The problem with TOMS shoes & its critics


2013 Update: TOMS has taken many of the questions I and others have posed very seriously and are rethinking their model. They are opening a “responsible and sustainable” shoe factory in Haiti to provide opportunities/job to Haitians. They also plan on manufacturing their “giving shoes” in the countries where they are given.

These are very positive moves in the right direction. Kudos to TOMS. And kudos to all of the brave souls willing to speak out about how the TOMS brand could be used to make a real and lasting impact on our world.

More information here:

READ MY 2012 UPDATE: 3 Things Criticizing TOMS Shoes Taught Me

“Can anyone think of a brand that will talk about the workers who make their products and seeks to make a positive impact on the workers’ lives?”

I often ask this question when I talk to students across the country. The students look around the room before finally someone raises their hand, and, even though I’ve told them 10 times already that there is no need to raise your hand, they’ll say…

“Um…TOMS shoes?”

Most students have heard of TOMS shoes and their Buy One Give One (BOGO) model — when you buy a pair of shoes they give a pair to some poor kid in some far corner of the world who doesn’t have shoes.

Usually a few pair of students are wearing TOMS and they slowly begin to nod like they are contestants on Family Feud and grandpa just gave a good answer.

“Okay…” I say. “Where were your TOMS made?”

This is when things get a little socially awkward. Many folks who wear TOMS do so without socks. Studies show that someone wearing TOMS is 10 times more likely to have stinky feet.

Reluctantly the student slips off her shoe and searches for a tag.

“China,” she says, as the students sitting nearby pass out onto the floor. “They…were…made…in…China.”

That’s when the reality of TOMS begins to sink in. See, for the past 40 minutes I’ve been talking about garment workers around the world who I met on my Where Am I Wearing? adventure, including the couple in China that made my TEVA flip-flops. They work 100 hours per week, have to clock-out and return to work, and haven’t seen their son who lives in their faraway home village in three years.

Then we have the give a man a fish or teach a man to fish discussion, which I undoubtedly flub up and say, “It really comes down to the give a fish or teach a fish discussion.” (And really, if we could teach fish to jump in the boat isn’t that the best solution?) Then I have to get the analogy back on track and bring it home with the example of the Ethiopian shoe company, SoleRebels.

Impact of a job > impact of a free pair of shoes

SoleRebels employs around 100 workers. They pay three times the typical wage in Ethiopia. The company covers healthcare costs and sends the workers’ kids to school. It’s a universal truth that garment workers and shoemakers don’t want their kids to grow up to be garment workers and an education can ensure that.

The young Ethiopian woman who founded SoleRebels, Bethlehem Tilahun and I discussed TOMS.

“If you give a kid shoes,” she told me, “they wear out or they grow out of them, and then what do they have? If you give the kid’s parents a job, the whole family will always have shoes.”

Yes, someone giving you a pair of shoes would sure be nice if you didn’t have a pair. But a job that allows parents to send their kids to school could change your family tree forever.

Let’s say that every worker at SoleRebels has five kids (the fertility rate of Ethiopia). The workers send all five kids to school and since they have an education they don’t grow up to be shoemakers. They do something that pays better and they send their five kids to school. A job, a good job, has an exponential impact. Within a few generations the 100 jobs at SoleRebels have impacted tens of thousands of people. Within six generations, the jobs have impacted millions. Now imagine if SoleRebels sold as many shoes as TOMS. This isn’t just life-changing stuff, this is possibly country-changing, poverty-fighting stuff.

Shoelessness is a symptom of poverty

I met Blake Mycoskie the president of TOMS shoes last year and had the opportunity to hear his story. It’s an amazing story. He was in Argentina playing polo (I had a little trouble relating to the polo piece of the story) and accompanied a group of foreigners who were dropping off used shoes to a village. The experience changed Blake. He couldn’t believe that something like a pair of shoes could mean so much. Barefoot kids in this village weren’t allowed to go to school. Blake wanted to do something. He got with some local shoemakers in Argentina and had them make a few hundred pairs, which he hauled back on the plane to LA. He went store-to-store trying to sell them along with his BOGO model. A store picked them up, the LA Times did a story, and then the whole TOMS phenomenon exploded. Nordstroms was calling him up trying to place an order for thousands of pairs and Blake had to tell them that all he had was one duffle bag worth of shoes under his bed.

TOMS is a business that has become a movement, so much that it’s the first thought that blips into a student’s mind when talking about socially conscious purchases.

I don’t have a problem with TOMS, in fact, I believe they are more socially conscious than many of the shoe brands out there (that’s not saying much). They reach students and get them thinking about people in our world who can’t afford the luxury of a pair of shoes. If every person who slips on a pair of TOMS stops for a moment and thinks about that level of poverty, it can only lead to good things.

The One Day Without Shoes Movement promoted by TOMS took place yesterday. All around the country folks were walking around barefoot in solidarity with folks who well, are barefoot. Here’s a hilarious post about a fella doing it in New York. But the criticism of the movement from the “Hand-outs are bad aid” folks are valid and you can read them on my new favorite blog, Good Intentions Are Not Enough. The problem isn’t that people don’t have shoes. It’s that they don’t have the means to buy shoes.

The problem isn’t shoelessness. The problem is poverty.

A takeaway from the One Day Without Shoes movement of, “we need to give shoes to these poor shoeless people,” isn’t useful. But getting more people to think about poverty on this level is important and I think that’s something that the TOMS critics miss. I always say step #1 is getting people to give a shit.

However, I do wish that TOMS would not just give shoes on the back end, but give quality jobs on the front end. Then impact of TOMS, unlike like a pair of shoes, wouldn’t wear out.

Gary HYslop says:

Another great, thought-provoking post, Kelsey!

toms shoes says:

This brand shows the power of giving and it is a good enterprise in my mind.

Hovermale says:

I agree. All the people on here that “changed their mind about TOMS” are going to go buy a pair of shoes that don’t give ANYTHING back. People try to make things look bad for no reason. What’s the point of doing that? I think it’s because they have too much time on their hands. TOMS trys to give back as much as possible. Why can’t people respect that? It’s because they’re all first world people who want to sound like they know so much more, are so much better, and try to make themselves feel better by “trying to uproot the truth.” You people can say anything you want. I’m still buying TOMS

SampsonRonaldo says:

I don’t think the point of the article is to say “TOMS are bad.” The author even says that TOMS are better than the next name brand product on the market. The article is just trying to get people thinking about ended poverty itself, instead of just giving impoverished people the goods they need. Its about giving them the self-sustainability instead of hand-outs. “The problem isn’t that people don’t have shoes. It’s that they don’t have the means to buy shoes.”
It’s not to say that helping people is a bad thing, just that there are other, more future-conscious ways to help people.

R.D. says:

The article seems to say that giving a pair of shoes to a person in need is simply not enough. While no one will argue that there is a bigger picture to simply being shoeless, I argue that providing shoes to the shoeless (in Blake Mycoskie’s case-Argentinian children)served an immediate need and allowed children to attend school right away. Problems such as unemployment/poverty take time to solve and requires assistance from the community and often the government. Toms shoes may not be solving all the problems associated with poverty but there is value in solving symptoms of poverty much in the same way there is value in providing homes (temporary or otherwise)to the homeless.

Michael Frost says:

the contention is made that toms tries to give back ‘as much as possible’ when in fact it is simply another company actaully using poverty in foreign countries as a vehicle for their product, they aren’t making these overpriced shoes for the benefit of anyone other than their stockholders. as is described in this article the problem with charitable profit motivated companies is they look at the problem and try to solve it without paying attention to the impact their generosity has one the environment these people live in. Think for instance, when you purchase a shoe from these people you pay between 80-160$ USD, if they gave even 20$ towards the communities of the people who need these shoes then local businesses would be able to make the shoes and help stabilize the areas so affected by poverty, the problem with tom’s shoes is the cost of the shoe to produce is many times lower than the cost you pay at the store and the shoes that are sent to those without cost even less to make. TOMS Shoes appears to help out those suffering in poverty, but in fact, by using these kinds of business practices, it encourages those that would normally not purchase the product they are being charitable because they think are giving to the impoverished, instead of donating to causes that actually help rebuild schools, and roads, and infrastructure so those in these countries can sustain themselves. We live in a social community of people whom if all of us had equal footing and equal access to sustainable industry would greatly benefit everyone involved. Companies like TOMS, don’t want impoverished areas to get better, it destroys their message and customer base.

Ariel says:

Great post! Really sums up all sides of the issue.

bob says:

this is eyeopening stuff. I do agree that making folks aware is value in itself, but the SoleRebel business model is very interesting.

Taylor says:

If you would look at the actual facts of what happens when they are made, not just where, you would see the truth. TOMS uses multiple countries to make their shoes. The fact is, TOMS has factories in the same countries they give their shoes. Like Ethiopa. Here’s a thought, even the same factory with the same workers paid the same amount as SoleRebels. The reasoning for this is so they CAN provide jobs in the countries they serve. Not every shoe is made in China. The model of giving is one that is sustainable. The goal is to continue to give shoes to the same kids as they grow. Yes poverty is the main issue, but a guy can’t solve the world’s poverty issues, so why not do what he can to help those stuck in poverty. I would suggest learning all the facts about a company before writing a blog about them. It only shows ignorance.

Taylor, thanks so much for chiming in. I think it’s important up front that we establish that you work for TOMS (I Googled your name), which makes it extra cool that you are chiming in.

I don’t want to or mean to be a TOMS basher. I think you can agree that this post is a lot more balanced than a lot of your critics. I didn’t get into the whole gifts are bad aid discussion. I believe that TOMS does create awareness and gives folks an opportunity to connect with people who live much different lives than themselves.

That said, I would be more than happy to take a look at the facts, if you could point me to them. I checked the TOMS site and at the bottom of the very long FAQ page, I found this:

Where are TOMS manufactured?

TOMS currently manufactures in Argentina (Giving shoes only), China, and Ethiopia (Giving shoes only).

How does TOMS ensure its manufacturers adhere to human rights standards?

We require that the factories operate under sound labor conditions, pay fair wages and follow local labor standards. A code of conduct is signed by all factories. Our production staff routinely visits these factories to make sure they are maintaining these working standards. We also have third parties audit the factories at least once a year to ensure they adhere to proper labor regulations.

That doesn’t exactly refute my arguments in this post. The truth is facts are hard to come by in the shoe business. I’ve visited the factories of Deckers (Simple, Tevas, UGGS) and I’ve seen how difficult it is for companies to adhere to their own ethical standards. As for Intertek, they seem to focus more on quality of shoes than quality of the workers’ lives.

If someone at TOMS would agree to answer my questions, I would be more than happy to begin a discussion. Heck, I would be thrilled to visit the factories and give you the opportunity to prove me wrong. I’ll write an article for a nice big glossy magazine and call it “The Truth About TOMS” and you can put all of your critics to rest. What do you say?

I would love to see TOMS lead the way on the sourcing issue. Check out Patagonia’s footprint Chronicles. How awesome would it be if TOMS started to share the story of the workers making the shoes in addition to the people they are handing them out to?

My offer stands, give me access and I’ll give you the chance to shut up your critics. I think you’ll find that I have a history of giving folks a fair shake. As you consider this know that I will ask questions like: What percent of your shoes are made in China? And then I’ll want to visit the factories on my own and talk with the workers.

If you’re game, I’m game.

Again, thanks for the comments and I hope this is the beginning of an enlightening, fact-filled discussion.

Tom Murphy says:


I think it is great that you have posted. To start, I want to echo what Kelsey said in terms of disclosure. In the future, I suggest saying that you are in employee speaking for yourself or something like that. The fact that you work for TOMS is something you should say because it shows the level of dedication you have to the organization.

I would like to add a question/thought or two if I may. Even with the two factories, is this the best possible solution? Does TOMS have data on the impact the factories have had on communities? What is TOMS doing to ensure that they do not have to provide free shoes in communities in the future? Has TOMS done a local assessment of the places where it provides shoes and measured the impact of the shoes after they have been provided? Is giving shoes a cost effective way to improve health compared to other interventions? Beyond happiness (which should not be taken lightly or easily dismissed) what is the measured impact of giving away shoes? Do you have information about how your shoe giving does not have a negative impact on local textiles and business? Finally, and most importantly, what does success look like for TOMS?

Yes, it is easy to be critical, I recognize that, but I believe that TOMS should be answering the questions that I have posed as well as Kelsey’s and many more that we have not come up with in this space. I would gladly admit if I am wrong about TOMS, but the data provided so far has been insufficient.

We know that TOMS makes the recipients happy and people feel good for buying them, there is a valuable in that, but development will take place when the root of poverty is addressed. TOMS has not shown, to me, how they are doing that.

Vivek Nemana says:


I’m with Tom and Kelsey here in saying, thanks for writing.

I realize that TOMS makes its shoes in countries like Argentina and Ethiopia (and truth be told I think we should also add China to the list), creating jobs there under fair conditions. And I get that Blake isn’t out there trying to save the world but rather help some people in a way he can, which makes sense.

But I still don’t understand why, when TOMS is marketed above all as a company dedicated to doing sustainable good, you don’t simply use the money that would otherwise be spent on producing the second shoe to buy shoes locally. Yes, you have factories in three different countries, but you give your shoes out in so many more countries than that. I understand that children need shoes now and cannot go to school without them and risk hookworm, but that still doesn’t explain to me why you guys don’t buy local. And in the grand scheme of things imported donations clearly have a detrimental effect. Used clothing imports caused 50% of the increase in African unemployment between 1981 and 2000 (h/t:

In short, I haven’t seen a good explanation of WHY TOMS does the BOGO model, despite the countless criticisms that have been made to point this out.

Vivek Nemana says:

Sorry, that published too soon.

I also wanted to know if doing BOGO instead of buying locally had anything to do with a belief that this idea simply wouldn’t be as marketable. When I spoke with members of the TOMS club at NYU, they pointed out that they liked TOMS because half of what they spent was going directly to those recipients, instead of just ‘a small share of proceeds’ like some other companies did.

I just feel that TOMS should be more open about its reasoning, more responsive to criticism, and certainly as Tom points out more analytical about the effects its policies have. And even though TOMS is for-profit (which isn’t what most of us are criticizing, as far as I am aware), I think it is irresponsible for the company to market itself as a change-maker and not be more careful — at least publicly — about the long-term effects of its policies.

Obviously that’s an editorialized statement, and I’d really, really like to hear responses from TOMS. But I’ve sent them half a dozen requests for interviews and have only ever received a single PR statement in response.

Thanks much,
Vivek Nemana

Ben says:

I will say up front that I worked as a volunteer for TOMS in Ethiopia. But I do not work for the company and I make these comments as an individual who has a general interest in CSR. A few questions to consider:

How much to purchase a shoe created by SoleRebel? Are they affordable for the general population in and outside of Addis? (I have no idea)

The economic impact of TOMS generated by the production in country? (% of business TOMS makes up for the manufacturer, additional labor needed to fill those orders, drivers for delivery, day workers for distribution, etc…)

In Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, it should be noted that TOMS is focusing giving on youth at a high risk for contracting Podoconiosis (non-filarial elephantiasis occurring below the knee.) The disease can be prevented by wearing shoes and engaging in proper foot hygiene. TOMS is coupling the giving with educational awareness pieces. For this giving it is important that the shoes by similar to those worn by the general population in these areas, as the disease carries a great deal of stigma. The marginalization of afflicted individuals and families causes economic loss as well. I mention this to note that health factors are a root cause of poverty, and so the addressing of this issue is responsible on a number of levels. I would note the other benefits that wearing shoes provide, but I think you all probably know those.

The measuring of impact is an interesting and challenging discussion, and I most certainly do not have all of the answers. I think Tom asks some good questions, and I believe that many will be answered. Overall, the practice of measuring impact is really just getting started, but it is important to ask these questions until it becomes mandatory either by consumer demand or federal regulation.

Kelsey says:


As far as I know, SoleRebels aren’t sold in Ethiopia, but there are other shoe companies in Ethiopia that offer low cost shoes for the poor. It would be interesting to hear what they have to say about a US company giving away shoes. This is kind of the point. By selling SoleRebels abroad the company can do something that’s really important: provide good jobs.

