In two Louisiana towns - Mansfield and Springfield - two Walmart stores are responsible for the majority of the bill after area food stamp recipients took advantage of the temporary outage of the EBT system on Saturday, according to an ABC report on Monday.
The glitch in the system was a power outage which temporarily lifted food stamp recipients’ spending limits and hundreds of customers with the food stamp subsidy from the federal government lined up with carts full of purchases at the registers and took the items home.
Police were called to both Walmarts, and Will Lynd – the police chief of Springhill – said there were customers carting up more food than any one household could possibly store in a home’s refrigerator and freezer. He claims persons hauled out as many as ten grocery carts. In one instance, he said a person took over $700 worth of product.
According to Trey Williams, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, any retailer that did not follow the procedure during an emergency – limiting persons to $50 – are responsible for any additional amounts spent over one’s eligible benefit balance.
Walmart – appearing to be stuck with the sizable loss - is blaming Xerox for the malfunction. Xerox is the company that is responsible for the system that processes the EBT cards for food stamp recipients. The system went down at 11 a.m. EST on Saturday during a regularly-scheduled test. Defending Xerox, it is reported that Walmart did not follow procedures to be followed when there is a shutdown of the system.
Walmart said the incident of overspending customers was isolated to those two stores in Louisiana.
At 9 p.m. CT on Saturday, when stores announced over their intercom that the system had been restored and – basically – that they could not longer rob the system, customers existed the stores while leaving carts and carts of food standing in the aisles.
The Walmart in Mansfield had to stop customers from coming in due to fire regulations when throngs of food stamp recipients showed up to take and take from the shelves.
The food stamp problem occurred in 16 states besides Louisiana, but that was the only area where stores reportedly allowed customers to abuse the system’s glitch.