Shelves were cleared at some Wamart stores in Louisiana due to a glitch in the Electronic Benefits Transfer system.
The cards, which act as paperless food stamps, could be used while the system was down Saturday in many states, but they were not showing limits.
So many shoppers at Walmart stores in Springhill and Mansfield, Louisiana, began loading their carts with merchandise and store employees called local police and the company’s corporate offices, reported KSLA-TV.
Company officials told store managers to allow the customers to use the cards anyway, even if limits weren’t showing.
So customers began clearing store shelves for about two hours, until the glitch was cleared up and limits were again showing up when the cards were scanned.
The station reported that customers abandoned their carts and fled the store after an announcement was made over store loudspeakers.
One woman was briefly detained because she had about $700 in merchandise but only 49 cents on her card, but Walmart officials told police they wouldn’t press charges if she left all the items behind.
Springhill’s police chief, Will Lynd, disputed rumors that any shoppers had been unruly or been arrested.
The chief said officers were called to the stores to prevent shoplifting in the crowds, which he said were heavier than any Black Friday shopping days he’d experienced.
A spokesperson for Mansfield police said officers were called in for crowd control, and no arrests were made there, either.
Not surprisingly, the reaction by some shoppers to the glitch sparked complaints about the newly enacted Affordable Care Act and some racially charged commentary. A conservative blogger blamed the “sons of Obama” for the “looting” of Walmart. Commenters at the conservative website Free Republic also said Walmart had been looted by “Barack and Michelle’s sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters.”
“Amazing to watch how many well-dressed, gold-laden, high-heeled women put down their carts and walked out when the announcement was made,” World Net Daily reported one shopper had said. “Made for nice quick lines for us paying folks.”
The (Jackson) Clarion Ledger reported that a Walmart in Philadelphia, Mississippi, had been briefly closed by a similar situation, which the newspaper described as a “mini riot.”
The federal government shutdown was not a factor in the glitch, which was blamed on a power outage at Xerox, the vendor that operates the EBT system in 17 states.
[Photo via YouTube]
[Note: Updated for clarity.]