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Computer Glitch Gives EBT Rceipiants Hundreds of Thousands Dollars in Food

OW Staff Writer | 10/14/2013, 9:26 a.m.

This weekend (Sunday morning) while parked outside a hair care product store on Rodeo and La Cienega I overheard two African American woman complain about their EBT cards malfunctioning, not allowing them to purchase groceries. Both women agreed that this must be a result of the government shut down and they were victims of D.C, politics. However 1600 miles away a computer glitch associated with xerox caused food stamp recipients in Louisiana to have unlimited funds on their EBT cards for several hours. The lack of card limits was due to a power outage during a routine maintenance test by Xerox, an EBT vendor. Walmart superiors, told of the irregularities, advised staff to keep selling.

As a result of Wal-Mart’s decision to continue ringing up sales, The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services state they will have to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars in groceries bought by Louisiana food stamp recipients. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which oversees the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card program in the state, said Wal-Mart could have instituted an emergency $50 limit for each customer, but chose not to - and as a result, the retail giant must foot the sizable bill.

Wal-Mart will have to cover the cost of dozens of welfare families with EBT cards , who picked shelves bare in stores in Spring Hill and Mansfield on Saturday and walked away with up to ten shopping carts filled with meat and other groceries in a spending frenzy described by local officials as 'worse than Black Friday'.

When Walmart employees noticed EBT cards weren’t showing spending limits, they called the corporate office and were advised to allow shoppers to use the cards anyway.

Other stores in the towns temporarily closed or stopped accepting EBT cards. Wal-Mart instead called in police to help control the chaotic crowds of shoppers who flooded the store.

'It was definitely worse than Black Friday. It was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town. There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated,' Springhill Police Chief Will Lyn told local news agencies.

Word spread across the towns by social media about the loophole and hundreds of families flocked to the two Walmart stories.

Chief Lyn said he saw some families ring up bills up more than $700 disregarding the average monthly food stamp allotment in Louisiana which is $136 per person.

'I saw people drag out 8 to 10 grocery carts,' Lyn said. WalMart stands by its decision to let families take advantage of the loophole. A spokeswoman said whatever money the company lost from the spending sprees won't have an impact on the corporate bottom line.

Between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., busy shoppers filled their carts to the brim with as much merchandise they could get their hands on, some families working in teams.This activity was reminiscent of looters clearing stock from a shelf continued until 9 p.m. and when the cards came back online, people walked away from their carts full of food in the middle of the Wal-Mart. Leaving hundreds of dollars of merchandise as they didn't have the money to pay.

One woman was disappointed when she tried to purchase $700 worth of food and her card had a .49 cents balance. She was temporarily held by police for ‘stealing’ but eventually was released on the condition that she would give the food back to Walmart.

After the stampede Walmart had to stop selling food at 9 p.m. Their store shelves were ravaged and shopping carts full and empty were left all over the store.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart told local news agencies that the company continued selling to shoppers 'so that they could get food for their families.'

When asked by reporters whether or not Walmart would somehow be refunded for the loss of produce, Walmart representative Kayla Whaling responded that they were, ‘fully engaged and monitoring the situation and transactions during the outage.’