Strong opinions, weakly held

File under: cruelty

Retailers like Wal-Mart and H&M feel that excess inventory should be in a landfill rather than on the backs of poor. And to make sure that people desperate and industrious enough to rummage through the trash for clothing can’t get anything for free, they cut up the garments before tossing them out. I know that these companies are operating completely within their legal rights, but either it’s morally acceptable to toss out brand new clothes in a city where people can use them, or it isn’t. As far as I’m concerned, it is not.

Update: Marco Arment explains that the destruction of the clothing is a product of arrangements between suppliers and retailers, which is what I suspected was going on. It’s a thorny problem.


  1. Stuff like this happens all the time and it’s really a shame.

    Other examples: Farmers being paid not to grow crops to prop up food prices. Declining cities like Detroit bulldozing vacant houses to reduce housing supply to increase property prices.

    If often wonder what we could do if we actually tried sometimes.

  2. I’m actually in favor of Detroit bulldozing the excess housing inventory. There was a really interesting article about how Flint, Michigan is consolidating a bunch of nearly empty dysfunctional neighborhoods into fewer, functional neighborhoods with a critical mass of residents. I don’t think there are many other options for cities that have lost as much population as they have.

  3. On major reason Detroit was bulldozing housing was to combat arson. For many years they have had a huge problem with people setting fire to vacant houses. Not only was it expensive to fight these fires, it was dangerous to the firefighters and nearby structures.

  4. As much as I dislike Wal-Mart, this practice is not company policy:

    “A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said the company normally donates all its unworn goods to charities, and would have to investigate why the items found on 35th Street were discarded.”

  5. I did notice that in the article and in that regard the first sentence is perhaps unfair.

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