RVs at Wal-Mart

2 minute read
David Schwartz

TREND Recreational-vehicle owners using superstore parking lots as places to stay overnight, free of charge

HOW IT STARTED Word spread that superfrugal campers were welcomed

JUDGMENT CALL Free is free. But don’t expect amenities

They commonly appear as the sun sets, staking claim to the edges of superstore parking lots, doing a little shopping before settling in for the evening. By morning, these overnight guests are traveling the nation’s highways. Welcome to the latest craze in the road-trip world: owners of recreational vehicles are passing up RV parks and campgrounds and bedding down for the night in the parking lots of Wal-Mart. “It’s safe, convenient, and you always know you’ll be able to find one,” says Don Marginson, seated comfortably outside his 31-ft. RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Apache Junction, Ariz. “And it’s free.”

Called boondocking or dry camping, the practice is not frowned upon by Wal-Mart. Most of the stores (many are open 24 hours) throw out the welcome mat and stock the shelves accordingly. “We treat them as shoppers who take a while to make up their minds,” says Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams. Some localities are less welcoming, with laws that prohibit overnighting in parking lots. And campground operators point out that saving the average $24-a-night campground fee hardly makes up for the lack of electric, water or sewer services. But, says David Gorin, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, “this has become a game for RV users–to see how cheaply they can travel.”

–By David Schwartz

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