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Posts Tagged ‘corporations’

TOMS Shoes

I’ve been wearing TOMS for about a year and have had some issues with them.  They fall apart pretty easily–the soles wear out–though I’ll admit that I wear them a lot.    Sometimes on 30 minute walks to campus.  I wore the first pair I’d bought (I’m on the second) around New Mexico mountain trails.  My dog chewed the sides out of my first pair, which had already lost the rim of glue over the heels, but I bought another pair in corduroy and hoped it would be more sturdy.

The shoes, though cheap, are cute and simple and great for Florida weather, great for slipping on during the six or seven trips a day  I took down a flight of stairs to take the afore mentioned shoe-devouring dog out.  And I always thought the One for One model was impressive.

My friend just posted this critique of TOMS that has me thinking  (again!) about generosity.  Also about big businesses, Chinese manufacturing of American products, and the third world in need. Another friend (who is taking the crazy road trip and introduced me to Rachel Held Evans’s blog.  I wrote a post about this a while ago) told me she goes to church with the creator of TOMS and I thought–sure, makes sense that this dude would be a Christian.  Who else starts businesses like these?  Probably a lot of people, but it does seem like a Christiany idea.

After reading the critique, I’m thinking about the One for One model, and whether this critic is right to use the word “imperialism.”  She says the trips to the third world countries are imperialist because plane tickets to leave cost more than what the Americans are leaving behind.   Can that really be helped?  I mean, isn’t that more about the airline’s greediness?  Also, she says TOMS:

supports the belief that these people cannot make it on their own, so rather than helping them to develop a healthy economy, we should give them handouts – an imperialist concept if there ever was one.

Does handing out shoes or handing out anything to people need  always send a message that they can’t make it on their own?  I agree that it’s problematic that TOMS is putting local shoe sellers out of business, but these kids didn’t have shoes to begin with, right?  Isn’t this why we have TOMS in the first place?

I don’t expect any company that makes a ton of money, like TOMS makes a ton of money, to be that ethical.  I’m cynical about corporations and big businesses (thank you, The Corporation documentary).  I doubt TOMS creators really care that their shoes fall apart really easily, that they are selling a five dollar shoe for 50 dollars and making a helluva profit.   Every large company, as far as I know of, is making an enormous profit, but they aren’t using any of it to give “hand outs.”

Also, this Manufactured in China thing is more complicated than we give it credit for.  It’s generally terrible, but just because a person makes less than they need to live on in America doesn’t mean they make less they need to live on in Vietnam, Thailand, or China.  There are 104+ arguments about why corporations suck, but the pay rate is not always the worst one.  The critic throws this information out there, while a few paragraphs away she critiques TOMS for doing nothing about local economies.  I wonder what she would think if TOMS built a factory in one of these communities and hired people to boost the local economy.  Would that be imperialist?  Would that be bad for the environment, the people, especially the local shoemakers?  (I honestly don’t know.)

So, I’m still conflicted.  I’m certain TOMS isn’t a perfect company, but it seems better than most, right?

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