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

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  • Jake

    Isn’t it illegal to use your EBT (food stamp) card to buy items that do not qualify? I would think that the people that made the purchases should be held responsible.

    • mibtp

      They didn’t buy items that did not qualify, they just bought qualifying food with money that should not have been added to the card.

  • Jake

    I disagree. I don’t believe that it is ok to steal just because you spread out the theft over enough people so that each one is only very slightly affected. Stealing is wrong, and I believe it is against the law to use your EBT (food stamp) card to buy non-qualifying items. The people that bought items with their EBT card that they should have not bought should return the items to the store.

    • BobintheHeights

      I agree. Those people knew they didn’t have the amount of money they spent. They took advantage of taxpayers who are already giving them free food. Some people just disgust me. The jerks who took advantage of the system should be forced to pay it back. If they can’t come up with the money to pay it back then they should not be given any more until the amount they over used is paid back. Some people have no morals, ethics or pride.

    • BobintheHeights

      The problem with taking food items back to the store is once food has been removed from the store, it is tossed out. All that food would be tossed out. Those dishonest people should be forced to pay the money back by not receiving any more food stamps until they have paid back what they stole. That money is coming out of the taxpayer’s pockets and it’s the reason so many of us have a negative opinion of EBT cards. Go back to actual stamps..if those people were so concerned about being embarrassed that they are getting food stamps, then get your butts to work and stop using the system for your lazy habits. Otherwise, stop bitching about how it looks when you use FOOD STAMPS!

  • scottiemickey@gmail.com

    This question is absurd! “Who should pay?” Really? Whom do you really think should pay. They should have their government dependency stripped away until they pay it back to the tax payers! Enough of this crap! I am tired of working to put food on others peoples table. Especially when they exit the store and get in their BMW or Lexus.

    • mibtp

      How many people using food stamps drive off in a luxury car? Ridiculous. I am currently using them because of lost work and get on my BIKE and ride home. I don’t even own a car now. There are a lot of decent people who need the temporary assistance. But the few thieves spoken of in the article do not represent most of us.

      • Drew

        No reasonable person has a problem with offering you temporary assistance while you get back on your feet if you are spending our money respectfully. You sound like the minority of EBT users, however.

        • Douglas Scott

          mibtp is actually the overwhelming majority of EBT users, Drew. I am in the same boat as him, though I am currently in the process of trying to get SS Disability due to health issues. Before anyone carps about that, I worked and paid into the system for years so those benefits would be there if ever needed.

          • Drew

            I have to disagree. Though I’m not referring to the types of cars people drive; I’m speaking to the types of food being purchased with food stamps. Go to Walmart on the 1st and 15th and just observe what people are doing with their food stamps: Doritos, Pepsi, Cheetos, pizzas, etc. Then take a look at the other items being bought by EBT card holders, this time not with the food card but with the cash card or other money. If you are accepting food stamp benefits paid for by taxpayers, and you have not yet cut your smoking habit, you are disrespecting me and every one else paying for your meals. If you are buying snack food or luxury food items with my money; how could I be anything else but offended? I am not accusing you specifically of taking advantage of our kindness, I’m simply asking you to spend an hour objectively observing food stamp usage while you are in the checkout like (it’s easy to spot an EBT card being swiped without profiling anyone). The majority are not riding their bike to the grocery store, and from my observations I conclude that few have made any attempt to cut frivolous spending. Even a simple courtesy such as purchasing the cheaper generic brand of ketchup is rarely extended. I am 28 years old, and as I look around at my peers I realize my generation has no dignity or self respect; they’re always looking for what they can get for free from others; commenting on what they deserve from the rich. We deserve nothing we haven’t worked for. I promise you my family will eat costco beans and rice (and we often do to cut costs), and every luxury will be hacked to the bone before we accept food assistance that we don’t absolutely need. Even then it would be at the food bank – where we donate to voluntarily – before asking for money. This is how a person with respect for self and others conducts themselves. Sadly our culture and nation seems set on continuing this spiral down the toilet of entitlements. You better believe I am profiting from others’ mediocrity by purchasing stock in junk food brands such as PEP. I am going to make as much money as I can while you cloward-piven people burn this country to the ground.

          • mibtp

            Wow, you have issues.

