H&M, WalMart, Destroy Unbought Clothes Rather Than Donate Them

SpringcurlSpringcurl Registered Users Posts: 8,002
From the New York Times.
In the bitter cold on Monday night, a man and woman picked apart a pyramid of clear trash bags, the discards of the HM clothing store that reigns in blazing plate-glass glory on 34th Street, just east of Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

At the back entrance on 35th Street, awaiting trash haulers, were bags of garments that appear to have never been worn. And to make sure that they never would be worn or sold, someone had slashed most of them with box cutters or razors, a familiar sight outside H & M’s back door. The man and woman were there to salvage what had not been destroyed.

He worked quickly, never uttering a word. A bag was opened and eyed, and if it held something of promise, was tossed at the feet of the woman. She said her name was Pepa.

Were the clothes usually cut up before they were thrown out?

“A veces,” she said in Spanish. Sometimes.

She packed up a few items that had escaped the blade — a bright green T-shirt that said “Summer of Surf,” and a dark-blue hoodie in size 12, with a Divided label. The rest was returned to the pyramid.

It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly.

A few doors down on 35th Street, hundreds of garments tagged for sale in Wal-Mart — hoodies and T-shirts and pants — were discovered in trash bags the week before Christmas, apparently dumped by a contractor for Wal-Mart that has space on the block.

Each piece of clothing had holes punched through it by a machine.

They were found by Cynthia Magnus, who attends classes at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on Fifth Avenue and noticed the piles of discarded clothing as she walked to the subway station in Herald Square. She was aghast at the waste, and dragged some of the bags home to Brooklyn, hoping that someone would be willing to take on the job of patching the clothes and making them wearable.

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.

During her walks down 35th Street, Ms. Magnus said, it is more common to find destroyed clothing in the H & M trash. On Dec. 7, during an early cold snap, she said, she saw about 20 bags filled with H & M clothing that had been cut up.

“Gloves with the fingers cut off,” Ms. Magnus said, reciting the inventory of ruined items. “Warm socks. Cute patent leather Mary Jane school shoes, maybe for fourth graders, with the instep cut up with a scissor. Men’s jackets, slashed across the body and the arms. The puffy fiber fill was coming out in big white cotton balls.” The jackets were tagged $59, $79 and $129.

This week, a manager in the H & M store on 34th Street said inquiries about its disposal practices had to be made to its United States headquarters. However, various officials did not respond to 10 inquiries made Tuesday by phone and e-mail.

Directly around the corner from H & M is a big collection point for New York Cares, which conducts an annual coat drive.

“We’d be glad to take unworn coats, and companies often send them to us,” said Colleen Farrell, a spokeswoman for New York Cares.

More than coats were tossed out. “The H & M thing was just ridiculous, not only clothing, but bags and bags of sturdy plastic hangers,” Ms. Magnus said. “I took a dozen of them. A girl can never have enough hangers.”
H & M, which is based in Sweden, has an executive in charge of corporate responsibility who leads the company’s sustainability efforts. On its Web site, H&M reports that to save paper, it has shrunk its shipping labels.

“How about all the solid waste generated by throwing away usable garments and plastic hangers?” Ms. Magnus asked in a letter to the executive, Ingrid Schullstrom. She volunteered to help H & M connect with a charity or agency in New York that could put the unsold items to better use than simply tossing them in the trash. So far, she said, she has gotten no response.

On Monday night, Pepa’s shopping bag held a few items. She pointed to her gray sweatpants. “From here,” she said.

How about coats?

“Maybe tomorrow,” she said.
LINK

When I was on welfare, I remember finding discarded clothes from Casual Corner. Usually they would destroy them by writing SAMPLE in spray paint or indelible ink on the clothes. Generally Lestoil got it out, but not always. I never could understand why they would just toss them like that.

ETA: Casual Corner usually donated them to Goodwill or Salvation Army, but then would deface them so they wouldn't be resold.
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Comments

  • The New BlackThe New Black Registered Users Posts: 16,754 Curl Connoisseur
    ...Because they believe giving clothes away lowers the value of their clothing. If everyone knew they could get free discarded clothing, no one would pay money for it.