Rachel says:

Along with SoleRebels, another alternative I’ve had bookmarked for a while is The Working World and the apalgartas they make. I’m afraid, now, that the shoes will be accused of being a toms knockoff (when really they’re just the same traditional design), and I’v heard they’re less comfortable than toms (which were definitely tailored for a western audience) but I still intend to buy a pair soon. They’re manufactured in worker owned factories. Find em at Nope, I’m not affiliated.

The other thing that bothered me about TOMS was a video I watched on their site of a shoe drop that had a very “look how awesome we are for giving away shoes!” thing that didn’t really acknowledge that us rich people buying the shoes are the problem to begin with, and we need to stop patting ourselves on the back and start trying to find ways to change how we act and impact the world we live in.

izzy says:

The irksome thing about TOMS is how it seems to be All About Blake. Does a Polo Playing, Contestant for the Reality TV ‘The Great Race’ show ‘get’ poverty? Is he Narcissus loving his own reflection in the role of the GREAT WHITE MALE who will save the poor? Is so-called Social Enterprise and Conscious Capitalism really just Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing? The point of business is to make money, plain and simple, be it oil, guns, cars, films, books, eco-tourism, airlines, news, sports, make-up, clothing, pharmaceuticals, hamburgers, or shoes. Investment and marketing ensures that one’s business keeps making money. The end game is still MONEY. TOMS does not give that away!

Soleil says:

I cam across this post looking for some balanced discussion on TOMS shoes.

Disclosure: I come from a developing country in East Africa and received my university education from East Coast schools where 95% of my peers wear TOMS for recreational footwear.

As a social entrepreneur fan, I think that companies that make products with branding that associates buying with helping others will make more of a dent in the market. The intentions of the company are to make sure that the highest profit margin is achieved, and this angle of marketing makes business sense. Lets be upfront that TOMS is a profit-making institution.

TOMS manages to make that ‘feel good’ purchase feel like you are buying shoes for people who cannot afford them. However, to have shoes where poverty gnaws at your innards and body is a luxury. People who choose TOMS choose to give shoes, and yes, many do not make the connection that shoes are a bite of the problem.

I make no secret of the fact that I prefer not to purchase TOMS because the brand is another way of using the poverty of the developing world to make a profit – however you package it. The world of working in those countries is filled with companies/indivs who have ‘good intentions’ never a substitute for reality-based poverty reduction.

I wish TOMS would let the critics talk openly as you have Kelsey, instead of trying to get us all on board.

Kelsey says:

Soleil, thanks for your comments. You have a great perspective on this issue and I’m honored that you shared. Did you ever confront your classmates with your TOMS arguments?

Grace says:

this is crap. toms is a good company that is helping millions of people around the world. look at your tshirt. it says made in china too.

jaclyn says:

NOT my tshirt Grace. Buy local, buy AMERICAN!

Saad says:

Well… I felt like buying a pair of white TOMS online before stumbling on to this page. Now it feels like it’s the ultimate Feel Bad purchase. I don’t know if that was the point of your article, or if it was to show that those kids are gullible for believing that they did a noble deed by buying their TOMS shoes. I do understand that a company goes into business for the sole purpose of making profit; it’s as simple as that. I doubt the TOMS corporation, however, uses the fact of poverty to promote their products. If you look at the shoes’ simplistic design, it’s not hard to believe that donating a pair of shoes such as those is a big deal for the company. With a $50 pricetag, it seems to me as if they charge you double for one pair, and donate the other pair you paid for. Either way, I still believe it’s better than buying a $100 pair of Nike’s for my next pair of shoes, don’t you?

Tangerine says:

I’m siding with Grace. This blog post seems very biased, jealous and unnecessary.

johnny B says:

this post makes total sense to me. TOMS shouldn’t donate any more shoes to kids who have bleeding diseased feet. I think they should scrap making shoes all together, pick up shop and move their business into a third world country so they can hire personally all the poor there and fix the entire world…

I dont mean to be rude but I feel as though you posing the problem of world poverty on to TOMS shoes is completely ridiculous. Barefoot kids in poor countries can get diseases on their feet preventing them from being permitted into school buildings and what then? That puts a big whole into your lets fix the root of the problem type thing doesn’t it? Unless you have some sort of insider information about the company i also don’t even think it reasonable that you comment on the efficiency of corporate policy. It is way easier to give your product instead of money, and that equates to more individual kids with shoes on their feet.
Blake (who you referred to as Black in your post?) Mycoskie did a revolutionary thing and like you said started a movement. Had he stopped there he would have left an incredible legacy in the way businesses view corporate social responsibility. The thing is, TOMS are trendy enough to do just fine without the feel-good-buy.
I guess I just view your cynical outlook their BOGO program as completely counterproductive to your point. Let’s start somewhere and let other people do better things, not sit around and talk about who things are bad but to do things that are actually better. Forgive me for saying it but by the way you described the scene in your classroom you present a compromising approach to ending the problems that you criticize TOMS for trying to help against.

Thank you, Rachel, for bringing The Working World into this discussion. Their modus operandi is a potent antidote to Tom’s charity model, which may be feel-good and catchy, but only reinforces western paternalism and trusteeship. The Working World actually believes that by supporting cooperatives in Argentina and Nicaragua and, now, New York, it can provide models of solidarity economics and interdependence with autonomy that challenge conventional capitalist workplace economics. They offer no cult around an owner or band-aid media solutions to poverty’s fallouts, but are dedicated to finding solutions that create a more just world. No, I do not work for The Working World, but I do collaborate with them on projects in Argentina for If you are planning to buy any apalgartas, buy ones made by the cooperatives they support. You can find them on Amazon.

Amara says:

I came across this very enlightening conversation when searching for info on TOMS since I’d heard such great things about them. Last year my boyfriend and I bought Jingas, which I can recommend as a pretty good ethical shoe made in Brazil.
SoleRebels looks like a great company as well and I look forward to making my next vegan/fair labor shoe purchase from them. Thanks for the recommendation.

Mom says:

I think it’s great the donation and all- but is the shoes that go to the poor child a Tom’s shoe or a flip flop that costs 50 cents.
I am just wondering bc the Toms my daughter bought were $60 before tax… So if they got the same shoes fine..But it never says…Do they get any shoes (flip flops) or same shoes. Just curious…..Not meant in a bad way..

Kelsey says:

They give away one of their “giving shoes.” It’s not exactly clear what these “giving shoes” are. That’s my biggest beef with TOMS is that they aren’t transparent enough.

jon says:


while i think your criticisms of TOMS are valid and insightful, i think you might gain a bit by playing down your bias.

when you say things like this:

“Okay…” I say. “Where were your TOMS made?”

This is when things get a little socially awkward. Many folks who wear TOMS do so without socks. Studies show that someone wearing TOMS is 10 times more likely to have stinky feet.”

…i want to stop reading your article immediately. i assume you’re just making a joke here, and i certainly don’t have anything against humor. however, this statement just comes off sounding ridiculously pretentious and biased. unless you can point to the source of this study (and, again, i have to assume it’s just a joke in poor taste), i think you just sound pathetic and childish. this type of writing – slightly reminiscent of nerdy tech fanboys on various internet forums – often makes me think the writer is more interested in appearing like he/she cares by criticizing others instead of actually offering solutions to the problems he/ she finds so easy to point out.

thankfully, i continued reading your article and realized that you had actual reasons for passing such slurs about a company i never thought much about. and i realized that what i brush off as a simple way for americans with low budgets and little time to lend a bit of assistance to people in need is actually a much more complicated issue, and one which deserves critical attention.

so, thanks for your article, kelsey. please just try and avoid the irresponsible and sloppy style that can undermine serious insights to an otherwise ignored topic.

(but, then again, i realize this is your blog and you can write however you want. i just give the warning because i literally almost closed out of this article simply because of your biased bashing right at the beginning. i’m glad i didn’t, but you may have lost others…)

jon h

Jon, I’m glad you kept reading.

Trish says:

I never buy TOMS. There is a pair of very similar shoes, also made in China, you can buy at K-mart for $5. I am able to save the $39 to $59 to use as I wish. Whether it is giving to local charities or making sure that my family has food.

Ann Sofie says:

Hi Kelsey,

I have done some interesting experience …

0.21 min into the shoe giving video on, their are two kids, carrying boxes on their head, with tape saying BATA, its one of the biggest brands, made for third world countries (, the retail price converted from the local currency to USD is around 1.60 USD
Its those shoes, they put on the kids, 1.43 min into the video …

So all TOMS buyers, think they are giving out TOMS shoes … its a complete scam in my eyes, they dont state they on, that they give out their own product … but what do you believe as a consumer, when it says, buy one give one?
That you give away 1.60 USD shoes, which is made in I assume, much worse factory conditions, than TOMS shoes themselves too keep price tag down, not even to talk about a bad product the kids are getting?

Why not be honest and write, buy one 40-60 USD shoe and give one shoe, a BATA 1.60 USD shoe, who is made in a super bad factory in North of China and make sure the local third world country shoe store, does not sell shoes…

Just seems like a big marketing stunt in my eyes … ?

Maria says:

Well, I was thinking of buy a pair of Toms shoes b/c it seemed like a nice thing to do and I like the way they look, but now I’m not so sure. All in all I really can’t see how giving away shoes to poor people is something to be criticized. I stopped for a minute and thought about if one of my kids didn’t have shoes. Would I want to wait until the world figured out a cure for poverty or would I be overjoyed that someone gave my child a pair of shoes for his sweet little feet. I’d pick the shoes.

Mom says:

You know your right.
I have changed my mind on this BECAUSE
the founder-Blake M. visited my church in Illinois (last weekend) and I heard his story IN PERSON. While I still have reservations about spending 60. for a pair of shoes(which is really alot this days), and in turn a pair of shoes being given away (that probably isn’t too expensive)..when you hear and see how it all works it makes sense (although 2 pairs should be given since they can probably afford that)…
Blake saw kids who had NO shoes- or had to share. In some countries you can attend school ONLY if you have shoes on. 3 siblings would share 1 pair and have to alternate days of school attendance…That’s sad too. No one can progress to buy shoes or food in the future with no education…So when he gives YOUR donation out- the shoes FIT (not too big/small/bad ), and the kids feel better about themselves. As long as people buy his shoes- it will be self sustaining and NOT rely on begging for donations…people not giving…etc.
So that makes sense..
They ae now doing sunglasses.. If you buy- they will provide eye exams/glasses/cataract surg.. If people can not see- they can’t work..And kids must leave school to help out the blind parent…
The reason he came was to encourage people if they start a business or do anything- to see if you can do it as well for something THAT MATTERS.
Donations are limited
Busines based giving keeps on as long as your busy.
Also Suggested to Focus on the “Giving” aspect…NOT the advertsing. If people hear something goo they will talk about it..
I really went to the service very leary and not too sure…
So honestly…Yes–kids have new shoes that fitthem.They can attend school and not have infections due to cuts-bacteria from open sores..All good. My 2 daughters have Toms from an Aunt who spent the 60 a pair on them..I wouldn’t buy them bc that’s alot for shoes…BUT if someone can afford them..then why not… I would rather someone get a benefit out of a sale..then just the owner. With that being said-I would hope that someday th one for one becomes Buy one, and give 2… THAT I may buy..
And for those that are against him speaking at a church(yes some are)…get over it.. He is doing something good and speaks to anyone that will listen!

Lita says:

I would sya that what TOMS do for the Children with their campaign, is great. I mean, we can do some criticize but we should look that it is better than do nothing. I believe as company, we can’t fulfill all desire people in the world. maybe giving some pair of shoes that wont change their family tree life, but at least people who buy this shoes will have opportunity to do a good things for others. For myself, I want to buy this shoes not because the brand, nor the prestige, but because their campaign.

Rachel says:

Ok Kelsey. You have some valid points, and shoelessness isn’t the problem, nor is it the promotion that TOMS makes. Blake has never promoted his product to solve poverty, only to give influence to help poverty. Blake boils down the problem of poverty to kids are the next generation, and have the means to change their community, if they have the access to school. Most schools won’t let you in without shoes. Therefore, he brought shoes into the equation which equals education for kids. Another key factor you missed is in the blog that Blake keeps, he refers heavily to the fact that there are nasty diseases in the soil, he made shoes to help prevent kids from contracting those diseases. A diseased child does their community no good. I own TOMS and barely ever wear socks unless it is cold. I assure you my feet don’t stink and knockout the people next to me. Making low puns against people does not help your case. Present a logical argument and perhaps people will take you seriously.

Enri says:

Buy one give one is simply a very good marketing campaign that sticks. I assume that if Toms would say: hey, for any shoe you buy we will donate the same amount of money to help local economy or so. He wouldn’t be where he is right now, consequently couldn’t have the amount of impact he has right now.

A good question is what does he do with the power he got in few years. The glasses program shows that he’s on a very good path.

I also doubt that anyone who comments (including me) will ever have such an impact to other people.

So I wish all the best and a lot of more creativity to practically trying to solve social problems.

streets says:

Mom- So you would “think” about buying these shoes yourself (for $60 which by today’s standards is a cheap pair of Nike’s), if the company would just donate another pair to a kid. Just be thankful a company is willing to cut their own profits to help those in need. TOMS does not have to give away shoes, but they have chosen to do so graciously.

I’m not saying it’s wrong for you to want a company to want to give more, but you first have to be willing to help said company with your own money.

Bought my first pair today, hope I like them and can buy more in the future. It’s a small sacrifice on my end to help a company help others.

Mom says:

streets: You must have not read back to my previous comments…

t_plunk says:

Awesome post. However, although a pair of shoes is is a ‘band-aid’ on a larger problem (poverty) it is an opportunity for people who are poor by america’s standards (say college students who mostly wear the shoes) to help (one for one)
Plus a pair of shoes drastically more affordable than job creation.

Sasha Nidalag says:

Thank you for this lively discussion.

I wonder if anyone has thought about why children are not allowed to go to school unless they have shoes? I suspect it is a way to keep poor children out of school, much like the poll tax in this country, not based on health issues.

If the intention of TOMS is to assure that children in developing countries get an education, I am not sure this band-aid approach will work. Those who decide such things will simply find a new way to keep poor children from attending. I would love to see a discussion on that.

Sam says:

I’m Sam first time blogger/ average teenager from the northwest. I think what the writer is trying to convey is that there ate better ways of giving back that can be used now that Toms is such a big company buy is not dissing on the fact thy what they do now is good. Like he said anything that gets people thinking about poverty around the world. Rome wasn’t built in a day

A Survivor says:

Having read thru all these msgs I must say I feel we have to give Blake some credit.
Being a breast cancer survivor I appreciate the fact that people have given donations and help in any other way they could to fight this deadly disease. Without any of this I would not be here today. We all know that not every penny goes toward the cause and companies have made profits off of these donations but some of it did and I am still here 15 years later and truly greatful. The same goes for these shoes. These children need them for more reasons than one and thanks to Blake they are getting them. Yes, we all know chances are some of the shoes might not be being made in the best of conditions but without these jobs what would happen to those people as well. Im not saying its right and Im not saying I can change this what Im saying is there are shoes on these little feet. Mr Timmerman if you feel you can make a difference by all means pls do so. Instead of criticizing Blake jump in and help him make a difference. I believe what goes around comes around. If you can do better then why dont you do better together. If I can help by buying a pair of TOMS shoes I will. Come back with some real facts and we can take it from there. Someone has to start somewhere and Blake has. The point was to get shoes to these kids and he is doing it.

Paul says:

I’ve read the article and I’ve read the comments that have been posted. Very informative and thought provoking. My question is this- TOMS is using their good deeds as a marketing campaign to help them make more money. There is nothing wrong with making money and their is nothing wrong with (truthful) advertising. However, how is this any different from a corporation like BP donating a few million dollars to charity all in the name of good will? Almost all large corporations have employees who job it is to find avenues to donate to charities and I’ve met several of these people and they are very passionate about their job and feel they are making a difference.

Paul says:

I’ve read the article and I’ve read the comments that have been posted. Very informative and thought provoking. My question is this- TOMS is using their good deeds as a marketing campaign to help them make more money. There is nothing wrong with making money and their is nothing wrong with (truthful) advertising. However, how is this any different from a corporation like BP donating a few million dollars to charity all in the name of good will? Almost all large corporations have employees who job it is to find avenues to donate to charities and I’ve met several of these people and they are very passionate about their job and feel they are making a difference. Am I off base?

