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Published on Oct 15, 2013
A computer glitch in the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system sent welfare recipients on a shopping bender at two Louisiana Walmarts after they learned that limits on their debit cards had been temporarily removed over the weekend.
Managers of the stores at Mansfield and Springhill, both small towns in northern Louisiana, called the police on Saturday to inform them that crowds of shoppers flooded aisles, snapping up food items eligible under the food stamp program, Reuters reported. Some shoppers walked out with as many as eight shopping carts brimming with goods, and photos of empty shelves circulated the internet.
No crimes or injuries were reported during the shopping spree, and legally, the EBT card users did nothing wrong. The police were called in, however, to keep the massive crowd safe.
When the glitch was finally resolved, the shoppers abandoned their carts where they stood, according to reports and photos taken in the stores.
Xerox, a vendor for the EBT system said the glitch was caused when a back-up generator powering the system failed during a regularly-scheduled test, ABCnews.com reported.
While the failure allowed the Louisiana food stamp recipients in Mansfield and Springhill to load up on groceries, it left people in 17 other states unable to use their cards at all, according to reports. The Clarion Ledger reported that a mini-riot broke out in a Mississippi Walmart when EBT cards failed. Some customers left without paying and the managers temporarily closed the store.
It appears Walmart will be responsible for the massive bill left by the carefree consumers, as the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, the organization that oversees the food stamp program, said the retailer could have implemented emergency measures to limit shopping, but didn't, according to TV station KSLA.