    I don't think that theory is accurate. But that's how corporations think.

    When I worked for a high-end retailer, they had a policy against offering samples to passersby in the aisle of the mall where we were located. The belief was that it would cheapen their image by going to "the masses." This retailer wanted to maintain an air of exclusivity, as if their products weren't available or even appropriate for just anyone. That's also why they charge over $40 per pound of their product - to essentially price out certain consumers.

    And they wondered why the company hadn't turned a profit in 2 years...

    That's obviously not WalMart's reasoning for destroying clothing they couldn't sell anyway. But maybe that's also something H&M is thinking...
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  • Curls AgainCurls Again Registered Users Posts: 314
    It does seem irresponsible. At the least, they could ship some over to impoverished third world nations (far from their domestic or more lucrative international markets) and write off the donations and cost of shipping on corporate taxes.

    But perhaps an article like this might promote targetted, self-serving efforts at more local *charity* that might help people in need right here in the US.

    Thanks for posting.
    formerly COH (Curls On Holiday)
  • SarcasmIsBeautySarcasmIsBeauty Registered Users Posts: 5,640
    Honestly this disgusts me. Just another thing that's wrong with corporations/companies in this country. They could just rip off the tags that says where its from instead of destroying perfectly good clothes. Ugh...
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  • cyndicyndi Registered Users Posts: 3,341
    I don't agree with the practice, but I think it has to do with theft. When my friend worked at Pier 1 they had to destroy any damaged items rather than keep them. In theory, an employee could slightly damage an item, say that it can't be sold, and just keep the item.
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  • mrspoppersmrspoppers Registered Users Posts: 7,223 Curl Novice
    This is truly disgusting. I understand what you all are saying about possible reasons why this stuff would just be thrown away but many, many companies donate unsellable clothing overseas. There are charities that take care of shipping these items at no charge to the donating company. For example, there are lots of people in Africa who will be wearing t-shirts touting the loser of the Super Bowl because these shirts are printed up ahead of time. Given how much of a tax deduction companies can get because of these donations, it makes zero sense to throw them in the trash.
  • Bonnie.Bonnie. Registered Users Posts: 95
    cyndi wrote: »
    I don't agree with the practice, but I think it has to do with theft. When my friend worked at Pier 1 they had to destroy any damaged items rather than keep them. In theory, an employee could slightly damage an item, say that it can't be sold, and just keep the item.


    This. Our corporate direction is to do the same thing, but I try to donate what I can. People dumpster dive and attempt to bring it back for cash. I've seen it happen alot.

    It's horrible, but I can understand the reasoning behind it.
  • *Marah**Marah* Registered Users Posts: 8,032 Curl Neophyte
    I really don't like things like that.. to me it's shameful.

    I don't like it when places toss out good food too and don't give it to someone or some facility that could use it.
    tumblr_m9jonzYZmu1re7hjjo1_250.jpg
  • Bonnie.Bonnie. Registered Users Posts: 95
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    This is truly disgusting. I understand what you all are saying about possible reasons why this stuff would just be thrown away but many, many companies donate unsellable clothing overseas. There are charities that take care of shipping these items at no charge to the donating company. For example, there are lots of people in Africa who will be wearing t-shirts touting the loser of the Super Bowl because these shirts are printed up ahead of time. Given how much of a tax deduction companies can get because of these donations, it makes zero sense to throw them in the trash.

    It depends on how much of the stuff you have. For example, we mark end of season clothes down to 30, 50, 70, then 90% off. Say you have a shirt that goes through this process and does not sell at the end. You have 2 of these onhand. Multiply that by 250 stores, so thats 500 pieces. Sure, that makes sense to ship them all off. BUT

    Take the 250 stores, figure in the time it takes to put the memo out, for us to gather the items, process the paperwork, ship it back to the corporate office, and for them to process it there - I just don't think the tax write off is worth it after that. Not to mention the stores that don't follow the direction.