          • Drew

            And you’re apparently an ungrateful freeloader. So where does that leave us? Please continue sucking at the government teet because I am making money off you.

          • traderjim7

            Anyone who knows right from wrong, and sees what is going on in this country would have the same issues.

          • traderjim7

            I agree with you, Drew. The laws should be changed so that people would not be allowed to buy junk food (which isn’t food at all, just junk) such as soda pop, candy, ice cream, and potato chips, and water with food stamps.
            And by the way, it is not the people who are burning the country to the ground, it is the liberal elected officials who have passed laws which are allowing them to burn it to the ground.

          • BobintheHeights

            I applaud you and I feel the same way.

  • Kit Wilson

    I read somewhere that there was a “fail-safe” or back up plan. The max amount that could be bought in a day was 50/dollars. If Walmart had just followed the rules, this wouldn’t be a problem.

  • Paula Olson

    Walmart is responsible because they chose to allow it…even after the corporate offices were consulted, they gave the go ahead and allowed people to purchase insane amounts of food with their EBT cards. However, I feel the people who abused the EBT cards should be required to reimburse Walmart. The people who did this knew exactly what they were doing and it is theft, pure and simple.

    • Drew

      If the ATM malfunctions and debits money from another person’s account, is that now my money?

      • Paula Olson

        No, it is not Drew and that was basically my point.

  • mibtp

    The thieves who spent the extra money should have it taken from future monthly payouts. The food they stole better last for months or a year.

    • TruthPrevail

      That was my response. No food stamp credits until the overage is paid back. That’s just looting, just like in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

  • Dena Kelley

    I think Wal-Mart is the one that made the mistake on not following state law of limiting the purchase to $50. But the people who knowingly took advantage of this gliche are thieves, period. They should be charged with EBT fraud and prosecuted, and lose their EBT benefits for life. There’s no excuse for this.

  • DLR

    C’mon folks. Most of those who overspent their free food cards did so knowing that the money wasn’t there to spend. I’m sure that most got a call that said it was a great day to go binge “shopping”. In that light, I believe that they are guilty of theft. I am no fan of Walmart either and consider it to be a corporate parasite on society. But scamming the store is wrong and those who did so belong in jail, not on the dole. They can get their three squares meals in jail, after a productive day of picking up trash from the sides of our roads.

  • Drew

    You’re deluding yourself if you think this was about poor starving people needing food. It was about getting free stuff without consequences. If the bank teller accidentally hands me a wad of cash from someone else’s account, that doesn’t mean I get to keep the money just because he or she didn’t follow protocol. I haven’t read anything indicating that future payouts will be limited until the funds are recovered, but I agree something similar should happen, and the store those people stole from should be made whole. If not in money, then in hours of community service by the offenders in lieu of fraud charges.

    How sad is it that people were that desperate for food? I agree with you, it’s pretty damn sad that those people refuse to work hard, cut costs, and pay for their own food. I just tallied up my hours for this week: 99. I don’t get to see my wife and daughter for two 48 hour shifts and a few hours of “overtime” from Sunday to Saturday this week. This is so I can put food on the table and provide for our future. You don’t see me rushing to Walmart to see how much free stuff I can steal.

  • Paula Olson

    It is stealing if you take something you are not entitled to. If I have a bank account balance of $10 and write a check for $20, I’ve written a bad check and the bank is going to hit me with an overdraft charge. So while this isn’t grand theft, it is still theft. These people took much more than they had the funds for and they did it knowingly.

  • traderjim7

    Those one in seven American adults that go hungry, please tell me, how much money do they spend on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, soda pop, and cable TV? If the answer is zero, I have sympathy for them, and we as a country need to do more for our citizens. However, if they spend any money on the above four items, I have no sympathy because with a change of spending habits, they would not be going hungry.

    • Steve

      Why don’t you take all your hate and put your energy to good use. Again, I ask you, where is your outrage towards the wealthy who abuse your taxpayer dollars, which you seem to care so much about? Do those in corporate America who abuse your tax dollars (many corporations pay no tax ) bother you when they spend their money on alcohol, tobacco, jets, yachts, beautiful mansions and women? And you worry about indigent people who might drink soda. You are pathetic. Find something joyful in life rather than putting others down.

