Wal-Mart RV Parking Issue Heats up in Illinois

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June 5, 2012 by   10 Comments

If you don’t know these worlds existed, you can’t begin to guess what happens when they collide.

As reported by the Daily Herald, Arlington, Ill., even a master in the art of traveling by RV who knows the lingo and is fully immersed in this popular subculture of the Walmart life, didn’t grasp the situation when he discovered that his $1.2 million luxury motorhome and the 40 grand inside were gone.

“I was stunned. I called my wife and said, ‘Somebody stole my coach,’” said Larry Socha, recalling how he ran some banking errands with his 90-year-old mother the Saturday morning before Memorial Day, returned to the Walmart parking lot in Glen Ellyn, Ill., where he had spent the night, and discovered that his luxury 40-foot, 22.5-ton RV with the safe full of cash and the 25-foot trailer for his Mustang GT had been towed.

Those of you who don’t live this lifestyle probably have some questions, starting with, “How does something that valuable end up in the parking lot of a Walmart that is known for low prices and Internet videos mocking folks wearing inappropriate clothing?”

Turns out, many Walmart parking lots are havens for RV owners looking for a free place to spend the night. Some websites even refer to Walmart as “America’s Campground,” which irks owners of actual licensed campgrounds in America.

“Whenever Walmart allows free overnight camping, it not only results in lost business for local campgrounds but lost transient occupancy tax for local cities,” emailed Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). He noted that campgrounds pay for licenses, pass health and safety inspections and offer services not found in parking lots.

Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling made it clear that Walmart parking lots are not campgrounds.

“While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able,” reads a Walmart statement. “Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”

Socha, who drove his 2000 Prevost Marathon XL from his home in New Jersey to visit his mom in Glen Ellyn and attend his 50th high school reunion, has parked at several Wal-Marts during his travels and also supports campgrounds. He parked at Walmart this time not to save 30 or 40 bucks but because it would have taken him more than two hours to drive to the nearest campground and back.

He said that last year he left the same RV in the same Walmart parking lot for three or four days during a visit as his dad was dying. He said he didn’t even see the signs this time reading: “No truck parking. Unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at owner’s or operator’s expense & liability. Towing enforced at all times.”

On the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, Socha parked his RV at Walmart, unloaded his car, visited his mom and then returned to spend the night in his RV. He said he doesn’t pull out his awnings, roll out the grill or dispose of his dirty water or sewage.

“That’s wrong. Those are the people who ruin it for others,” says Socha, noting that his vehicle’s waste tanks are large enough that he can live inside for five or six days without having to empty them. He ran some banking errands with his mom that Saturday morning, and when he returned that afternoon, all his stuff was gone and he had to pay an $872.50 towing bill to get them back in time for his school reunion.

The manager did knock on the door a couple of times before calling for the tow truck, Whaling said. Socha did find the store on a website that lists free overnight parking, but Whaling said Wal-Mart doesn’t keep a list of what stores allow parking or how many people do park.

A Walmart customer and stockholder, Socha said he was upset that Walmart denied his claim to have the company pay his towing bill.

“Will I stop shopping there? No, I’m not a jerk,” Socha said. “I learned a lesson.”

He said he just wants to warn others and perhaps push Walmart to be a little more sensitive and communicative about this issue. There’s no use fighting over $872.50, which he said is basically “a tank of gas,” but he said he wouldn’t mind an admission that the situation could have been handled better.

If he did drive the 1,670-mile round trip from his New Jersey home to the Glen Ellyn Walmart to accept an offer of reconciliation or financial considerations, the trip in his RV, which gets 5.5 mpg on the highway and 3.5 mpg in the city and has a 165-gallon fuel tank, would cost him about $1,214.


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10 Responses to “Wal-Mart RV Parking Issue Heats up in Illinois”

  1. Brad Owen on June 5th, 2012 1:17 pm

    When traveling from point A to point B, WalMart parking lots are very user friendly because the parking lots provide RVers with short term park and access to needs the stores provide. Although this does take away from campgrounds, campgrounds across the country are profit driven and not user friendly for short stay RVers. In states like Arizona, overnight RV parking at highway rest areas is permitted and this doesn’t seem to be an issue. Great business strategy from WalMart, if campgrounds don’t want this to continue its time the camping world steps up and can compete with what WalMart is offering RVers.

