What happens to all this STUFF?
October 18, 2012 4:23 PM   Subscribe

What happens to surplus goods?

This article and others like it makes me think about what happens to the stuff that is completely without a buyer. Like pens that say "President Mondale" or the Clackers. I know things get sold at dollar stores or closeout places like National Wholesale Liquidators, but what about stuff that just do not sell and there are millions left? Does it get donated to a school in Sri Lanka? Does it get completely dismantled and all the components recycled?

Forgive my ignorance.
posted by Yellow to Shopping (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Relevant to your interests.

So, part of the answer appears to be that we dump it on developing countries.
posted by zjacreman at 4:30 PM on October 18, 2012

It depends. At the department store I worked at years ago, clothing that had been returned was cut up and put in the garbage (cut up, I presume, so there would be no incentive for someone to buy something, return it, and then pull it out of the trash later).
posted by zippy at 4:54 PM on October 18, 2012

Sometimes items are useful, but only as replacement parts for things which have not broken down yet, or for nostalgia. In that case it is worth sticking them in a warehouse to be sold later as new old stock.
posted by Phssthpok at 5:19 PM on October 18, 2012

Those little pocket paperbacks? Romance novels? Sci-Fi? Those little books get the covers ripped off and, if you're lucky, thrown into the recycling bin. Mostly they just get dumpstered. Excuse me, I mean remaindered.
posted by carsonb at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2012

Response by poster: I see. I like the idea of people who need it getting it for free. I don't like the thought of piles of garbage made up of things that are brand new.
posted by Yellow at 6:15 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

@ zippy: that's awful. I hope in most places, returned clothes get resold. Hell, I buy most of my clothes used anyway.
posted by fullerenedream at 10:17 PM on October 18, 2012

The problem with returned clothes is that they're not all being returned for style/size reasons: some of its defective (torn, ripped, missing buttons, broken zippers) and sometimes stuff is trashed for sanitary reasons. Heck, I've seen jerks return USED UNDERWEAR..... ick. And, of course, there are people who thinks it's fine to buy a party dress then return it complete with underarm sweat stains and spills from dinner, or buy something like a fondue set then return it obviously used with food stuck to it.

I suspect that most of the stuff like 'President Mondale' pens is simply trashed. That's where a manufacturer needs a good sense of supply & demand: while they certainly want to sell every single widget they can, they also need to make sure they don't OVER-manufacture and flood the market. Think about fads --- like, oh, those Pet Rocks from back in the 1970s. On the one hand, yes you want to get as many into the stores and sold as you possibly can, but you also don't want to get stuck with paying to make stuff that will be unsold (and returned to you by the stores for a refund!) when the fad collapses. There's a certain amount of wastage expected and budgeted for, but you certainly want to limit that.
posted by easily confused at 2:08 AM on October 19, 2012

...what about stuff that just do not sell and there are millions left?

Sometimes it gets buried in the desert.
posted by TedW at 7:18 AM on October 19, 2012

There was an article in the Boston Globe within the last few years. Can't find it, argh. The writer visited somewhere in South America (perhaps Mexico), and was perplexed by some people wearing shirts that said "Patriots, the XLII(?) Superbowl Champions." Since the Patriots lost, the shirts were shipped down south. The tone of the article was disgust over how materialistic U.S. society is, we create these things we don't need and then force them on our third world brethren.
posted by Melismata at 8:17 AM on October 19, 2012

Argh. Or, what zjacreman said.
posted by Melismata at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2012

It's also common for grocery stores *cough* WF *cough* to throw out damaged produce and then lock the trash bins. Because if they didn't, people wouldn't have an incentive to pay for the undamaged produce. But they also donate regularly to food kitchens, so whatever.
posted by Melismata at 8:24 AM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of the great answers. It didn't provide any comfort that we waste so much!
posted by Yellow at 4:00 AM on November 19, 2012

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