This week the New York Times reported a disheartening story about two of the largest retail chains. You see, instead of taking unsold items to sample sales or donating them to people in need, H&M and Wal-Mart have been throwing them out in giant trash bags. And in the case that someone may stumble on these bags and try to keep or re-sell the items, these companies have gone ahead and slashed up garments, cut off the sleeves of coats, and sliced holes in shoes so they are unwearable.
This unsettling discovery was made by graduate student Cynthia Magnus outside the back entrance of H&M on 35th street in New York City. Just a few doors down, she also found hundreds of Wal-Mart tagged items with holes made in them that were dumped by a contractor. On December 7, she spotted 20 bags of clothing outside of H&M including, "gloves with the fingers cut off, warm socks, cute patent leather Mary Jane school shoes, maybe for fourth graders, with the instep cut up with a scissor, men’s jackets, slashed across the body and the arms. The puffy fiber fill was coming out in big white cotton balls.”
The New York Times points out that one-third of the city's population is poor, which makes this behavior not only wasteful and sad, but downright irresponsible. Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, acted surprised that these items were found, claiming they typically donate all unworn merchandise to charity. When reporters went around the corner from H&M to a collections drop-off for charity organization New York Cares, spokesperson Colleen Farrell said, “We’d be glad to take unworn coats, and companies often send them to us."
After several days of no response from H&M, the company made a statement today, promising to stop destroying the garments at the midtown Manhattan location. They said they will donate the items to charity. H&M spokeswoman Nicole Christie said, "It will not happen again," and that the company would make sure none of the other locations would do so either. Hopefully that's the final word.
H & M Says It Will Stop Destroying Unworn Clothing
The clothing retailer H & M promised on Wednesday that it would stop the practice of destroying new, unworn clothing that it could not sell at its store in Herald Square, and would instead donate the garments to charities.
The practice was discovered by Cynthia Magnus, a graduate student at the City University of New York, who found bags of unworn but mutilated clothing that had been disposed of by H & M on West 35th Street. She also found bags of new Wal-Mart garments with holes punched through them.
After Ms. Magnus wrote to H & M’s headquarters in Sweden and got no response, she contacted The New York Times. More slashed clothing was found Monday evening on 35th Street and reported in the About New York column on Wednesday.
“It will not happen again,” said Nicole Christie, a spokeswoman for H & M in New York. “We are committed 100 percent to make sure this practice is not happening anywhere else, as it is not our standard practice.”
Ms. Christie said that H & M’s standard practice was to donate unworn clothing to aid organizations. She said that she did not know why the store on 34th Street was slashing the clothes, and that the company was checking to make sure that none of its other stores were doing it.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said that she had been unable to learn why new clothing with the store’s tags had been destroyed, but she added that the company typically donated or recycled such items.
Among the alternatives to destroying unsold garments is the New York City Clothing Bank, which was set up by the city during the mayoralty of Edward I. Koch to accept unworn clothing and to protect the retailers from people who might use the donations to get store credit or undercut sales.
“I would welcome H & M, Wal-Mart and every enterprise that presently is destroying new clothing to call me immediately,” said Mary Lanning, chairwoman of the Clothing Bank. “We use a method of ‘defacing’ each garment that does not impair its wearability, but does remove any potential street value in the underground market. We operate a full clothing warehouse and distribution center right under their noses.”