H&M Outed by NYT for Slash & Trash of Unsold Garments (Update: H&M Concedes)

mkrishnan

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EDIT: The update, with H&M's promise to fix this, is in this reply.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/nyregion/06about.html

NYTimes said:
“We’d be glad to take unworn coats, and companies often send them to us,” said Colleen Farrell, a spokeswoman for New York Cares.

More than coats were tossed out. “The H & M thing was just ridiculous, not only clothing, but bags and bags of sturdy plastic hangers,” Ms. Magnus said. “I took a dozen of them. A girl can never have enough hangers.”

H & M, which is based in Sweden, has an executive in charge of corporate responsibility who leads the company’s sustainability efforts. On its Web site, H&M reports that to save paper, it has shrunk its shipping labels.

“How about all the solid waste generated by throwing away usable garments and plastic hangers?” Ms. Magnus asked in a letter to the executive, Ingrid Schullstrom. She volunteered to help H & M connect with a charity or agency in New York that could put the unsold items to better use than simply tossing them in the trash. So far, she said, she has gotten no response.
Maybe the report will cause them to do something more responsible... although I do sort of understand why they might do something like that, as a customer of theirs, I don't approve of it.
 

mkrishnan

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I remember Costco and a few other big box stores getting outed for doing the same thing to seasonal items like garden furniture. Did those practices cease?
Good question... a Walmart contractor is also found to do the same in the NYT piece, and Walmart responded indicating that they have a policy of donating unsold garments, and they promised to investigate why the garments were destroyed.

NYTimes said:
A few doors down on 35th Street, hundreds of garments tagged for sale in Wal-Mart — hoodies and T-shirts and pants — were discovered in trash bags the week before Christmas, apparently dumped by a contractor for Wal-Mart that has space on the block.

Each piece of clothing had holes punched through it by a machine.

[...]

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said the company normally donates all its unworn goods to charities, and would have to investigate why the items found on 35th Street were discarded.
 

Counterfit

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Aug 20, 2003
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I remember Costco and a few other big box stores getting outed for doing the same thing to seasonal items like garden furniture. Did those practices cease?
There's a notable difference between garden furniture, which I'm going to assume won't keep the poor warm during winter (unless burned), and shoes and puffy jackets which certainly can.
 

Eraserhead

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Nov 3, 2005
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Absolutely but the point was does outing the company in question lead to a ceasation of the practice. It looks like it just drives it further underground.
Forcing large companies to do things like send people to developing countries to check on the conditions requires they meet some of the standards. And if it becomes too expensive to just destroy the goods rather than give them away they will probably do the latter.

It does damage their brand that they don't do the latter already however.
 

mkrishnan

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It does damage their brand that they don't do the latter already however.
Fashion is fickle, so I have no problem being bitchy to H&M about it. :eek: :D

EDIT: Looks like there's new news. Apparently the twitterati put H&M in its place.

http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2010/01/07/unsold-clothes-destroyed-at-h-and-m-until-twitter-roared/

Sarah Gilbert said:
After spending a day in the number two "trending" spot in Twitter, H&M called the New York Times. "It will not happen again,"said spokeswoman Nicole Christie. "We are committed 100% to make sure this practice is not happening anywhere else, as it is not our standard practice." Interestingly, on H & M's website, the answer to the FAQ "What do you do with surplus clothes?" is this: "We donate clothes that do not meet H&M's quality requirements to charity organisations like Oxfam, Caritas, the Red Cross and Terre des Hommes. Each store is itself responsible for clothes that are returned to it. Often there is an agreement that the clothes will be passed on to a suitable local charity organisation."
It is kind of worrisome to me that these companies make these corporate stewardship promises which are apparently routinely ignored by their retail locations (from the original NYT piece, it didn't sound like the dumping at H&M was a one-time occurrence). If this is a violation of a pre-existing policy of theirs, then they should be taking disciplinary action against whomever violated their policy.
 

mkrishnan

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Agreed.

It is good that H&M have taken this seriously.
They posted this link themselves (it took me a couple tries to figure out that Twitter was mis-parsing the link, though :eek: )... their link offers more specifics about what they're pledging to do.

http://ow.ly/UukE

Predictably, the Times story and its aftermath have caused H&M to update their policies. "We are reevaluating what we categorize as damage goods and how we discard what we are not able to donate," said Christie. "Everything goes through our warehouse, and from there we will determine where it is sent."
Hmmm, presumably it generates some additional wasted carbon and cost, but it probably makes it pretty likely they'll be following their policy, and perhaps they can use it to help clothes get to those in most need. Hopefully they also continue to support charities in the locales where they operate.
 

Shivetya

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Jan 16, 2008
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Who assumes liability from donated items?

Provided that liability issues are handled properly I have nothing against asking companies to donate items that would otherwise be destroyed. However to demand it without providing liability protection is just asking for it.

