New York City's homeless may be wearing a motley collection of castoff clothing: the rejects from the closets of more financially-blessed residents, perhaps, or the logo merchandise from now-merged banks or defunct companies, maybe even some cast-offs from local discount retailers that lingered too long on the clearance racks. Yet, you won't see any such freebies from H& M or Walmart. Instead of donating unsold clothes to the needy, the two retailers have evidently been quietly stuffing unloved frocks in the trash.
According to The New York Times, unsold clothes from the two retailers were found destroyed in garbage bags outside the H&M store on 34th Street east of Sixth Avenue, and in the nearby 35th Street Walmart. At Walmart, unworn clothes had been punched with holes by some sort of machine. At H&M, they'd been slashed by a box cutter, rendering a bunch of fiber-filled coats unwearable.
The New York Times contacted the two stores and asked, why? Walmart said it was a mistake, they didn't know why it had happened; H&M didn't return calls. At least, that is, until Twitter got wind of the problem. That wind has been blowing for two days, with criticisms running the gamut of limited-character negativity, "unbridled capitalism" to "am thoroughly appalled" to "horrifying!" to "unconscionable in this economy." (I wonder what would have happened had Twitter existed in the Great Depression? Surely a whole new entry in the thesaurus under "disgusting" would have been required.)
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's hard to know why the employees of H&M and Walmart felt it their duty to destroy clothing in the first place, but my guess is it is a growing resentment against so-called freegans and other dumpster divers in the city. The New York Times itself has covered this phenomenon a few times, and it's well-known that many employees of restaurants and grocery stores occasionally render food inedible so the freegans won't come rummaging. There's the sentiment among some that no one deserves a free ride (or a free pair of pants) -- even if it's in someone else's trash.
Unsold clothes destroyed at H&M -- until Twitter roared.