After a recent Global News story highlighted a retail practice of sending unsold store merchandise to landfills, former retail store managers have come forward to say it was part of their job to regularly destroy and dump unsold items.
“I’m ashamed to even say I destroyed them, but I’d say hundreds maybe even thousands (of items),” said Patricia, who asked not to be identified by her full name.
Patricia said she started her employment at Carter’s Inc. as a sales associate but quickly moved up to become a store manager. It was then that she said she was familiarized with a new duty and responsibility that would have her physically cut up and destroy unsold merchandise including returns and items with imperfections.
“You have to make sure and it’s part of the policy to ensure the product cannot be used if someone were to find it in the garbage,” said Patricia.
“So if it’s a shoe, you take the tongue out and cut it … make sure you cut right through the middle of the garment so it can’t be repaired.”
Last week, Toronto resident Natasha McKenna said she found several clear garbage bags filled with destroyed Carter’s OshKosh items out front of Dufferin Mall.
Global News could not determine how the Carter’s OshKosh clothing items were damaged.
Many of the items appeared to be cut up and some items still had tags. McKenna shared her discovery on Facebook and her post went viral. With more than 12,000 shares, many comments from people asked why it happened.
“They don’t want their items sold in second-hand stores and … they’re afraid people are going to take them back to the store and get money for it,” said Helen Harakas, executive director of Brands for Canada.
Brands for Canada is a registered charity that takes surplus or unsold retail merchandise and then donates the items to other charities focused on helping people living in poverty.
Donating unsellable goods to charity is something that resonated with former Victoria’s Secret store manager Erica Webbe, who told Global News it was her duty and responsibility to cut up and destroy merchandise that was usually returned or imperfect.
She said when she worked for the retailer between 2015 and 2019.
“A stab to the heart,” said Webbe while describing the practice.
“Am I really cutting up a nice piece of pants or a nice bra that has a seam missing?”
Both Patricia and Webbe said many of the items destined for the landfill were returns – some still with tags – or items with a slight imperfection.
Patricia gave the example of a four-piece pajama set that might be missing a piece but even if the other three pieces were in perfect condition, the set would be “damaged out” and sent to the garbage.
“It’s kind of like a dirty little secret. Only the manager and the regional manager does it,” said Patricia.
As Global News reported last week, another reason for the practice is a governmental financial incentive offered to retailers called the Federal Duty Drawback.
“The federal government will give you a credit on your next import duties if you landfill or incinerate those unsellable goods,” said Kelly Drennan, the executive director with the not-for-profit group Fashion Takes Action.
Global News contacted the Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office to ask about the Federal Duty Drawback. A spokesperson provided a statement in response.
“By allowing the destruction of obsolete or surplus goods, the necessity to export the imported goods in order to qualify for a drawback is removed, thereby eliminating additional exportation costs (e.g. shipping costs),” the spokesperson said.
Carter’s Inc. responded to Global News with a statement specific to the items discovered outside Dufferin Mall last week.
“We contacted our store in Canada and determined the items in question were damaged or unusable and disposed of properly for safety reasons,” wrote Lindsay Rider,
Carter’s, Inc., in part.
There was no further response from Carter’s Inc. after several subsequent requests from Global News. Victoria’s Secret was also contacted by Global News, but a reply wasn’t received by the publication deadline.