Wednesday 30 November 2022
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Those Clothing Donations Bins Might Be Scamming New Yorkers

Donation box with clothesBrightly colored clothing donation bins are littered around upstate New York, but a recent investigation by the state’s attorney general blows the lid off these charity scams.

Thrift Land USA of Yonkers Inc. has several clothing donation bins located around the state, with the names of charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters and I Love Our Youth plastered on the sides. In reality, however, the clothing that is donated via these bins isn’t used to support non-profits or help the needy, but rather sold at a profit. Thrift Land USA made more than $10 million selling clothing, shoes, and textiles deposited in their bins.

“Duping members of the public into thinking that they are making a charitable donation, when in fact they are enriching a for-profit corporation, is both deceptive and illegal,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement. “When a for-profit company masquerades as a charity, my office will hold it and its owners accountable.”

Thrift Land now has to pay a $700,000 fine for their clothing hustle. While the company paid charities a small fee for the use of their names, they operate as a for-profit company. According to non-profit watchdog organization CharityWatch, Thrift Land isn’t the only company running schemes like that in New York state.

Most New Yorkers are probably familiar with groups like Goodwill, which also solicit clothing donations and provide jobs to those in need. Goodwill was not implicated in the investigation, but other donation-based organizations were.

Companies and non-profits alike can make millions selling used textiles and clothing. T-shirts alone are a $2 billion market; moreover, nine out of 10 people say they own a T shirt they refuse to throw away because of sentimental attachments, which means there’s an ample supply of used clothing in Americans’ closets. Yet when these items of clothing are eventually donated, they don’t always support charities.

In Ithaca, the group Planet Aid has two yellow clothing bins accepting donations. And while the group is officially listed as an international non-profit, CharityWatch has accused the group of failing to support its own charitable mission.

“In 2013 Planet Aid brought in over $42 million from selling these [used] items,” CharityWatch reported in December 2014. “This proves that there is a ready market of buyers willing and able to pay large sums of money to purchase used clothing, shoes, and textiles like the ones Planet Aid collects. It is ridiculous for this charity to assert that items worth millions and millions of dollars would end up in a landfill if Planet Aid did not collect them.”