    I hear you, trust me. I'm just trying to explain it from a retail manager's perspective.
  • redcelticcurlsredcelticcurls Registered Users Posts: 17,502 Curl Neophyte
    Bonnie. wrote: »
    cyndi wrote: »
    I don't agree with the practice, but I think it has to do with theft. When my friend worked at Pier 1 they had to destroy any damaged items rather than keep them. In theory, an employee could slightly damage an item, say that it can't be sold, and just keep the item.


    This. Our corporate direction is to do the same thing, but I try to donate what I can. People dumpster dive and attempt to bring it back for cash. I've seen it happen alot.

    It's horrible, but I can understand the reasoning behind it.

    We have this happen a lot too. We donate as much as possible to a local food bank. They even send a truck to us daily to pick food up. But, some things cannot be donated for whatever reason, and they are marked before they are thrown out because we had so many dumpster divers taking the stuff and returning it for money, or else reselling it on the street. We couldn't stop the latter, but marking it would warn us of dumpster returns.
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  • CurlyCurliesCurlyCurlies Registered Users Posts: 1,641
    They do this at bookstores all the time. It has always struck me as a huge waste. I mean, at the very least they could send the old books to a recycling center. Turns out that it's cheaper to tear off the covers and throw the pages into the dumpsters.

    Some of the officials at Waldenbooks have come forward saying that they plan to trash their unsold stock when they go out of business.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erik-ose/why-wont-borders-donate-t_b_389060.html
    33abhqq.gif
  • CocoaCoilyCocoaCoily Registered Users Posts: 2,648 Curl Neophyte
    What if clothing retailers cut the brand labels out of clothing, thereby making them un-returnable, and somewhat unidentifiable? Then, charitable organizations can schedule pick-ups from each store. If charitable organizations can pick up from my curb, they most certainly can make the arrangements to pick up unused clothing in bulk from retailers.

    I just don't really see the reasoning as logical.

    NYC restaurants have no excuse, because there are organizations that will come to them to pick up food.
  • wild~hairwild~hair Registered Users Posts: 9,890 Curl Neophyte
    These excuses are lame. Sorry folks, I don't mean it personally. But they are lame and the companies should be ashamed of themselves.
  • CandycaneCandycane Registered Users Posts: 291
    CocoaCoily;1217446---ive worked at a few restaurants, and it has always been illegal to give food away at the end of the night. These companies throw away the food because they are liable for anyone who gets sick which can mean huge law suits. The food at most restaurants is pretty gross by the end of the night anyway...

    With that said, i believe there is a valid reason why H&M would rather throw away clothing then donate them or give them away(although it probably wouldn’t be a health issue.)
  • nynaeve77nynaeve77 Registered Users Posts: 7,135 Curl Novice
    Wow, that's so wasteful.
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  • curlyarcacurlyarca Registered Users Posts: 8,449 Curl Connoisseur
    Why would you ship clothes overseas to those poor people in Africa when there are poor people right here in North America who could use some. You could take it down the street to a shelter, or just hand out free clothes when you're ready to trash them at zero to little cost to you as a seller/manufacturer. Don't they have tent cities right here in the US. That's just stupid.

    "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

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  • curlyarcacurlyarca Registered Users Posts: 8,449 Curl Connoisseur
    CocoaCoily;1217446---ive worked at a few restaurants, and it has always been illegal to give food away at the end of the night. These companies throw away the food because they are liable for anyone who gets sick which can mean huge law suits. The food at most restaurants is pretty gross by the end of the night anyway...

    With that said, i believe there is a valid reason why H&M would rather throw away clothing then donate them or give them away(although it probably wouldn’t be a health issue.)

    Oh yeah, good points. I totally forgot that we live in a litigious society. Ok, now this is making a bit more sense......but I still think they can leave a box of socks at a homeless shelter or something.

