Raiments of Shame

The discovery that a New York branch of H&M was slashing and disposing of unused merchandise displays an intriguing confluence of forces at work.  The first is the enduring power of traditional media.  The woman who discovered the trash bags of mutilated clothing only contacted The New York Times after receiving no response to her inquiry to H&M.  The article ignited the Twittersphere almost immediately with tens of thousands of Tweets pushing the story to the #2 trending topic on Twitter, demonstrating how perfectly the immediacy and transparency of social media are suited to outrage.  In the now familiar feedback loop from hell, the Twitterstorm itself became a story, resulting in more than a hundred media hits all over the world, along with countless blog posts.

It should be stated that cutting up and throwing away clothing is not H&M policy and that the company claims it gives away substantial amounts of wearable garments annually.  Trend watchers will note that throwing away edible food from supermarkets has recently also become an ethical issue and this clothing debacle adds another piece to the mosaic of public concern about responsible disposal of unsold merchandise.  Every company that produces a durable good, some quantity of which doesn’t reach a commercial endpoint, needs to look careful at its practices.  Luckily, the Internet makes it easier than ever to find organizations willing to take on a usable retail waste stream.  Not being evil will continue to get more complicated.

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