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Walmart Camper Sets Fire To His RV in the Parking Lot

Many RVers wonder why Walmart and other big-box retailers are cracking down on RVs parking in their lots.

However, one Florida man helps us see exactly why some stores are becoming more and more unwelcoming.

It’s a fiery story that you have to read to believe.

Let’s get started!

Here’s The News Story

Thomas Edward Gonzales, a transient traveler, was seemingly in the mood for a cup of coffee.

However, it seems before he got his morning cup of joe, he doused his RV in an accelerant, lit a match, and walked away like a villain straight out of a superhero movie. At least, that’s how we imagine it.

Gonzales sipped his coffee and the RV went up in flames. As witnesses saw the events, Gonzales was quickly arrested and charged with arson by Panama City’s finest.

Here’s a link to the local Panama City news article.

This is what the Panama City Police department says:

Just before 9 a.m. Monday, a 9-1-1 call was received regarding a recreational vehicle on fire in the Walmart parking lot on 23rd Street. Officers with the Panama City Police Department arrived on scene to a fully-engulfed vehicle.”

They continue:

“Minutes later, smoke was seen coming from the RV and it quickly became engulfed in flames. Through their investigation, detectives learned that Gonzales had poured an accelerant on the RV, started the fire, went to get a cup of coffee and returned, parking his vehicle a distance away and watching the blaze.

Gonzales was charged with arson of a structure and booked into the Bay County Jail.”

The legalities of camping at Walmart vary from store to store. While many stores might be willing to accept overnight guests, local ordinances and restrictions often limit their abilities to do so. It’s crucial to obtain management’s permission before attempting a stay to avoid issues.

Local rules and regulations are constantly changing due to situations like the one Thomas Gonzales created. A store that has typically allowed overnight parking in the past may not be as accepting today or next week. 

What Other Stores Offer Free Overnight Parking

Many other popular big-box retailers and businesses are allowing free overnight parking. Some of the most popular places RVers choose are Cracker Barrel, Lowes, Home Depot, and Bass Pro Shop.

However, much like Walmart, these stores are forced to follow local rules and regulations for overnight parking.

Overnight Store Parking Etiquette 

There are a few suggestions when it comes to overnight parking etiquette. You can have a much smoother parking experience if you follow these guidelines. Let’s take a look!

Walmart camping is a great overnight option, but these rules are essential to follow.

Park Out of the Way

You want to do all you can to park out of the way. Stores will typically have large delivery trucks bringing items to their store. They’re also going to have customers coming and going from their store. Many RVers find the back of the store’s parking lot along the edges to be the best location.

Being in the way of deliveries and customers will likely not be well received by the establishment. They’re a business with bills and employees to pay, so they need to run efficiently. Parking in the way can hinder the business and make it difficult for them to get their job done.

Arrive Late, Leave Early

Another piece of overnight parking etiquette is to arrive late and leave early. You’re a guest at the store, and you don’t want to overstay your welcome. The store could ask you to leave, but your nuisance could cause the store to rethink allowing others to stay in the future.

When staying in these spots, you want to limit the total time you’re parking. Overstaying your welcome will not settle well for the store’s management and possibly local authorities. A good rule of thumb is not to arrive until after dinner and leave before breakfast. If you can go before the store opens, that’s even better.

Don’t Set Up Camp

It’s important to remember that the store parking lot isn’t a campsite. You want to attract as little amount of attention as possible. Setting up camping chairs or any other pieces of camping gear is likely going to attract attention. So limit the number of things you get out while parked for the night.

Many RVers will also avoid opening any unnecessary slides. There have been accidents from vehicles not paying attention or failing to see an RV’s slide as they drive through a dark parking lot. Having your slides in can also help you make a quick exit if you need to leave in the middle of the night.

If In Doubt, Ask The Manager

You should ask the manager or a person in authority for permission before fully parking. You must get permission from someone who can give permission. A typical employee might not be aware of any special circumstances or activities that would prohibit overnight parking.

Return the Favor for Store Parking

Thousands of generous stores allow RVers a spot to park for free overnight. However, when people make bad decisions or have poor etiquette while staying overnight, they ruin it for others. Setting an RV on fire is an extreme example of overnight camping etiquette, but other more minor violations are more common.

Everyone should pick up after themselves and respect the store’s generosity. This helps ensure the spot is available for future RVers looking for a place to stay. Have you ever camped overnight in a Walmart parking lot? 

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