Monday, December 24, 2018

The Walmart parking lot - a home away from home

If you followed the news during the disastrous wildfire in Northern California last month, you saw the fire refugees in the parking lot of the Chico Walmart.

This was unusual as to the extent of the encampment and the number of people who took refugee in a parking lot of America's biggest retailer. Regularly chastized for low wages, skimpy benefits, and super rich shareholders, Walmart is also an unlikely champion of those out of luck or out of money (generally both).

Seeking refuge next to a Walmart is something that takes place every day all across the vast country where trespassing can quickly land you in jail. The phenomenon is quintessentially American, and very much unknown outside of the States.

Spending a night or two in a Walmart parking lot is an accepted travel feature among young people, among people who live in their RVs, as well as among the local homeless.

Nobody the blogster spoke to knew how sleeping in a Walmart parking lot became an accepted way of avoiding Motel 6 or the Thunder Lounge. The common explanation is Walmart's long store opening hours of generally 18 to 24 hours a day combined with a laisser faire attitude of the company. And their bathrooms are clean and not locked for non customers.

Given the round o'clock presence of security guards at Walmart locations, it is hard to believe that there is no company policy regarding people who stay much longer than you would even for a Walmart shopping trip.

Another aspect is that some stores have actually banned parking lot sleepovers in cities where large numbers of homeless became a permanent fixture and gave rise to complaints by shoppers.

The other day, the blogster availed itself* of the unadvertised hospitality of a smaller town Walmart and, on the coffee run to an adjacent fast food restaurant, met a small group of "speed freaks" who had hunkered down in that corner of the lot. After a suitably lengthy chat and buying them a couple of coffees, the blogster & company continued their journey.

The blogster can not claim true expertise in parking lot hopping, but it can provide a few pointers of etiquette, basically common sense rules also applicable for a visit to you aunt or your parents.

Pick your spot in a far corner of the parking lot. You do not want to interfere with the shoppers.

Don't play loud music, don't yell, don't litter. If a security guard car rolls by, be friendly - a nod and a smile go a long way.

We'll end this post with the words of the lady who likes speed too much: Thank you for not wishing me Merry Christmas.

* Yes, gender neutrality rocks.

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