Working at Kroger: The Need for EBT Reform


Working at a large chain grocery store, you get used to dealing with EBT, WIC and other forms of welfare. Sometimes it is painfully obvious the person does need some sort of help. Other times, too often I believe, someone abusing their government benefits just makes you cringe and doubt the entire system. I find myself echoing an article from a former Wal-Mart employee at College Conservative, who says it’s time for serious welfare reform. Here are some of my ideas for reform and why I believe it:

  1. Make EBT Recipients Ineligible for Large Lottery PayoutsThere were several customers at Kroger who loved to play the lottery, to the tune of $10-$20 every single day, minimum. I’m not talking instant scratch-off tickets where they might recoup $10 of their invested cash, I’m talking the big games. Pick 3, Pick 4, MegaMillions and Powerball were their games of choice. Meanwhile, as they were dumping upwards of $300 into a loser’s game a month, they were buying their food with EBT. It would be too much of a problem to force retailers to look up EBT status (if even possible) for small wins, but the large lottery payouts that require winners to go to the state offices should be off limits for EBT recipients. Maybe that would disincentivize their gambling on welfare.
  2. Force Alcohol Purchases into Separate TransactionsI know we can’t ban EBT recipients from drinking, nor should we as I’m sure many spend small amounts on alcohol and use it in moderation. In stores like Kroger which would automatically deduct EBT-eligible items when they swiped their card and leave a remaining balance however, I think alcohol should be forced into a separate transaction. I can’t tell you how many times someone with an EBT card and $20 in cash would put back the milk, eggs or bread because the balance was getting low on their EBT and then still buy their beer. If forced into a completely separate transaction, maybe they’d rethink buying the beer later instead.
  3. Make High-Dollar Food Items Ineligible for EBTFor stores with computer systems as complex as Kroger or Wal-Mart have, this wouldn’t be that difficult. Make high-end items like lobster, steaks above a certain dollar amount and other items ineligible for EBT usage. Candy should also be off the list. We do this effectively with WIC (the assistance program for pregnant women and small children) so I believe it could be done with EBT. WIC is so strict that you can only buy unsliced cheese, not the more expensive individually wrapped slices. I’m not saying EBT standards need to be that high, but you need to draw a line somewhere.

I don’t know how else, aside from taking away the ease in which EBT recipients abuse their money and situations, we can combat this problem. We obviously can’t have a government monitor review all purchases, but can’t we reform a few things at a time and try to put an end to the abuse? If people need help, I get why we’re trying to give it to them, but they should at least grateful enough to their fellow citizens that they end their boozing and gambling while we’re paying for their food.

  • Greg Hammond

    Lets get EBT reform rolling!

  • Kissa

    that just plain sucks, when i’m out with my kids it nice to get them some candy when behaving with ebt. Do you have ebt or kids? Are you a single mom that can’t get a job cause of no babysitter?