Dollar Parity Results In Piles Of Clothes Discarded By Canadian Shoppers

Canadians are heading to the U.S. to do their shopping—and are leaving their old clothes behind in order to avoid paying a duty when they cross back into Canada.

Some Canadian shoppers wear their new clothes home to avoid paying a duty when they cross back into Canada. The old clothes get left behind in parking lots, dressing rooms and restrooms at malls and shopping plazas in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region.

Malls are now setting up collection boxes so Canadians can donate their old clothes to charity rather than just throwing them away. Weird.

Mall Collects Clothes Tossed Away by Canadian Shoppers [WWTI via Fark]


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  1. darkened says:

    I always see prices on magazines that are like 3.99 American, 5.29 canadian, it’s like wow that sucks for you now.

  2. bustit22 says:

    Canadians…. throwing away the clothes Americans won’t.

  3. huadpe says:

    As a dual-resident, I don’t get this. Just take off the tags. As long as you don’t get pulled aside for a search AND have a ton of new clothes in there, you won’t be taxed.

    By the way, the limit for returning Canadians for a 2 day trip is $200, 7 day is $750.

  4. num1skeptic says:

    @bustit22: i refuse to throw away old clothes. i always tear them into rags for cleaning.

  5. HRHKingFriday says:

    @huadpe: Yeah, by that standard you could just pack an overnight bag full of a few sets of new clothes. Or just put on several layers under your jacket? Are they really going to strip search you at the border if you aren’t carrying booz/reefer?

  6. BlondeGrlz says:

    @HRHKingFriday: I’ve never even been stopped with booze.

  7. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Are Canadians really that hard up for clothes? Multiple threads here on The Consumerist confirm that this is pretty much one of the worst apparel seasons ever (for women, anyway)… do they really want our hideous trapeze tops that badly?

    Dear Canada,
    Please stop buying our fugly, poorly made clothes. We’re trying to teach the manufacturers a lesson and you’re not helping.
    XOXO, Imaginary Friend

  8. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Hey, if Canadians want to donate to our charities, who are we to complain? ;)

  9. num1skeptic says:

    why not just mail your clothes back, or do they go through your mail?

  10. wallspray says:

    This is not a new story. Its been happening for years. I grew up on the New York Canadian border. I worked at a store in the mall and we found clothes all the time. They would ask us if they could use our dressing rooms to change and get rid of their old clothes.

  11. wallspray says:


    because they just wear beat up clothes to go shopping and go home with new ones. Its not cost effective to mail the stuff back.

  12. num1skeptic says:

    @wallspray: no i mean mail all their new clothes back.

  13. killarclown says:

    @imaginary..we have the same clothes you buy but, nice or not, cost us twice as much here.. like R&R jeans or Chip n Pepper or any name brand.. everything costs more here in canada

    @num1skeptic.. yes, they check your mail

  14. num1skeptic says:

    if i mailed my g-ma(who lives in canada) a shirt for x-mas, does the same tax apply?

  15. godai says:

    I thought I read somewhere how alot of those charity clothing bins for charity, we sort of a scam?

    I.e. that the clothing got cleaned up and sold. Then a portion of the profit gets donated to charity.

    Am I just misremembering?

  16. num1skeptic says:

    @godai: probably not. i’ve never heard of anyone being able to go somewhere to get handed free donated clothes. you think that sort of thing would be heard of if it existed. i know on local news stations i hear where families can get help with food, but never heard, “all the clothes donated at the drop bins this year will be distributed to those who need it at this time and place”.

  17. cashmerewhore says:


    Customs will still open your packages. If tags are attached, they will charge duties. If they’re an asshole, they’ll estimate a value on NWOT items and still charge a duty.

  18. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @Killarclown: Thanks. I get your point.

  19. Zgeg says:

    Am I too late for the Canadian Tuxedo jokes?

  20. Gloria says:

    I’m not sure how strict customs are right now — they’re definitely getting pressure from retail councils — but if you’re going for a one-day trip, chances are they’ll guess it was for shopping and they’ll ask you why the hell you need an overnight bag packed with clothes.

    You need to stay over 48 hours (NOT including the day you left) to have a $400 exemption now. Anything less, I believe, gives you a paltry $50.

  21. IrisMR says:

    Why the heck are they even doing that? Canadian custom guys won’t even get off their fat asses to look in your car. Just lie and say you always had these.

  22. gmark2000 says:

    @HUADPE – The 48 hour limit is now C$400 per person since last April.

  23. calvinneal says:

    This has been going on for at least thirty years in the southeast Michigan/ southwest Ontario area. Most of the posted comments are irrelevant as they come from people who don’t live on the border. The fines are ridiculous if you get caught. They can even confiscate your automobile. Why chance the hassle for a few bucks? An FYI, most clothing donated are sold by the pound and turned into rags. St. Vincent DePaul and Salvation Army being the exceptions.

