- TikToker Sophia Schiaroli stumbled upon a pile of slashed Vans outside the brand’s Philadelphia store.
- In a viral video, Schiaroli slammed the brand for not donating the seemingly unworn merchandise.
- Vans said the shoes were “unsafe to donate,” but that it is “revisiting” protocols to ensure proper recycling.
A Philadelphia-based TikToker was walking to her workout class early Tuesday morning when she stumbled upon a man taking Vans shoes out of boxes and piling them in front of its Walnut Street store door.
Sophia Schiaroli, 24, then asked the man what was going on. According to Schiaroli, he told her that Vans had trashed boxes of seemingly brand-new shoes on the sidewalk, and, rather than donating them, they were each cut up to be rendered unwearable.
Schiaroli, who posts lifestyle and queer-focused content about life in Philadephia, instantly shared his indignation.
“What he was really trying to do was put these shoes in front of the door of the store to make a statement,” she said, estimating there were roughly 40 to 50 pairs in the pile.
Schiaroli asked if she could take a picture for her roughly 80,000 combined followers on TikTok and Instagram. “Right when I saw it, I was like, ‘Wow, I am bringing this to light and I’m exposing this because this is absolutely unacceptable,'” she told Insider.
In her video, Schiaroli calls the disposal “absolutely disgusting” given the homeless population in Philadelphia (though she noted later in the day that the pile appeared to have been cleaned up). The clip garnered 2.5 million views on TikTok – and a response from Vans corporate.
In a comment under her nearly identical Instagram post, the company said it prioritizes donating its “useable products,” but these depicted shoes were apparently unfit to donate.
“Vans will always prioritize the donation of useable products to those in need,” the company wrote. “After investigating the situation at our Walnut St. location, we have confirmed that these products were deemed unsafe to donate. That said, we are actively revisiting our retail protocols to ensure that products are properly recycled.”
Vans did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, inquiring why the shoes were unsafe or what recycling protocols it’s revisiting.
In a follow-up video shared on Thursday, Schiaroli shared speculation from commenters on her original video that the shoes had been deemed unsafe due to mold. She said she was also sent a Reddit thread from 2015 about the same issue at the same exact store, suggesting it had been an ongoing conversation.
Schiaroli told Insider she ultimately felt the company’s statement wasn’t “comprehensive enough,” leaving her with more questions than answers. But she doesn’t want viewers to throttle their anger toward store employees. Rather, she hopes the incident will draw attention to the pervasive issue of corporate waste.
“People in the comments are saying, Coach does this, Bath & Body Works does this, Urban Outfitters does this,” she said. “What is making all of these retailers unsuitable for donation? It is bringing to light a much bigger issue.”
Environmentalists have been harnessing the reach and virality of TikTok to continue to amplify these issues. Last month, TikToker Anna Sacks discovered heaps of unused Starbucks food and cups in trash bags on the street in New York City amid the relocation of one of its cafes. At the time, Starbucks told Insider these items were also deemed unsafe to either transfer or donate.