Wal-Mart Etiquette

Let me take a minute to talk about Wal-Mart stop-overs and to strongly emphasize a point that many RVers either don't know or are ignoring.

Please listen up now — Wal-Mart is NOT a campground!

No, Wal-Mart parking lots are NOT free campgrounds. The intent of Wal-Mart is to provide a wonderful customer service by allowing RVers to stop for a night while they are traveling through. Many folks may travel two or three days between major destinations, and they don't really need full hookups or a shower in between. For these situations, Wal-Mart is providing a great convenience to the RV community—but many RVers are giving the rest of us a bad rap by not knowing or not heeding proper RV etiquette.

Let me take a moment to talk about RVing etiquette as it applies to stopping overnight at a Wal-Mart parking lot.

First and foremost, Wal-Mart parking lots are for one-night overnight stays only. Wal-Mart is not a campground where you can perch for as long as you like. Remember, one night only!

The proper etiquette is to first ask the manager's permission to park overnight. Some Wal-Marts are already posted prohibiting overnight parking (sometimes due to pressure from local campground operators, and sometimes from local ordinance to prevent the sprawl of trailer trash because the one-night rule was ignored by far too many RVers).

The manager will usually agree, if he has adequate space, and tell you where you should park. Please, heed his direction and don't go park someplace else just because you like the shade or a better place to water your dogs.

The manager will usually direct you to a spot that is on the edge of the parking lot and out of the way of major traffic or loading lanes. And, yes, folks, lots of times the parking lot is not going to be level. Park along the periphery of the lot and don't block a bunch of parking spaces by parking sideways across multiple parking slots in the middle of the parking lot.

Several years ago, I was driving through Bend Oregon, two or three days before a major FMCA convention, and I was appalled at the number of rigs cluttering up the Wal-Mart parking lot, many of them blocking traffic lanes, and with all sorts of their stuff spread all over the place. Scenes like that, if repeated too many more times, will end Wal-Mart's hospitality towards RVers.

Use your head folks! Lets not lose a good thing due to carelessness.

Also, do not assume that it is OK for you to park overnight, simply because other RVs are already parked in the lot! (The manager may have a limit of RVs imposed by local authorities.)

And, please, also remember to use some common sense—don't pull into Wal-Mart at 10 AM in the morning and ask to park overnight. Have the courtesy to arrive sometime after 4PM when the major shopping day is almost over. And don't dawdle when you leave—set your alarm, and be out of the parking lot before 9AM, or before the store opens for business.

Remember that your Wal-Mart stop is a quickie overnight stop, and not a formal campground. This means that you should NOT put out your awning; drag out your patio chairs, patio rug, and BBQ; or set up dog pens or a ground-mounted satellite antenna (one already on the RV roof is OK). It goes without saying that you should respect your neighbors and minimize your generator use. Running your generator for four hours so that you can watch TV is not going to win you any points, and is strongly discouraged. Nuke your dinner in the microwave and then turn it off. The same goes for the next morning—don't turn on your generator at 6 AM to brew your morning coffee. Most campgrounds have quiet hours from 10PM to 8AM, and you should use similar rules while at Wal-Mart.

And, it should be obvious, respond in kind to the Wal-Mart favor. Go into the store and buy a few things—TP, groceries, it doesn't really matter. Spend a few dollars and help support your host's future efforts toward RVers. And, of course, it doesn't hurt if you already have a cart with goodies in it before you find the manager.

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