By Hal M. Bundrick
NEW YORK (MainStreet) ¿ A flash mob of shoppers raided stores impacted by a technical glitch in the federal food stamp program this past weekend, but taxpayers will not have to foot the bill.
Shelves were cleared at two Louisiana Walmart stores Saturday as a system failure for electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards incited a shopping frenzy. EBT cards are much like debit cards, allowing purchases tied to benefits issued through the federal food stamps program, which offers low-income families assistance in purchasing groceries.
Xerox implements the federal card program and reported a service outage Saturday, October 12, that prevented the reporting of benefit limits on EBT cards in 17 states. Shoppers in most affected states were turned away, but two Wal-Mart stores in Louisiana allowed unlimited purchases during the outage.
Due to overwhelming crowds, police were ultimately called in to assist store employees. When the technical issue was resolved at 9 p.m. and a store announcement was made saying the cards were back online, shoppers abandoned their packed shopping carts and left. No arrests were reported.
Springhill, La. police chief Will Lynd told Shreveport television station KSLA that when the EBT system was restored, one woman was detained, because she had attempted to purchase $700 of groceries with only a 49 cent credit on her card. She was held by police until Walmart authorities said they wouldn't press charges if she left the food.
According to a notice posted on The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services website, all transactions are recorded.