When were food stamps actual "stamps"?

I’ve never been on food stamps. It is my understanding that food stamps in the US are now all debit card based.

Were “food stamps” ever actual “stamps”? I’m imagining something like getting a benefit that is a sheet of things that look like postal stamps and can be separated and individual stamps can be affixed to paper (e.g. a receipt).

It wasn’t that long ago, although I don’t know if they were “stamps” in the sense of being self-adhesive. IIRC, they were just basically like a scrip currency. According to the wiki page, they switched over to an all EBT card system in the late-90’s, although EBT cards had been available as an option since the mid-80’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program

I remember they used to look like fake “Monopoly” money. You’d buy things and you’d give the cashier your book and she’d rip out a bunch of them. You got change in food stamp currency unless it was under a certain amount, then you got “real” money.

They were more like coupons. They didn’t need to stick to anything.

This. When we took food stamps, we could only take the singles if they weren’t in the book, all other denominations we had to rip out of the book. We gave back singles as change, and then coins. If someone bought a piece of candy for fifty cents (this was a while back) and paid for it with a $5 food stamp, we’d give back four single food stamps and fifty cents in coins. This was to prevent food stamps from being used as currency. What happened, in practice, was that people would bring up a bunch of the candy that sold for 35 and 50 cents, pay for each piece individually with food stamps, and accummulate change. Then they’d buy something that didn’t qualify for food stamps with that change…usually some beer or cigarettes. And that’s a BIG reason as to why the system was changed to debit cards. As it was, the cashier had to tell the customer “No, I can’t take food stamps as payment for beer”. Now, the register simply won’t accept food stamps as payment for the beer or whatever, and the customer has to pay for it some other way.

There’s already a new way around it. We get customers that will come in and buy big ticket, but legal, items with their food stamps (debit card). Specifically, five pound blocks of shrimp running from $30-$70. For a while we didn’t think anything of it other then that it was kinda wasteful. Then one of my employees saw one of our regular customers selling them out his trunk a few miles away.
The other way (and this way has always been the easiest way) is to find a store that’s willing to ‘buy’ them from you. That is, you’d give them your food stamps and they’d give you a certain percentage back in cash. For some reason, I’ve always been under the impression that the going rate is something in the neighborhood of 50-70 cents on the dollar.
Get caught doing that and the state will revoke your ability to collect them. Worse, just a few years ago, each time they busted someone doing that they would send out a letter to every vendor (that accepts them) in the county telling them the name of the store, the fact that they had their license revoked and what it was revoked for.

ETA, the coupons disappeared about 6 or 7 years ago I think. I, as a merchant, prefer it that way. It was a pain to deal with the coupons.

Here’s what the coupons looked like. (The brown ones were the $1 ones.) The coupons came in these folders. The folders said loose coupons could not be accepted but lots of stores took them anyway. My family was on the program from the late 70s to 1995, and they looked pretty much the same the entire time.

When we accepted them (and this was the PITA part). We could accept loose singles and give only singles as change. Anything larger then a single, we had to see the customer tear it out or the coupon book. If it was already ripped out, we had to ask to see the coupon book and match up the serial number. I’m not sure what the idea was behind that. I suppose it’s to make sure I couldn’t sell you a $20 coupon for $10 in cash, but that wouldn’t stop me from selling you the entire booklet.
It’s so much easier now. As long as you have A)approved items B)debit card C)PIN that works with said debit card, you’re golden, beyond that it’s really not my problem. No more matching up serial numbers. No more arguing with customers about why I can’t accept food stamps from New Jersey in Wisconsin (Either your card works or it doesn’t), no more telling someone I can’t take their $20 for a $2 purchase because I don’t have enough singles this early in the morning. I’m glad to be done with all that.

Not having to hang onto food stamps to have enough for change is a bonus on the store end too. Not only were the transactions slower because of sorting through the books of coupons, but then the cashier would often have to ask around to find coupons worth a dollar to give the change. Evil glares between everyone everywhere as the transaction takes extra minutes finding the coupons to give change.

Known as “Cracking the Tramp Stamps”

But do you still accept WIC? Those are still physical coupons, and I groan every time I get behind someone that uses them (note: not because they use them, but because they’re so gawd damned bloody slow).

We never have, so I really don’t know anything about them. The requirements to accept them are pretty strict and a bit hard to meet for a mom and pop type store.

Yep, I remember those from when I worked at a grocery store. You could only buy food or plants that grow food with them. We had to check.

People always got cash change in my memory, so they must have used minimal amounts.

Off-topic, it takes a special kind of daredevil to eat cheap shrimp that you bought out of some dude’s trunk. :eek:

It’s frozen in a 5# block of ice in a box and wrapped, and it’s probably pretty common in the area.

Even before the ecards came along, I used to get approached regularly by people who had a great deal on shrimp or steaks, which were in their trunk or van. I always thought that the food was stolen, probably by employees, and I had no idea how it had been stored, so I always refused to buy it.

Illinois wants to pass a new law that will only allow the ACTUAL link card holder to use food stamps.

In other words if Mr Coyote has his name on the LINK card (food stamp card) then only HE and no one else, not even a member of his family could use it.

I really don’t see how you could enforce this. I guess putting a picture on the link card or having to show a driver’s license or state ID could do it, but it seems unworkable.

I think that it would be pretty easy to do. After all, people who write checks have to show ID, and it would be easy to require an ID to use the card, or to have a pic on the benefits card itself. When I was working at the c store, a lot of people gave food stamps to their kids, so that the kids could buy stuff, usually candy, chips, and fountain drinks…or maybe the kids just took the stamps.

It might clarify things to realize that “stamp” in this sense is used in a specialized and somewhat archaic manner. Stamp has historically been used to indicate various kinds of official documents and/or the seals on those official documents. One current definition for the word stamp is “An official mark, design, or seal that indicates ownership, approval, completion, or the payment of a tax.”

So, postage stamps are (or, were originally) called stamps not because they are adhesive, but because they represented an official statement from the government indicating that proper payment had been made for delivery of a letter. Since they were adhesive and dealt with by the public so much, the term has changed in usage.

However, it’s in that sense of “official document” that food stamps are stamps. I don’t think they were ever adhesive. As others have said, they looked more like fake money.