Letter to editor: Protect Walmart overnight privilege

Walmart and other “free” stay places

Dear Chuck,

Walmart parking sign
Signs like these show up much more often these days at Walmart stores.

It’s time to go on the offensive. As more people join us full-timers, there are more and more people taking advantage of free overnight stays at Walmart, Cabelas, Bass Pro, etc. Unfortunately, quite a few do not have any respect or thankfulness for those places that graciously allow us to spend a night in their lot. In fact, some seem to think it’s their right to do so without asking management or even using simple courtesy. As you have mentioned, many RVers are concerned that we will lose the ability to stay in these places due to the abuse by other RVers.

I know most of us try to at least make a small purchase everywhere we stay as a way of repaying them for their kindness, but many don’t. It’s time to take up the slack for the rest.

My husband and I now keep yellow vests and Grippers in our rig, and if we stay overnight for free somewhere, we put on our vests grab a trash bag and our grippers and start cleaning up the parking lot and grassy areas (only if it’s safe to do so). We have received very nice responses from the managers and staff when they noticed us, and some even offered to let us stay extra nights for our kindness. We also purchased several packs of cheap Thank You cards at Dollar Tree and leave a personal note thanking the manager (preferably by name) for allowing us to park overnight on their property.

Imagine how this could change the perception of RVers if a large number of us started doing this. Let’s start a trend! — Chuck and Dave Smith Wilson

Dear Chuck and Dave,
You’re obviously very considerate people. Walmart has, indeed, become a common overnight parking spot for many RVers, so keeping that opportunity alive is important. I hope some other readers will follow your lead. —Chuck

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23 Thoughts to “Letter to editor: Protect Walmart overnight privilege”

  1. Jim

    We live in Port St Lucie, Florida. There are three Walmart stores in the city, all of which have signs restricting overnight parking. I learned that years ago the local RV parks complained that they lost business because of Walmart allowing overnight parking. Well, there may be a sign, but your local managers decide a lot of times to not enforce the no overnight parking. Example, I talked to the general manager for the store on US Highway 1 in Port St Lucie. She told me she never has a problem with an RV or Semi parking for a night or two, and has not requested any of them to be towed. However, she said the Walmart store in Fort Pierce, a few miles away has had problems with people with old RVs and trailers trying to turn the store parking lot into a permanent RV Park. They frequently get towed. Also, depending on the location, although there is a posted sign, the local police have no authority to tow a vehicle unless they have been made agents of the property by the owner. So, a vehicle will only be towed if the manager requests the tow, which may not happen if you talk to them, get permission, and satisfy them you are not a homeless family moving in for the long term.

  2. Crystal Nappi

    Recently, I have parked overnight compliments of Air BB. You might try driveway surfing if your rig is small enough. Had a wonderful place for 12 a night including hot coffee and a shower the next morning in Cresent City CA. Met some nice people. Will be looking at more of the same with my new rig when shes done -she is currently being built!

  3. Connie

    I just have to comment on the Wal-Mart parking issue.
    1. My husband an I have traveled many years, we have always said if we can afford to own one of these rigs and travel NO Wal-Mart parking!
    2. In the last few years it has gotten too dangerous, we know of issues of having a unit keyed, when someone knocked on the door and asked for money, when they was refused— yes KEYED!
    3. Witnessed an occasion we had just left from shopping, a unit that was at Wal-Mart come into campground wanted to dump, got upset when they were asked to pay!
    Totally unacceptable.
    Now I have aired on this issue!

    Connie, il.

  4. Phil Atterbery

    After reading thru the previous comments & responses it appears that a component of the discussion has been overlooked.
    Local municipalities that have made deals to attract the big box stores. Most of the time a portion of the parking area is still owned by the municipality. In a municipality that has an unfriendly view of an RV the council will hog tie the store manager with rules against overnighting. I don’t support “snooty” communities.
    If I find ourselves in a situation were we don’t have a reservation or can’t make a park by dark, I’ll look for a Cracker Barrel. And I’m not afraid of truck stops either.

  5. Sherry

    Dear Chuck & Dave,
    Thanks for helping to improve the reputation of RVers overnighting at Walmart. I’ve never stayed overnight there (I prefer to drive a little further and boondock in some place with privacy, serenity, and a view), but I might need to some time. I do, however, sometimes stop for a take-out meal and then go to the Walmart parking lot to eat it, rest, and listen to an audio book. Walmart parking lots actually have quite a few trees, and they can be quite lovely in different seasons. They sometimes even have a view. My brother sent me beautiful photos of his view of Pike’s Peak and other nice views he’s had from a Walmart parking lot. After I finish my meal and stash my own trash, I get out with my grabber and walk around the area and pick up other people’s trash. Then I dispose of it at my next gasoline or rest stop.

    If I ever do overnight in a store’s parking lot, I’ll follow your advice and the tips from others to show my appreciation and make my best impression to represent us.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. Jim Anderson

    Love the idea a thank you note, that’s just a terrific idea!!!
    Wish I had thought of that a long time ago.

  7. Stephen Pustell

    Hello Chuck and Dave Smith Wilson.. I am thrilled with your idea, and will do so every chance I get. As others have pointed out it is not just RV’ers who are causing the problem, But it often is. ‘Paying it forward’ is a great idea and I applaud you!