My cousins in Ohio run a bakery, they used to provide bread that did not sell that day; certain loaves were allowed more than single day runs; to a local shelter till they got sued. The shelter didn't store the stuff properly and some sticky buns (cinnamon type things) got contaminated and made a few people sick. Well my cousins are the ones whose insurance had to pay up so they stopped giving the stuff away. They sell it to some place that mixes it into animal feed I think
 

mkrishnan

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Not really, because the stuff that doesn't sell is the crap stuff and by the time the poor get this stuff its last seasons anyhow.
I do have to actually say, one thing that impresses me about the rapid turnover at H&M and similar stores is that, while I know a number of people who wear their clothes (and see many more on the street), it's not often that someone is walking by in the same clothes as me.
 

GoCubsGo

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Feb 19, 2005
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I don't understand how anyone can agree with H&M's practices. Maybe I am confused but it seems silly to toss perfectly useable clothes while people freeze or have nothing more than the clothes on their back.
 

ucfgrad93

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Aug 17, 2007
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I don't understand how anyone can agree with H&M's practices. Maybe I am confused but it seems silly to toss perfectly useable clothes while people freeze or have nothing more than the clothes on their back.
Agreed, this definitely seems wrong to me.
 

Zombie Acorn

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I don't understand how anyone can agree with H&M's practices. Maybe I am confused but it seems silly to toss perfectly useable clothes while people freeze or have nothing more than the clothes on their back.
Its called managing your brand, it happens all the time, it just sucks when the media latches on to it.

If caddy started giving away surplus cars to homeless people no rich people would want to buy them.
 

mkrishnan

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Its called managing your brand, it happens all the time, it just sucks when the media latches on to it.

If caddy started giving away surplus cars to homeless people no rich people would want to buy them.
I'm not sure you understand fashion customers very well... not many of us think this way (in any event, not about clothes). Management of the brand has to do with the kind of customers it attracts. H&M attracts mostly customers who don't care for this sort of behavior.
 

Zombie Acorn

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I'm not sure you understand fashion customers very well... not many of us think this way (in any event, not about clothes). Management of the brand has to do with the kind of customers it attracts. H&M attracts mostly customers who don't care for this sort of behavior.
There would be no reason for them to implement the practices they are then. If I wanted to sell my clothes for anything more than walmart prices I would not be handing them out to homeless.
 

remmy

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Jul 1, 2007
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Its called managing your brand, it happens all the time, it just sucks when the media latches on to it.

If caddy started giving away surplus cars to homeless people no rich people would want to buy them.
Caddy is a upper half of the market brand, with a badge on the front. H&M is a middle of the road brand. Managing your brand is more than sticking a nice logo on a product.

Why would you rather not have the free media try and challenge large companies more debatable practises?
 

Zombie Acorn

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Caddy is a upper half of the market brand, with a badge on the front. H&M is a middle of the road brand. Managing your brand is more than sticking a nice logo on a product.

Why would you rather not have the free media try and challenge large companies more debatable practises?
Why bother when 99% will forget about it tomorrow as opposed to being known as hobo wear forever.
 

remmy

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Jul 1, 2007
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Why bother when 99% will forget about it tomorrow as opposed to being known as hobo wear forever.
Wrong way around, why be remembered forever as tight fisted scrooges. Remembered as hobo wear!? lol, its hardly like the poor homeless are forced to wear H&M uniforms.

Even though I have H&M clothes its not like I would notice someone else as wearing something from the same shop.

In the end destroying the clothes is a waste of resources when there are people who need them.
 

Counterfit

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Aug 20, 2003
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Who assumes liability from donated items?

Provided that liability issues are handled properly I have nothing against asking companies to donate items that would otherwise be destroyed. However to demand it without providing liability protection is just asking for it.

My cousins in Ohio run a bakery, they used to provide bread that did not sell that day; certain loaves were allowed more than single day runs; to a local shelter till they got sued. The shelter didn't store the stuff properly and some sticky buns (cinnamon type things) got contaminated and made a few people sick. Well my cousins are the ones whose insurance had to pay up so they stopped giving the stuff away. They sell it to some place that mixes it into animal feed I think
I really don't think there's much liability involved in clothing donated from a store. If you kill yourself with a T shirt, you're either an abject imbecile, or should have had some sort of supervision anyway.
 

184550

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May 8, 2008
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Who assumes liability from donated items?

Provided that liability issues are handled properly I have nothing against asking companies to donate items that would otherwise be destroyed. However to demand it without providing liability protection is just asking for it.

My cousins in Ohio run a bakery, they used to provide bread that did not sell that day; certain loaves were allowed more than single day runs; to a local shelter till they got sued. The shelter didn't store the stuff properly and some sticky buns (cinnamon type things) got contaminated and made a few people sick. Well my cousins are the ones whose insurance had to pay up so they stopped giving the stuff away. They sell it to some place that mixes it into animal feed I think
Exactly. I'm sure that there is one person out there who would get an item of clothing and be allergic to the fibers or something and then sue H&M.

I'm assuming that H&M is a privately owned company and has every right to do as they see fit with their extra stock. Sure, it's nice to donate it to those who need it, but not required and thus shouldn't be expected.