A technical glitch briefly lifted the spending limits on food stamp benefits over the weekend, setting off a shopping frenzy that emptied store shelves within a matter of hours at two Walmart locations in Louisiana.
The chaotic scene on Saturday drew police to the Walmart locations in Mansfield, La., and Springhill, La., as customers stampeded the stores filling multiple shopping carts with goods, ABC News reported.
“I saw people drag out eight to 10 grocery carts,” Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd told ABC. “It was definitely worse than Black Friday. It was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town… There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated.”
The shopping spree ended abruptly around 9 p.m. CT when the glitch was fixed.
Walmart staff at the Springfield location announced the fix over the loudspeaker and shoppers immediately began filing out of the store, abandoning dozens of full shopping carts.
The glitch affected Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, which are given to families who receive government food stamps, in 17 states, according to Xerox, which runs part of the EBT system.
Xerox said the problem was caused by a power outage during a routine maintenance test.
Unlike Walmart, many retailers chose not to accept food stamp benefits while the system was down.
Walmart decided to continue accepting food stamps during the outage so people could feed their families, spokeswoman Kayla Whaling told KSLA-TV.
While the glitch allowed for unlimited purchases for some users in Louisiana, others who depend on food stamps were left unable to buy anything.
Customers whose EBT cards were disabled started a minor riot at a Walmart in Mississippi, with some leaving the store without paying for their goods, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Managers closed the store as a result.
“For the safety of our customers we did make a management decision to close the store,” Whaling said of the incident in Mississippi. “We’re looking into everything; looking at surveillance video and working with the local police.”
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