    "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

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  • scrillsscrills Registered Users Posts: 6,700
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    This is truly disgusting. I understand what you all are saying about possible reasons why this stuff would just be thrown away but many, many companies donate unsellable clothing overseas. There are charities that take care of shipping these items at no charge to the donating company. For example, there are lots of people in Africa who will be wearing t-shirts touting the loser of the Super Bowl because these shirts are printed up ahead of time. Given how much of a tax deduction companies can get because of these donations, it makes zero sense to throw them in the trash.

    This has actually ruined the textile industry in many countries.
  • CocoaCoilyCocoaCoily Registered Users Posts: 2,648 Curl Neophyte
    CocoaCoily;1217446---ive worked at a few restaurants, and it has always been illegal to give food away at the end of the night. These companies throw away the food because they are liable for anyone who gets sick which can mean huge law suits. The food at most restaurants is pretty gross by the end of the night anyway...

    With that said, i believe there is a valid reason why H&M would rather throw away clothing then donate them or give them away(although it probably wouldn’t be a health issue.)

    Sorry, doll, I'm not swallowing that... Ever heard of City Harvest?

    From their website... City Harvest is the product of common sense. In the early 1980s, a group of ordinary citizens became troubled by the large number of fellow New Yorkers who didn't have enough to eat. When they saw that local restaurants were discarding perfectly good food, these volunteers responded by enlisting friends and borrowing cars to transport the leftover food to where it was needed most. This idea led to the creation of City Harvest in 1982.
  • WurlyLoxWurlyLox Registered Users Posts: 4,858 Curl Neophyte
    Exactly. We have Atlanta's Table here, a project of the Atlanta Food Bank, that picks up food from restaurants, etc. for use in local shelters and hunger charities. After our holiday dinner here at work, we even had them come pick up our leftovers, rather than us eat them for days on end - they were glad to get them even though we aren't that big a group.

    I agree with what someone said about just damaging the labels so that clothing can't be sold rather than damaging the garments - A lot of retailers here used to do that, but I don't know if the practice has changed.

    Even if the tax benefits aren't themselves enough to justify the time and costs involved in donating clothing, businesses should be corporate citizens (as we call it here at my company) and donate anyway. Other than subsidizing power bills for the poor, we don't have a tangible product to donate like this, but my company makes a big deal out of it and its employees being good corporate citizens in any way we can (donating time to charities - both the company's time and our own, donations from the corporate foundation, underwriting all sorts of programs, etc.). It's visible to everyone in the community, creating other benefits (good will towards the company, good corporate image, other people and companies following suit, etc.) besides mere tax write-offs.
    2C/3A/3B - modified CG - fairly fine now, normal/low porosity/normal elasticity

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  • nynaeve77nynaeve77 Registered Users Posts: 7,135 Curl Novice
    auntnett wrote: »
    Exactly. We have Atlanta's Table here, a project of the Atlanta Food Bank, that picks up food from restaurants, etc. for use in local shelters and hunger charities. After our holiday dinner here at work, we even had them come pick up our leftovers, rather than us eat them for days on end - they were glad to get them even though we aren't that big a group.

    I agree with what someone said about just damaging the labels so that clothing can't be sold rather than damaging the garments - A lot of retailers here used to do that, but I don't know if the practice has changed.

    Even if the tax benefits aren't themselves enough to justify the time and costs involved in donating clothing, businesses should be corporate citizens (as we call it here at my company) and donate anyway. Other than subsidizing power bills for the poor, we don't have a tangible product to donate like this, but my company makes a big deal out of it and its employees being good corporate citizens in any way we can (donating time to charities - both the company's time and our own, donations from the corporate foundation, underwriting all sorts of programs, etc.). It's visible to everyone in the community, creating other benefits (good will towards the company, good corporate image, other people and companies following suit, etc.) besides mere tax write-offs.

    Exactly. It seems like these companies would want the good press that comes from donating their unused products, rather than seeming uncharitable and wasteful.
    "Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."--Linus, A Charlie Brown Christmas


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  • curlyarcacurlyarca Registered Users Posts: 8,449 Curl Connoisseur
    nynaeve77 wrote: »
    auntnett wrote: »
    Exactly. We have Atlanta's Table here, a project of the Atlanta Food Bank, that picks up food from restaurants, etc. for use in local shelters and hunger charities. After our holiday dinner here at work, we even had them come pick up our leftovers, rather than us eat them for days on end - they were glad to get them even though we aren't that big a group.

