Walmart shelves were cleared in Springhill and Mansfield, Louisiana on Saturday when the Electronic Benefits Transfer system went down because a back-up generator failed during a regularly-scheduled test.
Xerox, which hosts some of the infrastructure used by the EBT card system, says that a power outage during a routine maintenance test caused the temporary glitch.
Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd explained the cards weren’t showing limits and when they called corporate Walmart, the spokesman said to let people use the EBT cards anyway.
“We did make the decision to continue to accept EBT cards during the outage so that they could get food for their families,” Walmart representative Kayla Whaling told KSLA. She added that Walmart was, “fully engaged and monitoring the situation and transactions during the outage.”
So, from 7 to 9 p.m., customers were loading up carts, but once the cards began showing limits again around 9 p.m., one woman was detained because she rang up a bill of $700.00 and only had .49 on her EBT card. She was held by police until corporate Walmart said they wouldn’t press charges if she left the food.
Lynd says at 9 p.m., when the cards came back online it was announced over the loud speaker, people left their carts full of food in the aisles and left the store. “At that point in time, they knew the jig was up and they couldn’t purchase what they wanted to,” Lynd said.
Lynd said customers were “not unruly.” There were no fights or arrests made, but the scene was still chaotic. “It was definitely worse than Black Friday. It was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town,” Lynd said. “There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated.”
“Just about everything is gone, I’ve never seen it in that condition,” said Mansfield Walmart customer Anthony Fuller.
During the outage, other grocery stores told customers they would not accept EBT cards until the card limits were evident again, Mansfield’s Chief of Police Gary Hobbs.
The EBT system was affected in 17 states, where individuals and households access programs like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and other programs.
EBT Users take advantage of a Glitch, in Mansfield Louisiana
Shelves in Walmart stores in Springhill and Mansfield, LA were reportedly cleared Saturday night, when the stores allowed purchases on EBT cards even though they were not showing limits.
Walmart Shelves Cleared During Food Stamp Panic
The Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system allows recipients of government food stamps to purchase goods using a digital card with a set spending limit, but for a few hours over the weekend, that limit disappeared for many users visiting Walmart stores in Louisiana. Walmart and local police in Springhill and Mansfield confirmed to CBS affiliate KSLA that officers were called into the stores to help maintain order Saturday as shoppers swept through the aisles at two stores and bought as much as they could carry.