“Ms. Kerr, if you're returning that robe, please remove it immediately so that we can shred it.” (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Socialite Life)

Big box women’s boutique chain Victoria’s Secret reportedly posts annual sales figures in excess of $5 billion. Like any clothing retailer, Victoria’s Secret sees its share of product returns. Also like any clothing retailer, Victoria’s Secret has received criticism for its return policy. However, the way in which Victoria’s Secret handles garments after return – whether they’ve been worn or not – has angered many customers.

Return and shred, no resale

Tampa Bay Online reports that one customer discovered upon returning a pair of “Pink” brand sweatpants that once a clothing item is returned to a Victoria’s Secret store, store employees are required to destroy the garment. It will not be resold or donated to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or another charity, even if it is in pristine, never-worn condition with the original price tags. Instead, a Victoria’s Secret store employee with take a pair of scissors to whatever is being returned.

“I was shocked, because, mind you, these were $70 sweatpants, and there’s nothing wrong with them,” said Tampa resident Marie Wolf. “The clerk just said, ‘I know, but it’s our policy.’ “

Once Wolf spoke with the store manager about the matter, she discovered that the only thing the scissor-toting employee did wrong was that the destruction was supposed to be done outside the public view. Tampa Bay Online received no comment from Victoria’s Secret parent company Limited Brands regarding the return policy.

Victoria’s Secret isn’t the only retailer with this dirty little secret

According to clothing industry insiders, Macy’s and H&M will attempt to resell new-condition items, but if they cannot be resold, the items are destroyed rather than donated. Destroying returned clothing is not technically illegal, says Suzanne Long of consulting company SSA & Company. It may be done to prevent unauthorized resales, or simply because designers may take the stance with retail stores that sending the clothing back isn’t worth the money.

“If the retailer feels it’s unsalable, they’ll just agree to destroy it,” said Long.

The Secret has stained Victoria’s reputation before

Last year, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and The Gap were caught by an undercover “Today Show” staffer placing lightly soiled return garments back on the shelves for resale. A hidden camera found that employees quickly re-tagged the merchandise and put it back on the sales floor.

Eliminate the waste and address a societal need

Retail industry consultants like Doug Stephens of Toronto-based Retail Prophet hope that the negative exposure of big-name retailers like Victoria’s Secret will help change the industry.

“Every time a story like this crops up, consumer sentiment against the store is just overwhelming,” he told Tampa Bay Online. “People walk out and wonder, are we really so rich as a nation that we throw perfectly good stuff in the garbage?”

Sources

In Denver Times: http://bit.ly/aftQHV
Tampa Bay Online: http://bit.ly/e6t46Q
Wikipedia entry for Victoria’s Secret: http://bit.ly/9DQ9R5

Be sure to shred that in the back later, Heidi Klum

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