Companies are always searching for ways to make a positive social impact in their community. For some, it’s a no-brainer. Restaurants with extra food often donate leftovers to a local shelter or food bank. Many businesses allow employees paid time out of the office to work with a favorite charity or non profit organization. The following is an example of two stores seemingly doing the exact opposite. With a growing spirit of people doing good and helping their neighbors, I was shocked to read the story, reported in the New York Times on January 5, titled “A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed.” While walking to the subway in Manhattan’s Herald Square, Cynthia Magnus, a student at the City University of New York, noticed heaps of clothing in garbage bags. Upon further investigation, Cynthia determined the clothes were discarded from the H & M across the street. Piles of brand new clothes intentionally destroyed—slashed by box cutters, with gaping holes, purposefully preventing someone from wearing them. Further down the block, sweatshirts, t-shirts and pants bearing the Wal-Mart label were found the week before Christmas with holes that appeared to be punched by a machine.
Horrified by what she’d seen, Cynthia dragged some of the bags home with her, hoping to find someone to patch the clothes, make them wearable so she could then donate them. She also contacted the H&M corporate headquarters but when they did not reply, she contacted the Times. Both H&M and Wal Mart were quick to reply to the New York Times inquiry, vowing to put an end to this in a follow up article where both argued this practice is against company policy. The initial article ignited a Twitter firestorm which has yet to subside.
The practice of destroying, unworn clothing that a store does not sell is appalling. This instance is particularly atrocious as our country remains in one of the worst economic downturns ever, millions of people are out of work, it is frigid in NYC and the store is just around the corner from a collection point for New York Cares, an organization that hosts an annual holiday coat drive. Donations of unworn clothes are also accepted by the New York City Clothing Bank which serves approximately 80,000 homeless and low-income men, women and children by distributing new apparel, toys and other goods.
I applaud Cynthia Magnus for her PR savvy in bringing this to the New York Times and her commitment to rectify the wrong she witnessed. Temperatures are predicted to hit the teens this coming weekend. I have no doubt her good deed will warm countless hearts and souls. As we kick off a new year and a new decade, let's all vow to right the wrongs we come across and make a positive impact on the lives of those in our community as Cynthia has done.