Winter Blues

Image credit:  Suzanne de Chillo/The New York Times

Image credit: Suzanne de Chillo/The New York Times

Hi all,

I haven’t had as much internet access as usual, and I’ve also been laying low for the holidays.  I did want to pop my head in and post though, so that nobody worries.

I also wanted to blog about an article published recently in the New York Times:

A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed

The article focuses on a rather horrifying practice of H&M and (come on, you knew it was coming!) Wal-Mart.

In the dead of New York winter; a third of the city poor and/or homeless; perfectly good unsold clothing is being tossed into the store’s trash dumpsters.  Which actually might not be all that bad if a homeless person could rummage through the dumpsters and make use of what they found.

Except… H&M and Wal-mart have been slashing the clothing with razors and punching holes through them with machines, so as to render them unusable.  Meanwhile, other large chains such as Target have been donating their surplus stock to Goodwill and other charities or homeless centers for years.

Wow.  Talk about a waste.  Talk about complete disregard for human LIFE.

I’m currently in a very rural area receiving a large amount of snow – several feet within the past couple of days, in fact.  At this time, I’m not going to talk about why I’m here… let’s just say that I always manage to get myself into SOME sort of predicament, right?

On New Year’s, I somehow managed to find myself out in the snow, wearing every item of clothing in my suitcase – 12 layers, to be exact, along with four pairs of socks and snow boots.  I looked like a roly-poly Violet Beauregard, post-blueberry-gum.

Yet, I still managed, in the time that I stayed out in the elements, to contract for myself rather quickly a lovely case of hypothermia, and endured some not-so-lovely hallucinations in the process, before I managed to get the hell back inside (thanks to the kindness of the police and of some fantastic people).

At this time, I don’t want to talk more about why this whole experience happened (I’m fine).  The point is that I can’t imagine how a homeless person survives full-time in this kind of weather.  I simply can’t. And, to be frank, many don’t.  Stories about homeless individuals found frozen are as common as stories about homeless people beat up and set on fire (that is to say, VERY common).

I can’t imagine being a homeless, freezing New York woman rummaging through a dumpster and excitedly pulling out a pair of gloves, only to find that the fingertips have been cut out.  I don’t want to imagine how hopeless I would feel at that moment.

Seriously, H&M, there’s a charity collection point right around the corner from your Manhattan store.  And Wal-Mart, I know there’s no love lost between us, but there’s no excuse for you, either.  Have a little humanity.  Do the right thing.  It’s no skin off your ass.  In fact, it just may improve your public image quite a bit (and gawd, we all know you need it).


  1. Torrid and Hot Topic also slash and destroy clothing being discarded. It’s ridiculous.

  2. Oh wow, I didn’t know that. Thank you for the info! Do you have a link to that info so I can use it in my post, or do you work for one of those stores?


  3. I find it absolutely disgusting that they slash their clothes. Discount them to the bare minimum, and if it still does not sell, give it to Good Will or some kind of charity. How can they live with themselves??

  4. It’s also horrible how customs in many countries destroys loads of completely usable clothes and especially shoes if they are found to be counterfeit, such as fake Adidas or Nike shoes. The idea of destroying or throwing away anything useful like food, clothes or such is simply unfathomable to me.

  5. vicki day says:

    I saw this story in the New York Post and I have now seen they are now going to donate the charity. I saw in the LA Times that over the Christmas period that all the counterfeit good the police had confiscated they handed out the homeless with the brands permission – so lots of homeless people got brand new sneakers and shoes.
    I sent this link in the New York Times to all the UK business journalists because I know that lots of brands rather than reduce stock and devalue their brands are either destroying the stock or putting it in landfills which isn’t exactly environmentally friendly – so hopefully with some pressure and because it’s a quiet news times this will be highlighted in the UK.

  6. I used to work for Wal-mart back in my college days and they were good to me at that location but the company as a whole leaves something to be desired.

