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Soloing & Security while "Walmarting"/major grocery shopping

Old 08-09-10, 10:26 AM
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drmweaver2
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Soloing & Security while "Walmarting"/major grocery shopping

Specifically concerning solo-touring

I prefer regular grocery stores and Walmarts to convenience store shopping whenever possible primarily due to the financial savings and the greater food/fresh fruit selection. Considering the ubiquitous nature of Walmarts/grocery stores and the need to constantly replenish one's food one while touring, something that is a bit of a concern has to be bike security while inside. Realistically, many stores do not have anything that is available to lock one's bike to, and even if there is, panniers and trailer bags are far from slashproof/unzippable by opportunistic thieves.

Unfortunately, I've yet to be able to convince a "door greeter" to allow me to park inside and most groceries/Walmarts have no windows to the outside, unlike convenience stores, keeping an eye on the bike while inside isn't possible. I'm certainly not going to check my gps, camera, other expensive electronics, important things with a Wally World customer service geek - even if offered a receipt as it's not likely to be itemized (and that would be a time consuming issue anyway).

So, what do YOU do?
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Old 08-09-10, 10:44 AM
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I use a cheap light cable lock and keep my money and electronics in a handlebar bag that goes in with me. I don't get why you would need "to check my gps, camera, other expensive electronics". I have always carried all my electronics in my handlebar bag and have never been asked to check anything.

If you are wanting to check them because you are concerned about being accused of theft... In general it would be easy enough to prove that the camera, gps, or whatever was not stolen from the store since it would have your pictures, routes, tracks, or other data on them. If you were really worried you could mark them all with an engraver.

The stuff left on the bike is mostly used camping gear and dirty clothes, not stuff that is all that attractive to a thief. I am not a gear head so no really expensive stuff is there. If it was all stolen it would not be the end of the world and I could easily afford to replace it all. It might set me back a few days and on a short tour maybe end the tour. It is a risk I am willing to take.

On another note, while I too prefer the selection and pricing of regular grocery stores or WalMart to little general stores, I do not find either to be ubiquitous on many of the routes that I prefer to travel. As a result I am shopping in a general store or maybe a mini mart more often than not.
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Old 08-09-10, 11:11 AM
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I just wheel the bike in and don't ever leave it. I don't think I have done that with a WM, but other big box places haven't been a problem. Since Sam died, in my part of the world, the greater thing is much relaxed. I really feel a loaded touring bike is impossible to secure, so I don't rely on that. I do rely on expectations, in some places I don't expect any trouble, sorta like I wouldn't mess with a flying saucer if Martians landed.
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Old 08-09-10, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I have always carried all my electronics in my handlebar bag and have never been asked to check anything....snip...On another note, while I too prefer the selection and pricing of regular grocery stores or WalMart to little general stores, I do not find either to be ubiquitous on many of the routes that I prefer to travel.
I've been asked_to_check/stopped_from_going_in with a handlebar bag multiple times in numerous stores in various places - Walmart, Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly. Doesn't matter when I point out the ladies with their purses or infant-needs bags. I guess I look "suspect".

I don't (intend to) ride the ACA routes often - the road's too well-travelled for me. I don't specifically avoid them, but, overall, they don't specifically have any appeal for me. Consequently, my experience differs from a fair portion of bike tourists.

Unlike those who desire to avoid all things urban while touring, there are many small towns that do have the above stores and, when available, I'll go to them rather than a mini-mart even at the expense of a couple extra miles. I'd rather stock up cheaply, carry a few extra pounds for a few days in order to save $$$ and eat better than what I can get at a mini-mart. To me, it's the same idea as General Delivery food drops, just occasionally less convenient.
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Old 08-09-10, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
Since Sam died, in my part of the world, the greater thing is much relaxed.
Sorry, lost me there, bud.
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Old 08-09-10, 12:04 PM
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Don't try to argue with the greeter. Decisions like that are above the greeter's pay grade. Ask to talk with the supervisor or manager and make it clear that, if you can't secure your bike and keep your valuables with you, you can't shop there. Simple as that. If they want your business, they should be able to accommodate your reasonable request.
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Old 08-09-10, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
I've been asked_to_check/stopped_from_going_in with a handlebar bag multiple times in numerous stores in various places - Walmart, Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly.
I never occurred to me that would be an issue. No one has ever batted an eyebrow when I went into a store with my handlebar bag. Maybe I have just been lucky. I do tend to be one of those folks who in general is almost never hassled. I have no idea why.
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Old 08-09-10, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
I've been asked_to_check/stopped_from_going_in with a handlebar bag multiple times in numerous stores in various places - Walmart, Winn Dixie, Piggly Wiggly. Doesn't matter when I point out the ladies with their purses or infant-needs bags. I guess I look "suspect".
If a store won't let me in with my bag (while touring or about town at home), I generally let them know that if they're going to treat me like a criminal I'll take my business elsewhere. I suppose this isn't always an option in small towns one might encounter on tour, but if a town is small enough to have one store, usually they are trusting enough to let you carry your bag, and I feel pretty safe locking up in that sort of place anyway.
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Old 08-09-10, 02:15 PM
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1. get a hold of a manager and ask where you can leave your bike in the store.
2. dont bother with a greeter, just wheel it in, if you can bring in a stroller/carriage/ wheelchair or "scooter"
why should a bike be a problem?
3.Advise management everything you have needs to be secured and if they won't help, find a store that will
4. Find a local church to leave your rig at
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Old 08-09-10, 02:34 PM
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#1 avoid Wal~Mart, go to the locally owned merchants instead,

