Walmart food stamps were being accepted with no purchase limits during a two-hour window last weekend, causing recipients of the government’s food stamp program to raid two Louisiana big box stores in a greed-filled frenzy, reports the CS Monitor on Oct. 15.
The spree was all caught on tape, as hundreds of users of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, more commonly referred to as food stamps, filled their carts with everything they could get their hands on, “paying” with their benefit card that briefly showed no set spending limits.
Once word spread Saturday night, Springhill and Mansfield Walmarts were crushed with crowds who raided the shelves bare. Once the system reset itself, and the spending limits were once again in place, an announcement was made and customers simply abandoned their carts, filled with food, and left.
Police were called in to control the crowds of people sweeping through the aisles and piling in as much food as they could possible wheel out.
“Some people had eight or 10 shopping carts full of groceries,” Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd said. “Shoppers decimated the grocery section… When they heard the announcement, people just left their carts in place and walked out of the store.”
A brief power outage during a routine maintenance test caused the infrastructure used by the EBT card system to briefly crash, causing the temporary glitch in the accounts.
“We did make the decision to continue to accept EBT cards during the outage so that they could get food for their families,” Walmart representative Kayla Whaling said, adding that Walmart was, “fully engaged and monitoring the situation and transactions during the outage.”
While Walmart’s statement may reflect compassion for those who needed “food for their families,” looking at the amateur video, it seems quite clear the stores had no choice but to step back and keep the registers ringing, allowing the frantic shopping to continue. Any attempt to interfere likely would have caused safety issues for Walmart’s staff and other customers.
Police said no arrests were made in either location.
A Walmart spokesperson said the company had no choice but to take the loss, but that Walmart takes all allegations of potential fraud seriously and will be investigating.
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