No charges in Breaux Bridge Walmart grocery grab
No charges will be filed against food stamp recipients who went on a shopping spree at Walmart here Saturday evening when a computer glitch gave them carte blanche on their Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, cards.
Breaux Bridge Police Department Assistant Chief Terry Latiolais said the store’s cashiers failed to initiate a procedure cutting off purchases off at $50, essentially acquiescing in the massive give-away.
A customer who was in Walmart after 6 p.m. when the shopping frenzy reached its height told Teche News people were loading grocery carts with expensive items like meat and alcohol, literally wiping shelves bare.
“At first I thought there was something brewing in the Gulf I hadn’t heard of,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “People were running around dumping loads and loads of groceries.”
She said she figured out what was going on when she overheard cell phone conversations in which shoppers were exhorting others to rush over and get in on the free stuff.
For reasons which had not come to light at presstime Tuesday, the glitch – which Walmart and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services are blaming on Xerox Corp, the contractor managing the debit-card system – only a handful of stores in Louisiana were affected. Besides Breaux Bridge, near riots were reported at the north Louisiana towns of Springhill and Mansfield.
Other news reports say Louisiana was one of 17 states affected by the malfunction.
In Breaux Bridge, police had to be called in for crowd control when the store finally announced that the EBT cards would no longer be honored.
“The crowd began to get rowdy,” said our anonymous shopper. “They just left baskets of full of groceries stacked up in the aisles. Other shoppers resorted to digging through the baskets for things they wanted to buy because there was nothing left on the shelves.”
The behavior of the food stamp recipients left her angry and disappointed, she said.
On the bright side, she said a couple of ULL students she recognized who had come into the store to shop instead volunteered to help the employees put perishables back into the coolers and freezer boxes.