TikToker shares how Coach destroys unwanted merchandise despite public commitments to a "circular economy"

Originally published at: TikToker shares how Coach destroys unwanted merchandise despite public commitments to a "circular economy" | Boing Boing


A 2018 Vox report estimates that the fashion industry throws away billions of dollars’ worth of their own merchendise.

Veblen himself would be stunned by the gratuitous and greed-driven wastefulness of this industry.


When I worked for The Sharper Image back in the early 2000s, I walked into the back room one day to see a group of stock workers just wrecking robosapiens. That was when I was first introduced to this practice. It’s not unique to the fashion industry, and it’s a real shame that useful goods are destroyed with such abandon.


I don’t understand why they can’t donate unwanted/unbought products to charity and use THAT tax write off. Something in the tax code preventing it? Because this is disgusting and no company should be allowed to engage in it, let alone get a tax write off for claiming it as “accidental damage.”

EDIT: Sorry, that was more of a rhetorical question. Thanks for all your answers, I should have made it clear I already knew this was about protecting corporate image while being absolute shits to the world (ie, normal corporate behavior). Although bonus points to @Papasan for the tax come back, solid point.


They are not that interested in the write-off, it’s just a bonus. What they’re really about is “preserving the value of the brand”. It wouldn’t do to have the poors seen with products intended for fancy people.


Coach bags are Veblen goods. Making these items available to the unwashed masses and “undeserving” by donating them completely destroys the supposed specialness and exclusivity that allows them to sell them at a premium to the wealthy. They’d rather waste the items than wreck their business model.


Here’s an article from Vox in 2018, when Burberry got called out for this type of thing. Does a good job of covering the various motivations for this behavior as described by someone in the industry. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to ponder how much has changed since then.

ETA: Sorry for the redundancy, I had totally missed this article is already linked in the OP.


Well if having a functional bag is the goal, a few minutes of hand sewing should do the trick. Do it right and the birkin crowd will start slashing their bags for street cred.


But what was the actual outcome? Did Coach actually repair the bags?

I’m not going to say that destroying unsold items is a good practice. But it isn’t something new. Decades ago, I remember getting books that had the covers ripped off and thrown away from bookstores.

The bigger waste these days is that most online returns aren’t restocked. They are just thrown away or sold in bulk to resellers.


I don’t think sold in bulk to resellers is a waste. That sounds like reasonable practice to me.

Destroying returns is more troublesome but given the overhead in determining whether or not you still have a sale-able product or something broken in some way there is at least a rationale for it.

New, unsold product…. Pretty much no excuse, imo.


With small stitches made of shiny thread, that could look pretty great.


They have to pay taxes to write anything off on those said taxes.


Also, on the topic of online returns, I do not understand the economics of this but a broad and disturbing trend I’ve noticed on Amazon is people ordering numerous brands of the same item with the intention of picking the one they like and free-returning the rest. One place to see the footprints of this is in the “frequently bought with” list on the product page, which will often be several other models/brands of the same item.

I’m not sure who bears responsibility for this in the end. Amazon could make it non-free to do a non-defective return. People making purchases could apply a little of the “what if everyone did it” rule and stop being jerks. shrug Probably some of each.


So did they fix it? The world wants to know.

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This is nothing new. One shining moment in the long run of shitty teenager jobs I had back in the 80s was being hired by a high end department store to destroy an entire shipment of Waterford Crystal. Three weeks of hanging by myself in a metal dumpster hurling overpriced tumblers at a wall. Heaven for an angtsy, suburban 15 yr old.


This only happened a few days ago and only became a widely-reported thing we can all shake our heads and tut over in the last 24 hours.

Given the sunlight on it now, and the dozens of requests for comment Coach is receiving, my gamble would be that Coach may do something but they are absolutely not going to accept those bags into their regular repair program.


Hey what was the PPE like for that gig?

I have memories (nightmares?) of being asked to do things similar to that back in the day, wearing nothing but the warehouse “uniform” of logo t-shirt and jeans without being offered so much as a pair of gloves, much less eye and respiratory protection.

Ah, nostalgia.


A lot of stuff gets destroyed, including a lot of returns to stores (though some end up at places like cargo-largo, etc.) It is incredibly wasteful, but based on how everything works, it makes sense to the bottom line.


I think that those of us who are most disturbed by this think that “how everything works” in this context is the result of choices, not immutable law, and would prefer that different choices be made.

ETA: Sorry, I suppose you didn’t really imply that. Your comment just struck me as a throwing-up-of-the-hands. “Well that’s the way the world works, such a shame”, kind of thing. Forgive me if I misread you.


It’s a valid point, although the book/magazine return policy is a bit less egregious since those can be far more easily recycled and/or simply burned. But overall you’re right, this is not new in general.

I used to get my comic books that way when I was a kid. Far cheaper than new, although clearly not “legal” from the reseller stand point (he was required to destroy them after removing part of the cover, but saved them for me).