H&M Clothing Trash Scandal Update—Something’s Still Fishy

Shame, H&M, shame. Last week we learned that both the trend-forward retailer and Wal-Mart engage in the odd and wasteful practice of destroying unsold merchandise, and throwing it in the trash. Both companies scrambled to come up with apologetic statements, a rep for H&M vowing that it was an anomalous error that wouldn’t reoccur: “It will not happen again. We are committed 100 percent to make sure this practice is not happening anywhere else, as it is not our standard practice.”

Yet when New York’s WPIX recently returned to the scene of the crime, reporters came across an employee hauling bag after bag of shoes into a truck. When asked where the bags were going, the employee clearly stated, “In the trash,” as if it should be obvious. When they questioned if he was aware of H&M’s wasteful shredding and trashing method, he got shy, repeatedly saying, “I can’t comment on that.”

Of course, all of us are watching this, completely appalled. Why wouldn’t H&M or Wal-Mart drop the clothes off at a charity? It would require the same manpower and resources. Yet, there is a reason why retailers wouldn’t want their merchandise going back into circulation.On Double X, Erika Kawalek, who is writing a book on this issue, brings up a point which may recall your teenage shoplifting days (cough, cough): “They are more concerned with their cheap merch flooding discount channels or coming back as ‘unpaid’ returns at their cash registers.” Return something you never bought; get the refund. One of the oldest tricks in the book. Still, the concept of throwing out clothes remains unacceptable.

Kawalek also reveals that perhaps H&M isn’t the only store we should be watching out for. Chances are, a lot of the places you shop engage in merch-tossing as well:

Many designers destroy their unsold stock. This is one of the many secrets of the fashion industry. They don’t want their brands ending up on the hoi polloi or in some unsightly discount bin. I can’t name the brand, but a VERY high-up and profitable one recently sent two million dollars worth of clothing and purses to the shredder. This goes on all the time; it’s part of the business. Companies would rather destroy serviceable products than risk diluting their brand. The next time you’re on a flight, think about what’s inside the chair. If they advertise in Vogue, your butt is on it.

[WPIX, Double X]