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Thursday, June 1, 2006 - Page updated at 10:25 AM

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Is parking a pain? Not at Microsoft, thanks to valets

Seattle Times Eastside Bureau

Microsoft test engineer Tim Hogg's daily routine to get to and from work has recently skipped some steps.

Instead of circling the parking lots at the company's Redmond campus hoping for an empty spot, Hogg now hands his car keys over to a valet upon arrival and goes straight to his office. When it's time to clock out, he calls the valet's beeper, then heads outside and into his waiting car.

Tipping is not allowed.

For the past two months Silver Cloud Valet Northwest drivers have been parking cars at six buildings on the Microsoft campus. The service is because of parking congestion and construction preparations for the company's billion-dollar expansion, which has taken up valuable vehicle space, said Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos.

Microsoft does not consider the service a perk, though.

"This is not a luxury," Gellos said. "The valet service is a temporary measure to allow the employees not to have to waste time looking for a parking space."

So far about 1,400 workers a day have used the service. It will be expanded to three other buildings in the months to come for as long as it takes to build new parking garages as part of the three-year expansion project.

"I use it almost every day," Hogg said before stepping into his 1990 BMW 326. "If you show up after 9:30 in the morning, there is nowhere to park. It's been a great work-around for the problems at this place — for every car space there is, there are 1.5 cars that want to park."

The building where Hogg works is the only one that offers full valet service, Silver Cloud's branch manager Steven Picard said. At the other buildings, drivers are directed to park behind each other in rows, and valets then drive the vehicles back to the owners when it's time for them to leave.

Space for cars, and people, have been increasingly strained at the campus, Gellos said, with many employees doubled up in offices intended for one person. Over the next three years the Redmond campus will expand by one-third, with 14 buildings and four new parking garages.

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Microsoft has been known for giving employees special perks. Just last month the company added services such as dry cleaning, grocery delivery and free towel service in the locker rooms.

But employees leaving their keys for attendants said they don't consider the valet service a perk.

"It's no more a perk than having a front door is a perk, or having a normal parking space is a perk," Hogg said. "It's something that lets me get to work."

"I think it's fabulous," said test manager Sarah Bowers, who drives a Honda Civic hybrid.

The service ensures she's on time for meetings, she said, and is simply "a crafty way to make the right thing happen."

"Now towels in the locker room — that's a perk," Bowers said.

Lisa Chiu: 206-464-3347 or lchiu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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