      • Paula

        I’m not rich myself, but I also don’t HATE those who are wealthy. So many people in this country think they are entitled to disparage the rich. Many people are rich because they worked hard at educating themselves, worked hard at their job, often SACRIFICING time with family or hobbies. If you walked in the shoes of some of these corporate executives you put down so much, you might realize they pay a very great cost for the jobs they eventually work themselves into. The wealthy PAY MOST OF THE TAXES in this country so the rest of us can have schools, highways, and yes, welfare benefits. I don’t believe they should have to pay a percentage more than anyone else. Most of the wealthier people I know are some of the most generous people I know because they ARE grateful for their lot in life, and they DO PASS IT ON.

  • traderjim7

    Do you really think your area is any different from any other area of the country? I can assure you it is not. Welcome to the America of today, a nation of greedy pigs.

  • Lennis Wayne Green

    I’m not a fan of Wal-Mart, I haven’t shopped there in over 5yrs, but they’re not responsible. Our great country lacks accountability, starting from the top on down………they knew they were doing wrong (they=cardholders).

  • Drew in Pensacola

    Isn’t it illegal to use your EBT (food stamp) card to buy items that do not qualify? I would think that the people that made the purchases should be held responsible

  • BobintheHeights

    Yes I agree. Walmart employees may have even called family members to come and partake of “free food”. For those of you who think this wasn’t a horribly dishonest thing for these lowlife EBT users, there was one woman who had a total of 49 cents on her card but went on to buy $700 worth of food…wonder how many steaks and lobsters were in those 7 or 8 baskets? I find it hard to rack up $100 in one visit to the grocery store.

  • BobintheHeights

    You’re part of the problem then. Those EBT users overspent by hundreds of dollars knowing full well that they were stealing. This is the problem with America today. Nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions. Walmart should probably be fined for allowing it, but the EBT users should have to pay back the money because that money is OUR money…taxpayers in case you didn’t know what Government means.

    • Heather Norton

      I Thankfully don’t need EBT! & I’m sure the ones who miss used there cards knew what hey were doing

  • traderjim7

    I have thought about it for many years. It is not what the republican elected officials have done for me, it is what the democratic elected and appointed officials have done to me, and you, and every other hard working citizen, and to the Constitution of this country. Democrats have a multitude of programs to take away your real property (yes, YOUR house, it happened to me), your guns, and your hard earned money. The food stamp program is the perfect example. If they wanted to provide real food that provides good nutrition for those who need it, they would not allow the purchase of junk food with food stamps. Your democrats allow the purchase of junk food because they are bought and paid for by the big corporations that produce the junk. The same thing you accuse the republicans of, your democrats are guilty of doing.
    I vote republican not because I particularly like their republican ideas and programs, but because it is the alternative to the democratic party disaster. Think about it.

    • Steve

      Then why are you ignoring what the republicans have done? You think poor folks waste your tax dollars. How come you don’t complain about the waste of your dollars when the government subsidizes corporations and allows them not to pay taxes? You pay for that. You hate if the poor do something but not the rich executives. Typical republicans

      • Paula

        Corporations provide JOBS, at least for those of us willing to work.

  • traderjim7

    Controlling what one eats is not your business?? It is my business if they are eating on my tax dollars!! Besides, the program is designed to provide nutrition; can you tell me what nutrition soda pop provides?

    • Steve

      It’s to provide food. For someone who doesn’t want big government in your life you sure don’t mind the government telling poor people what to do. Typical hypocrit.

      • traderjim7

        Either you failed reading, or you are really rude and ignorant. I think it is both. I asked you a simple sensible question and you called me a hypocrite. And you can’t even spell it. LOL You say, “Soda pop is to provide food.” Are you stupid enough to think that soda pop is food or that it provides any nutrition at all? LMFAO

  • cathylynn

    Those bunch of freeloading thieves KNOWINGLY stole from Walmart and they should have their EBT cards debited for the amount of food that they took so that Walmart doesn’t have to pick up the tab. Rather than put the thieves in jail on the taxpayers’ dime, they should be required to perform community service (like picking up trash on the roads and highways) until they are eligible to use their cards again. Maybe they’ll learn a lesson that they should have been taught as a child on their mama’s knees–”Thou shalt not steal.”

  • Paula

    What I would like for you to think about is why should either party promise and deliver YOU anything??? What ever happened to the Democratic party of JFK? “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what CAN YOU DO for your country?” No one owes you anything.