Bata says:

Somebody in shoe business is trying to donate another shoe to most needed person, so what’s wrong. If you are an apple farmer give one apple to needed person. If you are a manufacturer/entrepreneur try opening a factory in poor neighborhood. I don’t see why the Kelsy is soo negative about this. Jealousy??? Umm ..may be.

Thankfully, it appears as though Valentino’s accessory designers aren’t as behind the times as I am. Mad Men‘s midcentury style has influenced designers far and wide since the show’s advent in 2007, and with the fourth season set to debut on AMC this Sunday, the show’s fashion caché is unlikely to subside anytime soon.
Fall runways saw a nearly universal embrace of 60s style, including shoes and accessories like the Valentino Jolie Framed Patent Bag. This prim, streamlined handbag would be right at home on Betty Draper’s gloved arm.

alexander monroe blair says:

honestly, this is the most stupid argument i have ever heard. i wear TOMS, and seriously, i have no problem with my feet smelling. your argument is invalid and futile. write about something worthwhile. idiots.

Candice says:

There is alot of emotional talk going on here and quite a bit of bias being thrown around. I must admit I almost switched off with the “stinky feet” comment, but kept reading because I do want to know where TOMS are made. As a company that promotes social justice, it should be high on their agenda to be transparent about the processes.
There are a few points I want to be clear on:
– one for one is a great idea which is helping people live a more fulfilled life
– it would be pointless if someone else is suffering to make those shoes (which is why I would just like to hear from TOMS about their manufacture, I think it may help to promote fair trade more)
– finally, I just want to respond to the statement about the video. I watched it and saw the shoes being put on children’s feet – the same shoes we purchase. They clearly state that they work with partner organisations, and I’m sure Bata is one of them.

I think we should keep it about the truth, but also believe that it is important for companies like TOMS, espescially ones at the forefront of the social justice issue, to stay accountable, which is why questioning should never be frowned upon. Its just a chance to be pushed forward to better things.

Candice says:

P.S. check out the TOMS giving report, anyone who’s interested – theres a bit of info there about their responsibility to communities and what shoes get given

Hi guys,

I am just joining this conversation because I too work for a One for One (or buy one give one) company that was inspired by TOMS. You can hear about our company here (recent Public Radio bit on Marketplace)

We were inspired by TOMs and I’d be curious to hear about what you guys think. We sell all natural, gluten free, vegan, food bars and for every bar we sell in the USA we donate one medically formulated nutrition pack (RUTF) to a child in a developing nation. We’ve donated ~80k packs and have another ~120k earmarked for delivery in Somalia, Malawi, Kenya, Haiti, and hopefully in India soon.

Couple of background points:
1) We are a social enterprise (for profit)
2) We partner with really strong NGO partners who ensure great transparency in terms of our give. More can be found at our website on that
3) The nutrition packs are made locally with local labor and ingredients when possible (only the micro nutrients and milk powder are “imported”)
4) Our food bars are made in the USA from locally sourced ingredients (West Coast) when possible – we buy some fair trade ingredients

We sell them at Whole Foods for ~$2-3 depending on the region. Looking forward to your thoughts and to answer your questions!

Steven says:

I don’t see why there is one bad thing to say about TOMS. Even if they are just putting 1 pair of shoes on a childs foot who doesn’t have one, that’s better than them not doing it. Just because they don’t have a perfect game plan doesn’t mean what they are doing isn’t great. They are getting criticized for doing something, when they could be doing nothing.

Just Me says:

All very interesting comments.
But the way I see it is, if every company regardless of what they sell or make were to give a free item to a poor child in need no matter where they live, that is a positive thing. A business is just that, a business. Of course they will make money. But if everyone that made money gave something to someone in need then the world would be a better place. It’s just a good thing to do. I know I may sound ignorant to some but sometimes you just need to start somewhere.
TOMS can not change the politics of a country and can not fix all social/economic problems of the world, but at least they unlike so many other corporations are giving a piece of their profit to someone in need. I would rather buy their $60 pair of shoes knowing that a $2 pair is given to a needy child in a country I will never see than to buy a $30 pair and nobody gets anything. And if anyone is going to say I should buy the $30 pair and give the other $30 to someone. I’ll cover that, I do give. Throughout the year I give to various local causes here at home, to help our local U.S. residents also affected by poverty. But let’s face it, we will buy fashion trends, it is what makes us human. Sometimes we want what is trendy. So why not have trendy be charitable as well.
Social consciousness is not about talking it’s about doing and making an honest effort to help. TOMS is doing, just go ask that child wearing his new $2 shoes.

Ann Jones says:

I just don’t understand why anyone would spend $54 on a pair of flat shoes that soon make your feet stink.

Besides, why not take that same $54 and donate it to a worthy charity that could REALLY help out foreign children?

Oh right- then you wouldn’t a have a brand label to display your social-awareness. never mind

Cattie Williams says:

All I have to say is if you have a problem with toms stop wasting your time complaining, and get up and do something that will make an impact. Criticizing others does nothing but bring more negativity and we don’t need any more of that in this world. We need to see more positivity!

LaJames says:

To all of you people bashing Toms Shoes on here and to you Kelsey Timmerman I ask what in the world are you doing to improve it? Seriously, if you can’t compete with 1 million shoes donated, take this opportunity to shut up. Flying around exposing companies for their poor practices is not helping the people you see being abused.
The facts are that many companies are deplorable in their treatment of employees. The fact is that Toms has given away 1 million pairs of shoes. Take the energy and air fare and apply it actually helping. Exposing the bad guys does nothing. We all know that it happens we have known for years that it is happening. The worst offender is China and they are also the number one trading partner of these United States. That is not going to change. I wish it was different. It is not going to change. So find somewhere that you can actually affect positive change and quit taking shots at those that are helping. My name is LaJames Wilson you can google me.

gsus says:

people get toms so they can go to school, since shoeless children are not allowed to. children who go to school learn skills to have a job in the future. that education will give them a job somewhere in their country, and which will improve their economic well being and lessen overall poverty. you are wrong and missing an important piece in your argument. plus you have no alternative

gsus says:

i almost forgot, toms manufactures its shoes in argentina, china and ethiopia because thats where they give away the most shoes, 160,000 pairs between the three countries since 2009. im 14 years old and know more about what your talking about than you do

gsus says:

one more thing, blake mycoskie doesnt put out this One for One plan as a way to improve the reputation of his company. he gives the shoes away because of what hes seen and moved him in his life. get off your blog and find something that inspires you

Mike says:

Some people here seem to think that the discussion is about absolutes: solve poverty and don’t buy TOMs, or solve poverty by buying TOMs. That isn’t it.

TOMs is certainly making a difference, and the people who buy their shoes are certainly not making a worthless contribution. But the company’s business model could use improvement, and this forum seems to be reasonably discussing how to do that.

No one here is against kids having shoes and preventing nasty afflictions, but the argument instead lies with what information presented by TOMs is misleading and how can they make the largest impact possible. They’re a corporate business, sure enough, and whatever the side effect of making a profit is, they are still making a profit. It’s a sound business model that does indeed have shallow people seeking to display their world-awareness and to assuage guilt, but it also has those wishing to make a real difference even though a direct-charity would probably be more efficient.

I am not a consumer of TOMs shoes, but I would like those consumers to be well-informed. I have the following questions that I have not been able to answer despite research and attempts to decipher the information put out by the TOMs company.

1. Do shoe recipients ALL get a pair of TOMs, or are they given A SHOE from “A FRIEND” of TOMs? Are the shoes donated only worth 2 dollars?

2. Why have they only just now in 2010 reached 1,000,000 shoes donated if the number sold worldwide is much higher than this?

3. Since parasites can be contracted through the feet, do the impoverished know to wrap their feet in cloth or other material if shoes aren’t available? If not, wouldn’t education be even easier to spread than shoes?

4. TOMs lets “Friends of TOMs” make some of their charity decisions, but what part of the process does TOMs play and how much information on who/how/why shoes are given does TOMs perform itself?

5. What kind of impact have TOMs shoes made on the health, well-being, and economy of the regions donated to? Are there follow-up visits performed to see the impact and to collect feedback?

6. Economically speaking, TOMs has stated that they research to minimize the impact of their factories on local businesses. Why are the Giving factories in two countries only? What percentage of the total do those factories produce?

7. Why is China devoid of donations, though it produces the salable shoes? (United States has received donations by contrast.)

I hope my post helped guide the discussion to be a productive one. Everyone is on the same side and obviously cares enough about the effects this company makes to discuss it. I personally think they’re some of the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen, but I’d like the company to be transparent operations-wise and to help those poor kids attend school and to avoid hookworm.

Tim says:

In reply to Cattie Williams:

You said, “Criticizing others does nothing but bring more negativity and we don’t need any more of that in this world”

Let us put that into another context:

What if we had not critisized Adolf Hitler for his beliefs? We need to critise people/companies/anything that does not benefit the world. Tom’s does not do anything but put money in employees pockets. As somebody who has lived in Zambia, Africa every summer break for the past 18 years of his life, and comes back to the American culture for school, Toms is feeding Africa the view that they need to be like us. They need “cool” shoes, just like us. Toms shoes are feeding them the lie that thier culture is not relevant in this day and age anymore, that they should not go around bare foot like thier culture has for the past 2,000+ years.

Anyone who thinks thier American idea of “giving” actually works, spend more than time than just watching Africa on a 2 minute video about what Toms shoes can do. OF COURSE the company will pretend thier shoes are making a lasting change in the video. That’s what they want you to think. In reality: The shoes end up in the black market where only people with money and access to the city can get them.

That’s right, I’ve seen brand new Toms shoes on sale in the capitol city of Zambia. How’s that for a lasting change?

Tim says:

And in reply to people who complain about us “haters”- who “don’t do anything”

-we are finding ways to actually make a difference, unlike you (it’s hard not to use fould language)”consumers” who flaunt your good deeds on your feet like you’re a high and might American. We are simply repeating the masacre of the Native Americans in a more modern way, and without meaning to. We’re destroying a culture, and just like with the Native Americans, we think it’s justified.

It is hard not to laugh at you ignorant people who think you’re the “do-gooders”. It’s the “do-gooders” who killed off the Native Americans and discriminated against the blacks, destroying thier identity.

Take off your American “lenses” on life, and realize Africa is so much different than you think. Africa has more life left than people care to consider. How about we lift that life up by helping them out, instead of giving to the American coorperations that only aim to benefit themselves, making people pretend they are truly making a difference.

The fact is: people feel like they’re making a difference when they buy Toms.

But they don’t.

Africa will only turn around when we truly want to put effort into making a change. Buying shoes online will not do anything at all, if it doesn’t make things worse.

Sitting here just buying shoes is making it worse though. We should do work about it, not buy shoes about it. Seriously.

Hannah says:

I think one big point being missed here is that TOMS is simply taking something that people are already buying, shoes and sunglasses, and doubling it as a charity. I’m sure when TOMS was started they didn’t have the goal of ending world poverty. It was (and is) probably more like becoming a catalyst in helping people break cycles through creating jobs in these countries and providing them with something useful, as others have pointed out.

By your logic, we should either solve world poverty or just not do anything. That is where you lost me.

And while we are making plugs for BOGO companies and charities, check out… they may not be pulling countries out of poverty, but they donate a book for every book you buy, as well as donate to literacy causes here in the U.S. and worldwide.

LaJames says:

Hey you are seriously misguided. Bringing Adolf Hitler into a duscussion is the worst of Pathos styled arguments. Adolf is no way applicable to this discussion at all. If you have to invoke the ghosts of tyrants past you should really try to better formulate your argument because you lost credibility.
In the nent paragraph you begin to give us examples of your experiences in Africa.
1. What were you doing in a black market there Mr. Judgemental?
2. Your assertion that Africa will only change when we put in the effort is in direct contradiction to your assertion that they need their culture protected. If Americans save them won’t they in turn be Americanized?
3. Blake saw a need for assistance and he did something. Which is a whole lot more than the people that come on here with comparisons to Hitler, the plight of the Native Americans, and Slavery have done. Period. Keep going there for Summer Vacation and flying here for education, keep reporting all of the problems and all of the similarities to prior attrocities without offering a single solution outside of some vague notion of increasingly prioritized American intervention. That will solve the problems over there I am sure of it. Other than that nicely done done on the Hater response buddy.

Tim says:


I brought Hitler in through an entirely different context, read cattie williams comment. I was simply trying to state some problems need to be corrected, if we do not look back in history for answers, where do we look? Especially big events like WW2. All that I got from your reply was that you’re angry I’m using such a well known event, so which event should I bring up to show humans can go astray and need to be corrected at times?

1.) You must not know what a black market is.

2.) We need to put in efforts to preserve their culture while still helping them out, that one seems obvious. Giving loans instead of handing out free money is what has been helping the most. If we keep the people accountable for what we give them, they will surely pay it back after making profit. That is the most business orientated thing to do, in a time when business tactics are needed in the dying economy.

3.)Blake saw a NEED to be done, just like Americans thought the Indians NEEDed to be gone, just like slavery was the IDEA that whites were supreme over the blacks. Blake’s idea is just sugar-coated, African’s NEED shoes, so the IDEA is to give them to the African’s freely. It’s a very simple solution of a need and an idea, they rarely succeed. This blog is trying to say that the idea is a lot more advanced than just the need of shoes. People just give because of their emotions, that’s exactly what is happening. If we start putting logic into our giving, maybe we will go somewhere without destroying a nation, a culture and an economy all at once.

LaJames says:


1. My name is LaJames.
2. I am fully aware of what a black market is, in fact, I have been to a couple myself in Eastern Europe.
3. Regardless of context when one conjures up images of Hitler, American Indians, and slavery in a an argument; one loses all credibility.
Yet you continue to do so.
Americans wanted the indigenous to be gone for numerous reasons and not a single one had anything to do with charity.
You must be awfully young to keep up with this nonsense. The education that you are recieving in America is teaching you to be an opinionated ignorant hater. Please ensure that you begin to look beyond your education and try to open yourself up to other ideas and thought processes that don’t jibe with your own.
If the next and upcoming generation of business owners see a model of charitable while still profitable operations, the world will change for the better. However, if we continue on the trajectory we have been on; we will eventually reside on a oligarchial planet. Learn some more lil fella grow some more and maybe write me in a few years when you have done something.

Tim says:

What do you think a black market is? We must have a different definition. A black market in Africa is where the Blacks shop. There are stands and such set up with clothes “donated”. Tons of them. They are being sold though.

Tim says:

And all my historical references were to say that The Western Civilization, Americans for the most part, do not know how to guide and preserve other cultures. I don’t know what you’re going on about me using a bad reference? I feel you are arguing for the sake of arguing, with no depth or reason to back it up. And that my friend, is what young people do.

Tim says:

Are you from Warner Pacific? I googled you.
I am going there right now.

Tim says:

You guys are stupid, learn more about TOMS before you ASSUME that they don’t help. quick facts about TOMS directly from their website look it up dumbass
this is a direct copy and paste from TOMS website.

Identify Communities That Need Shoes
Together, we find communities that will benefit most from TOMS shoes due to economic, health and educational needs, and where local businesses will not be negatively affected.

Give Shoes That Fit
Our Giving Partners order the sizes children in their community need. We make the shoes to order to ensure children are given new shoes that fit them. Learn more about the Giving Pair here.

Help Our Shoes Have a Bigger Impact
Children who are given TOMS shoes receive them as part of larger health and education programs run by our Giving Partners. These programs help children get the care and opportunity they need to keep them healthy and in school.

Give Children Shoes As They Grow
Children grow fast! TOMS works to give shoes to children in need throughout their childhood. Once we identify a community that needs shoes, we continue to give to the children in that community to help them stay healthy and in school.

so they are making sure to not affect local businesses, o and your whole point about growing out of the shoes, looks like they try to keep up with those kids to help them keep shoes. and the partners of TOMS help with health, education, and so on.

Kelsey Timmerman your a complete Idiot. Get off your ass and do something to benefit the world in ANYWAY.

