Victoria’s Secret Destroys Returned Clothing

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?

Take Action: To tell Victoria’s Secret to donate instead of destroy, sign the petition here.

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Photo Credit: Randy Son Of Robert via Flickr


Natalie Rusu
Natalie Rusu6 years ago

If they were so perfect, why did she return them? I think it is a stupid policy, that so many got used to it..for refunds and so on...

Joy Dantine
Joy Dantine6 years ago


Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

I worked for Top Value years ago and there were several companies who destroyed the merchandise when it was returned even if it was new and unopened in the box. One company had a man that came around with a hammer with a long pointed end on one side and he slammed it into the appliances so they could never be used. I asked why they couldn't at least donate the merchandise and was told that the receiver might try to return it again for another refund.

Cynthia M.
Cynthia M.6 years ago

@ TONY W: You're right ... it is crazy. There's an old expressio: "When insanity rules the world, we'll all be kings." We may be there.

Cynthia M.
Cynthia M.6 years ago

This is the outcome of liability issues and VS is not the only company that protects themselves from lawsuits this way. Every year, thousand of childrens Halloween costumes are destroyed when returned so as not to violate copyright clauses in sales contracts. The waste in retail due to the risk management issues is astronomical ... a direct result of our litigious society's lawsuit happy approach to problem solving. VS and other intimate apparel and swimsuit retailers destroy returns to avoid being sued over potentially spreading diseases by reshelving the items. In addition, the cost to examine, repackage, re-tag and re-stock the items are in many cases more than simply taking the write off. It is right or sensible in a world where so many are needy? No. Is there another solution? Yes.

Tamma O.
Tamma O.6 years ago

I don't understand why they do that. That IS incredibly wasteful! There are so many people around the world seriously lacking clothes and could really use that stuff!

clara H.
Clara Hamill6 years ago

If it was underwear I could see it but normal shirts and stuff no that's silly.

Toni W.
Toni W6 years ago

Signing the petition - that is crazy - even if it is store policy not to put the items back for re-sale - at least DONATE them to a CHARITY - God Knows there are so many people who would be happy to wear these items - sanity gone CRAZY!

Past Member
Inari T6 years ago

I really can't see the rationale for that policy - if the garment is unused, surely it could be donated if they didn't want to put it back on sale.

Shar W.
Shar W6 years ago

Sounds like a policy left over from the days when they sold only lingerie.... "because that's the way we've always done it" is a really idiotic reason not to change a policy in a way that could affect our world for the better!