  24. I thought there was a free trade agreement, hence, no duties?

  25. marciepooh says:

    One of the thrift store in my town does give clothes away. I don’t know if it is only after a disaster (like one’s house burning down) or if you can apply to get free clothes every so often but they do give some clothes away. Also a thrift store my grandmother volunteered with for years did a similar thing. If a family needed clothes or someone moved into the affiliated shelter, they could get a certain number of outfits.

  26. peggynature says:

    @segfault: Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy. If only.

    I’ve paid for most of my possessions TWICE, thanks to Canada Customs, when I moved to Canada from the US and had a lot of my stuff (ie old clothes) shipped. Roughly $500 customs charges per package. Thank you, Canada Customs!

  27. Jfaltous says:

    @num1skeptic & cashmerewhore:
    It’s in fact worse than that… they have the right to open it and check the tags to charge tax, then they decide what the appropriate value for the item is and if its higher than the tag/declared value then they can charge you for the difference in value as the duties. It happens to me all the time. Most recent example is that I bought a Hookah from the US, paid $70 (declared) and got charged $60 taxes/duties. The explanation they gave me was that I was undercharged for the value of the item and the duties covered the difference to avoid certain possibilities of fraud.

  28. stephenjames716 says:

    dirty canadians. I am close to a mall where this happens and it’s half of the reason I don’t go. the other half is that the mall is a big cluster-f and gives me a headache just looking at it. there really should be a good will bin setup there in order for them to toss all their clothes into….and have it sent to charity.

  29. balthisar says:

    Why not just pay the duty and the GST and PST? It’s still cheaper, given the Canadian dollar.

    Look, the dollar imparity isn’t changing Canadians’ income levels, job opportunities, or anything of the sort. They still get paid what they got paid last year. Rents are basically the same, and the cost of goods are about the same, plus a little bit for inflation. Generally speaking, they’re used to paying for what the pay for, you know, just like we are.

    The swing in the dollar, though, gives them an awesome opportunity to save here. I understand; I used to do the same thing in Ontario. It used to be dirt cheap, even for “expensive” places. Tables are turned, and that’s good for them.

    What I don’t agree with though is all of the grumbling of reducing book/magazine prices and auto prices. Sure, maybe they’re right, but remember, they’re already used to all that. Deflation is not an economically desirable state for a country, and that’s what would happen.

    So, please feel free to buoy up Michigan’s faltering economy here! You’re more than welcome, and it’s time you had a little payback. But don’t destroy your own economy by asking for deflation!

  30. B1663R says:

    @segfault: Free trade only applies to stuff made in Mexico, Canada and the USA. all the clothes we all wear come from a sweatshop in China, Viet Nam, India, etc… hence free trade will not apply and you have to pay duty. (i just said duty hehe)

    and clothes are insanely cheap in the states, especially in PA. where you don’t pay taxes on clothes. a good example

    Levi’s jeans in canada $69.99 on sale. in the states, $29.00 or less at maceys in PA.

    it’s worth the drive to the Keystone state!!

  31. forgottenpassword says:


    Yeah I saw a investigative piece about that once. Seems a lot of those old clothes end up in africa.

    Ever wonder why you always see people in africa wearing nike branded shirts or have USA references on their clothing? That’s why.

    I always thought it was odd when i saw that …. until I found out why.

  32. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    It’s too bad they’re only leaving behind Canadian clothes.

    I’m guessing the average charity in Buffalo isn’t going to want those clothes any more than the malls do.

    (I kid. I kid.)

  33. On my last business trip down south (to Cali) I basically flew down with an empty suitcase, went shopping, removed the tags and flew back.

    Because I was down there for a week I was also allowed to bring back some booze, so I did that at Duty Free (so that Customs saw I actually DID bring something back, but stayed within the limit) and presto. I saved probably $400 on the clothes I would have bought here. A pair of jeans in the US $20, same pair up here in Vancouver $55.

    Shoes it is at times even worse. A pair of Converse? Here $55, down there (at a Converse “outlet” store) $19.99.

    It is with a bit of glee that I realized a while ago that companies who in the past had both prices on there (US and CAN) have started to remove the US pricing on their goods (right, as if we don’t remember how much you made on us before).

    2008 should be interesting for consumers in Canada.

    On a tangent, I am a bit torn over the higher prices here, on the one hand I think it does curb consumerism a bit (which isn’t really a bad idea), but at the same time on items like clothing I think the price should adjust….. Ah well.

  34. @godai: “I.e. that the clothing got cleaned up and sold. Then a portion of the profit gets donated to charity.”

    It depends on the charity. I typically drop with St. Vincent de Paul because they typically distribute locally, generally through homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

    Goodwill, just as another example, sells the clothes (as I’m sure you know) to support its charitable endeavors, which is a threefer: cheap clothes for the poor, job training for the unemployed, and other charitable endeavors can be funded. I’m okay with that. Stuff that’s too bad to sell that goes to Goodwill typically goes to the rag factory and Goodwill gets the cash. I’m okay with that too.

