I confess to two things: Being a bleeding heart and being a person who has a hard time parting with something that's not unsalvagable. I'm probably hopelessly out of fashion, and our castoffs make their way through a network of friends, coworkers and nonprofit groups. My loft is home to rows of stacks of outgrown clothes, sorted by recipient, plucked out of my children's closets the minute they've outgrown them or the season changes.
So when I read the New York Times' article this week on two major retailers who were slashing not just prices but the clothes themselves, I was shocked.
During her walks down 35th Street, Ms. Magnus said, it is more common to find destroyed clothing in the H & M trash. On Dec. 7, during an early cold snap, she said, she saw about 20 bags filled with H & M clothing that had been cut up.
“Gloves with the fingers cut off,” Ms. Magnus said, reciting the inventory of ruined items. “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 jackets were tagged $59, $79 and $129.
H&M, the store in question, not only didn't respond to the reporters' calls but also as of Friday night it still hadn't posted a statement on its Web site. Its corporate responsibility page states that H&M donates faulty garments to nonprofit groups - but says nothing about out-of-season clothing.
Wal-Mart, the other chain mentioned in the article, issued a statement on its Web site three days after the Times piece that the "action was not in compliance with the Walmart apparel office's long-standing practice of donating all wearable samples to an extensive array of local charitable organizations" and that "unwearable" items are "sent to a recycling center."
As a former retail managers' widow, I know that some companies do in fact toss post-clearance items in the dumpster rather than donate them to agencies or resale shops such as Salvation Army or Goodwill. That knowledge has caused me to stop supporting certain stores. But as more and more companies look to touting their "social responsibility," corporate policies of slicing and dicing perfectly usable items - particularly in a time when so many families are in need - is unthinkable.
Especially since it's so easy to do so. In my small case, a quick phone call to AmVets means most donatable items can be picked up from my doorstep. Imagine if a store had goods - most organizations would be clamouring for the chance to receive help. In fact a Vanity Fair writer spent 10 minutes researching options, and came up with 13 ideas for New York City alone.
And yes, I realize there are unscrupulous people who'll try to return anything for cash or store credit. I used to hear stories every day. But mark the label or the tags before you donate, and you've solved a problem, and hopefully helped someone else in the process. Who knows, maybe you'll even gain a customer once he or she is back on their feet!