I’ve never been a fan of Walmart. Since we’ve moved into the Toaster, I’ve tolerated the company. And that’s only because a lot of their stores allow RV overnight parking, which we take advantage of. But an incident that happened back in early April has left me with a strong distaste for Walmart and the realization that they absolutely don’t give a shit about their customers.
Despite what a lot people think, not all Walmart stores allow RV overnight parking. Knowing this, I always call the stores beforehand to get permission from the managers to stay overnight (I do this with any retail stores we want to stay at). This is what I did before we headed over to the West Jordan Walmart, located in the suburbs of Salt Lake City.
When I called and asked to speak the manager, the employee who picked up the phone asked why I wanted to talk to the manager. I explained to get permission to park in their lot for two nights. She told me that there was no need to speak to a manager - RVs are allowed to stay overnight. She even told me where we should specifically park when I asked. I didn’t feel the need to question this employee’s knowledge and assumed she knew what she was talking about. After all, she worked at the store. This would later bite us in the ass. But those first two nights we spent in their parking lot were hassle-free.
After our second night we left for an RV park across town. We were ready to install our lithium batteries and would need to be plugged in for the transition. Almost a week was spent at the RV park before we were up and running again. But we couldn’t leave Salt Lake City just yet. Tired of paying to stay at the RV park and since we no longer needed to be plugged in, we headed back over to the West Jordan Walmart to spend one night before leaving town. The store was conveniently located to the places we needed to run our errands.
It was an uneventful night in the parking lot. Early next morning we headed out to run a few errands and came back to the Toaster around noon – we had a dentist appointment across the street soon after. To our surprise, we walked up to the Toaster to find its tires chained together along with a letter taped to the outside.
This was the last thing we expected. We had gotten permission to park there and had spent two nights without any issues just a week ago. What the hell was happening?!
I admit, we were both frazzled by the situation. And the note on the Toaster didn’t help.
“…Removing the locking device or moving this vehicle by means without official release constitutes a separate and an additional criminal offense. Snowy Mountain will prosecute offenders to the full extent that the law allows. Your license plate, VIN and vehicle description and nature of the violations are on record and have been reported…”
Come on, you have to admit that’s pretty intimidating language.
Instead of taking a moment to think it over and talk it through, I had to hurry to my dentist appointment and asked Jerud to handle this by talking to Walmart. Jerud only had 20 minutes until his own dentist appointment. We both figured it was a misunderstanding and it would be resolved quickly. We’ve had other incidents where we had a note taped on our door (without our tires being chained or booted) asking us to leave – which we’d call the phone number on the letter and tell them we got permission from XYZ and everything would be fine. In my mind, that was the same situation here. After all, we had gotten permission to stay here and had stayed recently without any problems.
That was one of the reason I was hesitant to suggest we cut off the chains. Also, the words “…will prosecute offenders to the full extent that the law allows” wouldn’t leave my head. I knew they had our license plate number, even though we’d be leaving the area soon we’d eventually come back to SLC and the Toaster kind of stands out. Even though I’m usually the one that’s totally willing to give the finger to authority, I didn’t think we could get away with it. (When I posted about this on Instagram and FB, the majority of people’s responses were that we should’ve cut the chains and said we would’ve gotten away with it. With more time to think about it, I don’t think the tow company would’ve prosecuted us to the “full extent”. I think they would’ve just let it go.)
Josh was the Walmart assistant manager that Jerud spoke to. Turned out Josh was a dick and a half. He pretty much called Jerud a liar. Josh said as the prevention manager he has to listen to people’s stories all day long (we don’t doubt that) and that one of their employees would never give permission to let RVs stay overnight because of they’ve been trained to not do so. Yes, therefore it’s inconceivable that one of their employees might do so. During that time, Jerud had also called the tow company to get the chains off but they demanded payment of the $150 fine.
I was pissed when I found all this out after leaving the dentist office. I figured Josh was an idiot and wasn’t the right manager to talk to. I went to speak to the actual manager – Jessica wasn’t available but I was told if I left my phone number she would call me. Then I called the tow company to see if we could get our $150 back. The problem with that is once your money has left your hands you have no leverage. The tow guy who chained us said he did so because we had been parked there for a week. I called bullshit on that and told him we have receipts from an RV park to prove it. Then I spoke to the manager of the tow company, which unsurprisingly didn’t lead to anything useful except me being more pissed.
We were on our way to have dinner with Jason and Lura, who had been following us online and were sweet enough to invite us over, when Jessica the store manager called. To kept things short, she said:
Despite what one of the employees said, they don’t allow overnight parking. (It’s not a city ordinance because Cabela’s allows overnight parking.) I admitted to her that it was my fault for not insisting on speaking to a manager, and on top of that, not getting the name of the employee (which in reality wouldn’t have made a difference).
