On this day, Wednesday January 6th 2010, it is cold outside. Everywhere. Even in South Florida it’s in the low 40s. With that said, this city, famous for its thousands of homeless residents, is in the midst of a deep freeze. So why are H&M and Wal-Mart not only tossing unsold coats and other clothing items into the trash, but also destroying them before tossing them out so that they’re unusable by people who might go rummaging through the trash out of desperation for a few pieces of warm clothing?

A story in today’s New York Times details the ridiculous actions by the H&M store in Herald Square and a Wal-Mart distribution center in the same area after a student named Cynthia Magnus alerted the paper to the practice. There are news stories that you read that piss you off for one reason or another. There are other news stories that make you so beet-red with anger that you feel compelled to take someone by the collar and shake the hell out of them in frustration. This is one of those stories:

It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly.

A few doors down on 35th Street, hundreds of garments tagged for sale in Wal-Mart — hoodies and T-shirts and pants — were discovered in trash bags the week before Christmas, apparently dumped by a contractor for Wal-Mart that has space on the block.

Each piece of clothing had holes punched through it by a machine.

They were found by Cynthia Magnus, who attends classes at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on Fifth Avenue and noticed the piles of discarded clothing as she walked to the subway station in Herald Square. She was aghast at the waste, and dragged some of the bags home to Brooklyn, hoping that someone would be willing to take on the job of patching the clothes and making them wearable.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said the company normally donates all its unworn goods to charities, and would have to investigate why the items found on 35th Street were discarded.

During her walks down 35th Street, Ms. Magnus said, it is more common to find destroyed clothing in the H & M trash. On Dec. 7, during an early cold snap, she said, she saw about 20 bags filled with H & M clothing that had been cut up.

“Gloves with the fingers cut off,” Ms. Magnus said, reciting the inventory of ruined items. “Warm socks. Cute patent leather Mary Jane school shoes, maybe for fourth graders, with the instep cut up with a scissor. Men’s jackets, slashed across the body and the arms. The puffy fiber fill was coming out in big white cotton balls.” The jackets were tagged $59, $79 and $129.

This week, a manager in the H & M store on 34th Street said inquiries about its disposal practices had to be made to its United States headquarters. However, various officials did not respond to 10 inquiries made Tuesday by phone and e-mail.

Just fucking sad.