Car Guy's Nightmare - 2012 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test

2012 Mazda 3 Long Term Road Test

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2012 Mazda 3: Car Guy's Nightmare

August 22, 2012

It has been a bizarre 30 hours with our long-term 2012 Mazda i Touring Skyactiv hatchback. As Kelly Toepke wrote, I needed a Camry rescue yesterday. It's not often Kelly and I get to carpool, and I really enjoyed the conversation, which is made easier by the Camry's relatively quiet cabin and pleasant 405-freeway ride, but I wish this opportunity had come up due to better circumstances. Here's what happened.

Early Tuesday morning, I left the Mazda in the care of the valet staff at this hotel. I was attending a work-related event, and there was no self-park option so I just had to trust that our humble hatchback would be treated decently.

Five hours later, I handed a valet staffer my validated ticket and requested that he please retrieve the Mazda 3. Then, I stood in the warm sun, overloaded computer bag on my shoulder. A friend came up and we talked as he waited for his car. His car arrived and we said goodbye. I continued to wait.

Finally, the valet employee, who I'd interacted with that morning, and asked what kind of car did I have? Uh...

"You remember me, right?" I said. "I'm the tall, whiny lady with the dark blue Mazda 3 hatchback." (If you knew me, you'd understand the 'whiny' part. I like things the way I like them.)

"Oh... yeah." He got back on the radio. Minutes later, I heard the person on the other end of the radio say the fateful words "lost key."

Then, the employee holding the radio began lightly swearing.

After that, I met several more members of the valet staff, including a young, well-meaning employee, who said, "Yeah, I parked your car this morning, and I remember having the key in my pocket and I don't know what happened to it after that. I'm sorry."

I got to the see the valet company's office and its key board. There was a current-gen Mazda key fob on it, but it was attached to an Enterprise rental car key chain and clearly didn't go to our car.

Eventually, I met the valet staff's manager, who said, "we're so sorry, but we've lost the key to your car. What can I do to help you?"

"Well, I think you should have a staff meeting and everyone should check their pockets, and if no one has it, I think you should all look for my key."

"Well, I have other customers..."

"Really?? I think this is a pretty big deal. You've lost the key to my car (and I didn't say this next part but sort of which I had, *and taking care of people's cars is your core business*)."

After that, about 15 minutes went by while the manager and an undisclosed number of staff apparently looked for the key. But by that point, I saw which way the wind was blowing and made a call back to the ranch to see if we had a spare key.

Alas, we did not, as Mazda has loaned us this car. So when the valet staff's search didn't turn up the key ("It's crazy what can happen to these keys," the manager told me. "They fall into cars, and I bet what happened is that your key got attached to another key ring."), it became clear that I would have to leave the car here for the night, and given that I'm a bit attached to it, this tugged at my heart.

Before Kelly picked me up, I requested a visitation to confirm that the 3 was still physically on the hotel premises. It was up on the top level, competently parked, but baking in the sun -- its lot in life as a workaday hatchback in the land of Bimmers and Benzes. I snapped a photo of the VIN to help our friends at STI locate the correct key for the Mazda. Of course, there was also some paperwork to deal with at the hotel, and in all, this incident delayed my departure by 90 minutes.

The spare key was located this morning and, conveniently, also delivered to our office this morning. This afternoon, I let the valet manager know we'd be coming and that I had every intention of driving the car out of their garage myself, so please clear a path to the car. He was friendly when I arrived, and 27 hours after my original attempt, I retrieved the 3 without incident. It drives fine and is undamaged.

If this was my personal car, I would probably take the overly cautious step of having the blue Mazda 3 re-keyed at this point (since the lost fob is floating around in the great big city of Los Angeles). Since this car belongs to Mazda, though, our contacts at the company will have to decide if they want to go this route. If that happens, we'll let you know.

Anyone ever had a valet lose the key to your car? How did you handle it?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,310 miles

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