October 14 2013

The EBT Rampage in a Lousiana Walmart

Charlotte Hays

If you read about the EBT card glitches (glitch is the new word for any massive government screw-up), you might have pictured virtuous food stamp recipients going hungry. That’s not what happened in a Walmart in Louisiana.

The EBT cards were not entirely dysfunctional but they didn’t show the spending limit left to each recipient. A generous soul at Walmart’s corporate headquarters said to go ahead and let people get their food.

Instead of regarding themselves as being on an honor system or sorts, food stamp recipients nearly cleaned out the Walmart, and the police were called in to help beleaguered Walmart employees. A Mansfield, La. News outlet described the pandemonium:

[Springhill Police Chief Will] Lynd explained the cards weren't showing limits and they called corporate Walmart, whose spokesman  said to let the people use the cards anyway. From 7 to 9 p.m., people were loading up their carts, but when the cards began showing limits again around 9, one woman was detained because she rang up a bill of $700.00 and only had .49 on her card. She was held by police until corporate Walmart said they wouldn't press charges if she left the food.

Lynd says at 9 p.m., when the cards came back online and it was announced over the loud speaker, people just left their carts full of food in the aisles and left.

"Just about everything is gone, I've never seen it in that condition," said Mansfield Walmart customer Anthony Fuller.

Walmart employees could still be seen putting food from the carts away as late as Sunday afternoon. "I was just thinking, I'm so glad my mom doesn't work here [Walmart] anymore, that's the only thing I could think about, those employees working, that would have to restock all that stuff," said O.J Evans who took cell phone video of the overflowing shopping carts at the Mansfield Walmart.

Evans believes it was natural human reaction that led people to fill up their carts during the glitch, but Walmart shoppers Stan and Judy Garcia feel very differently. "That's plain theft, that's stealing that's all I got to say about it," said Garcia.

Lynd says contrary to rumors, nobody was unruly or arrested and they were mainly there to help prevent shoplifting and theft. 

C'mon, Sheriff, at least get angry.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services reportedly is “aware of the reports [of potential fraud] and will be investigating.”

Investigating is a hide-behind word like glitch: whaddaya bet nobody gets in trouble for this?

Still, let us hope against hope that the perpetrators will be severely punished.

Otherwise the food stamp program--which undoubtedly helps many genuinely poor people--will be more morally corrosive for many more than even sourpusses such as me have previously suspected. 

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