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Customer 'fuming' after big-box store refuses to let her rescue discarded item from dumpster: 'It's alive'

Casually throwing away products drives up prices on a store's remaining stock.

Casually throwing away products drives up prices on a store's remaining stock.

Photo Credit: TikTok

For many large stores, old or damaged products are written off as a business expense. They're thrown away, and the lost profit is accounted for by raising prices on other items. One shopper was appalled when she was not allowed to rescue a live plant from the dumpster — even when she tried to pay.

What's happening?

TikToker Chantel (@channygrayhome) recently shared a video of her attempt to salvage a plant being thrown away at a big-box store's garden center.


♬ original sound - ChannyGrayHome

The video starts with Chantel selecting a Phalaenopsis orchid from a dumpster full of potted plants of all kinds. The orchid has lost its blossoms, but the plant itself looks healthy, if a bit battered.

At the register, though, Chantel runs into trouble.

"I found this in the dumpster back there," she says.

"If it's in the dumpster, I can't sell it," the cashier replies.

"But can I just take it?" she asks.

"No," says a second employee. "Once it's in the dumpster it has to stay there."

"It's alive!" Chantel protests, with a nervous laugh. "It's like a waste of a plant."

Although Chantel stays polite during the interaction, she expresses her frustration in the car afterward. "I'm, like, fuming. Those orchids — that was not the only one in that dumpster. … That orchid was perfectly healthy, it had just lost its blooms."

Why is a discarded orchid important?

Casually throwing away products drives up prices on a store's remaining stock. When stores throw away a lot of items, every customer suffers.

Also, orchids are notoriously finicky, so each one in a garden store represents a major investment of labor, water, and electricity. When they're just thrown away and replaced with more, that increases pressure on our environmental resources.

Finally, throwing away plants in their pots with ordinary trash means they're taking up an unnecessarily large space in a landfill.

Why would the company do this?

Chantel acknowledges that an orchid without its flowers is less attractive to a buyer. "Like, I understand," she says. "Is that going to sell when it doesn't have the flowers? Probably not, like from a store perspective. But why not let me take it?"

It's possible that there was something else wrong with the plant that wasn't immediately obvious to Chantel, like being infested with pests or fungus.

Still, it's common for stores to throw out perfectly good items to make room for products more likely to sell. Home Depot and many other stores do the same.

What else could this store do with the plants?

One option is to offer plants like this one on clearance to buyers who want to take the trouble to revive them. One Lowe's shopper did that with a $1 African violet in just a few months.

Another option is to turn the plants and potting soil into compost. This would dramatically reduce the amount of trash being sent to the landfill and provide fertilizer for growing plants and food.

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