is recommended to pay the requested fee in order to avoid more serious problems. Governmental bodies ask the population to denounce this illegal activity, but the process is sometimes slow and possibly ineffective. Aggressive attitudes adopted by car keepers in Brazil are:
- Scratching the car’s painting
- Blowing out tires on purpose
- Stealing car parts, like the sound system or the spare tire
- Verbal, and in some cases, physical aggression.
Usual Locations and Prices
You can find Brazilian parking assistants in different places and situations:
- Those that stay in a permanent place or street
- Those that only show up for events or specific situations
- People wandering and looking for cars being parked, so they can assist the driver and make some change
Some flanelinhas ask for payment in advance, as soon as the driver exits the car, without setting a price for keeping an eye on the vehicle. It is very common, though, to see them charging a fee when drivers are looking for parking spaces near soccer stadiums, concert venues, tourist spots, or streets with bustling nightlife. The requested amount is more than just a few coins, possibly varying from BRL 5 to BRL 20. The bigger the event, and the larger the number of cars, the greater the price.
Valet Parking & Alternatives
There are a few alternatives for drivers that dislike paying to park their cars in public spaces. Some establishments have agreements with parking lots, or offer their own spaces. The most common arrangement though, is valet parking, where the driver delivers the keys to an authorized employee, who parks the vehicle in a lot located elsewhere.
But be careful. Be sure you hand over your keys to an employee, and not just to any person standing in front of a restaurant or venue. Cases of theft by persons pretending to be valet drivers occur every now and then.
Some valid tips that may help you to identify a valet are:
- Check the employees clothes. They usually wear some kind of uniform with the name of the establishment or parking lot.
- Employees are usually placed in front of the establishment, behind a counter, and curiously, under a parasol.
- Most of the places offering valet parking usually give the driver a ticket, to which is added the car’s license plate number, model, or other number that makes it easily identifiable later.