    I wish I knew at what point a company thinks it’s ok to decide to be an enormous hindrance to humanity and cut every company off at the knees before they get to that point.

    My parents and an uncle of mine always said that the older I got, the more I’d want to protect what I earned and be less generous to “those underneath me.” Well, I don’t think I’ll ever be too old to know that humanity is sacred and a part of all of us, whether we’re in the corporate world or not. I just wish some people would remember that.

    I’ve forwarded your post to my family and friends with a plea to take their shopping to local stores that give back as much as they take.


  7. Looks like the reporter got at least one of them to say they will stop.

    “The clothing retailer H & M promised on Wednesday to stop destroying new, unworn clothing that it cannot sell at its store in Herald Square, and would instead donate the garments to charities.”

    Don’t know if their stores elsewhere in the world do the same thing. I know here in California there are places that would take the clothing. Over the holidays the police that seize the fake designer shoes donated a bunch to I believe Union Rescue Mission.

  8. Homeless people beaten and set on fire? WTF?

    The clothing thing is appalling. When does human kindness enter the minds of those making the decisions?

    About what another commenter said: My parents and an uncle of mine always said that the older I got, the more I’d want to protect what I earned and be less generous to “those underneath me.”

    Good grief. The older I get, the more compassion I have for others. The more I want to share whatever I have with people who need it. I simply don’t understand this attitude, not at all!

  9. Hi Svasti,

    Oh, yes. Stories of homeless people being set on fire are, sadly, incredibly common.

    In fact, I believe the most recent was only mere days ago, in Santa Ana, CA… only about 10 miles from the Wal-Mart where I stayed in my trailer.

  10. good information Bri. Keep up the great reporting. sorry you are in over your head with snow – I personally don’t like the winter and cannot wait until the weather warms up.

  11. What makes this so sickening is that upon destroying the clothing, these companies “write it off” as a loss and get a tax break.

    Yet, if they had donated the clothing to a charitable organization from the get go, they still would have gotten the tax deduction.

    Instead they had to be exposed for their corporate greed before they decided to do the “right thing.”

    What sicko’s.

  12. I get that they don’t want their clothing to be recycled by employees for free, or whatever, but they should then make a deal with a local homeless shelter to pick them up, say “every Friday” to be donated there. Salvation Army WOULD PICK THEM UP!

  13. And this only solidifies why I shop at Target and avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. That is so wrong of them.

    I hope you are back to being warm and feeling better.

  14. I noticed you said you ended up outside on New Year’s. Do you still have your trailer? I hope you’re okay and I wait to hear what happened. What a crummy way to bring in the New Year, I’m sorry.

  15. When I worked at Safeway, they would pour bleach on the bakery goods they threw in the dumpster.

  16. I know the WM my husband and I work at donate their stuff to charities. Also they give regular donations to the local food banks of the bakery products, etc that otherwise would just be thrown out. Re-reading that article it sounded like that could have been an isolated incident with WM.

  17. Oh Bri – I’m behind on reading but just wanted to give you some positive reinforcement on your personal situation.

    Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back, right? Take a deep breath and push forward again. You can do this. Things have been bleaker and you have risen above. Your voice is meant to sing out for those who can’t.


  18. It’s disgusting. That’s all I can say.

  19. Good day. I’m having trouble with your website. I can’t see the pictures. Is anyone else having this problem? I have been having trouble with my computer lately, so I’m not sure if its my equipment or if its your website. Thanks!

  20. The shirts were not produced by you, it’s none of our business if they toss them.

  21. I am going to respectfully disagree, Amanda. Corporate responsibility is huge now and makes a big difference in where a huge portion of consumers choose to take their business. And I do have a problem with needless waste.

  22. WOW, this is horrific (H&M and Walmart).

    Also, regarding the hypothermia – glad you survived!!


  1. [...] will be kept out of a landfill.  Plus, it’s a much more socially conscious option than, say, shredding old clothes so that homeless and impoverished individuals can’t use them. I commend NYC for taking this [...]

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