Why Donating Clothes Might Not Make You Such a Good Person After All

About a month ago, I went to New York City.

I loved it. I love urban environments – the honking doesn’t annoy me as much as I feel that it should and the constant wave of new people walking around with cameras and pointing fingers make me smile instead of causing me annoyance. That being said, it felt weird sometimes walking or waiting by people with cardboard signs. It was a constant psycological war. One one hand, they needed help, and who was I with my Nine West purse and my LOFT shirt to judge or hold some place in society above them? Why did I have the financial luck and they have none? Yet, turn a corner, walk down a block, and there was some other person with a dog , a piece of cardboard and a sharpie to ask for my help. I can do something for one person and not another, but then why did the first person get the aid? What did it go toward? On one hand, I could help a person. On the other I might not do anything for them, while losing money from my own bank account.

This psychological struggle is why I like stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill and Savers. I know where the money goes – it goes to organizations that serve many people at once, and I get something in return for my money. I love donating things to Goodwill and buying things from the store as well. I’m helping people and getting something at the same time. It almost makes one tempted to take their shoes off and chuck them in the nearest donation bin to continue the process.


According to the Huffington Post, the numerous donation bins set along many a street of the bustling city are actually benefiting for-profit companies. Instead of going towards charitable organizations to raise money for or give clothing to those in need, the clothing is sold in thrift stores or in bulk overseas to corporations that cannot be traced.

So donate your clothes. Give and buy from stores like Goodwill – there’s one on 8th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues – but be careful of where you’re putting your clothes. Your act may be one of a good samaritan, but the people putting price tags on the other side certainly aren’t as kind hearted as you are.


One thought on “Why Donating Clothes Might Not Make You Such a Good Person After All

  1. Thanks for sharing your concerns. Actually, Savers is a for-profit company, not a charity like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Savers apparently gives millions to its charity partners every year, but as a privately held company it does not divulge its financials. I suspect Savers’ annual earnings dwarfs what it donates charitably.

    “Not Every Thrift Store is a Nonprofit” ― Star Tribune, Minneapolis; 2006: http://tinyurl.com/kshro4z

    New York City is not alone in its donation bin dilemma. Across the country, many of these boxes are reportedly causing problems such as blight and public right-of-way issues. Another concern is over out-of-town nonprofit and for-profit clothes collectors causing donations to dwindle at local charities. And some complain that non-local companies are getting a free ride ― paying no local taxes or fees ― even while little or none of the proceeds from their collections benefit the local populace.

    Sadly, even bins that are well-kept and appear legit are sometimes not what they appear to be. Of particular concern to me are the nonprofit ‘Planet Aid’ ― with its yellow bins ― and the for-profit ‘USAgain,’ which has the green and white containers. Both companies have placed clothing donation bins in New York City, and both are active in dozens of states.

    1) Planet Aid has faced a storm of media criticism for some disturbing reasons. For starters, the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave Planet Aid an “F” grade after analyzing its 2012 tax form and audited financial statements, determining that Planet Aid spent only 27% of its expenses on programs.

    * “Planet Aid’s ‘Recycling’ Program, Debunked!” ― CharityWatch, 2013: http://tinyurl.com/po4x85m

    2) Worse, Danish prosecutors have linked Planet Aid to an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group. Five leaders of this group are Interpol fugitives wanted in their native Denmark in connection with a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme.

    3) As for USAgain, reports going back a decade suggest that the for-profit company, to quote one TV news investigation, “… routinely pretended to be a charity so business owners wouldn’t ask for rent on the bin space.”

    Danish authorities have also tied USAgain to the Tvind Teachers Group, although, like Planet Aid, none of its officers are wanted by Interpol. Both companies’ laborers and local managers are probably just regular folks trying to hold down a job. But a Seattle TV news investigation quoted a former USAgain branch manager who says she had been pressured to join the Teachers Group (TG), reportedly an elite group within the broader Tvind organization.

    Reports on Planet Aid:
    * “Kindness into Cash” ― WTTG News, Washington DC; 2009:
    Pt. 1: http://tinyurl.com/nbgax5n / Pt. 2: http://tinyurl.com/p4yg4dp
    (More info in video description boxes. Click on ‘Show more’ while on those pages.)

    Reports on USAgain:
    * “Millions In Clothing Donations Diverted From Charity” ― KIRO News, Seattle; 2009
    Pt. 1: http://tinyurl.com/cqlrt2q / Pt. 2: http://tinyurl.com/mo8o84u
    (See description box of the ‘Pt. 2’ video.)

    Thanks for the chance to express my opinions. Please research before you donate.


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