  2. Wally & Iris Schmidt on June 5th, 2012 1:25 pm


  3. Barlow Sharpe on June 5th, 2012 1:46 pm

    A prime example of having more money than good sense

  4. Jane Cassidy on June 5th, 2012 2:06 pm

    It’s always a good idea to look for signs and speak with the management, but I’d have had to fuss about an $872 towing bill – that’s 3 weeks’ pay for me. I’m a working RVer, I travel for work, and I’m not rolling in money for the campgrounds to covet. I do stay in campgrounds when they are conveniently located and affordable and I will be there long enough to enjoy their amenities, but they are not losing money when I park at a Wal-Mart or other non-campground location.

  5. Peter Mercer on June 5th, 2012 3:18 pm

    I feel parking at a WalMart is for overnight convienience and in my way of thinking not for parking on for 2 or 3 days. I believe it is offered for overnight stays only, in late in the day, out early the following morning. No awnings, chairs or bar-b-q’s. As far as slides are concerned, they are necessary on many floorplan configerations, at least one side anyway.

  6. Doug on June 5th, 2012 4:02 pm

    I have occasionly stayed overnite while travelling in a WalMart Parking lot; campgrounds do not offer the convienience of shopping for travelling necessities nor do they have spaces to stop for a nite when coming in late and leaving early.
    They do not want us to start and engine, build up air presssure, raise out jacks and so on at 06:30.

    Maybe camprounds and those protecting them with bylaws should think about the issues involved.

  7. Carol on June 5th, 2012 5:33 pm

    We spend the nights in Wal-Marts when I need to shop. Those overnight stops are the most expensive campgrounds stays in in our travels. We don’t unhook the car when traveling across the country, so the only time I get to shop is if we spend the night in the W-M parking lot.

    I stay in campgrounds when they are close to our route, affordable for the price charged (let’s face it–some of the most expensive are real dogs!) and appear safe. I don’t want to pay $30-40 a night to park in a park filled with people who are obviously out of work and living on the dole. And we see more and more of this in RV parks–looking for guarranteed monthly income.

    Charge a reasonable rate, provide a safe place to park, and publish your price up front–and maybe more folks would stay in the park.

  8. Don Neville on June 6th, 2012 9:29 am

    When traveling across country, I stay overnight at Walmart because I can arrive and park without driving all over to get to an RV park, I don’t need any campground ammenities, I can shop in the store, and there are frequently restaurants within walking distance. I avoid the hassle of checking into a RV park, being directed to a site if ,in fact, there is anyone there to park me, hoping to find a site I can fit into, and paying an exhorbitant rate just to park overnight. When I encounter a city or county that requires parking only at campgrounds, I just continue on ’til I get to a county or town that has no such restrictions. I might add that in appreciation of Walmart’s parking policy, I try to purchase everything I need at Walmart s wherever I am.

  9. Karen on June 6th, 2012 11:23 am

    We happen to be from the Glen Ellyn area and return every spring and fall to visit doctors. There are two campgrounds in Joliet/Shorewood…about 35 minutes away! (Hollywood Casino and Leisure Lake) They are both near I55 and 80. Unfortunately Illinois is one of the most RV-unfriendly states in the country and doesn’t allow parking or dumping at any of their rest areas! Many of the Walmarts in the state do not allow parking overnight and have islands that prevent even entering the lot! Owning an RV is only the beginning of knowing how to travel in one. There are many ways to educate oneself to the finer points of finding the best places to find fuel, campgrounds, etc. but it sounds like this RV owner hasn’t taken the time to research them. Towing an RV and trailer takes a “wrecker’ which is a huge vehicle. This owner should be very grateful that the wrecker operator knows how to tow an RV and didn’t damage his front end!!!

  10. Bill on June 12th, 2012 5:31 pm

    I am sorry, I do not understand. He has a rig worth 1.2 m , can park for 5 or 6 days, did previously park for 3 or 4 days and had over a day that time, and is taking issue. Some allow parking. If I stay for more than 12 hours I am camping…… I wonder if I can park like he does only in his yard. If he does not properly mark that it is not allowed then it is OK, correct?
    I agree that “Those are the people who ruin it for others,” but in my opinion he is part of ‘those’ not Wal-Mart.