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Louisiana Walmart Shelves Emptied When Food Stamp EBT Drops Spending Limit

( [email protected] ) Oct 14, 2013 08:20 PM EDT
A technical glitch temporarily lifted spending limit or eligible benefit balance  for food stamp recipients, but in Louisiana shoppers emptied the shelves at two Walmart locations with some hauling more than 8 to 10 carts full of groceries and then coming back for more.
Shoppers abandoned their carts once their EBT cards began working correctly. Image from ksla.com

A technical glitch temporarily lifted spending limit or eligible benefit balance for food stamp recipients. In Louisiana, shoppers took advantage of this event and emptied the shelves at two Walmart locations with some hauling more than 8 to 10 carts full of groceries and then coming back for more.

"It was definitely worse than Black Friday. It was worse than anything we had seen in this town," Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd told ABCNews.com. "There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated."

Xerox, a vendor for the Electronic Benefits Transfer system, said the technical glitch happened because a back-up generator failed Saturday during a regularly-scheduled test at 11 a.m. EST. 

Walmart decided to continue accepting food stamps during the outage so people could feed their families, spokeswoman Kayla Whaling told KSLA-TV.

The technical glitch had affected the EBT system in 17 states, but, unlike Walmart, other grocery stores in town refused to accept EBT cards until the card limits were evident again, said Mansfield's Chief of Police.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services' spokesman Trey Williams said the retailers who chose not to use the emergency procedures that limit sales up to $50 per cardholder during an emergency would be responsible for any additional amount spent over eligible benefit balances.

In response, Walmart told ABCNews.com the incident was "isolated" and the company doesn't believe it had any material impact to its U.S. business.

Police chiefs in both Springhill and Mansfield said no arrests were made, and no "unruly behaviors" were reported, albeit some pushing and shoving and a chaotic scene.

Later that evening at 9 p.m. CT, a Walmart employee announced over the intercom saying that the computer system had been restored, and card limits had returned. At that moment, shoppers left shopping carts full of food groceries in store aisles, said Lynd, according to ABCNews.com.