Tim says:

What the hell, way to use my username dude above ^^^^

And you have way too much pathos and gramatical errors in your argument. Try to sound more formal.

Jackson says:

Hey guys,

I used this article to formulate a paper.

It’s pretty long, but let me know what you think. It’s due in about a week, it’s a final for my English 200 class.

Africa’s Financial Metabolism
In the horrible African sun sits a malnourished kid, his 24 ribs clear against his skin. Cue the teary eyed white man, his eyes looking directly at you, “Will you PLEASE donate to this dear child, he is in desperate need!” With American’s instant access to the phone, the internet, their bank, they make hasty payments. They hope their payment makes it in time to save that dying kid, they sure hope. Yet they do not stop to think. They simply give; they have a generous heart and a generous amount of money to go along with it. Is giving with emotions always the right answer though? Aren’t emotions those things that generally get us in trouble without some sort of stability? So, what is that stability you ask? It is logic. Giving in to emotions can always be an easy thing to do (and sometimes smart), but will you follow up on your emotions with logic? Logic is especially needed in this day and age, as the call for a logical way of giving is becoming ever needed. Christian authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert state in their book When Helping Hurts that, “Despite an estimated $2.3 trillion in foreign aid dispensed from Western nations during the post–World War II era, more than 2.5 billion people, approximately 40 percent of the world’s population, still live on less than two dollars per day” (141). We have given $2.3 trillion dollars in foreign aid, and something still hasn’t changed?! Shocking. Giving logically and effectively is the key to alleviating not only the poverty in Africa, but all over the world. Let us narrow the scope to just Africa for now, as I have some 18 years of personal experience in this country myself. To turn this problem around, we need to inform both donors and receivers of the logical way to give and receive. We need to make sure that there is a lasting and effective way to spread this knowledge, and make sure this knowledge will not only stick around, but be used. We want to make sure that once we know the money is being spent on what is intended, that it is being spent right, not just on the first impulse the receiver of the donation has.
There have been two major instances where I have seen a form of this illogical giving (and sometimes “doing”) myself. First, let us note that I will only be talking about Christian missionaries. The truth is though; these stories apply to anyone with a heart for the needy. It was two years ago in 2009 that this incident occurred. I was sitting by the Zambezi River, fishing and having a good time. A man comes and sits beside me, introducing himself as an American missionary. He said he had quit his job and was at that point-in-time depending completely on church aid. I was amazed, somebody depending on a body of people for well-being. It was a true sign of trust between him and funders back home. He told me he had started a youth group back in the capitol city of Lusaka. “Wow, this guy must be making a lasting change,” I thought to myself, as the conversation wrapped up and we parted ways. Then I saw the car he entered into, a brand spanking new land rover. “How did this man afford this if he technically had no job?” Maybe, he had funds he had saved up himself for the very purpose of buying that car. Maybe. Yet, the question itched at the back of my head. “Did this man really use the funds that were supposed to go towards helping fight poverty on a new car?” And this began my quest to find out how much money really can corrupt man.
At first I thought I was a mad man. An ill person, the only person set on a mission to stop people generously giving to corruption itself. Then I met Jonathan Martin, a man who had written an entire book on the subject of giving wisely. His book is titled Giving Wisely; a book with 10,000 copies out and growing. It seems to match everything I was desperately trying to convey. We met and had coffee, and talked for about 4 hours on the subject. He told me I had been quite alone on my quest to find truth for a while, and still am. “Not many people know about what their money is doing overseas,” he stated. How do we truly discover what our money is doing? And the answer that was trying to escape me finally arrived when he said, “We need relationships”.
Let me expand. In his book the idea was nicely represented as I read a story:
“Ben was from a needy country and more than anything wanted to see his people reached with the gospel. He came to the United States, attended seminary, and then joined an organization to help him do just that. Ben became frustrated with the organization because they did not always agree with him and not all the money that he had raised went to his ministry. He began to request that his donors send the money directly to him so that it would not be docked the seven percent administrative fee and he could use all of the Lord’s money for his vision to build a Bible school. He spoke at a church and mentioned that $10,000 was needed to build the new Bible school. The church caught the vision and gave him the $10,000.
As he got back to his country, he found that his child was extremely sick and needed to be hospitalized. He was fearful of his child dying, yet did not have the money to take him to the best hospital that he knew was needed to save him. “But wait,” he thought, “God had just provided $10,000.” He reasons that those people back in America loved him and his family, and certainly they would understand this predicament. So he spent $2,000 on his son, and $8,000 on the school.
The next project he was involved in cost $20,000. He raised the money in the United States, and when he got into his project, his daughter came home with the bad news that she has lost her college scholarship midway through her junior year.
They did not have the $2,000 to help her finish. Again ¬– the Lord had provided. He could spend $2,000 on her education and use the remaining $18,000 to finish his project adequately.
The next time he went to the United States to raise money, he had in mind his three other children who would soon be entering the university. They could do so much more for Jesus with the education, and all he had to do was add a few extra dollars to each project.
Soon, this man with a heart and passion for God had become one who saw money as a means of buying everything he wanted. Americans had nice homes – they wouldn’t care if he built himself a nice one with the leftover money” (83). What is so messed up about this image is not that he used the money on something the people who gave it didn’t intend for. It’s that he didn’t ask them first, before going along and spending the money. It was not his money to spend, as the people who gave were deceived into thinking ALL of their money was going to go towards what they intended. This would be like a grocery store diluting all of their drinks with water, yet sell the product without telling the customers they did so. Perhaps not as many customers would’ve bought the drink if it had been advertised as diluted. Likewise, how many people would give to a missionary that spends a large amount of the money on themselves? Missionaries are people who need to be willing to live at the bare minimum, in order to make the maximum change. Most go overseas expecting to live life just as luxuriously.
It is not just single missionaries who can become corrupt with the need for money. In a blog in an article called corrupt charities by Lucy M. Caldwell, a direct worker of World Vision commented in 2010 saying, “I used to work for World Vision….in fundraising. I got to personally keep 75% of everything I collected from donors as my ‘salary’. Much of the money collected goes into the pockets of the people canvassing for the money.” Outside of being an organization for the poor, this is a Christian organization. Yet they are recklessly stealing money from others. YES, STEALING! Doing the very thing the bible tells them not to. They are giving money to someone it wasn’t intended for, effectively pulling money from the pockets of unaware “customers”. It would be okay if their financial reports matched their alleged actions. However, in 2010 $851,000,000 dollars out of their $1,041,000,000 income was reported to go to “program services”. A direct quote from the website,, “In 2010, 85 percent of World Vision’s total operating expenses were used for programs that benefit children, families, and communities in need.” However, unless they are pulling an extra 60% of their 1 billion dollars (that would be $600,000,000!) that they rose last year out of their very pockets, this would be a lie. For how can the managers give away 75% percent of their fundraised money to their employees, 85% to the poor orphans, and not get any money for themselves, yet still be able to fork out $600,000,000 in the missing money not mentioned in their report? Sounds like a miracle of Jesus to me!
$20,000 from a missionary can go array in no time without a trustworthy accountant, even if you know the missionary yourself. A large “Charity” (more like business) such as world vision, who has the ability to make up facts on their yearly report and not be questioned, has more potential to wreak havoc than the missionary. Neither is acceptable though, yet we still fund trillions of dollars a year into the cause. As you can see, World Vision has $1 billion, and the ability to make up their accountability facts. The people who give to the organization almost never know who they are giving to, and what the money they give will specifically do. Will it go to the presidents T-bone steak, or helping a butchery business in Africa get back in its knees? The donor will never know. All the power that World Vision has is a sure recipe for disaster, but humans will not look back in history to see the huge mistake they are making in this present moment. Why? Because nothing like this has ever happened. However, we do know $1 billion dollars in the hand of a group of people with no accountability could never be good, so why think that “a good cause” is enough to make them trustworthy?
So we come back to the question once again, how do we effectively send our money overseas when even a relationship with a missionary can go bad? Again, the answer would be having a relationship. Today, what is a relationship though? Friends on Facebook? No. That is merely two electronic pages connecting information. Is emailing the missionary a relationship? Again, no. They can say what they like, when they like through email. Even reading for truths in a face to face conversation is not enough, for we can never know when a person is saying one thing but doing another. And remember, we should not mistrust them as a friend. We should mistrust them because they are human. After all, if you were forked over $20,000 dollars and told to spend it on what you said you would, how easy would it be to spend an extra thousand on something nice? Especially when you are in a third world country where luxuries are sparse! So, how do we keep our friend from not using the money foolishly? It would appear simple: to keep them accountable. This is something friends do outside of missionary work, they keep each other accountable. So why is it that when it comes to foreign aid, people will throw money to people they don’t even know and not keep them accountable? It beats me.
People manage their bank bills all the time, if a missionary or organization allows it’s downers to actually view what is being bought, with very strong evidence that it is happening. They should visit back consistently, reporting what and why they are doing things, telling the people their money is not going to waste! Moreover, they should be welcome to questioning. They should be able to be contacted at a moment’s notice, reporting what they have been doing. They should be able to answer to hard questions. It is obvious they are not using the money wisely if they get mad at you for questioning. For who would be ashamed to report back that they have done great things with the money that was given? Even if the person fails at the mission they said they would accomplish, they can still tell the donors they honestly did what they asked of them. Even then, that is not enough! Some people are sneaky, and your money is your business! If you donate to a missionary or organization, make sure they have an accountant. This is the best way to know that the money is not just randomly slipping away. The sad truth is that people do not like the hard work involved in giving. They would much rather write the big generous check to the big organization (that spends lots of money advertising, so they’re even easier to donate to) and not ask questions. Generally it’s the big organizations you don’t want to donate to, because it is almost impossible to hold such a large company accountable. Also, you cannot make personal relationships with all the employees who work for the organization. Who knows at what level each employee is using the money for corruption?
It was interesting to go onto the World Vision website and try and look for any contact information, there was nothing! I had to scroll through millions of pictures of dying children and “donate now” buttons before finding a place you can submit your email to an anonymous person. There seems to be no true way of asking the “hard questions” about world vision. I would be surprised if they could answer the easy questions. And yet people give without asking a single question.
World Vision and Invisible Children have both been to my college campus. This is what most people saw: A need within the country through the videos. This is how most people reacted: they gave money. This is what I saw: a business like strategy to evoke the feelings of confused teenagers in order to make money, using things within their popular culture like shoes and shirts in order to triple the interest, and profit. This is honestly how I reacted: Utter anger in my head. I ripped up all the checks people were writing, and tipped over the display of fancy items you can buy. I yelled, “This is wrong!” to everybody. Well, at least that’s what I wanted to do. Instead I sat by in sulking silence. For I knew the money was going to the intelligent business men and women, no matter what I did in that room that day.
Money can easily corrupt the individual, but more easily corrupt the masses. When there is a charity with money stacked high, and lots of people backing the riches they make, a single person cannot contest. The only solution is to let this information sink in, for the charities themselves must have a majority of workers who want to make a lasting change. If the employees make 75% on the money they persuade out of people, though, how can somebody who knows the truth feel the slightest bit of empathy for them? They should be able to use their business-like brains to figure out what they are truly doing. Therefore, the solution is to give to people you know well, and can keep accountable. As Martin says in his book, “If the church stops sending our own, and instead sends our money to far-off countries to support those we don’t know, the mission movement in this country will die in this generation.” Let us create life, not death.
When people realize that relationships are the key answer, they relax, and start giving to someone they know, or someone a friend knows. And that may all go well, considering they now know the money is being used for what the person said they’d use it for. But let us ask a hard question right here and now; what if that money is buying corruption? Creating jealousy? Destroying a culture? And we now realize journey is not over. How can it be though? If people want to make a big change, within a big issue, they will have to put in some even bigger work. A garden with many weeds does not stop growing weeds after the first pulling, likewise poverty is not just something that has just one answer to solving. We also need to know that the money is effectively preserving the culture of the country, and making a change in which money is not just fed to the economy. If America keeps simply “feeding” the economy of Africa, its metabolism will grow, and America will simply create an impossible situation of more starving, countered by more giving. The answer should be able to reduce the need, and increase the supply.
America needs to stop feeding Africa like a baby, America needs to get off of Africa’s back like an over obsessive mother. America is literally killing Africa with too much kindness, while there is a more logical and efficient way to go about supporting the needs of Africa.
Consider this story: in the Abu Dhabi airport in Ethiopia, I sat waiting for my flight into Lusaka, Zambia. Like the time I had been fishing, a white (now retired) missionary came and sat down beside me. He was a German man who had learnt what giving to the needy meant the hard way. His life in Africa hadn’t been easy at all, as he explained people who took advantage of his kindness and robbed him, people who continually came back for more food without doing a thing to get it themselves, and people who saw him as the rich “giving” man”. After years of struggling through trying to increase the standard of living for the people, he realized nothing was working. Sure, giving to them, was doing something for the then and now. Yet, he said he felt convicted. He said he even felt at times he was just wasting other people’s money, and his own time. And just before retiring from his missionary work, he realized that giving money was really just a big waist. He said he started holding people accountable for the money he gave, even the food he gave. He made it so that they were forced into finding a way to make it by themselves, and sure enough, they did. Of course, he did not jump out of their lives. If there was someone especially in need he would give, but now normally only in loans.
He said it made the people realize they weren’t just getting free hand outs, that “rich-Americans” weren’t the source for their happiness. He said they needed to find happiness in their own lives by becoming independent, and stop taking free-bees from the generous Americans. The only problem was: most of them still had other sources of getting free hand outs. And most other places giving free hand outs were getting a generous profit from their fellow donors. He described it as a war that could only be fought with knowledge, and that money was the core evil of what was going on. The culture was adapting to all the American-like handouts, being completely wiped out in itself. And larger portions of food, toys or clothing were given to some families than others, as there were too many to give to. Outside of his American “lenses” now, he realized how much damage he had done before, and how much damage was still going on. The worst thing he said: Is that it all happens under the table.
People do not realize where there money is going- but worse. People don’t know what the little money that is being spent is actually doing. Most of it is not good news. Being a nation with superior Business tactics, logical reasoning, and resources, you’d think it would be solved in a jiffy. Let me get his straight fist: I mentioned before people using business strategies for charities. Let it be noted I am against people who use these strategies for personal gain, without using their knowledge to actually better the society they are working within. Many people are guilty of this. When big corporations (charities), are making money, no questions are asked. Businesses are experts at only letting what they want to be known, known. If they wanted me to know about such unaccounted for and dangerous giving, they would gladly let me ask. Business’ highlight on their strengths, and the only strengths that most charities have is the ability to show emotions in pictures and videos. Their few attempts at showing trust and accountability are weak to the trained eye.
The bigger problem is we are giving to (and dealing with), a society and culture we are not familiar with. Perhaps the best thing to do it to look back in history, and see how American’s have treated other cultures. We’ve managed to kill off most of the Native Americans, making the majority of the rest drunkards, or lazy from the large bills they get from the government as “reparation”. We’ve enslaved black people, and now most ghettos are connected with a gang of black kids, who still haven’t gotten off their feet after we pushed them down with racism. Should I remind you of what the majority of America thinks of Mexicans as right now? Or what they did to the Japanese before and after World War two? We as Americans tend to shoot/pay large bills/destroy, and then ask questions later. For that is just what kind of people we are in real life, coming to assumptions of others and wondering why our views on the world are so disproportioned. Pull a map out and most Americans see the Middle East as a land mine and Africa as a swarm of dead babies that have AIDS. I can tell you from experience, the latter one is not true (there are cases, but that does not put a set stereotype on the country), and the previous I’ve heard as just a rumor spread by things like the Military channel. And the common argument is this: “you cannot connect such horrible instances with something like charity!” Let me ask you this though, based on all these examples, does America look like the expert at preserving cultures and setting the good example? These instances have been pulled from history so often it’s cliché, but it’s the truth.
Why go on this rant when all we’re really talking about is charities? Because we must change our views before we change our actions, so there are reasons to our newly reformed actions. It sounds like I am calling the general crowd of American’s dumb, which I do not want to get across. We are a nation with a lot of potential with the education we are given. We just don’t know how to use it properly when it comes to over sea matters, because we are a country isolated in what we think should be accepted worldwide, when there are cultures out there bigger than ours (such as China’s) that get on fine without us. At one point China kicked all missionaries out of its country, and disallowed foreign aid. Belief in God rocketed like never before, and natives started relying on themselves. So why try to reform the African’s with cheap stylish shoes like Tom’s and an abundant supply of food like we have ourselves? It is not who they are, nor I hope it never will be. Africa is a land of simple and lively people. America views it sad that Africans do not get the “luxury” of what they have. In honesty, I see more happy people in Africa than I do in this nation, and that is not an exaggeration. I like going to Africa for a different experience in culture, yet more and more every year I am reminded of my home in Oregon.
How does this apply to how we give then? Because we need to truly give outside of ourselves when it comes to charity, we need to realize what we give needs to affect how the Africa’s lifestyle is changed in a positive manner, not in a way we assume an African would like just because we view it as something that is “good”. In my interview with Martin he came up with a great story to show this idea:
He said, “There was a group of missionaries who came to a tribe with many coloring crayons. They handed all the kids a box of crayons, took a picture, and left. The Crayons were taken from the kids as soon as the missionaries left, as the adults also wanted crayons. They were unhappy they were not given crayons either.”
The problem here is that there is an absence of knowledge within the culture. The chief expects to be given the crayons first, so he may distribute the crayons among his people himself. It is like walking into somebodies house here and giving kids different gifts without running it by the parents. How do you know the parents will approve of these gifts you are giving the kids? We seem forget we are no longer in America when Americans travel overseas. If you give money to a relief source, research to make sure they know about the culture. Ask them how much effort they have put into to it, ask them what they have learned.
I am not telling American’s that they are guilty for the way they live. I am saying that many are guilty with the way they live, thus they use their excess and give it to a country in “need”. What does Africa need though? Does it need America’s excess fat? Or does it need strong proteins to build its own economy? What America needs to do is “get in and get out”, in the words of Martin. We need to help them build their very own base of “economic nutrients”, instead of giving what we have left over. America has so much left over, it will, and has been, knocking Africa sideways. We have been feeding an ill and starving wild dog rich chocolate. Sure, the dog will eat it, but what good will it do? The dog will still be starving, and we’ll just have less chocolate. We try to tame the wild dog, when the dog truly wants to be wild. We build it a shelter in an area it doesn’t like, and never think to research what this wild dog actually wants and does.
What we need to do is watch it in its own habitat, watch how it operates, how it eats, study what it needs to survive outside of our compassionate grip. If this dog does not want to be held back by a human, we should try to make the recovery operation as quick as possible. Build the dog a shelter it can temporarily rest in, release live rabbits in its area so it learns how to hunt again. Let it slowly regain its own strength, and then let it be. It’s funny that park rangers know how to help out an animal, yet humans don’t think about there being logic behind helping another human. Remember the park ranger rule, we are to let what was be, be. We are there to let Africa temporarily back on its feet so it can fight its own war. Are there not able men and women within that country? Let us give them some dignity, instead of stripping it in order to put a Good Samaritan badge on our chest.
Now that we know that we need to work within the culture, how do we let the country start helping itself, truly sustaining itself without the need of us, ever again! There are many answers, and there are two I would like to explore to give to you an idea.
The first seems surprisingly greedy, it is to give out loans, not money. Think about it though; who is to say it is only the missionaries who need to be held accountable? Even if our missionaries are held accountable, that money normally ends up somewhere else. Sure, a gift is good here and there. However, if it is only ever gifts, what will make the natives think that they need to spend the money wisely? They are now free rangers with the money. If we give loans, we still need to fund money. Just not over and over and over in a desperate attempt to cure poverty. Once we give, the receiver of the loan will have to come up with a way to pay the money back. This will make them open up a business, invest in the nation. The money will then be returned after a profit is made, so the money can go back out to somebody else wanting to open up a business. The answer seems so simple, yet why do we not have the answer figured out?
In my interview with Martin, he told me of a woman in Northern Africa who picked up the challenge of the local government and the U.N’s failed attempts at stimulating the economy. They had tried 35 times, and she came in with the idea of loans. Soon enough, all the money was being geared towards the loan system, with a 99% return rate! Businesses started popping up everywhere, and because people had the money from their businesses, they could spend it on other local businesses. The gratification wasn’t instant to the loan giver, but what are we looking for when we are giving to Africa? If we want instant gratification, chocolate is the answer. A very sweet answer, but it is also very sticky. The answer that will provide the wanted change, like so many claim to want, will come with the work and time of stimulating the local economy. It will exceptional hard considering the state we have already put the locals in, I state of wanting without any expected return. Maybe this generation has already become too lazy, misunderstood, and not motivated. Never the less we should start now, and we will start seeing major results in the first 10 years. Since major charity contributions in the 1950’s, it might possibly be the first large scale change in the history of human helping.
I feel I have left the secular persons opinion out, I have been talking about making God known in these foreign countries, and about missionaries and churches. It would only take the effort of replacing church with “people” or “Helpers”, though. In my interview with Martin he stated, “The call is for all humans to help all humans”. You do not need to be a missionary, you do not need to believe in something beyond yourself. The fact is we all have sympathy towards the needy, and so you are called to help just as much as a man of God. The question then arises, “doesn’t this mean I can help how I want to , if you are only going off of your religion?”
I think this is where the biggest barrier may come along. Non-religious people going along with their own plans, rejecting this plea for change based on religion. If a few of us change our plan of action, the natives will simply turn to others who give free hand outs. There are plenty of non-religious handouts. The fact is, I have not quoted the bible once. Though the Bible does contain examples of Paul calling his church members to accountability, getting in and helping quickly, and getting out just as fast, it is only an example. Christians would base part of their need to help on the bible, but they do not specifically need it for logic. In this case I have proved as a Christian you do not need to rely on the Bible for logic, for this very purpose, to let any non-believers know it is all just plain experience of previous mistakes.
Christian organizations that have principles can go astray, and that is bad. But what about the majority of other people that don’t follow a set code of rules? There are no common principles among people who have no status within religion, for each and every single person decides their own rules. Within Christianity there are expectations to adhere to, making corrections easier and less offensive. How can a secular organization be judged on things they do not follow? We need to realize the main principles: Keeping accountability with relationships, the park ranger rule of sustaining the people’s culture, and using the money received wisely. None of these rules are religious, they do not ask you to bow down and worship a God. They ask you if you truly want to make a difference, believer or not. A secular organization that went heavily astray, and is famous for its huge scandal, is the Three Cups of Tea books scandal. On the website, they display the book for sale. On the author’s description, it is stated, “As of 2011, Mortenson has established or significantly supports 171 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 68,000 children, including 54,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.” However, Mike Giglio, from The Daily Beast reported that based on a CBS 60 minutes show, “Mortenson had fabricated central parts of his memoir, claimed to build schools that didn’t exist, and, lately at least, had spent more time and money promoting his book than helping schoolchildren overseas.” Mortenson is being held accountable by the law, as he is going under criminal trial right now. Is the law enough to enforce the accountability of charities though? If religions cannot retain it, though it is their responsibility, how far can the government go?
The government can only crack down on large scandals like Three Cups of Tea. Even then, this man still went five years of irresponsibly lying for money. We as a nation, not just a Christian religion, need to start focusing on where our money goes. Africa’s poverty expands past religious barriers, past government boundaries and does not regard certain beliefs. Poverty attacks everyone, so we as a people need to disregard these problems and attack the corruption of people like Mortenson head on, not leave it for government to handle when they have other responsibilities. We need to act by not funding these fools in the first place, and soon enough the appease of making a fake organization will not be as tempting.
We need to stop buying from companies that use charity as a means of profit. America’s interest for profit should strictly stay in the business world, allowing it to pollute the world of charities is a big reason Africa is suffering. Remember the crayon story? The same thing is happening with shoes, on a large scale. Cheaply made shoes are being sold to American’s for a large profit, afterwards another pair is given to natives as a “gift”, and putting smiles on the donators. When we are tackling the problem of trying to change the economic crisis of Africa, silly games like selling shoes for a large profit need to be swept aside.
What this company does is create a fake mask on the actually goal of charity. The goal of charity is for us to get in and help the people build their own businesses, sustain their own economy, and become their own people. We want to give as much as needed to build up the people’s confidence, and then let them take it from where we leave. Giving free gifts does not build confidence, it leaves the constant reminder that these people are in need and that nothing will ever change. It give American’s the “Mighty American” helper look, leaving the natives looking like bums. Is that really what we want to be doing?
Sure, the idea of giving free things is nice. It’s kind, its thoughtful, and who knows, maybe your donation will make a change. Temporary change is putting a mask on what we should be aiming for in the future though. Why not give to an organization that gives loans to businesses that make shoes in the local area, by locals, for locals, with no profit at all going to America? We cannot, as Americans, make the excuse that we need the foreign money for our own dying economy. That is ridiculous. If we cannot make ends meet with businesses on our side of the seas, giving shoes in foreign countries is not going to boost our economy in a significant way. It is strategies we use for our businesses here in America that will change the economy here in America. Likewise, if we let the people in Africa rely on their own business strategies once we get out, they can look at what they need to change as a country, instead of having to swim through the large flow of money America throws at them. America is causing clutter in their economy right now, when all they need is a good base and their own well-fortified and structured economy to make it through the times. What happens when American’s get kicked out by the government? What if our own economy fails? It is the strategies we have helped the natives come up with that will help them get through the rough time, while the free pairs of shoes will go to rot in under a year.
What is this shoe company you ask? It’s called TOMS Shoe Company, maybe you have heard of it. Like stated before a person will buy a pair of two dollar shoes here in America for about fifty dollars, giving a free pair of shoes to someone in poverty. The whole idea is sugar coated in emotions, fashion, and good intentions. It is funny that this good deed can be flaunted around on the donor’s feet. It makes one wonder what their original intention was in the first place; to look stylish, look like they are a good person, or do they actually think they are making a significant change? Any option you choose, it really isn’t doing the thing we need to do.
The Three Cups of Tea incident reminds us we ALL need to be kept accountable, and TOMs reminds us we ALL need to ask if we are giving to a wise and sustainable solution, both economically and culturally. Not to mention, it’s asking us why we are truly giving. Why not spend the $135 (Yes, one-three-five) they ask for with their cheap sunglasses on a loan that will help a man start a business, feed a family, and become happy and fulfilled?
In a blog by Kelsey Timmerman, he states, “The problem isn’t shoelessness. The problem is poverty.” What a perfect way to summarize the need in change of viewpoint. If you have read this paper, and do not believe that giving gifts will do harm, at the very least research if the company you donate to actually donates like they say they do. Charities can be just like presidents on a presidential campaign, they will promise something very well looking, but never back it up in real life. The main call is to help in any way you can, yet if you are going to give you should be smart and get the biggest bang for your buck. Being smart with money is especially needed in the economic crisis the whole world is slowly dipping into. Martin stated during out interview, “The current economic crisis will cause less aid. People will have to step up for themselves, and that’s good. Once free money dries up, integrity will increase.” Let us all keep our integrity, dignity and humanity in our fragile world, where poverty is real. Let us all help out another when help is needed, let’s just do it the right way. Let us make Africa, and other nations, continue to be the nations that they are, with the cultures they have, and not let money slowly become the world’s band aid. Let us remember that love and hard work will be the true healer, and that money is just a means to resources. Not a means to life.