IE, If the Beast from Bentonville AR hasn't crushed them all under its Boot ..
er, predatory business model.
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Old 08-09-10, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
#1 avoid Wal~Mart, go to the locally owned merchants instead,
Lol, fighting/avoiding Walmart is like fighting a pig in a sty. You both get dirty and the pig doesn't really care.
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Old 08-09-10, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
Lol, fighting/avoiding Walmart is like fighting a pig in a sty. You both get dirty and the pig doesn't really care.

I avoid Walmart just fine in every day life why would it be so much harder on tour?
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Old 08-09-10, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
Specifically concerning solo-touring

I prefer regular grocery stores and Walmarts to convenience store shopping whenever possible primarily due to the financial savings and the greater food/fresh fruit selection. Considering the ubiquitous nature of Walmarts/grocery stores and the need to constantly replenish one's food one while touring, something that is a bit of a concern has to be bike security while inside. Realistically, many stores do not have anything that is available to lock one's bike to, and even if there is, panniers and trailer bags are far from slashproof/unzippable by opportunistic thieves.

Unfortunately, I've yet to be able to convince a "door greeter" to allow me to park inside and most groceries/Walmarts have no windows to the outside, unlike convenience stores, keeping an eye on the bike while inside isn't possible. I'm certainly not going to check my gps, camera, other expensive electronics, important things with a Wally World customer service geek - even if offered a receipt as it's not likely to be itemized (and that would be a time consuming issue anyway).

So, what do YOU do?
Different approaches in different situations. Among them:

(1) wheeling the bike in and locking it near a customer service desk. Not often popular with the staff, or even possible, even if you explain carefully. Occasionally works, but usually not worth the hassle, and gives cyclists something of a bad rep.

(2) Locking the bike in front of a nearby small store or shop. Hair cutting shops are good. Thieves (unless they are watching, but you can check for that) often assume the owner of the bike (or someone else in the shop) is watching the bike through the window of the shop. You can ask a friendly/trustworthy employee(s) if they might be able to keep half an eye on the bike, and mention that no one else but you should be messing with it....

In some situations, (2) has been a very good solution, and they are happy to be helpful. Many people are well disposed toward bike tourists, especially if you are nice, and come across as a friendly person.

(3) Lock it near the entrance, and ask the greeter(s) if they might be able to keep an eye on it while you shop. Maybe mention that kids sometimes open panniers and take things, and could they watch it for you. If done properly, they seem to be honored and happy to help.

I have not always found these people to be as conscientious as one might hope; but they seem to be agreeable, and are certainly better than nothing. As with (2), thieves are more wary of high-traffic/well-watched situations.

(4) Have an alarm on the bike that can be heard well by the surrounding people or shopkeepers or employees. Thieves will be well spooked by this.

(5) Always keep the small valuables with you. I have found fanny packs to be the best for this. They seem to arouse less suspicion than backpacks and other bags.

(6) Make your panniers hard to get into. On mine, someone would have to hit a couple of side-release buckles, open the top, and then deal with the knots I tie in the drawstrings. I make it difficult. Thieves don't want to diddle with knots for an extended period, especially with people/watchers around. They are usually hoping to make it quick.

You can also alter side-release buckles by drilling and inserting an allen bolt. And there are other ways of making it hard to get inside.

(7) Have security stickers and warnings on the bike.

(8) Use an inexpensive security camera.

(9) Use a security system that alerts you (on a cell phone or other device).

(10) Make the shopping quick and efficient, on top of other precautions.

(11) Don't get sloppy. Sometimes judgment can be at a lower level when you are on tour and tired. There can be, at times, a heightened feeling of just not caring. Watch out for this.

(12) Have a partner stay with the bike(s). You can alternate shopping.

(13) If there are security personnel around, they will sometimes watch it for you.

(14) Be sure that nothing on the bike is easy to swipe. Many thefts are opportunistic.

(15) Make the bike look somewhat road-worn rather than sparkling and desirable -- not a disgrace, but just a bit on the dusty and worn side....

