Walmart Food Stamp Stampede: Who Should Pay?

What would you do if you knew that, for at least a few hours, a computer glitch would give you access to infinite credit at your grocery store?

For some people, the answer is: Run to the local Walmart and check out with 10 carts full of free food. That’s what happened this weekend in Springhill and Mansfield, La., Reuters says. Some of the shelves were cleaned out.

Here’s what happened: In Louisiana and a number of other states, Xerox processes electronic food stamp benefits, Reuters says. Xerox was testing its backup generators and they malfunctioned, bringing down the processing system. So when people with food stamp cards — which basically work like debit cards — swiped them at checkout, the cashiers saw no spending limits instead of a remaining card balance.

There’s a procedure in place for situations like this, ABC News says. During emergencies, retailers can refuse purchases over $50. But when the stores called corporate headquarters to see what they should do, Walmart said to let the transactions go through. Word got around, and soon people were pushing carts with $700 worth of free groceries out to the parking lot.

Now, Xerox and Walmart are bickering over who has to pay for it all.

Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd said that customers were “not unruly” and no arrests were made, but that it was worse than Black Friday, according to ABC News.

Reuters reported, “The shoppers broke no laws, Lynd said, adding that police intervention was not required to disperse the crowd.” But when Walmart’s loud speaker announced that the system had been fixed, people abandoned their carts and walked out of the store.

This is hardly the first time something like this has happened. This summer, PayPal accidentally credited $92 quadrillion to a Pennsylvania man’s account. (The error was corrected in two minutes. The man said he would have bought the Philadelphia Phillies if he were truly among the mega rich.)

Bankrate has written about bank errors before, and found that basically anything can happen. People have been accidentally given money that wasn’t theirs and received permission to keep it. People have tried to return the extra funds, and when bureaucracy lost track of their investigations, got to keep it. People have gotten in legal trouble for spending bank errors in their favor and were forced to repay it plus a fine.

What do you think should happen to people who suddenly and knowingly come into money by mistake and then spend it? Let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Paula

    I am willing to help children with lousy parents and people who are old or truly disabled. No, pride doesn’t fill your stomach or pay your rent, but getting a job does. What I think would be fair is if people who get government assistance who are able, at least be required to DO SOMETHING to earn the money. Anyone and everyone should contribute something. As far as I’m concerned, there should not be one piece of trash along the roadway in this country as long as there is such a long line of people getting a handout. I pick up trash as part of a volunteer group, and believe me, there is plenty left to pick up. Indeed, pride doesn’t fill your stomach or pay your rent, and pride shouldn’t prevent you from picking up trash.

  • Paula

    I’ve heard this bleeding heart blah blah all I intend to. I’m a Christian also, and I am very willing to help honest people, not matter their age, health or status. The people Drew is talking about are the dishonest folks who want a hand out, and we are “growing” more of those everyday. There is no honor in driving people to become co-dependent. Help those who need help, then EXPECT those who can to contribute somehow, even if it means picking up garbage while they receive benefits. The Bible does tell us to help the poor and the needy, but it doesn’t suggest we make them become DEPENDENT on us. Give a person a fish and they eat for a day, teach them to fish then they can take care of themselves. Working was ordained by God when we messed up and got thrown out of the garden. I believe in providing people a safety net, not a HAMOCK.

  • Paula

    Actually Tom, I agree with you. Until we get more of our good manufacturing jobs back in our country, there are going to be be many people, such as yourself, who are very willing to work, but who cannot find a job similar to one you lost. The “them” I’m talking about, if you must put it that way, are the people who have learned to work the system instead of “work” themselves. And there are plenty of dishonest people out there doing that. I’m not saying every poor person is dishonest, but JUST because someone is poor doesn’t mean they are a pillar of morality. I just get sick of across the board “corporation bashing”. Some corporations are terrible and are not looking out for employees, and I hate that anyone has to work for those. But there are also great corporations who bring good jobs and are not “greedy”, as is most often portrayed.

  • Paula

    Hey Tom, I occupy the same planet as you, whether you like it or not. There is more than one valid opinion in life, and I think YOU make some valid points. There are other valid sides to every story is all I’m trying to say. And right now, I agree with you about both political parties in this country doing the same thing…selling votes. Republicans are bought primarily with corporate and rich voters and democrats with the masses of poorer voters, and those who want to “take care” of everybody, whether you want/need taking care of or not. My point is that for now, our government should be about cutting out waste everywhere it occurs. People who “work” the systems in this country, such as this “Walmart” crowd, should pay. I should not pay for it and neither should you, and neither should the corporation. There are times when corporations SHOULD pay, so don’t assume I’m saying they’re not sometimes guilty.

  • Paula

    Personally, I don’t believe in calling people names just because I disagree with them. It makes one look like they have little to say. Anyway, no, I know all poor people are not poor because they refuse to work hard. I actually live in one of the poorest states in the country, and many in my family would be considered “poor” by national standards. You assume you know my “social/economic status” but what if you are wrong? I believe education and the availability of jobs that pay a “living” wage are the keys to improving our country, and I will spare no amount of my tax dollars to encourage both. People are poor for many reasons, and YES, sometimes it IS their fault because they are lazy. But not ALL poor are lazy. Some RICH are lazy. Some poor WORK HARD. I’m not assuming anything, but I am talking about the poor who take advantage of the system, and I do believe there are many. I also believe we are creating more everyday with our entitlement system which contributes to the growing mentality that someone/some country “owes” someone something.

  • traderjim7

    I am not obsessed with what poor people, or rich people like you, eat. Apparently you are too slow to realize it, but his discussion is not about what poor people eat; it is about what foods that are purchased by the taxpayers for the poor people to eat. Our tax dollars should be buying nutritious food, not things that pass for food and pushed upon Americans by the big corporations that you worship. You did not answer my question above; since when is soda pop food? Since when is water food? What nutrition does either provide? You are a lying SOS because if you had the seven figure income you say you do, you posts would not be so moronic. Even those with seven figure incomes from trust funds would be smarter than you act.
    As for the spelling mistake you made, yours was not corrected by auto correct and you are too stupid to realize it. LOL
    I see that you are the typical democrat in that you have to insult people who do not agree with you.