Work cited
Caldwell, Lucy. “Corrupt Charities.” The Harvard Crimson. 15 May 2006. 9 Dec 2011.
Corbett, Steve and Fikkert, Brian. When Helping Hurts. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. 2009.
Giglio, Mike. “Exclusive: Three Cups of Tea Author Greg Mortenson Sued for Fraud, Deceit, Breach of
Contract.” The Daily Beast. 6 May 2011. 9 Dec 2011.
Martin, Jonathan. Giving Wisely? Sisters, OR: Last Chapter Publishing, 2008.
Martin, Jonathan. Personal interview. 9 Dec. 2011.
Three Cups of Tea. “About Greg Mortenson.” 2009. 9 Dec. 2011.
Timmerman, Kelsey. “The problem with TOMS shoes & its critics.” Where am I Wearing? 6 Apr.
2011. 9 Dec. 2011.
TOMS Shoes official store. “TOMS eyewear.” 2011. 9 Dec 2011.
World Vision. “Financial Highlights 2010.” Dec. 2010. 9 Dec. 2011.

bob says:

too many words n00bs

LaJames says:

If it is a market in Africa why would you call it a Black Market? Isn’t that like calling a restaurant in China a Chinese restaurant? Yes I attend Warner Pacific.
My problem with your argument (again is that you offer zero solutions. It seems that you are great at pointing out corruption, shortcomings, and other problems. Yet when it comes to solutions you offer; love, cultural integrity, and little else. My friend is leaving for the Horn of Africa in a month. This is the same region of Africa that was illuminated in the “We are the World” musically movement of the 80s, and the Black Hawk Down film. Unfortunately, this region now requires military intervention. There is a famine happening there. A famine is defined as 6 out of every 10,000 people starving to death daily within a region.
Would love and cultural integrity help those starving children? No? Then what are you offering up here? Nothing? Your whole paper focuses on corrupt individuals from charitible organizations. Great we know they exist. How about the corrupt governments in these affected areas? How do they propose to improve their situations? They have had decades and yet somehow they have failed to counteract mother nature and the extreme lack of rainfall in the region. So warlords reign supreme and steal the aid sent by outside agencies. That really sounds like a culture worth preserving.
No. What is happening is they are sending the Army over to Djubuti and the Army is comprised of engineers and security forces interested in preserving life.
It is odd to me that somehow you think love and hard work would somehow do the same thing as American tax money and efforts.
You live there part time and are still so clueless. But that’s ok my friend and fellow Warner student will go and effect some real change in people’s lives and not just gain some fodder for an ineffectual English final. Band-Aid that.

Darin says:

Check out Mennonite Economic Development Agency (MEDA). This nonprofit religious effort is making some radical change in the world

Tim says:


I’ve been looking for a dependant organization to donate to. What are some others that you have found? I will research this one.

Tim says:


I know see where you are getting off.

You seem to be using facts instead of knowledge. Facts are things anyone can regurgitate.

My solution (it seems you have not read my paper), is to give logically. Find an organization that acutally helps, and don’t give to the corrupt.

You really have a knack at trying to sound smart.

And I don’t call it a black market, the black market was names so before I got there. So stop being “Mr.Judgmental” on me about a title of a market I did not come up with.

I did not mention the government of Africa because that is not the focus of my paper. The focus of my paper is showing what our money is doing. The government would be an out-group, yes. After reviewing it with my teacher I have decided to add the government as an out group and cut back the the pathos a bit.

The government after all, has been tainted with an extreme misbalance of money since with our own giving since white people left the system in the 1970’s because of uprising. My Dad fought in the war when Rhodesia (what is now Zambia and Zimbabwe) split up.

He was then a mercenary for Somalia right after. Don’t reguritate facts about Black Hawk Down, when my dad was a mercenary for Somalia before the American’s came in. I’ve gained what I know from knowledge both from my own experiences, and my Dad’s.

Where have you gained your knowledge? From Europe and your friend who is going to Africa but not quite yet?

That’s funny. Just think twice before you smeare you’re “I-Know-it-all-attitude” over someone who is half your age, because you think they’re a dumb American who was raised on the American education.

I really am ashamed to call you a fellow student if you argue in such an offensive manner.

I’m done talking with you specifically LaJames, look down on me if there is a subject you actually have knowledge about. Don’t preach at me like I’m a 5 year old please.


angel says:

If our country and america are so bad stop using my tax dollars and education system Tim. Kelsey actually agreed with all your points just saying . Oh, and please, get over american slavery it went on for thousands of years all over the World before it happened here, it makes me sick hearing all about the injustices i caused that happened hundreds of years ago. I was told i was sexist and racist just toda y by a lady because she made a mistake and her purchase was taking time pull mind you Im latino and female, and no one helping her was a white male. There are stupid glutinous, entitled people everywhere. There are some amazing, maybe uneducated, but good intentioned people here to . You Want to use EXTREME Examples Lake hitler, heres one for you, I dont assume all men from africa are all rapists with aids, sterotyping is just that.