    I agree with what someone said about just damaging the labels so that clothing can't be sold rather than damaging the garments - A lot of retailers here used to do that, but I don't know if the practice has changed.

    Even if the tax benefits aren't themselves enough to justify the time and costs involved in donating clothing, businesses should be corporate citizens (as we call it here at my company) and donate anyway. Other than subsidizing power bills for the poor, we don't have a tangible product to donate like this, but my company makes a big deal out of it and its employees being good corporate citizens in any way we can (donating time to charities - both the company's time and our own, donations from the corporate foundation, underwriting all sorts of programs, etc.). It's visible to everyone in the community, creating other benefits (good will towards the company, good corporate image, other people and companies following suit, etc.) besides mere tax write-offs.

    Exactly. It seems like these companies would want the good press that comes from donating their unused products, rather than seeming uncharitable and wasteful.
    ITA.

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  • mrspoppersmrspoppers Registered Users Posts: 7,223 Curl Novice
    scrills wrote: »
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    This is truly disgusting. I understand what you all are saying about possible reasons why this stuff would just be thrown away but many, many companies donate unsellable clothing overseas. There are charities that take care of shipping these items at no charge to the donating company. For example, there are lots of people in Africa who will be wearing t-shirts touting the loser of the Super Bowl because these shirts are printed up ahead of time. Given how much of a tax deduction companies can get because of these donations, it makes zero sense to throw them in the trash.

    This has actually ruined the textile industry in many countries.
    When people in third world countries aren't wearing shoes or they make their own shoes with old coke bottles, I'm not sure how that can be true. Same goes for people in refugee camps and such. By giving shoes and clothing to these people, we are ruining their textile industries?
  • mrspoppersmrspoppers Registered Users Posts: 7,223 Curl Novice
    Bonnie. wrote: »
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    This is truly disgusting. I understand what you all are saying about possible reasons why this stuff would just be thrown away but many, many companies donate unsellable clothing overseas. There are charities that take care of shipping these items at no charge to the donating company. For example, there are lots of people in Africa who will be wearing t-shirts touting the loser of the Super Bowl because these shirts are printed up ahead of time. Given how much of a tax deduction companies can get because of these donations, it makes zero sense to throw them in the trash.

    It depends on how much of the stuff you have. For example, we mark end of season clothes down to 30, 50, 70, then 90% off. Say you have a shirt that goes through this process and does not sell at the end. You have 2 of these onhand. Multiply that by 250 stores, so thats 500 pieces. Sure, that makes sense to ship them all off. BUT

    Take the 250 stores, figure in the time it takes to put the memo out, for us to gather the items, process the paperwork, ship it back to the corporate office, and for them to process it there - I just don't think the tax write off is worth it after that. Not to mention the stores that don't follow the direction.

    I hear you, trust me. I'm just trying to explain it from a retail manager's perspective.
    This is the kind of thing that can be managed at a corporate level and is very much worth it. My last company was able to do it quite well. Heck, I donated a $500,000 tradeshow booth that would have otherwise had to go into a landfill if nobody would have taken it off my hands. I gave 500 lava lamps to the girl scouts and they were quite happy.
  • SariaSaria Registered Users Posts: 15,963
    In regard to food, at Johnson & Wales we often wondered why we couldn't donate the food we cooked during class and were told it was a matter of liability. We always had so much food!
    por-que-no-te-callas.jpg
  • scrillsscrills Registered Users Posts: 6,700
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    scrills wrote: »
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    This is truly disgusting. I understand what you all are saying about possible reasons why this stuff would just be thrown away but many, many companies donate unsellable clothing overseas. There are charities that take care of shipping these items at no charge to the donating company. For example, there are lots of people in Africa who will be wearing t-shirts touting the loser of the Super Bowl because these shirts are printed up ahead of time. Given how much of a tax deduction companies can get because of these donations, it makes zero sense to throw them in the trash.

