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Managers at about half the local Wal-Mart stores in the San Francisco Bay Area say camping has been banned at their locations, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Others say one or two camper nights would be fine, but they warn that police might ask campers to move along.
Those in the RV community warn campers that bad behavior will eventually force more Wal-Marts to crack down.
Full-time RVers, vacationers, workers with arduous commutes and even homeless people have been parking for a day or two, or even longer, in one Wal-Mart parking lot in the Bay Area, the Chronicle reported.
The paper said that for years, Wal-Mart has allowed travelers to park outside stores for free. It’s an unwritten policy that used to be passed just by word of mouth and now is spread on the Internet.
“We consider it a courtesy to our customers,” Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Sharon Weber said. “We think of our stores as a home away from home, and we try and welcome people when we can.”
The welcoming attitude of the company, which has almost 3,000 locations nationwide, has been a boon to travelers of all stripes, from traveling salespeople – some hawking RV-related products – to the seasonal flocks of Florida-bound snowbirds.
However, in pricey California, with its soaring housing costs, residents are concerned over the trend toward long-term encampments, and more cities are forcing Wal-Mart to limit or prohibit overnight stays.
The camping issue has become a secondary matter in some Bay Area communities recently where local officials are asking whether Wal-Mart should even be allowed to expand, including Gilroy and Contra Costa County. The company has around 10 stores in the Bay Area.
Lists of Wal-Mart camping etiquette posted online urge people to be inconspicuous, clean up the area, check in with the manager and buy something at every stop. Campers should not unfurl awnings, put out lawn chairs or grills, or take up more space than necessary, the guidelines advise.