LaJames says:

@ Tim I am glad that your instructor convinced you of the same shortcomings that I alluded to in your paper.
This whole conversation string was started concerning Toms Shoes. Whatever personal attacks or shame that you feel due to shared affiliations are completely unnecessary.
You are one voice among the seemingly endless throngs of people that like to tear people down for their efforts, that like to illustrate problems without offering solutions, that believe that by somehow creating awareness of corruption they are actually helping people.
Blake could just sell shoes with a South American “feel” to them. He didn’t have to offer One for One according to his BOGO model. He didn’t have to create a movement for change. He didn’t have to inspire others into creating socially conscious corporations. He did though. He is a million shoes in and…..
People are slamming him, asking to see his books, pointing to corruption in manufacturing et al.
My question to those people and to you my young (older than five year old son of a mercenary) friend is what have you done? Have you done anything even remotely close to what he has done? If the answer is no what gives you the right to disparage anything about Toms Shoes or Blake Mycoskie?
Remember you chose to call me out on here (you even googled me). I didn’t come after you. If you feel diminished by my responses to your ineffective drivel, that is on you. I don’t have a knack for trying to sound smart. I recognize that I am just smart enough to know that I am average and to be upset about it. I don’t however; try to make myself feel better by tearing down the efforts of those that have done more than I have. I hope to one day emulate them not take anonymous shots at them because their efforts have been bastardized by unsavory characters in Africa.
Let’s sit down over a beer some time and share a discourse.

Lola says:

There is so much I wanted to say after reading All of these posts. This post by you, LaJames could not have hit my points better. I will sit down with you any old time! Thank you, Lola

Tim says:


I googled you because you openly invited people to. I assumed it meant you were a TOMs worker, though I don’t think you are. Either way that’s the only way I found out you go to Warner, it’s not like I googled you to stalk you.

And I think you have a different view point on what we as a human race should drive to do. So many people drive to end poverty, so many complain about it. All TOMs does is “kind of” solve the issue. The problem is, charities have been around like this for years. All we’re doing is making the natives feel like they are dependant on us, and Blake is making a buck off of this negative thing.

I personally plan on living in Zambia, Africa where I will make what I call a “Lasting change”. Currently I am working with the SIFE business group here at Warner, where I hope students here can realize I am someone who they can depend on when it comes to solving the problem in Africa. I would like to start a loan program in Africa that actually gives stability to families, not a flimsy pair of shoes on a kids feet. I feel if we help the adults get jobs, give loans to stimulate the economy, poverty will start being solves. Now that is my main goal in life.

Other than that I make personal relationships with people in Africa, I am trying to build a base for what I want to do both here in America and in Africa. I do want to be succesful like Blake, but I want to do it with morals under God’s eyes. I feel Blake is too business orientated, I feel his goal is to make money, not help the poor. People don’t look at what his shoes actually do in Africa, because they don’t have the knowledge of going and looking, staying there for more than a few weeks and realizing what is happening there.

TOMs only produces a temporary anser, like I said. I have just now gotten done with my paper, edited and all. If you shoot me your email I will gladly send it to you.

I won’t accept your offer to drink a beer, because I only drink in Africa where the drinking age is 18. Keep in mind I will only drink socially.

Whatever you meant with the arguments you gave, I forgive you for any uneasiness you caused in side me. At first I really thought that my arguments were weak, and they were, They weren’t structured with enough advise. Just angry blames on TOMs shoes and such that I know to be true. Now that I have relaxed from the anger un-wise giving causes inside of me, I feel I have enough logic in my paper to present you with a true argument.

I am a Man of God, but in any area of charity, morals should be used. That is ultimately what I think. And I do not believe TOM adhers to any kind of fair play. It will make its money off of unwise giving, and the company is happy. Good job to Blake for being succesful, its poor of him he did it in such a typical manner.

I would like to set the rare standard of using practised, strong morals in the way I use my business major within Africa.


Marci says:

I’ve been reading all the comments and I have one question for the blogger and posters. Have you been to a Third World country recently. This summer we took and trip to Honduras. With us we brought several suitcases of goodies to hand out including shoes. At the clinic, everyone was allowed to pick one item. Guess what was taken first? You got it….Shoes! The fact of the matter is that very few people in these countries have shoes, and to top it off, they walk everywhere. I’m sure this is what Blake saw and it’s what inspired him to start BOGO. No, it doesn’t solve the poverty problem, but before you start criticizing, What are you doing to solve poverty. And by the way, before you start talking about “We pay $60, and they get a $2 pair of shoes,” get all the facts. You CANNOT compare the cost of something in the United States with the cost of something in a Third World country. The fact is, most people make under $2 a day, so for them, a $2 shoe is just as or even more expensive than a $60 shoe for us.

Molly says:

You should never go to a country you’ve never been to and just give away free things to everyone. It’s damaging to the economy, to the local businesses, and it can introduce a desire for foreign goods that aren’t available in the area. It’s sweet that you wanted to help those people, but you’re doing it ina way that is more destructive than helpful. Next time buy a few bags of locally made goodies like shirts, shoes, food, etc. and give that away if you really want to help.

If most of the people don’t where shoes then chances are they don’t have a serious need for shoes. My friend’s father grew up in Honduras. He never had shoes growing up. He didn’t need them. Even now he hates wearing them because he says they hurt his feet. He has thick callouses on his feet from never wearing shoes, but he says that’s how everyone’s feet were in his area. He used to take the shoes provided by charities and his mother would sell them, because they were more useful for that than for covering feet.

What I do to solve poverty is give as much as I can. I do very very very thorough research before I give any money to any charity because I cant see their methods, and their impacts I cant trust that I’m actually doing any good. While no, I’m not saving million of people from feet callouses, I am at least conscious of where my time and money goes and how it hurts or helps people.

And do NOT get on people for criticizing something like this. People should be critical of TOMS and other similar kinds of companies. They absolutely should. if you don’t scrutinize them and look to see what they are doing wrong you can never help them improve. I don’t need to be a writer to tell you your book sucks and I don’t need to own my own NGO and be a CEO to say something about the methods TOMS uses is bad and counter productive.

Fiona says:

All of these pro TOMS comments simply prove how good of a marketing campaign the BOGO scheme has been.

Most people wearing TOMS are also likely to be wearing sweatshop clothes, handbags, and whatever else – TOMS are a fashion statement, and the fact that you get to feel like you’re ending poverty when you buy them is simply adding to their popularity and profit margin. Why else would people suddenly start wearing shoes without socks that look like something only 60+ women would have worn 5 years ago? Socks were invented for a reason. Don’t get all defensive, all you have to do is look at any poster in a fashion store to see that you’re all just doing what your favourite labels tell you to do.

It’s sad that so many people are here defending a brand that they owe absolutely nothing to. The even sadder part is that they are so out of touch with how much richer they are than the rest of the world, that they think giving away a few pairs of shoes is defendable as goodwill. How about you go and give your $60 to a worthwhile charity if you really want to make a difference? The reason people are getting so defensive about TOMS is because they wanted the 30 seconds of though that they gave to poor people in the store before they bought the shoes to be enough for them to not feel guilty, and it’s now dawning on them that it’s not enough at all.

Let’s look at it this way – you give a homeless person some change. So you feel good about yourself. How about the too frequent scenario that the homeless person uses that money to continue a drug or alcohol addiction that they can’t get out of alone. They need help, an ongoing regime of treatment and social care to help them return to society as a healthy and contributing individual. You might have given them your change, but you’ve effectively done the opposite of what they actually need. It’s ok though, because you got to feel good for 2 minutes and don’t really want to think about it any more than that. Can’t you people see the bubble you’re in? Poverty in developing countries is a much bigger issue than buying a pair of shoes – please educate yourselves further, because you’re buying into a scam.

LaJames says:


You are merely another commenter on a site that offers zero by way of solution. You use arguments that possess not a single fact but rather, a litany of opinions guised as truth.
Your arguments state that “most people that wear Toms also wear sweatshop clothes.” Give me some data to support that claim? Where are you gathering your information? Your own observation? Not enough to use a word like “most.”
You state that people should “find a worthwhile charity to donate their $60 to.” Which ones? No seriously you are able to point out all of the flaws in other people (including hygiene) yet you can’t make the effort to suggest a single charity that is
Here are some facts about Toms, actually here is one fact (which is more than you offered in your whole post); Toms has donated 1 million shoes to needy children on this planet. What have you done? What have these “worthwhile” charities done?
Please educate us further oh wise and wonderful Fiona.
LaJames Wilson

Morgan says:

This post has stuck with me ever since the fitst time I read it and considered buying a pair of toms. I think that it is a great thing if these shoes are going to who they are going to but not if it is at the expense of others which is said to not be the case in a lot of these posts and I believe on the toms website. I think that now toms are no longer viewed as a way of helping others but more of a fashion statement so I think this idea is quite intelligent because even if people don’t want to give or really care they still will because they are just joining the trend. I hope this makes sense.

Just to finish off I find it hilarious how toms are so popular now but when they first began reps came to my friends school and everyone thought they were weird but now everyone there wears them….I think they are cute 🙂

Tim says:

Anyhow, I think TOMs are the least of Africa’s problems. They are a problem, don’t get me wrong. Africa needs bigger things to happen other than Americans handing out free give-a-ways and causing dependency. Whole governments need to leave Africa alone, and let them be an independent nation. I think we should set up temporary help by actually telling them how they can survive, and then get the heck out. Sitting around in Africa with free supplies is like giving free health care: it’s good in theory, but it just doesn’t work!! Where is the incentive for them? After they get free shoes, what else will they expect. All us Americans make our own living, why should Africa not be allowed to make their own living?

And like I said, TOMs is really doing minor damage compared to large government bodies that ‘donate’. America is not the only one either, check what China is up to in Africa:

Wow I’ve read all these comments and it’s been incredibly thought provoking and interesting.

As an ethical clothes and shoes blogger I am contemplating buying a pair of TOMS shoes – if only they would ship to NZ..!

I’ve just read Blake’s ‘Start something that matters’ book and it’s clear that he has all the right intentions. But like some other posters I have a few questions as the ONLY reason I even came across this thread was because I googled ‘Where are TOMS made?’ as it was not clear at all from their site… So… any TOMS employees out there if you’re listening:
1. I think what you’re doing is overall a good thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You are not solving global poverty or pretending to but you’re doing SOMETHING. The eye wear initiative is fantastic.
2. Be more transparent about WHERE the shoes are made on you site and the working conditions. Are the workers getting a living wage? Are the shoes made in China or the USA or Africa – where are they all coming from? (Labour behind the label ranks UK brands:
3. If TOMS could address the points that Mike (previous poster made) on their own website then skeptics can be proved wrong!
4. Why not make it transparent and include
a ‘traceable’ code on their products on all TOMS shoes so you can see the story about where the shoes were made, who made them, where the sustainably sourced fabric came from etc.

Morgan says:

This post seems like nothing more than a jealous rant. You said the real problem is poverty. Well, he said that while on his trip to Ethiopia he learned that children who didn’t have shoes didn’t get to go to school. Well, didn’t you say he should give the parents jobs so the parents could send their children to school? By giving the children shoes he is allowing them to be able to go to school which, in the long run, will greatly improve the poverty level in Ethiopia. So next time you get jealous of someone’s else’s success and want to write a blog post trying to put them down put a little more thought into it first or better yet don’t even waist your time posting at all. (:

LaJames Wilson says:

This is a classic case of giving poor people a fish and not teaching them how to fish? You people aren’t doing anything to educate poor Africans or South Americans or Asians. What are you teaching them? You think you are teaching your readers? We all know the world is messed up. We all know there is abject poverty everywhere on the globe.
Self reliance is another big things with you snobby self appointed educators of us shallow Americans.
Do you want these people to be self-reliant? Then they need to educate themselves.
What is required to attend school in most of these areas?
Give a kid a shoe and he/she can learn to fish.
Get off of your high horses. Write an article that tells me how much you’ve done, write a comment that tells of how much you’e done.
Until then? Write a whole lot of nothing (which you are already doing). Take this opportunity to shut up.

Jen says:

When people do something nice, there’s always going
to be someone who’se going to critize. Yeah, its true
that shoes will one wear out eventually. thats only normal and unevitable.Yes, if the parents had a job they would be able to pay for shoes for a long time. BUT its the fact that you gave something to someone out of self- lessness . its small but its still something. A small act of kindness can make anyone smile. As for FIONA every penny counts ! No matter how big or small the donation is it will HELP ! just because someone donates more money then someone else doesn’t make the other person evil ! AND as for fionas comment of the homeless person scenario its up to that person what they want to do with that money. i really like blake’s story of how toms came to be. its say’s above that the children in argentina could not go to school barefooted, so with the shoes they just got they will be able to attend school.Maybeeven eventually from their good education get a job.

Livinglessmom says:

A company that does this well is sseko.

Giving Uganda jobs and education while producing a quality product!

Erin C says:

You are asking good questions and I think you bring up important things to consider when supporting a company or cause, but I think I can pretty much nullify every argument you just made against TOMS…
Don’t assume that because the shoes were made in China that the workers are treated badly (TOMS’ workers atleast):

TOMS does not give once, they give repeatedly. When kids grow out of their shoes, TOMS comes back and puts new shoes on the feet of those same kids.

And they have showed again and again that they aren’t just concerned with covering kids’ feet. It’s all about preventing diseases and allowing kids to go to school (they are required to wear shoes to go to school)…to get a better education…to get better jobs…
(read every blog post about giving)

The organizations that TOMS works with are big on hygiene education and they generally have a better understanding than TOMS does of the local community and it’s needs. They don’t give in communities where the giving of free shoes would hurt the local businesses who sell shoes. It’s important to know that TOMS partners with many organizations who know these communities well and who are pairing the giving of shoes with education and sustainability.

Also, TOMS shoes are just the beginning. TOMS is a One for One company, not just a shoe company. TOMS eyewear…

pov247 says:

I wonder how many commenting here can say they’ve created a product, manufactured it successfully while giving back to those without. No enterprise is flawless but if Thom’s fails the litmus test for the perfect humanitarian effort, I’d like to see what contributions to global poverty it’s critics have made.

Lingo says:

Love that you guys are so passionate about and helping others (that seems to be the common theme in this whole discussion). However, Someone posted that people buy these shoes as a selfless act to help others.
Not so! People buy these shoes because because they are trendy. Its trendy to help others, and you are wearing you act of kindness on your feet. For the vast majority, if they didnt recieve their nice new trendy shoew, they would’nt be contributing to Tom’s cause. I would love to know the percentage of people who send toms money without expecting anything in return. Im positive it exist, but the percentiage is very small. I also think its sad that we are nailing the guy (that is trying to do good) that wrote this post to the wall, because he pointed out a flaw in Toms model. He also pointed out that he liked Tom’s. With all of that said, It looks like every person on here has a passion for Good no matter which side of the discussion you are on, and that is very encouraging.

Tim says:

Just curious:

How many of you guys would need shoes if you were starving and wanted to make a living?

Would you not want somebody coming in to help get you an education, rather than hand you a pair of stylish shoes?

Create jobs for the people in Africa is what I say, and then leave them the hell alone. America needs to back off, and let countries figure things out themselves.

Fuck all of you! Stop worrying about what toms does! At least the guy is trying to make a difference, you have to start somewhere. Post what youve done to help a stranger, if anything (doubt it) and i bet theres someone out there that will put down you and what you did for some stupid reason. Your bs comments on a blog arent going to change the toms company. So stop talking shit about toms and focus on how your going to remove your head from your ass.

Carla says:

Just want to say, I totally agree, with Kelsey, and with Tim and Fiona and Lingo.
And I feel like the TOMS supporters who comment here are not expressing themselves nearly as intelligently as the opposition.
Donate money to a charity that actually gives lasting solutions to problems, not temporary fixes.

tsamary says:

Trying to read this entire blog is like trying to watch an entire game between 7th graders and pro athletes (and the 7th graders don’t know they are not in the game) Uncontrollable anger at people who don’t share your opinion is a sign of either extremely low intelligence or a personality disorder. Just sayn.

Lauren says:

I agree with quite a few of the comments here. He cannot simply wave his magic wand and create jobs and give education to all people in need. Why don’t you give him some credit for helping out in some way? Not wearing shoes can be very dangerous to your health and have very serious problems over time. He is trying to fix that in a small way. One man cant fix everything. I’m going to assume he liked making shoes so he wanted to do something worthwhile with that.
I’m just going to ignore the feet stinking comment because that is childish and ridiculous.

I actually buy TOMS because I like the way they look and because of what they stand for. Now, how is making a small $40 donation to a charity really that different that buying TOMS? Does it really have any difference?

Carla – I apologize for being a 17 year old high school student who likes wearing TOMS, agrees with their cause and cant write comments on a form as maturely as a 40 year old angsty woman can. It seems like the only way you can really insult those who agree with TOMS message is to insult them and call them stupid. I think that everyone here who is in support of TOMS sounds absolutely fine.

I mean really, pardon us for enjoying the product and agreeing with the message.

tsamary says:

The stinky feet comment was INTENDED to be childish; it was an attempt to be funny and had nothing whatsover to do with his opinion of TOMS. It is irrelevant to the discussion. When someone doesn’t share your opinion they are not attacking you personally. She is simply pointing out that some people perhaps are missing the point. But ignorance is an equal opportunity. It is a choice.

this is a good thought to give shoes and a formula of (bogo).

Tim says:

Thanks Carla,

And I agree with Tsamary. There are simply too many people on this blog who are stating their opinion in an angry manner and not supporting it.

Wowwhatlosers, it is unfortunate that is both your name and your style of arguing. I hope you realize that the people who are raising their voice against Toms are people who care. We do not like seeing millions of dollars go towards a trendy shoe that doesn’t really do anything. If the shoe didn’t do anything for the customer, it wouldn’t be as popular. Actually it wouldn’t be at all.

It’s creating a gain for the customer, who thinks it creates a gain for the kids in Africa. The only argument I’ve heard about Toms defenders is that “it makes me feel good”, or “it’s trendy, and proves that I am helping people out.”

No, it looks like you are helping people out so you can get the glory, while it is teaching people in Africa nothing about how they can start fighting for their own survival.

Put it this way, you don’t put a patient in the hospital and then don’t inform him how he can take care of himself once he’s out.

If we are to help and treat Africa, we should go in their, diagnose the true problem, inform them how they can keep it going, and pull out. We should not linger around with our large American corporations hoping to make an extra buck.

Also, wowwhatlosers, I do and will help people in need. Especially in Africa, considering I’ve grown up in Zambia. I’m getting a Business Degree in an American College, and moving out to Zambia when I’m done. I’m going to start up an interest free loan firm, funded by a few American churches.

This will provide money for people to start businesses there, so they can provide for themselves and then help others in their own community provide for themselves too.

I would not be disabling them with a pair of Toms, where they expect the Western culture to always comfort them with goodies. I would be demanding they take action, and giving them an opportunity to do so. People in America think they simply can’t start a business. The problem is, they don’t have the resources right now. When they do get money, it comes free. Who’s going to spend free money stating up a business? The only way they’ll start up a business is if they are expected to pay the money back.

Just a thought for anyone arguing on behalf of Toms, don’t use personal attacks anymore. They don’t work and make you look dumb. Start thinking, and start arguing. I have yet to hear a good argument that actually defends Toms with knowledge. Don’t throw out facts like “we help them get to school.” They walk bear foot to school all the time, and if their parents had jobs they could pay for the shoes.

I want people to start using knowledge here, and not “fun facts”.


nice post, thank, i want to quto it, is it ok?

Maddie says:

Nothing is going to fully solve poverty. It’s always going to be there. So don’t rip on a guy who wants people to see what poverty is like, to show and tell people, “Hey, did you know that there are kids out their who can’t afford shoes? And due to that they are at risk of getting diseases and infections? Plus in most countries if you don’t have shoes you can’t get into a school. Which means you can’t get an education.”
This is a man who wants to help. What are all of you doing? Hmmm let’s see, sitting on a computer and not helping. Not donating money to organizations or charities or buying TOMs shoes.

Maddie says:

I understand where some of you may be coming from but can we all look at Toms more positively?

Donnybrook says:

Kelsey makes some good points, but I agree that somebody has to start somewhere. The only thing that disappoints me about Toms is that the shoes sold in the USA are made in China. I suggest that he start reopening some of the closed-down shoe factories in this country and provide jobs for Americans. I plan on buying my first pair of Toms this spring because I wear a small ladies size shoe and Toms are made small and narrow enough to fit my feet. Children’s shoes are too wide. Fifty-four bucks for a pair of shoes is cheap to me because my size costs three times that much. And I can feel good about helping a kid overseas, but I would feel better if the shoes I bought were made here.

Tommy says:

$54, really…fifty-four dollars? Let’s see at 20 cents a shoe, plus labor, shipping, and advertising…I’d say TOM clears about $50 per pair. All of TOM’s fans can feel great about helping the poor…poor TOM. If you really want to help the world… you help the world. Their is no money in it, but if you want to help yourself, keep an eye out for TOM’s IPO and jump on it. Kelsey, great post, but soleRebels are expensive too $75. I wont pay that much for anything that looks homemade.

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Joe says:

Thank you for writing such a balanced piece. However there is something missing here. I’m all for helping people when they need it, especially those who just don’t have anything. Shouldn’t our concern and care start at home, here in the USA? There are plenty of children out in the US that do not have resources to adequate anything. Does TOMS attempt to provide shoes to children in the US? Just wondering. Also, wouldn’t it be helpful to bring some of the manufacturing here? I know the cost is higher, but wouldn’t you feel better knowing that something you’re wearing was made by a worker that is receiving a decent wage, benefits and protection from work-place hazards? Maybe I’m being too American, but I am proud of the things that are made here and would happily buy these shoes if they were made in the US.

Chappy says:

l came across this post while searching for something else I had seen in regards to TOMS. Interesting read, and you brought up valid points. I’d like to respond to both your post and many of the comments.

I agree that there are ideas on the poverty problem throughout the world, and many worthwhile efforts that need monetary support to help these people lift themselves up and build a better life. I have bought TOMS in the past and will continue to do so, but not because they’re trendy.

I’m a poor college student (who’s shocked?), and I don’t have a whole lot of extra money after I pay for my own expenses plus for my dog, and therefore don’t have money to really give to causes ($10 here and there). I buy TOMS when I need new shoes. They’re some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn out of the box (I’m on my second pair). The way I look at it, I have to have a pair of shoes. Anywhere you go these days you’re going to spend at least $45-50 unless they come from a sweat shop. I might as well spend that amount to effectively buy two pairs (one that goes to a kid in need). For now, that’s all I can really afford.

hi says:

The band Hanson partners with TOMS shoes for their Take The Walk charity organization – Hanson takes one-mile barefoot walks with fans usually before concerts to promote awareness of AIDS and poverty. Hanson donates one dollar in the Take The Walk campaign for each walker to support access to medical care, medical treatment, shoes, clean water and education. In the walks, they help donate pairs of shoes in partnership with TOMS.

Quoting from an article Hanson takes ‘Walk’ to Meyer Theatre by Dan Whelan, Fourth Estate Editorial:

One major focus that has shaped Hanson over the past 10 years is the presence of AIDS and poverty in Africa. Hanson traveled over to Africa while they were recording “The Walk” to see the problems first hand, and, as a result, brought home lots of new ideas, including the performance of African choirs, which appear on their latest album.

“We had a realization that the problems in Africa were so much closer to home than we first thought,” Taylor Hanson said. “We learned that Tulsa, OK has a very high AIDS rate as well. We know that AIDS is treatable and we have an opportunity to do something about it.

“We partnered up with TOMS, a shoe company, to bring basic needs to these people in Africa. We sell these shoes as a part of our tour and, for every pair of shoes that is sold TOMS will send a pair of shoes to Africa.”

Hanson has gone further than just selling shoes to bring awareness out about the basic needs that many Africans go without. As a promotion for their new album and the program with TOMS shoes, Hanson invites concert goers to join them on a barefooted mile walk before the show, to show them what people in less fortunate nations experience on a daily basis, Taylor Hanson said.
(More at:

steyn says:

doesn’t impact of a free pair of shoes > no impact at all?

i don’t believe that the argument in your post has a solid foundation (in fact, i hesitate to say that it has any). it’s a critique of someone for doing something good just because you believe their good could be done better.

in addition, i just feel the need to add that while it may sound incredibly generous to pay employees ” three times the typical wage in Ethiopia”, it’s important to note that the typical annual wage is about $50. That would equate to $150, which is hardly something to write about – but that being said, the argument i’m using here is very much the same as the one in your post 🙂

i live in africa. i have all my life. i’m confronted by problems that would baffle people in the so-called “developed” world (yeah, those people sitting on their high horses ranting about companies who try to do good because they’re not doing it good enough). your post should instead read “why aren’t more companies doing what toms are?”

imagine if all companies gave back.

it is a typical “developed world” argument. you just don’t get it. when you live on a continent, in a country that has one of the worst gini coefficients in the world, plagued by diseases such as hiv and the remnants of colonialism, you start looking at things differently. any change is already much greater than none – and still companies follow a “shareholder above all” friedman approach rather than catering to all stakeholders – employees, sharholders and society.

thank you. i feel much better now.

Tony says:

this is a tricky topic, but one that is totally needed. We like to say that it takes courage for someone to think about aid that is “real good” than just “feels good.” Hope that these questions don’t discourage those with good intentions – but like you said – good intentions are not enough. In many cases, good intentions can hurt the very people we’re trying to help

Curtis says:


I’ve struggled with a lot of the same issues you bring up in this article. As you mentioned, TOMS could do better, but their model has inspired many more individuals to improve upon it in varying arenas, including myself. I’ve started a company, Feed Adam, to sustainably eat away at poverty. We import quinoa-based food products from an indigenous Ecuadorian women’s foundation. All products are USDA Organic, Kosher, and gluten-free. For every pound we sell, we donate $1 between two holistic development agencies (Hope International and New Vision Renewable Energy) that work to empower the poor both in the US and abroad. Poverty and injustice are complicated issues. I’ve realized that there is no perfect solution, but rather it takes cooperation to overcome its hold on people’s lives. Thanks for bringing these issues to light.

Martin says:

One thing I can’t figure out: is Toms deducting the US retail value of their shoes as a donation to charity? Let’s say you buy a pair of shoes for $50. Retailer keeps $25, Toms keeps $25. Pays a couple bucks for manufacturing both pairs, keeps the rest. Then gives a pair of shoes to a charity. Being a for-profit corporation, I’m sure they will take advantage of this come tax time.
Does anybody know?

Hannah says:

I was looking for information about “where our things come from” for a unit I am teaching my students about Trade and the Marketplace and I stumbled upon this blog post. This is really good, I have friends who work for TOMS and more friends who own many pairs of TOMS. I love the model but, I think that your post gets at that something that was missing. Very interesting post. Thank you!

Kelley says:

It is quite amazing to me that I had this thought about 6 months ago, myself never giving in to buying a pair of “shoes” made out of two pieces of fabric and a thin rubber sole for an outrageous price of (from what I could find recently) $45, never revealing why I couldn’t bring myself to do this to others in my circle that live by them. Interestingly enough, a recent episode of South Park, in conjunction with my studies in Diversity at the University of Houston concerning the numerous maquiladoras in Mexico, re-piqued my intrigue and congruent deep sadness for Americans’ to misguidedly follow an entity simply because we are to be told that they do good, no questions asked. Few examples currently come to mind, probably considering I have done little research for this impromptu comment, however, most recently, the charity Innocent Children pops up as citizens who claim to want to help those that are “helpless”. All is good in theory, but when documentation shows the company to not appear as transparent as they claim to be, questions should be raised. I praise you, Kelsey, for your insight, research, and cool head. It’s not easy to keep it real when under the pressure of bullies and anti free speech advocates, especially when they have nothing on you! But you are pursuing a wonderful, thought provoking and important issue, and I thank you. Due to the fact that this blog post is almost a year old, there are too many comments to read to see if this topic is covered, but if you can answer me this: where does the remaining $40 dollars per pair profit go after all is said and done? I will continue to follow your efforts and will share your posts on Facebook. Top link on Google too, bravo!
Much obliged,
Kelley E. Dellafave
Houston, TX

Kelsey says:

Kelley, I’m not sure where the profit goes. We can only guess. That’s one of my points. Private businesses that use doing good for marketing aren’t held accountable like actual NGOs that would have to report where all their money goes.

By the way, everybody, I still read all of your comments here. I’m glad that this post has led to such a great discussion.

For those who think I’m just senselessly critiquing TOMS, I’m not. I want TOMS to do better and lead the way in ethical sourcing. I have reason to believe that they are moving in this direction.

henclar says:

Great provoking thoughts.I think we should learn to address the basic symptoms before they lead to a bigger problem.
Good piece

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Sarah Weiss says:

I’m really tired of everyone trying to bring everything down. So a guy (Blake) starts a company because he traveled to Argentina and felt bad because he saw some kids who didn’t have shoes. So he thought about it and decided that he could help out. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT? Did Blake say that he was going to end poverty or change the world. I completely agree that this isn’t going to fix anything except give a few kids some shoes. I think our frustrations can be directed at much more negative causes. It’s like if someone doesn’t create a company for good that doesn’t save lives, it’s not legitimate. There are better companies out there that are doing better things, and there are far worse companies that completely destroy people’s lives. If everyone on here that leaves negative comments about Toms is doing something far better than Blake with their time, then I guess I am wrong. I am not even defending Toms. I bought a pair of burlap Toms a long time ago, before it was even a big deal and I haven’t bought one since. I am just tired of everyone criticizing people who are at least trying to make the world a better place. Also I want to comment on the comment about buying shoes at Walmart and then using the other $50 to put to a better use. Is supporting Walmart a better idea than Toms? Also, did you use the $50 to give to charity?
Just curious.

LaJames Wilson says:


You really hit the nail on the head with your comment. We live in the society of Walmart, McDonalds, Starbucks, Iphone-pad-touch, and Nike. Yet whenever one guy comes out with one idea to make a change (no matter how small people view that change), people want to tear them down. It is the “crabs in the bucket” theory but in reverse. Walmart promotes unemployment in America more than any other entity (yes even NAFTA) so the suggestion to buy shoes there is laughable. The shoes you buy at Walmart are made in third world countries by companies that had to move their production facilities out of America in order to be able to afford to sell at the Walmart mandated prices, (that their competitors sell at) or face extinction. So that was a joke.
These people stand in judgement while wearing shoes from a sweat shop, while standing in line at McDonalds and tweeting from their Iphones.
It is not only the transformative nature of Toms that makes it great but rather the BOGO concept. Imagine McDonalds donating a Happy Meal (obsiously in the form of something less perishable like rice) to children on the Horn of Africa for every one they sold. Imagine a laptop to an inner-city school for every laptop sold. Or BOGO clothing from Levis. BOGO healthcare for every cosmetic surgery performed in Los Angeles equating to a cleft pallet repaired in S America. How about a malaria net for a child in Africa for every 25 Angry Bird downloads. Spalding doing a BOGO for soccer balls.
People need to see the bigger picture. Does Blake make a tidy profit from this venture? I am sure that he does.
Does that mean his model should be descredited by the masses? No! In fact the world would be a better place if Corporate America was to emulate his model.
Sarah these people don’t care about that, they would rather attack those looking to do good while ignoring the deeper evils of the world.
Taking shots at Blake is akin to placing blame on a box of tissue for your runny nose whilst ignoring the fact that you have Pneumonia.

