Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been using Walmart parking lots for overnight stays while traveling between destinations. We think this is a wonderful opportunity offered by Walmart. We call them our “Pit Stops.” We do our shopping, laundry nearby and rent a movie from Red Box. They always have an out-of-the-way area that is not too noisy or bright. Several times we have noticed other campers not just taking advantage of a good thing, but potentially ruining it for the rest of us. We have seen people with tables and chairs out under their awning, small fenced in dog pens erected, large generators in the parking lot next to the rig running loud and smoky, tents and loud arguments over parking spaces. It takes every tactical maneuver I can muster to keep my husband from turning into a Walmart referee. He wants so badly to go over and give them a piece of his mind. He thinks he is Wyatt Earp. I tell him I didn’t start traveling to put up with non-campground conflict. If it bothers him so much I think we should avoid these overnight stays. Besides, I think it could be dangerous confronting people that obviously have no common sense. He loves your column and I think if he hears some advice from you he may listen. Thanks in advance.
--Up Against the Wall-mart in Earp, CA
Don’t get down on your husband. Those kind of irresponsible actions can make sane people crazy. I agree, he should not try to be the “Law west of the Walmart.” I also agree that these people do jeopardize the convenience we all enjoy. Walmart has actually been challenged by interests that would like to see them discontinue overnight parking privileges. They refused to stop offering this service. They said it was another customer service they would continue to promote in locations that did not disallow it by city ordinance. One thing you can do, to help compensate for the inconsiderate few who abuse the service, is be a loyal, courteous customer. Let store management know you are shopping and thank them for allowing you to stay. Call ahead and ask permission, even if you know it is allowed. Often they like RV’s to congregate in a certain section of the parking lot. Also, things change and you never know when a new ordinance might restrict overnight parking. These are much better tactics than confrontation with parking lot neighbors. If your husband goes out at all be sure to have him check his guns at the door. If anything, let him walk around the parking lot with a very large, official looking badge and stare, but, make him promise he won’t talk to anyone.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink