Victoria’s Dirty Return Secret
Victoria’s Secret got some unwanted press last week when the Today Show ran
a story about their store policy of destroying many items that customers return.
show revealed how a woman in Tampa, FL returned a pair of sweatpants only to
see a sales associate cut them to shreds at the counter. Reportedly, the only
mistake the clerk made was failing to cut up the garment in a back room out
of sight of customers.
"I was shocked, because, mind you, these were $70 sweatpants, and there’s
nothing wrong with them," Marie Wolf, described as a long-time Victoria’s
Secret customer, told Tampa Bay Tribune. "The clerk just said,
‘I know, but it’s our policy.’"
Calls by Ms. Wolf to corporate confirmed
that Victoria’s Secret does cut up some returned items so they can’t be resold,
even when they’re in good condition.
"I asked about donating them to Salvation Army. What about Goodwill?
What about all the people who lost everything in the Tsunami?" Ms. Wolf
said to the Tampa Bay Tribune. "I told them I won’t ever shop with
them anymore, and neither will anyone in my family."
The reports didn’t
quantify what portion of returned goods reach the shredder. But Victoria’s
Secret isn’t alone.
Last year, students in Manhattan found discarded garments
with holes cut in them from H&M, according to The New York Times.
Macy’s has also confirmed that while they try to salvage returned clothing,
it destroys some returns.
Speaking to the Tampa Bay Tribune, Suzanne
Long, at the consultant firm SSA & Co., said a retailer may not want to
risk health issues with items like bras, panties or thongs. As for other items,
Ms. Long said the fear is that donations may lead to sales on the secondary
market, bringing down the value of the brand.
"Sometimes you don’t want items going out for resale on the secondary
market at all," Ms. Long said. "Some stores may take last season’s
golf clubs and bend them in half so someone couldn’t easily pick them from
the trash and resell them."
Not surprisingly, many stories were slanted
"Every time a story like this crops up, consumer sentiment against the
store is just overwhelming," said Doug Stephens, owner of the Retail Prophet
and a BrainTrust member, elaborated. "People walk out and wonder, are
we really so rich as a nation that we throw perfectly good stuff in the garbage?"
- Victoria’s Secret? Destroying returned purchases – Tampa Bay Tribune
- Victoria’s Secret? Destroying returned purchases – msnbc.com
Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed – The
New York Times
- Victoria’s Secret, other retailers destroy returned clothing so that merchandise
isn’t resold – The Daily News
- Couldn’t they just give it to charity? How Victoria’s Secret Destroys
unworn clothing returned by customers – The Daily Mail
Discussion Questions: What do you think of Victoria’s Secret’s and others’ policy of destroying a sizeable portion of its returned merchandise? Are there other methods apparel retailers should explore to discard unsellable returned goods?