Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have spent many nights in Walmart parking lots the past several years during our travels. We call them our pit stops. Every couple of weeks we do our shopping, buy a pizza and have a movie night with a Redbox movie. However, my wife Florence is getting a little over protective of our shopping center campsites. We see people camped as though they are living at Walmart. We see people leaving trash behind. Walmart’s hospitality seems to be attracting more homeless people, eking out a living on the parking lot fringes, begging with signs and even setting up tents. It is quite a contrast to see expensive motorhomes parked near shelter tents, both attracted by the same thing, free camping. I think we should all act responsibly, but I don’t think it’s my wife’s job to referee the Walmart camping policy. She hasn’t yet started to lecture people, but she gets very upset when she sees things she doesn’t approve. I get an earful and everyone else just continues to act irresponsible. Is this normal? It always causes an argument if I don’t act as disgusted as she is.
--Going with the “Floe” in Bozeman
Many people are observing the same thing as the two of you. Eventually, Walmart will suspend overnight privileges if it becomes more of a problem than it’s worth to management. Most stores that prohibit overnight parking currently are governed by policies forced on them by local ordinance. That does not mean Walmart as a company will not suspend this “customer service” if people abuse this convenience and wear out our welcome. It is not your wife’s responsibility or place to confront people in the parking lot. I would hope she understands the dangers in doing so. Walmart is very capable of managing their property without a traveling neighborhood watch vigilante making rounds for them. I would advise always calling ahead to be sure overnight parking is allowed. Often online or print information is outdated. Also, management will direct you to areas they would like to see you parked. Always let them know how much you appreciate the space and make them aware if you are doing some shopping in their store. If ninety percent of us who use their facilities show some respect, perhaps they will overlook the ten percent that take it for granted. Usually you are parked out on the fringes of the lot. Collect stray shopping carts and park them in the corrals, “Leave No Trace” when you depart, don’t run your generator or put your slides out, don’t use your hydraulic jacks on soft, hot pavement. Maybe even pick up some of the trash around your spot. Just use common sense and hope that the majority of others do the same. Be a spectator, not a referee. If you are going to argue about the shortcomings of others, just remember, never go to bed mad, stay up and fight.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink