Toms hurts more than heels


Photo by Rachel Larson.

When I was in fourth grade, TOMS were the fad. Everyone had them, even though they were $60. And now there is TOMS eyewear, TOMS bags, even TOMS coffee. They were fashionable, comfortable and the icing on the cake was that when you bought them the company gave another pair to a child in poverty.

But that One for One idea doesn’t actually help anyone. First off, there is no one named Tom. The creator of TOMS is someone named Blake Mycoskie. Before TOMS got started he appeared on reality TV shows like “The Amazing Race and Survivor”, and was an entrepreneur.

Then, Mycoskie went on a trip to Argentina. He saw first hand what poverty looked like and the affects of not having shoes.

“[My trip] dramatically heightened my awareness,”  Mycoskie said in a interview with Business Insider “ I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections.”

So Mycoskie started TOMS. And yes, Mycoskie’s company does give shoes to children in need. And yes, Mycoskie really wants to help these children, but the company does more damage than good for these countries.

Most of the places that these shoes are going to need more dire things like medicine, clean water, clothing and food. Yeah sure, stylish shoes are great, but that’s not the big problem. How can you expect a kid to be happy about getting a new pair of shoes when they are dieing of starvation? The money that is raised making these shoes could do much greater good in helping get the kids food and water.

Second off, the shoes are of such poor quality that they break in just months. These shoes are basicly paper and fabric. In the harsh conditions that these kids live in, TOMS don’t offer a lot of protection.

Third off, the model of One for One puts people in these countries out of business. The cobblers and shoemakers in the villages that are receiving TOMS now have no income; they can’t support their family. One study in 2008 showed that free clothing donations to Africa dropped employment in clothing manufacturing down to half of what it was. It’s like that saying: give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. But if some rich company comes in and starts selling fish for half the price and quality, then that fisherman is going to go out of business.

Lastly, TOMS is a for-profit company. There is nothing wrong with earning money, that is the purpose of a business after all, but when $50 of your money is going straight into the company’s pocket, don’t you think that just donating to the Red Cross would be far more effective? An article by Why Dev illustrates how using the money used to buy Toms to instead buy and build latrines in impoverished areas would be a far better, and longer lasting alternative to stop foot infections; not to mention how many other diseases that would stop that a pair of shoes could not.

I have nothing against a cute pair of TOMS or Mycoskie’s kindness towards impoverished children. I truly do believe that the company thinkings it is helping people, but it’s effects are only temporary and the economic havoc it brings is long term.