    Most drop bins have the name of the charity or sponsor on the bin, so you can easily find out where they re-donate the stuff.

    @forgottenpassword: “Ever wonder why you always see people in africa wearing nike branded shirts or have USA references on their clothing? That’s why.”

    A lot of that is also overruns or misprints that the manufacturers donate direct. Like you know how the winning team always has its T-shirts ready at the end of the superbowl or NCAA tourney? The losing team’s championship merch is on its way to Africa the next day!

  35. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    America is going to pot. Who would have thought that the US Dollar, weak against so many other currencies would succumb to the the CAD? I guess it makes sense when we can’t get jobs out of the US quick enough. Sub-prime worries are just the beginning. We’re in for a tough row ahead. We could use a new car, and could pay cash for one now, but are holding off as I know things are going to pot and desire cash reserves.

  36. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    Did I mention that the car we were looking at is made in Canada? :) Posted only for the amusement of my friends to the North…. and Canada is not where the US jobs are disappearing to.

  37. econobiker says:


    Alot of the clothing is processed for resale in Africa especially by “quasi” charities that place the bins- ie names that sound like charities or common organizations but are not And some of the totally unsold clothing items from Goodwill might end up in the same place after they are sold in bulk. I was at the local Goodwill outlet center and their guys were bagging shoes for bulk shipment somewhere…

    And you are right that this is why we see US based businesses or sports teams logos on people in Africa due to bailed up shipments of clothing. If you really want to find out how global trade has screwed a class of workers check into how this trade has decimated the local African seamstress trade. How can someone compete with locally sewn goods when the market is flooded with usually higher quality but far cheaper clothing?

  38. econobiker says:

    and yes there are Goodwill outlet centers if you can believe that…

  39. SaraAB87 says:

    I actually live in the area mentioned, this has been happening for 30 years here as another poster said, its really nothing new.

    I don’t see this as a huge problem here though, the real problem is the sheer amount of Tim Horton’s coffee cups and other coffee cups left in mall parking lots here. People are evidently too stupid to use a trash can.

  40. @SaraAB87: It’s actually a marketing campaign by Tim Horton’s ;)

  41. chartrule says:

    this is the website for Canada’s border guards


    this is the page on cross border shopping


  42. ahwannabe says:

    It’s times like this, the Great Head knows, that we wish we had not so many clothes.

  43. swalve says:

    I wonder what the actual math is on this? I bet it’s a false economy, especially when you consider transaction costs. And, you know, traveling to a different country for Levis.

  44. Parting says:

    @num1skeptic: When you mail a gift to Canada, every item worth less then 60$ is tax free. So you can send your family as many clothing as you want :)

  45. Parting says:

    @peggynature: You could have contested with appropriate documents. That’s easy, they tend to give a benefit of a doubt, unless the person that’s contesting acts as a total asshole.

    Unless you’ve sent your clothing with appropriate documents, it will get evaluated and taxed/”dutied” automatically. You can still get a reimbursment (in 4-8 weeks ;)

  46. XTC46 says:

    @godai: a charity I worked for had those bins, they sold all the clothes to a company by the pound who then cleaned and resold them.

  47. Bruce says:

    Well,look on the bright side. We should be thankful that they are not trying to pay for everything they want to buy with Canadian Tire Money.

  48. Skiffer says:

    Who knew Canadia’s conservative fiscal policy of maple leaves and syrup would ultimately pay off?

  49. lincolnparadox says:

    Well, at least Niagara Falls is benefiting from the devalued buck. Niagara Falls was turning into a pit for the past decade.

    Granted, I’ll bet Main Street still looks like Sarajevo in the late 90s.

    Please, visit Niagara Falls. We have a giant Mall and a Seneca Casino.

    Oh, and the 8th wonder of the world too.

  50. @Skiffer: Canada has for years had a surplus every year, not necessarily though paid for in a good way. Public Services have been cut instead of improved and huge investments in infrastructure are coming up.

    The fact that the Conservatives are lowering the GST another percentage point on January 1st is nice, but at the same time I am worried what woudl happen if suddenly the oil revenue goes *boom*

  51. vastrightwing says:

    * Cross the border in old worn out clothes.
    * Bring an iron to remove new creases in clothes.
    * Bring suitcases packed with some old clothes
    * Shop in America
    Before returning to Canada
    * Remove and discard all tags.
    * Remove all cardboard and plastic packaging
    * Unfold clothes and iron packing creases out
    * Pack old clothes with some new clothes
    * Wear as many new clothes as you can.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Dear Imaginary friend,
    The clothes you get, are the same clothes we get (for the most part).. but now, they are cheaper down there. It has nothing to do with ‘your’ clothing.

    Your Canadian Friend