Spring Break @ Walmart...


Jan 7, 2002
WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa - Skyler Bartels kept looking over his shoulder. It's a habit he picked up living at the Windsor Heights Wal-Mart for three days.

story written by Mark Hansen: Des Moines Register columnist

Really living there. Eating, sleeping, checking out the DVDs, never leaving. The plan was to spend his entire spring break there. Under the radar.

Some kids go to Cancun. Skyler Bartels, a Drake University sophomore from Harvard, Neb., went to the garden and patio department.

The great experiment had been over for a few days, but Bartels was still in great-experiment mode. As we sat at a booth in the Subway sandwich shop toward the front of the store, he glanced at the friendly white-haired Wal-Mart greeters.

Were they onto him? Why were they staring? Bartels was still suffering from greeter phobia.

He was never out to get Wal-Mart, he explained. This wasn't supposed to be an expose.

Bartels didn't burst through the door stewing about low wages, poor working conditions or the way the big chain chews up Mom and Pop.

This was part sociology experiment, part school project. Bartels is a writing major. Maybe he'd put it all down on paper and pick up an independent study credit, or even sell it to somebody someday.

Maybe he'd move on to another Wal-Mart and produce a documentary, like the guy who ate nothing but McDonald's for a month.

Bartels got the idea from a commercial. Was it true what those happy, shiny people were telling him: "Always low prices. Always"?

Could the biggest, most successful discount store in the world really meet his every need? Twenty-four hours a day? That's what the TV spots were telling him.

"That was the goal," he said. "To buy everything I needed at Wal-Mart."

His father told him to go for it and offered to bankroll the project.

On Sunday, his girlfriend dropped him off at the front door and drove away. The game was on.

He didn't tell Wal-Mart what he was doing, and it's probably a good thing.

"We weren't aware of this," said corporate spokeswoman Sharon Weber, "but it's not something we condone. We're a retailer, not a hotel."

A Drake law professor gave Bartels some advice: The store is private property. If they ask you to leave, go quickly and quietly.

Bartels walked into the big box wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. He had his cell phone in case of emergency, his heart medicine, his bank card, two forms of identification, and nothing else.

He spent the first afternoon watching "Chicken Little," the animated Disney film. He watched it all. Deleted scenes, interviews, outtakes. Everything.

"They had it on a continuous loop the whole time I was there," he said. "I'd pass through the department and say, 'Oh, it's about halfway through' or, 'I like this part. I think I'll watch it again.' "



Nov 9, 2000
He should have went to Cancun and got laid. I could have told him walmart has food, toiletries, clothes, and even stuff to stave off boredom.


No Lifer
Dec 14, 2000
wow that was pretty pointless. i really can't see anyone paying for that..


May 23, 2002
I didn't realize it was a 24hour Wal Mart. I thought he was ducking security somehow or something. Doesn't seem as difficult if the store is open 24 hours a day. But still interesting.


Platinum Member
Dec 3, 2003
Originally posted by: yellowfiero

His father told him to go for it and offered to bankroll the project.
Smart father!!

"Hey dad, it's spring break - I want to go to Cancun. Or, maybe I'll go to Walmart and see how long I can survive there."

"Son, I really like that Walmart idea. Go for it . . . "




Apr 1, 2001
Hasn't this been done or attempted before? I don't think this was an original idea...funny, nonetheless.


Golden Member
Sep 27, 2005
WOW! I'm surprised no one noticed him being there for more then 4 hours. The security at that Walmart sucks.