Confessions of Facebook's parking valets, who see everything from protests to panic attacks

VPN.comA protest by outside Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, California.
  • Facebook has an army of valets who park the cars of employees and guests at its California headquarters.
  • They’re witness to a variety of incidents on campus, from employees’ panic attacks to political protests and visits by disgruntled users.
  • Business Insider spoke to some to hear what it’s like working on the front lines at one of the world’s biggest companies.

SAN FRANCISCO – At Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, hidden among the office blocks, shrubbery, and rows of shining vehicles exists an army of hundreds of valets hired to park its employees’ cars.

It’s a little-noticed job that offers valets a front-row view of life at the world’s largest social-networking company – from mundane day-to-day work to political protests and occasional emergencies like panic attacks among employees of the fast-paced company.

Business Insider spoke to a couple of Facebook valets to hear about what it’s like getting paid to park cars for techies at one of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley.

I expected nicer cars

The job comes with nice perks, like free food from Facebook’s various on-site restaurants, occasional sightings of tech industry celebrities, and relatively good pay. But anyone who imagines they will be screeching around the company campus in a rotating collection of Lamborghinis and Bugattis will be disappointed.

“They were a lot less nice than I expected them to be,” one of the valets said of the cars. “I honestly expected there to be more really, really nice cars.” (Apple’s campus, by contrast, apparently has nicer cars.)

When Business Insider visited the campus recently, the cars were nice but not ostentatious, including several BMWs and a predictably high number of Teslas.

Standout vehicles from Facebook’s campus included a new Audi R8 V10 and a Maserati GranTurismo, the valets said. The vehicles of VIPs are kept “up close” and taken care of particularly well.

The valet parking service is offered for free to Facebook employees and guests.

Of the 14,000-odd Menlo Park Facebook employees, about 50% use alternative modes of transport – shuttle buses, bikes, carpools, and so on. And many of those who do drive opt to park their vehicles themselves.

Still, with so many employees, often in a hurry, and with open parking spots difficult to find, the valets stay busy. There’s a morning rush from about 8:30 to 10 and one in the evening around 5.

There have been a few occasions where the few valets working have found themselves “straight sprinting the entire day,” one said, adding that “it’s, for the most part, a great experience overall for everyone.”

The valets are not technically Facebook employees; they’re provided by a third-party firm. California’s minimum wage is $US11, and valets make significantly more, about $US16 or so. But they earn far, far less than what most full-time Facebook employees make – the median salary is more than $US240,000 a year.

The valets aren’t allowed to accept tips, so whether Facebook employees are good tippers is a mystery.

Angry users, curious tourists, pesky reporters

Because it’s Facebook, the company’s headquarters attracts a variety of guests – some of whom have been invited, others who have not.

Whether they’re dealing with protestors, tourists, aggrieved users, or opportunists, the valets are often the first point of contact between Facebook and the outside world, making them unofficial customer-service representatives for the 2-billion-member social network.

And with large parts of the sprawling campus open to the public, it’s easy for anyone to wander in.

On one occasion, a man came to complain because he believed Facebook had an employee who was stalking him and deleting the posts he made, a valet said. (The man, however, had apparently violated the company’s community standards.)

Job-hunters will turn up uninvited and ask valets if they work for Facebook and what it’s like. Other times, people come to complain about the site or ask to talk to someone about privacy issues. One time, someone turned up to say they didn’t like their daughter using Facebook.

There is also the occasional news truck or reporter – like when a journalist for The Independent turned up at the offices in March “seeking answers” about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, livestreaming himself online, only to be promptly rebuffed.

Facebook hackathon mark zuckerberg Merlyn DengMerlyn Deng/FacebookCEO Mark Zuckerberg inside Facebook’s offices.

The vast parking lots surrounding the Facebook buildings can also attract problems. Business Insider previously reported that over the past year, there were eight 911 calls from Facebook’s campus reporting suspicious people or vehicles; in one incident, a security guard was Maced.

In recent weeks, a bright red truck with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook emblazoned on the side has been prowling the premises. The vehicle has been spotted on at least four occasions, a valet said, starting around the time CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The rolling protest turned out to be a publicity stunt by a privacy-focused internet firm.

‘I don’t want to jeopardize my job – I just say “hello, goodbye,” that’s it’

The valets can also see incidents involving Facebook employees, including panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. On these occasions, valets are told to keep the area outside an entrance clear so first responders can arrive and tend to the employee.

A valet described one incident in which paramedics carried out an employee out as “kind of like a normal rescue, basically.”

One of the valets said these employee breakdowns were regular occurrences, happening more than once a month, while another said they had witnessed only one.

Facebook protest campus menlo parkJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesProtesters with the group Raging Grannies hold signs during a demonstration outside Facebook’s headquarters in April.

There weren’t major complaints about the Facebook employees, though the valets said some were more approachable or talkative than others.

“Some people are just very much trying to get to work, but I would say for the most part no one’s unfriendly,” one valet said. “You just know who’s going to want to talk and who’s not going to want to talk.”

The other valet added: “There’s definitely a line drawn between ‘you are here to do this, and I am here to do this, and you need to do this so I can do this.'”

Senior staff members are seen around campus “on a daily basis,” they said, adding that interactions with them are purposefully minimal.

“I don’t want to jeopardize my job – I just say ‘hello, goodbye,’ that’s it,” one valet said.

When Facebook employees have complaints about the valets, they will generally go to the valets’ managers or grouse on Facebook’s internal message boards rather than confront the valets directly, they said.

The valets say there’s something exciting about being a part of the world’s largest social network, even if only in a limited way.

“It’s very easy to forget that you’re contributing to something so ginormous because everyone here is kind of, like, so used to it,” one said.

“It’s easy to forget you’re dealing with the lives of billions of people … It’s like when you know what you’re doing but you’re only working such a small piece of it that you don’t think of the other pieces that are fitting the puzzle.”

Do you work for Facebook? Got a tip? Contact the author confidentially at [email protected], via Twitter DM at @robaeprice, or via Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268.

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