Last edited by Niles H.; 08-09-10 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 08-09-10, 07:35 PM
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On local grocery runs, I lock my cruiser or cargo trike to one of the cart-corrals (have also used a signpost). And i've taken my black tool bag in with me, and nobody ever batted an eye.

Note that most of the stuff in your bag, they can't accuse you of stealing it because they don't sell that stuff in the first place.
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Old 08-10-10, 06:14 AM
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While all responses and discussion have been interesting and appreciated, most/some of it provides advice. Some do not directly answer the specific question I asked - what do YOU do?

Let's not talk theory. Let's deal with facts/experience for a bit.

What do You do --- while solo touring?
(Solo touring precludes asking a "partner" to watch one's stuff, for instance.)

To those who have directly answered that question, many thanks.

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Old 08-10-10, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
#1 avoid Wal~Mart, go to the locally owned merchants instead,

IE, If the Beast from Bentonville AR hasn't crushed them all under its Boot ..
er, predatory business model.
Wow, made it to post ten before the anti-walmart kooks kicked in.

But to answer the OP, I take m bike in. If they say I can't, I leave (after delvering a piece of my mind)
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Old 08-10-10, 12:21 PM
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to be honest, i and my partners usually just leave the bikes outside and run inside. i've never, ever seen anyone give a look other than disgust to a dusty oily touring bike (aka not-a-mountain-bike-with-10-shocks) with huge panniers and torn garbage bags filled with drying stuff loaded on top :-) plus if they even tried to get on it, the loads would make them knock it over right away. i've gone on many tours and always done this without problems... but yeah, i bring a fanny pack with all of my real small "expensives" in with me... (Also +1000 on avoiding walmart)
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Old 08-10-10, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
#1 avoid Wal~Mart, go to the locally owned merchants instead,

IE, If the Beast from Bentonville AR hasn't crushed them all under its Boot ..
er, predatory business model.
Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
Lol, fighting/avoiding Walmart is like fighting a pig in a sty. You both get dirty and the pig doesn't really care.

Incorrect,
There are many other choices. Try to know the business practices of the entities with which you do business. A simple Google search is very enlightening.
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Old 08-10-10, 01:32 PM
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On my tour of the pacific coast this summer, I used the same lock I brought to lock up my bike while I slept to lock it to a pay phone, bench, random post, anything, while I took 5-10 a day to pick up food. Bring a lock, you won't regret it!
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Old 08-10-10, 03:33 PM
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I use a Bob trailer but if I used panniers, I might leave a fake dirty diaper drying on top of one of the bags. Plus a lock and cable.
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Old 08-10-10, 04:02 PM
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What's a Walmart?

This is my type of grocery store. The Auvergne, France. No security problems.
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Old 08-10-10, 04:50 PM
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I use the smaller local grocery stores, in my experience most WM's are not particularly suited to cyclist friendly access. I do remove the handlebar bag with my personal items in it and carry it with me. Also with a smaller store you can get in and out in less time than a WMSC.

In one small town I used to frequent, the local store manager actually came out and told me to bring my bike in so they could keep an eye on it, they had recently had problems with someone trolling the parking lot stealing things out of unlocked cars. He did not want me to risk having my bike stolen even though it was going to be locked up.

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Old 08-10-10, 06:23 PM
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It works like this -for me.

I shop on my bicycle at walmart, for my groceries, on average 26 times a year.....even though my father's smalll town office supply business closed in part due to walmarts "everyday low prices". He could purchase some stock cheaper at retail price in the walmart store than he could buy it at wholesale from his suppliers. Economies of scale - what can a little guy do?

When I shop at walmart I take my bob and a couple panniers because I buy so much crap. I never ever use the bike racks. I always chain my bike and trailer to the chain link fence near the staging area for the grocery carts. I leave the empty panniers on the bike. This area is close to one of the front doors, lots of foot traffic, and camera surveillance. There is normally a cart attendant nearby who I always say hello to on my way in and out, I make sure they see my face. I've never had a single problem with anyone complaining where I parked or anyone messing with my gear. A couple times I've bought a candy bar for the poor folk rounding up the carts, presumably watching over my gear, and I always get a surprised Thank You from them. Ya know - it works for me.

Best of luck.
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Old 08-10-10, 08:24 PM
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I don't shop much at WalMart or other big box stores while on tour, but I ride my "grocery" bike to them all the time close to home. I either lock my bike to the cart coral or to a pole as close to the front doors as possible. My theory is thieves prefer to work alone. They don't want to be seen by lots of people coming and going while they cut my (admittedly feeble) lock. They also don't know which of the many people coming and going might be the owner of the bike.
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Old 08-11-10, 03:57 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Scrockern8r View Post
Incorrect,
There are many other choices. Try to know the business practices of the entities with which you do business. A simple Google search is very enlightening.
Of course.. Everything you read on the internet is so true.
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