Shelves at Walmart stores in Louisiana were cleared in a shopping frenzy over the weekend after a glitch in the Electronic Benefits Transfer system allowed government food stamp recipients to make purchases without spending limits.
For two hours Saturday night, customers rang up overflowing cartloads of food at stores in Springhill and Mansfield, La., after cashiers allowed them to use their EBT cards anyway despite not showing limits, KSLA-TV reported.
“It was worse than any Black Friday,” Springhill police Chief Will Lynd told KSLA.
Police were called in to help manage the chaos, but no arrests were made and no one was unruly, Lynd said. Mansfield police confirmed officers were called in for crowd control but no arrests were made there, either.
After the system came back online, customers abandoned their carts and left the store, leaving a huge mess behind.
“It was like a tornado had came through,” O.J Evans, who took cell phone video of the aftermath at the Mansfield Walmart, told KSLA.
The glitch occurred when the EBT system went down in several states during a routine backup test, KSLA reported. The system came back up Saturday night, but was apparently not working properly everywhere.
A Walmart spokeswoman told KSLA the company was “fully engaged and monitoring the situation and transactions during the outage.”
“We did make the decision to continue to accept EBT cards (and purchases on WIC and SNAP) during the outage so that they could get food for their families,” Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling told the station.
Walmart shoppers Stan and Judy Garcia said purchases made without appropriate funds was the same thing as stealing.
“That’s plain theft, that’s stealing that’s all I got to say about it,” Stan Garcia said.
Whaling declined to specify whether Walmart would take the financial hit on food purchased without card limits or on the perishable food left behind.
A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services said they were aware of the situation and investigating any potential fraud.