Everyone has loved something in the store, maybe a dress or a sweater, only to get home, be less than thrilled with it and return it. We’ve all definitely gotten a well-meaning gift that didn’t quite fit and needed to be exchanged for something in the correct size.
But imagine returning an item to a large retail store and instead of seeing the unused garment put back on the shelf for the next customer, it is sliced apart and then thrown away, right in front of you.
That is exactly what a woman in Tampa, Florida experienced when she returned a brand new and unworn pair of “Pink” sweatpants to a local Victoria’s Secret store. Marie Wolf says that she returned the sweatpants expecting to make another purchase with the money, but quickly decided against spending her refund there when she saw what happened next. The cheerful cashier that had processed her return with a smile promptly grabbed a pair of scissors and began to cut the pants in half. The Tampa Tribune reports:
“I was shocked, because, mind you, these were $70 sweatpants, and there’s nothing wrong with them,” Wolf said. “The clerk just said, ‘I know, but it’s our policy.’”
Outraged, Wolf confronted a store manager, then called the parent company and found, indeed, Victoria’s Secret does cut up some returned items so they can’t be resold — even if they’re in fine condition.
Apparently, the clerk’s only mistake, Wolf said, was to cut up the clothes in front of customers, and not in a back room out of sight.
“I asked about donating them to Salvation Army, what about Goodwill, what about all the people who lost everything in the tsunami?” Wolf said. “I told them I won’t ever shop with them anymore, and neither will anyone in my family.”
While we can all understand the store being careful about returned, and possibly worn, undergarments being resold, I cannot understand destroying a perfectly good, unworn pair of sweatpants.
As a former retail employee, this story hit hard. I was employed with Old Navy throughout college, and while their parent company, Gap, is not perfect and still struggles with the quality of the factories the clothes are manufactured in, I never witnessed a usable article of clothing being destroyed or thrown away. Our return policy made sure that no item that had been washed or worn made it back into the store, and any return in good condition was resold.
In my personal experience, any item that could be sold, was. Our clearance section was always filled, and often made it easier for the lower-income families in my area to afford new clothes. At one point, we even “sold” some clearance items for less than a dollar and then encouraged customers to place them into a barrel that we later donated to the flood victims in the neighboring state of Georgia. Gap’s official policy, as stated in their 2005-2006 sustainability report, says:
“Our National Recovery Center (NRC) in Kentucky receives defective and unsold garments and donates product that is still usable. For clothing that is too damaged to donate, we have partnered with Special Waste Systems, Inc. to turn damaged or defective clothing into rags for use at hospitals, or as furniture stuffing or insulation.”
If similar companies like the Gap have policies in place that reduces their waste and makes sure that each item is used somehow, why do companies like Victoria’s Secret feel the need to destroy perfectly good clothing that many in need could use?
Photo Credit: Randy Son Of Robert via Flickr