    This has actually ruined the textile industry in many countries.
    When people in third world countries aren't wearing shoes or they make their own shoes with old coke bottles, I'm not sure how that can be true. Same goes for people in refugee camps and such. By giving shoes and clothing to these people, we are ruining their textile industries?

    Mind this is according to my Global Marketing prof in grad school. You know those clothes that people donate, well they don't always go the homeless. They sell the clothes by the (shipping) container. People (like my prof, who did business in dozens of countries) buy the containers for about $2,000, ship them overseas for another $750 and sell them for $7,000. mind you, my math may be off, but this practice flooded the market with cheap clothes, cheaper than what the local textile industry/clothing mfg could sell it for.

    So yes, there are poor people who have to make due with what they have, but as a whole these practices can cause damage to local industry.
  • mrspoppersmrspoppers Registered Users Posts: 7,223 Curl Novice
    scrills wrote: »
    mrspoppers wrote: »
    scrills wrote: »

    This has actually ruined the textile industry in many countries.
    When people in third world countries aren't wearing shoes or they make their own shoes with old coke bottles, I'm not sure how that can be true. Same goes for people in refugee camps and such. By giving shoes and clothing to these people, we are ruining their textile industries?

    Mind this is according to my Global Marketing prof in grad school. You know those clothes that people donate, well they don't always go the homeless. They sell the clothes by the (shipping) container. People (like my prof, who did business in dozens of countries) buy the containers for about $2,000, ship them overseas for another $750 and sell them for $7,000. mind you, my math may be off, but this practice flooded the market with cheap clothes, cheaper than what the local textile industry/clothing mfg could sell it for.

    So yes, there are poor people who have to make due with what they have, but as a whole these practices can cause damage to local industry.
    I think we're talking about two different things. I wasn't talking about selling cheap clothes overseas; I was talking about donating clothing to charities that then distribute it to refugees and other people in third world countries. It's a similar concept to when Hurricane Katrina happened and people in New Orleans didn't have even the basics. My company donated brand new clothing and other items that we could not use because the logo was old. Expired medications and medical supplies are sent to third world countries in much the same way.
  • Curls AgainCurls Again Registered Users Posts: 314
    Saria wrote: »
    In regard to food, at Johnson & Wales we often wondered why we couldn't donate the food we cooked during class and were told it was a matter of liability. We always had so much food!

    Yes, food is different because of contamination issues. Same reason that most people don't give away candy apples or baked goods during halloween to children (or if they do, they probably are not accepted in other than very small towns).
    formerly COH (Curls On Holiday)
  • webjockeywebjockey Registered Users Posts: 2,786
    RE: the food thing, some food banks/food rescue organizations have the infrastructure to handle prepared foods. There are strict rules that organizations must adhere to in order to rescue, inspect and redistribute food. The food bank I work at doesn't have it in place, so when people want to donate prepared goods we refer them to the organizations that can handle that. We recently put in place a system to handle fresh produce from people's garden, which I'm super excited about. Sadly, we can't distribute homegrown eggs unless they have some USDA certification process.

    It's all about being able to inspect and verify the quality of food.
    hello.world.
  • The New BlackThe New Black Registered Users Posts: 16,754 Curl Connoisseur
    Re: food donation, If you go to Quizno's/Subway you see they cut off the ends of their bread when they make sandwiches. I was certain they gave it away, could.not.fathom they'd trash it. But they chuck it right in the garbage. I approached a couple local shops about donating it to a shelter nearby, but, yes, they cited the liability issue. I contacted Quizno's HQ, but they never responded. I contacted the shelter at the same time and they said they couldn't accept it anyway.
    montage-3.gif No MAS.

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  • MagooMagoo Registered Users Posts: 2,173 Curl Neophyte
    Seems like H & M will be changing their practices. I just saw a story on the news last night about this and supposedly some spokesman for the company said that H & M will be looking into this and making some changes.
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