This is a story about one of the world’s most iconic, and profitable, companies.
And while the company certainly has a mind for business, it seems it has no heart.
Jim Dwyer had an article in The New York Times today about a man, Ryan Matzner, who came across a trash bag outside a big Nike store in the SoHo section of Manhattan. Since he was on his way to a party, he could not take the trash bag with him, but planned to stop back on his way home from the party.
Later that night, accompanied by a friend, Matzner did indeed go back to the trash bag, and found it filled with shoes that seemed to have never been worn. However, upon closer inspection, each shoe had been slashed from heel to toe, rendering them unusable.
The couple then found another bag that contained slashed T-shirts and sweaters.
What was behind this destruction?
According to a Nike spokeswoman, “A small amount of product at our Nike SoHo store did not meet our standards to restock, recycle or donate so it was disposed of.” She did not explain why the shoes and garments were slashed before being thrown away.
The situation reminded Matzner of a story he had read seven years ago about clothing retailer H&M. H&M would discard new, unworn clothing from its store on 34th Street, but would first render the clothing unwearable using blades and big hole punchers. (After the column was published, H&M vowed that it would donate unsold usable clothing to charity.)
The article goes on to note that many retailers will destroy garments that cannot be sold in order to prevent expensive brand-name products from entering society at low or no cost. Some companies simply do not want their products — or even knockoffs of their goods — to be worn by people who are obviously unable to afford them. (emphasis added to highlight the obnoxiousness of it all).
The article also notes that millions of dollars in counterfeit football jerseys, knit caps, windbreakers and related gear are seized by the federal authorities before the Super Bowl. By federal law, such merchandise must be destroyed, a requirement that corporations lobbied for after refugees from Hurricane Katrina were given counterfeit garments being held in a government warehouse. (again, emphasis added, but you have got to be kidding me – companies actually fought to keep perfectly fine clothing out of the hands of people whose lives were ruined by Hurricane Katrina?! I wish I knew the names of those companies so I could be sure to never buy anything of theirs again.) As one legal commentator wrote: “After all, these companies did not spend millions of dollars in high-end advertising only to be associated with ‘shelter chic.’” (again, the level of callousness is beyond the pale).
I find all of these examples to be incredibly wasteful and inhumane.
I am sure that these companies are aware that there are people who could desperately use some new clothing and shoes, yet it seems as if they are more concerned with maintaining their brand image than in helping such individuals.
I would find a company that went out of its way to donate its unused and unwanted clothing to those in need more attractive, and would be more willing to support such a company.
So two big thumbs down to Nike and other companies that have adopted such practices. I hope that today’s story in the New York Times will bring to light such practices, and force the companies to stop such practices.
This seems like a no-brainer, and shouldn’t require lots of discussion.
So Nike, here’s a chance to do the right thing, so Just Do It.
*photo courtesy of Lauren Wagner of the New York TImes