Saturday, Oct. 12, saw what would normally be record sales at two Wal-Mart locations in Louisiana. Springfield Chief of Police Will Lynd described the scene in Springfield, La. as being worse than Black Friday, as dozens of shoppers completely cleared the Wal-Marts’ grocery section over the course of the day. How was this done? A computer glitch in the food stamp program.
According to CBS News, the generator powering the computer system went down during a routine test on Saturday, which caused the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to read that they had no spending limits. The company that runs the system, Xerox, fixed it, but the system glitches were not resolved until late that afternoon. The delay gave people ample time to go on a shopping spree.
According to the Huffington Post, there is now a fight over who is footing the bill for the shopping rampages in Springfield, La. and Mansfield, La., even though there is a documented process for handling this exact situation. According to the State of Louisiana, it’s Wal-Mart.
ABC News reported that Trey Williams, Communications and Governmental Affairs director for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, said that food stamp recipients should have been limited to $50, and that the stores who chose not to use the emergency procedures are only to be reimbursed the maximum $50 for emergency expenditures.
It looks more and more like everyone thought they could run up an expensive tab on the taxpayer’s dime. And from the look of it, Wal-Mart thought they could too.
ABC News said that Wal-Mart was the only store to accept the government issued debit cards, as other stores wouldn’t ring them up without a credit limit. According to Yahoo News, when Lynd arrived to assist with crowd control at the Springfield, La. location, he informed the manager that they had the right to refuse service if and when things got out of hand. Apparently, this went unheeded since corporate told the store to allow customers to continue with their shopping.
That’s right: corporate gave this a green light. Granted, these were two stores in Louisiana, but that’s still thousands of dollars in grocery bills and a frenzy Wal-Mart created. Sure, the contractor running the system dropped the ball, but Wal-Mart is drawing the flag for piling on. There is a documented procedure that all other affected stores chose to follow. Are Wal-Mart’s sales down so low they need to steal from taxpayers?
Not according to their financials – their net sales have risen for the last five years. I think it’s safe to say that this good ol’ greed. Two spokespersons for Wal-Mart said that Wal-Mart made the right choice to continue serving their customers in this matter. I find that laughable; when the system was restored and the limits were back in place, the first thing Wal-Mart employees did was get on the stores PA system and announce just that. The large crowds, with each person pushing eight shopping carts of groceries, abandoned the store in short order.
It sure looks to me like Wal-Mart was interested in taking advantage of this glitch to cheat taxpayers.
Patrick White is a senior in journalism and electronic media. Please send all comments to email@example.com