By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
msnbc.com contributor
updated 10/7/2010 11:43:15 AM ET 2010-10-07T15:43:15

Remember the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," where a valet takes a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT out for a joyride? Brandi Mahoney claims it happened to her when she stayed at the Embassy Suites Portland in downtown Portland, Ore., recently.

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How does she know someone took her car — a 2006 Saab convertible — for a spin? Her on-board navigation system told her.

"When I parked the car, I looked at the dashboard program and it said .5 miles to your destination," said Mahoney, who left the car with a valet. She said she then went upstairs to change for dinner. When she came back down, the valet brought her car around.

"The GPS now read 20 miles past your destination," Mahoney said. "I valet parked my car again and asked the attendant to be careful and explained what had happened.

"He immediately started yelling at me that nothing was wrong and his drivers wouldn’t do that."

Mahoney, who was also keeping track of her mileage for work, took a picture of her dashboard. She then spoke with someone at the front desk and was assured her the situation would be remedied.

"The next day I picked up my car just before check out," Mahoney said. "I immediately saw that the dashboard now read 194.5 miles past destination. I was shocked."

Mahoney complained to the valet manager and the hotel manager on duty. The hotel later investigated, and a manager told Mahoney that they interviewed the valets but found no evidence that her car was taken.

"I asked what had been done besides interviewing them. He said an audit (done by the valet worker) showed my car to be in the garage from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

"He also stated that there was only one valet worker there for the late night shift. I asked that besides the one hour my car was supposedly there and the interviews if there was anything else done. No."

Mahoney also asked if there were any security cameras in the garage but was informed there aren't.

"I know for a fact — 100 percent sure — that my car was taken," Mahoney said. "I have my mileage record from work as well as the picture that it was driven past the destination."

Mahoney says her car hasn’t been the same since her stay at the Embassy Suites. It makes a clicking noise and the brakes squeak as well.

Damages to cars inflicted by valet services are some the most difficult to mediate, because it’s hard to prove someone from the hotel or valet company was responsible.

David Trumble, a spokesman for Hilton, which owns Embassy Suites, said the hotel’s general manager is still in negotiations with Mahoney and that he expected a resolution soon. “But I don’t think they have any conclusive proof that the car was taken on a joyride,” he added.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org .

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