Friday, February 13, 2009

We Accept Party Animals

This week a customer in his early 20s comes through my line and makes a purchase using his EBT card.

For those who do not know what that is, an EBT card is basically a debit card connected to a Food Stamp account. People in need are allotted by the State a certain amount of funds so they can eat and pay bills. Many EBT accounts allow the user to receive cash back from their purchase so they can pay for things they couldn't otherwise by debit card, like the rent. There is nothing inherently wrong with needing a hand every now and then. As I am fully aware, things happen. I was almost there myself back during The Bad Times.

The purchase? A pack of cigarettes and cash back of $100. The employees and customers who witnessed this were not amused.

But wait, there's more! A few minutes later the same customer comes back through the line with a cart full of beer and party supplies. He pays for it using the cash I gave him as change from his previous purchase.

Now I have some gripes with this:

1) Our tax dollars are being used so some kid can buy cigarettes and booze. A system set up to aid people in dire straights is underwriting a party.

2) In my opinion, anyone on food stamps should not be shopping in this community. It's a free country, but the prices are on average higher at stores located in affluent areas. Less than four miles away are many grocery stores with prices much lower than this one for the same products. If I was given a limited amount of funds each month to feed and house my family I'd want to stretch those dollars as far as I could. The customer also declined to use his store discount card, which would serve to drop the prices by an order of magnitude on the alcohol. It is likely the guy didn't want an electronic trail of his monetary purchases generated and wanted to remain anonymous in the event he was audited.

3) My California state tax return this year will be in the form of an I.O.U. because the government is supposedly broke. Yet somehow California can afford to issue people EBT cards that have little or no accountability in regards to their purchases.

4) I mean, seriously. WTF?


  1. Don't get me started on this... I'll rant endlessly. Like you, I think it's an honorable social progam that's being abused. What's painful is everyone has to just stand there and watch it happen, shaking their heads in disgust.

    The problem is there's simply no shame anymore.

  2. That's especially irksome given that a lot of people who have recently lost their jobs don't even qualify for unemployment benefits or state help due to being hired as independent contractors, etc., etc. I can think of a lot of people more truly deserving of that EBT card who don't even qualify for one. :-\

  3. Here in Illinois, you can not use the Link card (EBT) for tobacco or alcohol, nor can you get money back. How I paid my rent was by, in effect, buying the landlord's groceries a little at a time.

    Still kind of on-topic, with all this talk about this woman with the 14 kids and her platic surgeries and fancy nails, what about the fact that she has been getting disability since 2002, something like, what, $150,000? (That is what was reported on briefly in Chicago). For a back injury? How can someone have even one child with a back injury and not have an ounce of guilt for getting disability. (If she is in pain, I get that, but wouldn't repeated births just cause MORE pain?). I have cerebral palsy, can't see out of my right eye, type with one finger on my left hand. I'm 49 and finally feel the need to get disability or at least SS, here is the test the doctor did on me, hit my knees and elbows with a reflex hammer and had me sign my name. This was all, and I was denied. So I am baffled by the many different ways people beat the system in your state, seeing as Illinois has some set of guidelines they follow.

    Anyhow. Enjoy your column all the time, from what I typed above, you can understand why I do not comment at all, this took me 0 minutes to type. Take care.

  4. Usually what I see in Chicago is people selling their link cards for cash at around .50 on the dollar so they can buy drugs or booze. The card buyer gets to use the value of what's on the card to buy groceries.

  5. It's true, there's always a lot of misuse of any kind of government support. I recall one time I had to go to some "back to work" seminar for unemployed people and one guy was griping because it was keeping him away from his job. He also claimed housing benefit for a partner he didn't have.

    But he was one person out of a group of 12. As far as I know, the other eleven were genuinely out of work and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

    Just because some people are fucking assholes doesn't invalidate the program.

  6. I live in Mass and have an EBT card. I don't smoke and buy my own occasional bottle of wine (I work part time). The foodstamp card can only be used for food. From a recent Boston Globe article on food stamp benefits:
    "They are prohibited from using food stamps to buy alcohol, cigarettes, vitamins, medicines, pet foods, or cosmetics."

    I'm surprised it isn't like that across the country. What I'm particularly annoyed by as a food stamp user, is that I can buy junk food with the card. As someone with OCD, this has gotten me in trouble in regards to my total allotment at the end of the month. But that's another issue...

  7. I've seen people do this kind of thing before too, and gotten plenty pissed off about it.

    But I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. There was a point in my life where I got laid off and ended up being really broke. I mean kicked out of my apartment, living out of my car, not sure when I'd get to eat next time broke.

    And sometimes when you're really dead broke, and especially if it's been going on for long period of time, you just need to feel like a normal person. You get so down on yourself and feeling like you're a loser that you have to do something to remind you of what it was like in better times.

    For me, as soon as I got some money, I bought a few books I wanted. I didn't need them, couldn't afford them really because I should have been saving up get a new apartment or pay off some credit card debt, but I bought them anyway because for a little while I felt good, and I needed that. Maybe for this guy, it was having a party that he needed.

    Maybe not. Regardless, I try not to be too judgmental since I have no way of knowing what other people's motivations are.

  8. A book is for the most part, about self-improvement. A cart of booze is for a party.

    What makes me feel less like a loser? Paying my bills.

  9. the problem is that people dont mind their business anymore. Everyone has an opinion on how other people run/ruin their lives!!! Lets just be for real for one second here, EBT card holders ARE NOT TO BLAME for California being broke, thats ARNOLD'S fault!! Oh yeah and all the banks that gave out multi-thousand dollar loans to people who really couldnt pay them back!!! It was harder to get an EBT card than a HOME LOAN!!!lol! So the couple hundred people get monthly on these EBT cards is not hurting anyone, especially YOU!!! You work at a friggin GROCERY STORE so you're not giving up that many tax dollars! . the lesson here is MIND YA' OWN DAMN BUSINESS!!!!

  10. It has nothing to do with her being nosey or not nosey. The food stamp program is for people in need. People who are so broke that they can't afford food. People abusing the program just makes it harder for those who really need it, because eventually the government will get tired of paying for some idiots parties and cut the program all together. Its not fair to those who really are desperate and need the card to feed their children. I totally agree that he was being a selfish dick. You should get his name next time and report him to your local Family Services office for fraud.


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