Sunday, November 18, 2012

This is not a charity's drop box


To be fair, the drop box that sits next to Bert's Red Apple on 41st Avenue E. has a notice right on the front which reads: "USAgain is a for profit clothes collection company. Deposits are not tax deductable [sic]."  Yet this for-profit company (USAgain, that is, not Bert's) has been accused of misleading unsuspecting (and, apparently, un-reading) donors who don't realize that their dropped-off used clothes, phones and shoes are simply being sold and the proceeds going to enrich the company's owner.

We were unaware of the controversy surrounding USAgain until a reader asked us to investigate why Bert's allows access to its property for the purpose of a non-charitable drop box. Our reader directed us to a November 2009 KIRO-TV investigation into USAgain: "Millions in Clothing Donations Diverted from Charity" (the story can be found here).  As the station concluded, "In reality, USAgain sells the majority of your toys, sweatshirts, shoes and bundles of blankets, to international used clothing brokers in Russia, South America and Africa. It might get to a needy person, but they'll likely have to pay for it."

We asked Bert's about the situation and got the response that the store is well aware that USAgain is a for-profit company and that there hasn't been a single complaint about Bert's providing space for the drop box.  We were told, rather indirectly, that if there were to be complaints the store might revisit the issue.

It appears that USAgain may have cleaned up its public relations act since the two-year-old KIRO report.  The company's website (www.usagain.com) presents the organization as an environmental recycler that partners with communities and charities to re-use items that might otherwise end up in a landfill or worse:  "By putting them [used clothes] back in the use cycle we conserve precious natural resources, prevent greenhouse gas emissions and save landfill space. What's more, the clothes are given a second life at affordable prices for people who can't afford brand new clothes. It's a win-win-win proposition."

Maybe so, but there are charitable alternatives to giving used clothing to a non-charity such as USAgain (The Northwest Center, for example). When it comes to getting rid of your old stuff, the Bert's drop box offers Madison Parkers a clearcut case of caveat lector (let the reader beware).

That would be you.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks, Bryan -- good to know! Much rather support Northwest Center or Goodwill, etc.

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  2. There is another of these boxes on the property of the Shell station at E Madion & Lake Washington Blvd

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  3. Appreciate your follow up on this. I need recommendations of agencies that I can donate to for a lot of items.

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  4. Bryan:

    Your article clearly explains that this drop box company is IN NO WAY hoodwinking the good folks of Madison Park and yet you still tell them to "beware". This is just another option to dispose of unwanted goods. You can drive to Goodwill/Value Village/consignment store, you can wait for the Blind/Northwest Center to come pick things up or you can put things in the drop box. It sounds as though all the items are reused and they are upfront about it on their website and the drop box itself. You seem to have an agenda here....A better Latin quote might be: lego quod vos mos perceptum = read and you will learn

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    1. Good comeback. My Latin is limited. You've provided a much better quote, one which is more in line with my "agenda" of making sure that readers know what's the story here.

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  5. I find it funny they present it as a win-win-win situation. Yeah, except for the part that your can't get a tax deduction for your donations, unlike at Goodwill. I suspect this company will be sued out of existence at some point when someone tries to take a deduction for a donation, it is disallowed, and sues the company for inadequate labeling on their boxes.

    BTW, any potential "donors" should also note the connection between USAgain and Tvind, a Danish cult that has been charged with tax evasion and fraud.

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  6. Wouldn't this be a good place to put the clothes that are too badley ripped and stained to be donated to places like NWCenter? Or do these guys just put those in the landfill?

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  7. Even if they threw out the ripped and stained clothes, at least it would cost these criminals money to process them.

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  8. Do you put your mail in the FedEx box because it's big, metal, has times printed on it, and is located near the curb?

    The thing says right on it that the business is "for profit" and donations are not tax deductible. If you have been duped by the large, stationary, inanimate object, you have no one to blame but yourself.

    Bryan, thanks for telling people to watch what the heck they are doing when out in public. Always good advice.

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  9. Re-using of used materials IS a win-win. If that which would be thrown in the landfill can be used again, for profit, or not, it is a good thing.

    It's no different than a building salvage, or computer re-seller business.

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