Don't Make These SNAP Retailer Mistakes...

Congratulations! You have finished the requirements and have become an eligible retailer for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). 

Formerly known as Food Stamps, it is the largest organization assisting in hunger. SNAP is a federally-funded program that offers nutritional assistance to millions of eligible, low income households (household includes one person living alone). In other words it assists families by helping to pay for the cost of food. More than 65 BILLION dollars are spent every year by SNAP users and nearly 43 million people in all 50 of the United States are recipients.. These funds are not just to be spent at large grocery store chains, but any size retailer that can accept them. More than $2 billion in SNAP benefits are spent at small to medium stores every year. 

      For those who have not become a qualified store, visit the Food and Nutrition Service click here to learn more and to find          out if your store is eligible.

SNAP RETAILER MISTAKES! Avoiding these errors will allow your store to not only make your customers happy but the Food and Nutrition Service happy. Failing to avoid any of these mistakes may lead to:

  • Disqualification from the program 
  • Monetary penalties
  • Criminal Prosecution  

In no particular order…

1. Trafficking 

When people think of trafficking, the idea of dangerous activities come to mind. However, keep in mind, while SNAP trafficking does not hurt anyone, it is still highly immoral.  

  • It can be defined as the direct exchange of SNAP benefits for cash. Not only is this a mistake but this is incredibly illegal! 
    • Even though SNAP benefits have monetary value, it is not the same as cash for it is only to be spent on eligible foods. 
  • Trafficking includes the trade of the benefits for controlled substances, firearms, or explosives. 
  • Obtaining cash refunds for items purchased with SNAP or even reselling the products, which were purchased by the assistance program, is to be avoided. 

Trafficking is one of the worst ways to commit a SNAP fraud. 

2. Misrepresentation 

Making sure your store rightfully meets the qualifications for SNAP is very important. Customers do not expect false promises and the Food and Nutrition Service expect retailers to rightfully identify themselves. It is considered fraud to pose as a location that has been authorized to accept SNAP benefits. Submitting inaccurate information for the validation process is also wrong. Be sure to always provide accurate information and when unsure, reach out to the FNS (Food and Nutrition Service) for further guidance to avoid any complications. 

3. Non-proper Authorization 

A friendly retailer is always eager to provide their customers with the best experience available. On the other hand, there is a fine line in assisting and abusing your position. There are procedures involved when accepting SNAP and they must be taken seriously. 

  • Under no exceptions should the retailer enter PIN information for the customer. 
  • The retailer should never hold onto a card.
  • Never store a customer’s card information for any purpose. 
  • You can not charge tax on any SNAP eligible item, purchased with SNAP benefits.
  • Food cooked or eaten on the premise is not to be paid for with SNAP benefits.
  • Most importantly the card must be present!  

With great power, comes great responsibility! This phrase is not only for the superheros. As a business, you hold a great amount of power over consumers but responsibility comes along. It would never be wise to turn away a customer who just wants to spend their money. The same goes for SNAP users. Therefore, kindness and respect should be placed upon every customer that walks in. Use signage to encourage more SNAP recipients to shop at your store.

4. Not Signing up!

The biggest mistake a retailer can do and have no excuse for is not applying to become a SNAP location!

It does not cost a single dime to apply to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The online process is easy and signing up for EBT card processing is even easier! 

Another important detail to remember is to renew your SNAP eligibility! No serious business owner would forget to collect revenue. Forgetting to renew your SNAP status would be just the same!  Allowing SNAP cardholders to use their benefits at your location can bring in a new wave of customers, and at the end of the day increase your repeat customers.

Keep in mind, as the owner, you are legally responsible for the actions taken within your establishment. Breaking any law could lead to criminal prosecution. 

  • Sources: Food and Nutrition Service from the USDA, Division of Family and Children Services, Federation of American Scientist
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