Jessica also pointed out that there are signs in the parking lot stating no overnight parking was allowed. Josh had pointed this out, so before we left Walmart we went looking for these signs. There were signs at 2 of the 3 entrances and we somehow managed to only come through the entrance that didn’t have a sign. In addition, those signs were so small that we didn’t find them easily even when we were looking for them. But Walmart doesn’t care that the signs aren’t visible as long as they have the signs up.
She continued to explain that Walmart contracts out their parking lot enforcement to one of the local tow companies.
But the kicker to our whole conversation was when she said she knew we were parked for two nights the first time around and was OK with it.
I asked her if she understood the confusion on our part, why we went back and stayed at her store again? The fact that we were told it was OK to park there by a Walmart employee. I told her that we would’ve happily left if she had come out herself, or sent someone out, to tell us we weren’t allowed to be there. The fact that she knew we were there overnight, and was aware that a tow company was enforcing the rule, but didn’t say anything to us was just shitty.
I asked Walmart to repay us the $150 towing company fees. She hesitated. But then she said that she would reimburse us half of the fine. I tried to argue for the full amount but she wasn’t having any of it. I told her I’d accept the $75 while in my mind I was already planning on how I’d get the remainder $75 after receiving the initial check.
Yes, $75 is better than nothing. But I didn’t feel like we did anything wrong to have to pay the remainder of the fine.
A few days after my conversation with Jessica, I called Don, the market manager, several times and left voicemails. Then I sent him an email about the situation. In late April I called Walmart HQ customer service to start an incident report for this. I was told I’d hear back from the market manager within 3 days. I have yet to receive a phone call or email back from him. And during that timeframe I’ve called Walmart HQ customer service several times.
Sometime in early June I received a $75 from the West Jordan Walmart store. Except it was written out to "Ching Sue". I’m not sure who Ching Sue is but it’s not me. (Yes, I went through the whole process of spelling out my entire name multiple times because I know how confusing it sounds over the phone.)
It took another month and several more phone calls to get a replacement $75 check sent to me. They were smart this time and decided to leave the “Pay to the order of” section blank. Then I called Walmart HQ customer service a few more times because I wanted to speak to someone higher up about getting the remainder of the towing fee reimbursed. Each time I was told the market manager would contact me within 3 days. Then it was the regional manager would contact me within 3 days. My last call to them was on August 21.
Out of the blue on August 22 I got a phone call from Trichelle, who works at the West Jordan Walmart. I’ve spoken to her before. I pick up and she asks me to verify my mailing address. I asked why, she said to mail me a check, to which I asked if she wanted to double check the spelling of my name. She said no, they’re going to leave the name part blank. And she hangs up. At no point during our short conversation does she tell me why I’m getting another check or what amount it’s for. For all I know, they are so unorganized that they think this is the first $75 they’re sending me. Either way, I kept my mouth shut and waited to see how much this new check is for.
Close to 5 months after the Toaster’s tires got chained, we finally got our full $150 refunded. Yes, it’s only $150 – not particularly a lot of money. But you know what - it’s about the money, the principle, and standing up for ourselves.
Whether or not Walmart meant to pay us back the full amount I’ll never know. But I do know this: Walmart is a shitty company. It's not just because we got our tires chained, but it's how they handled the situation afterwards. The way the managers treated and spoke to us, the lack of professionalism, and the lack of follow through. They don’t understand what customer service is and honestly, I don’t think it matters to them. They know people will shop in their stores regardless of how they’re treated because their prices are insanely low. But remember this, money speaks louder than words. As long as people keep shopping at Walmart, they’ll keep treating their customers without any respect. This is why Walmart won’t get my business.
Tips for avoiding situations like this:
- Always call the store before staying overnight in their parking lot.
- Get permission from the store manager and only the store manager. No one else’s word counts.
- Always ask for the store manager’s name and remember it.
- Ask where you should park.
- Ask how many nights you’re allowed to stay
- Clarify if there are any other rules (whether the store’s or city’s) that you should be aware of. For example, some places consider a fifth-wheel without a tow vehicle attached as “abandoned”.
- Be respectful while you’re staying overnight in a parking lot. This refers to noise levels, amount of space you take up, and amount of personal belongings you have outside your rig (which should be zero).
It's up to you to specifically ask each of these questions if the manager doesn't address them all on their own.
If you do get screwed even though you did everything right on your part – don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. And most importantly, be persistent. No one is going to stand up for you but you.