“I was stunned. I called my wife and said, ‘Somebody stole my coach,’” said Larry Socha, recalling how he ran some banking errands with his 90-year-old mother the Saturday morning before Memorial Day, returned to the Walmart parking lot in Glen Ellyn where he had spent the night, and discovered that his luxury 40-foot, 22.5-ton RV with the safe full of cash and the 25-foot trailer for his Mustang GT had been towed away by order of the WalMart manager.
Socha, who drove his 2000 Prevost Marathon XL from his home in New Jersey to visit his mom in Glen Ellyn and attend his 50th high school reunion, has parked at several Wal-Marts during his travels and also supports campgrounds. He parked at Walmart this time not to save 30 or 40 bucks but because it would have taken him more than two hours to drive to the nearest campground and back.
He said that last year he left the same motorhome in the same Walmart parking lot for three or four days during a visit as his dad was dying. He said he didn’t even see the signs this time reading: “No truck parking. Unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at owner’s or operator’s expense & liability. Towing enforced at all times.”
“The manager did knock on the door a couple of times before calling for the tow truck”, Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said. “Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able,” reads a Walmart statement. “Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”
Socha said he found the store on a website that lists free overnight parking, but Whaling said Wal-Mart doesn’t keep a list of what stores allow parking or how many people do park.
A Walmart customer and stockholder, Socha said he was upset that Walmart denied his claim to have the company pay his towing bill.
“Will I stop shopping there? No, I’m not a jerk,” Socha said. “I learned a lesson.”
He said he just wants to warn others and perhaps push Walmart to be a little more sensitive and communicative about this issue. There’s no use fighting over $872.50, which he said is basically “a tank of gas,” but he said he wouldn’t mind an admission that the situation could have been handled better.