  8. Joan L Connor

    We have been overnighters at Walmart for several years in many places. Last week in Yakima, Washington security approached us immediately as we parked to shop and spend the night. We were allowed one hour to shop and could not spend the night due to the homeless setting up “camp” resulting in trash beyond our imagination. Security had been hired to address this issue and he was approaching all rvers as they parked. He came on duty at 4:00 p,m,, was successful at his job and quite pleasant. It is not just the rvers that are ruining the overnight parking.

  9. Dream Chasers

    The sign in the photo says no parking. So does that mean they don’t want RVs to park even for an hour to grocery shop and stock up on supplies?

    On one of our first trips, we went to a nearby Walmart to hook up our tow vehicle. My husband and brother in law started hooking up the toad. My sister and I headed to the store to get a few items. Immediately Security stopped us and advised that we can’t park overnight. I pointed out to her and explained it is 10:30am and why would we be parking for the night?! Then explained she can clearly see we are hooking up a car, clearly indicating that we are leaving shortly. Sister and I told them that we were going to shop, but now we won’t, as clearly they don’t want our business. Sercuity just drove off without even any sort of apology.

    1. Panicum

      Sorry, but “two rudes don’t make a polite”.

    2. Darrel

      YOU were far more rude than security was. Thanks for screwing it up for everyone else.

    3. TechiePhil

      I’d guess the security company was contracted and didn’t care if you shopped there or not.

    4. Phil McCraken

      Yeah, stop being so rude. Security was doing their job, you have no idea how many scum bags they deal with. Next time, pick a spot where cars are whizzing by at 60 mph, that will cure you of your bad attitude.

    5. Lyle

      Where is the “rude” in that paragraph? From what they wrote it is apparent that they handled the situation rather well. Security could have been a bit more polite but none of us were there to see what actually took place.

      Too many readers are ready to condemn others after their skillful reading between the lines,. There is nothing there.

  10. Wolfe

    Awesome idea, Chuck and Dave! Although the store still pays employees to clean up, the good will you’re building is invaluable.

    When I Walmart-surf, I ALWAYS call the manager ahead of time (gauging the level of welcome as much as the technical permission), and have gotten very different results from Hell No to begrudging up to almost concierge-level “Let us know if we can make your stay more comfortable, point you to local attractions/restaurants, etc…”

    I help encourage being welcome by how I ask — “Can I buy about 60 gallons of fuel, restock my fridge, and park overnight in a corner of your lot? Thanks a lot!” If you lead with dropping a couple hundred on them, you’ll be more welcome at more places. Even if you’re not dead empty and ultimately spend less, you can always find some things you need to restock – so I make a point of doing it THERE. As mentioned above, parking is a courtesy, so leverage what you’d buy elsewhere anyway to thank the store.

    I haven’t tried leaving TY notes, but I will often stop by the manager on the way out for a direct thanks. They are usually tickled at this unexpected morning boost. So much so that I now keep a list of Wallys that were particularly friendly along the transit highways I take often (I loop from NY, so I drive a day on 90 or 81 to get ANYWHERE).

  11. Sandy Frankus

    I drove by the Troutdale Oregon Walmart last night around 7. On the east side of the parking lot were the homeless RVs . They had scrap metal piles, parked sideways over 3 spaces, bikes laying around. One guy had circled his RV with duct tape. Lol. On the west side of the lot people had pulled in ,stayed hooked up, walking their dogs( looked kinda like a small campground). I thought Walmart has to see the difference but I suppose they don’t have to. It’s always been one small group ruins it for everyone. I’ll remember to do what I can to help next time

    1. Phil McCraken

      How about you call the cops and see how many are illegals. Then round em up for ICE.

  12. Michael Swillo

    We recently went on our maiden RV voyage from Texas to Elkhart, Most of Michigan, Lake Cumberland and back to Texas. Our first night was spent at Craker Barrel. We got in after they closed and in the morning we had breakfast and talked w the Manager. I gave him a $20 gift card that he reluctantly accepted and told him we were new to RVing and appreciated letting us stay and rest a night. He invited us to stay again on our way back. We have camped, backpacked, trailered and now RV’d and we always try to leave our site better than we found it.

    1. Phil McCraken

      BSA motto.

  13. Steve

    We rarely stay overnight in Walmart’s but when we do we normally know about it ahead of time, during the trip planning stage. We plan to do major food shopping when we stay. When I ask the manager if we can overnight I want them to know we are on their side.
    I like the idea of picking up trash. I’ll have to buy a vest and pickup tool at the next Walmart.
    Steve D
    Manhattan Beach, CA

  14. Ren

    That’s awesome! I also pick up trash at places that I’m staying. One disadvantage about staying at Walmart is sometimes the company they hire to clean the lot does it at 2 a.m. in the morning! Yes, I’ve been awoken by leafblowers in the early a.m. hours. Since the store is in a commercial area, there are no residents to complain.

    1. John Crawford

      I’ve found Sam’s Club is better, they don’t stay open 24/7.

  15. Jennifer

    I believe that the main problem is from people who live in less attractive RVs in the WalMart parking lots for protracted periods of time. We have only seen a few travelers “camping” overnight, with lawn chairs out. Most of us park at the end of the day & get out early the next morning. The people you need to address are not those who read this newsletter.

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