Gabby says:

I appreciate your argument about Toms shoes and I think much of what you say is valid. However, I do not think that this automatically means that people should not buy Toms shoes or that this company does not have value. It is an imperfect model, I admit, but I think that part of the point that Toms is making is that you can have a business that is about more than just making money. Yes, Toms is for profit, however I would imagine that part of the reason they are for profit is not because they want to make a ton of money; rather, i think it may also be a way to demonstrate to the business world that you can have a business model that is profitable that is also about helping other people. Let’s face some ways, Toms is quite unlike other manufacturing models. The shoes you receive are definitely not the same quality as other shoes you could buy for the same price. People know that, yet they buy the shoes anyway because it’s not about the shoes: it’s about the giving. I also think it is unfair to say that Toms uses poverty and the one for one idea to objectify the poor in order to capitalize on profits. I really do not think this is the case, and I do think that is an unfair assessment since their movement seems genuine, even if slightly misguided ideologically. I also agree that Toms does not at all address the nature of poverty…as many people have pointed out, they are trying to help people’s immediate needs, which is valid. I am also glad their shoes are manufactured (under what I hope are fair labor conditions, as they say on their website) in some of the countries they give shoes to, providing jobs that I hope are good and respect human dignity. Now, I agree with the argument that Toms perpetuates the “I’m an American, I feel bad for you, let me help you!” mindset that tends to pacify rather than empower, a kind of neo-colonialism (while good intentioned, can be disastrous). I do not think that Toms is the answer to all of these problems; however, in comparison to many other shoes one could buy on the market, which are made in what I presume in many cases are sweatshops and the only benefit people in that country gain from making these shoes (despite meager wages) is the probable return of these shoes after Americans have become bored with them. Thus the people who made them are inheriting the very shoes they labored over after they have served their purpose for the wealthy Americans, their intended consumers. This, to me, is a much more dire and problematic situation. I agree with your points, and I think it is important to express these concerns to Toms. However, I will still buy Toms shoes because I think they are a more ethical choice than what is currently on the market. In the meantime, I appreciate this respectful discourse because people need to have a better grasp of what poverty is and the ideology of “development” and neo-colonialism that plagues the third world. One last note: it is also important for people to understand that the root of these troubles is the consumerism of American society that benefits from the third world. We must tackle our own consumeristic tendencies, on an individual level, in order to have impact on situations such as these. Just some food for thought.

David says:

Lots of good comments going on here. Unfortunately there should be about 20 different threads to address the range of topics being discussed.

I will try to keep mine noted as seperate topics.

Topic 1: The Value Aspect
Reading a lot of comments people confuse the companies good intentions being questioned with constructive criticism. I don’t believe Kelsey is downing the good intentions Toms has, but rather bringing to light POSSIBLE flaws in the structure. Example: If I clean ducks covered in oil. My intentions: get the oil off the poor birds. (that is good) My result: take the bird to scrub all the oil off it using soap and releasing the bird. (also good). The issue is if I unknowingly used soap that was made of dead baby ducks to clean it.

Point Being – My intentions were great, and the results were good on the surface, but is there room for improvement on the process. Yes… and pherhaps I need someone to point that out.

Topic 2: Which came first the chicken or the egg.

Lots of comments about Toms needing to concentrate on the factories instead of the children. Isn’t this really a chicken or egg scenario more than a fish or fisherman? If you help the parents it supplies more money to the families who can then buy there own shoes. If you supply the childeren with shoes and an education because of it. Eventually they will have better jobs and thus there familys will prosper… in theory.

Anyways there are about a hundred layers to this blog and depending on which layer you decide to zone in on there are 20 topics in each.

Just a few of my thoughts on the 1,000’s of topics.

liz says:

I love my TOMS and feel very good about myself when I buy a pair. My 10 year old bought herself a pair with her christmas money and really felt good about it because she was helping another child. I don’t think the average person thinks about where the shoes are being made just that the company gives a pair of shoes to a child in need is enough for most people. I will probably continue to buy TOMS but I will also be conscious of what I am buying and how and where its made. (maybe)

Tim Daugaard says:

In response to Grace (July 27th, 2011 | 2:09 am) and Tangerine (July 27th, 2011 | 5:47 pm):
When did this become an issue of whether or not TOMS is a good company? The focus of the movement is supposed to be the improvement of the lives of poor people, and if in the long run the movement is not doing anything to alleviate the poverty that will still be there when the shoes wear out, then the movement is not helping, rather it is hurting. It’s almost giving the children a false sense of improvement.
They don’t need foreign aid, they need development in their own country/continent that will lead to new jobs and money flowing through their economy. Here is an article citing advice from a business owner in Africa, and an international aid expert:
Also, this is a link to an excellent book on the subject of how to do poverty alleviation correctly.

ME says:

TOMS can’t give away homes and jobs. Quit trying to boycott the company they give away school lunches and shoes. They do the best they can. TOMS can’t put a roof over your head or give your parents a job or send you to school. Greedy people…

ME says:

TOMS can’t give away homes and jobs. Quit trying to boycott the company they give away school lunches and shoes. They do the best they can. TOMS can’t put a roof over your head or give your parents a job or send you to school. Greedy people… I mean really

I says:

Stop being greedy. Got it

David2 says:

This is when things get a little socially awkward. Studies show that most people that read my blog think I look and sound like a passive aggressive schmuck. Even though I’ve told them 10 times already that there is no need to raise your hand, they say
“Um… You’re condescending?”
I don’t have a problem with them, in fact, I believe they are more beautiful than many of people who compliment me (that’s not saying much). Taylor, thanks so much for chiming in. I think it’s important up front that we establish that I’m a clever boy(I Googled my name), which makes it extra cool that you are chiming in. Lol (laughing out loud while looking at my picture at the top of my big blog) My offer stands, give me access and I’ll give you the only chance you have to shut up your critics. As you consider this, know that I will ask questions like: What percent of people love me in China? And then I’ll want to go on an all-expenses-paid holiday to visit the poor people on my own, stay in flash hotels and talk with the workers. How awesome would it be if TOMS did that.

Kelsey says:

Hey folks, I haven’t weighed in much over the past year on this, but I’ve enjoyed your discussion and debate.

Here’s my 2012 update: 3 Things Criticizing TOMS Shoes Taught Me –

TMB says:

I love how incredibly patronizing the writer is towards people that may not fully agree with the article “Hey! Thanks sooo much for writing in!” “It’s extra cool that you work for TOMS shoes! Awesome!”
C’mon, Kelsey. I’m not buying that you are genuinely pleased someone is standing up for a charitable organization that you just passive-aggressively attacked. At least give us the courtesy of being real. For whatever reason, you hate TOMS shoes. You love this other charitable organization. I think both have their hearts in the right place. TOMS saw a need, lack of shoes, and is seeking to meet it. This other place saw more than just lack of shoes. Congratulations to both.

Thanks sooo much in advance for your response, especially if you disagree with me but don’t actually say it and instead treat me like a child. That’s much better than saying “I do not agree with you and here is why:”.
Maybe some people don’t mind being condescended, but many do. Read this:
There are so many self-righteous people out there! They just go on and on about how perfect their actions are and how incorruptible they are. It’s sad that they have convinced themselves that their motives are pure when in reality they are as contemptible as anyone else. Anyways, let’s just all be aware of this as we move forward!

See how I just indirectly called you self-righteous, without saying it directly? I said it in a nice way, so I feel better about it even though what I did was just as mean as the very thing I convinced myself I was not doing.

Good luck! Have a super awesome day! Yay!

Kelsey says:

TMB, TOMS isn’t a charitable organization.



Tenaya says:

I think this is an interesting discussion. Most people feel very strongly one way or another about TOMS. I have to pose a question for everyone screaming about the social responsibility of TOMS though:
Do you check the social responsibility of every product you buy? Or does TOMS’ social responsibility bother you because it is advertised and may not be entirely accurate?

Most people have no problem buying the last smart phone, new clothes, furniture, etc. How often are any of those companies socially responsible? I think that if we criticize one organization for not fulfilling its social responsibility to the full extent of its abilities, then ALL organizations should be held to that same standard.

And for the record, I love my TOMS.

Fris says:

Stupid Post, Toms is the Best company

Chelsea says:

If you are going to follow a fashion trend, which most people do, it’s better to buy a shoe that gives than a shoe that doesn’t. Do what you want with your money.

An interesting thing for everyone to know, and no I don’t have proof, only my friend’s word:
Tom’s actually takes the local climate and environment into consideration when making the shoes for the drop offs. My friend was present for one of the drops in Africa and because it is a wet and soggy region, no I don’t where, Tom’s made water proof shoes for those kids. I thought that was awesome. It was actually the point that changed my mind about buying a pair.

Anonymous says:

At least TOMS is doing something for someone. You only care about where they are made, not the impact they have on the children receiving them. Money isn’t the only factor that determine whether a child goes to school or not. As someone else pointed out, some schools don’t permit children to attend unless they have shoes. In some countries, girls can’t go to school. Giving them shoes or money won’t change their gender. ALSO, Always donates maxi pads to Africa so girls can go to school on their periods. Otherwise the girls would have to miss school because they lack proper sanitation. Where do you draw the line? Stop being butthurt over TOMS.

I did not get to read every comment, I like your thought provoking blog. Maybe this was mentioned, but if not then Tom’s is using a marketing plan that is almost a no-fail. My kid came home & demanded I buy him Tom’s simply BECAUSE they give shoes to sweet “poor” kids. No other shoe would do for my kid. Tom’s became the ONLY shoe my kid wants and still does. In marketing, this is used a lot. The image, is that a company is producing a product and that if you buy it, you are somehow doing good in the world. Tom’s has done exceptionally well using this plan. Greenwashing is also used: “These days, green is the new black. Corporations are falling all over themselves to demonstrate that they are environmentally conscious. The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.”

Emily says:

I’d just like to say that I enjoyed reading your blog and the first chunk of comments on this post… (skipped the rest because a lot of the comments seemed like straight out flaming). I first bought into Toms Shoes for the look, not because of the corporate social responsibility message. But, I personally wouldn’t buy another pair again because of the cheap quality and the smell that emits after walking in them for so long. These shoes are not meant to be worn for long periods of time. Also… a pair won’t last a year with a rainy season. Personally I find it to be a rip off that these shoes cost 50 bucks to wear… I’m pretty sure these shoes cost less than 5 bucks to make if they’re manufacturing them in third world countries… If people are buying these shoes for the “good deed” value from Toms, I suggest looking elsewhere. It is just a marketing ploy that they use to make profit from poverty. There is a reason why Toms doesn’t donate half of their profits to these poor communities…

morgan says:

sure they aren’t perfect, but they’re a heck of a lot better than most shoe brands. saying that it is a bad company is like saying Unicef is a bad company. it’s not as good as heifer, but it’s better than nothing. on the website at it states that they never use underage labour, as well as answering the following questions

Where are TOMS manufactured?
TOMS currently manufactures in Argentina, China and Ethiopia.

How does TOMS ensure its manufacturers adhere to human rights standards?
We require the factories operate under sound labor conditions, pay fair wages and follow the International Labor Standards set by the International Labor Organization. A code of conduct is signed by all factories. Our production staff regularly visits these factories to make sure they are maintaining these working standards. We also have third parties audit the factories at least once a year to ensure they adhere to proper labor regulations.

Are TOMS Fair Trade?
We employ fair trade practices, although there are currently no official fair trade standards for footwear manufacturing.

in conclusion, I believe that you have based your information entirely on the tag found inside, and am somewhat annoyed that you have not done thorough research before spreading false rumors.

odafen aigbomobea says:

Dear sir/madam,
I m odafen from nigeria a musician i m an orphan seeking for help i have no cloths i m having eyes problem here in african nigeria i live in no 6 atika street fafunwa estate ipaja lagos nigeria west african i need full support soon as possible.May God bless you and your family,A men,Thank for your concern.i want you to help me for shoes and bags,cloths.

odafen aigbomobea says:

pls i need your help i m confused of life.

Eliana says:

Hola Kelsey, soy de argentina y realmente no se si entiendas español, yo entiendo ingles aunque mi escritura en ese idioma es deficiente, así que he preferido hacerlo en español al comentario.
Lo que recalcas mucho es lo de dar trabajo en vez de zapatos, como la frase de enseñar a pescar en vez de regalar pescados. Pues sí es algo positivo, pero por vivencia propia puedo decirte que muchos chicos cuyos padres SI trabajan a veces se quedan sin poder concurrir a la escuela, hacer deportes o simplemente salir como un niño normal porque no tienen la posibilidad de tener un par de zapatos, y no es por falta de trabajo sino que el dinero de este se utiliza para comer o para cosas mas indispensables. Y es que el dinero obtenido es de los trabajos locales, en ciudades de Argentina que muchas veces están aisladas o lejanas de la grandes ciudades que ofrecen más fuentes de trabajo. El planteo que tu haces nos llevaría a terminar igual que la fabricas de china que criticas al principio, darles trabajo a estas personas significaría alejarlas de su ciudad natal, de su entorno y cultura. Lo cual se torna un poco contradictorio ¿No?

Es un punto de vista, un saludo.

Which is why you should buy Bearfeet Shoes from of all natural materials made by Americans in Brownwood, Texas, United States of America.

Robert Carson says:

Hey guys let’s start arguing all this really proves is that there ARE flaws in EVERY company and you can always find one depending on how hard you search and (no offense to the original poster) but there will always be at least one a-hole to point it out. Truth is, most things aren’t made I the USA. Shoes are shoes, and I suppor the fact that Toms give one, even though they should start off with our country because tere are kids without shoes here but it’s the thought that counts

Katie says:

People are claiming that the BOGO model of TOMs is at least doing more good than harm, but is it? I’m actually asking, is it? Or is it harming the businesses of local shoemakers, etc.? Of course it’s good that kids have shoes, but is the giving of shoes creating more sustainability than local businesses would? I’m not being rhetorical, I’m genuinely questioning whether or not it is truly doing more good than harm.

amanda thomas says:

here’s a novel idea, one that I’m sure will not take root. Create jobs here in United States, give families the opportunity to work and support their families, and turn stimulate the economy. Workers from foreign countries are not the only ones who need jobs. We can provide jobs here and then continue with the program of BOGO, after all it’s not like the shoes are cheap, and cannot possibly cost so much to manufacture. These ‘do good’ companies goes to foreign countries and continue to perpetuate the “slave labor” conditions for worker.

amanda thomas says:

sorry correction above:
and in turn, etc.
these companies go (not goes) to etc

Joshua Cro says:

So the only things I have learned from this article and comments from those that have “lived in Africa” are: Stop buying shoes from TOMS that give shoes to kids across the globe and that America should not dwindle nor care about the affairs of other countries whether poverty stricken or full of violence. I guess I feel better that I should not care. YAY! (sarcasm)

Joshua Cro says:

So the only things I have learned from this article and comments from those that have “lived in Africa” are: Stop buying shoes from TOMS that give shoes to kids across the globe and that America should not dwindle nor care about the affairs of other countries whether poverty stricken or full of violence. I guess I feel better that I should not care. YAY! =] (sarcasm)

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Van says:

Great article! I’ve read all the comments up to mine, and about 1/4 of them are good and add to the discussion. Like other commenters have said, there needs to be more transparency to TOMs as well as, like you said, jobs on the back end. I feel like most people who disparage your article haven’t read it all the way through.

Another great point a commenter raised was whether or not there was a class divide in that Argentinian village, why not allow shoe-less children to go to school?


Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I
found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said
“You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed
the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely
off topic but I had to tell someone!

Joe says:

This is an excellent article and absolutely speaks to my mind. I’ve had this argument with my girlfriend a number of times. She thinks TOMS are a wonderful example of giving to the poor, because some little child get’s a pair when some rich toffy student buys one. As he (or she) walks away smug about his wonderful impact on the world, the wage slave in China who made that pair of shoes is at work getting paid tuppence to make some more.

Excellent article!

PS. I actually think TOMS are terrible shoes. They are very low quality, very expensive (probably to pay for the other pair) and provide very little support to your under-foot bridge section. Just a thought.

Billy says:

Just because they’re made in China doesn’t mean they’re made by slaves..

M L says:

I’m actually doing a research paper on the commodity chain of TOMS shoes for my Economic Geography class… This blog has a lot of great input, but does anyone have any ideas on where I can find some scholarly articles about this??

Input is much appreciated! 🙂

Kelsey says:

If you find one let me know.

Nanna says:

If you take a look at you will see that shoes are required for going to school. A child without shoes will not get an education and therefore no good income. You say the problem is poverty, and that is right, but where do you start if you want to make a change? You have to start small, TOMS do it by giving away shoes. That is much more easy than creating jobs. Hopefully it will lead to employment in the future.

jordan says:

I am critical of TOMS because they make a profit off of customers that want to help. Reminding me of all the companies that put a pink ribbon on their products and markup the price 100% while only actually donating 1% of those product’s profits to charity. A kid with shoes is better than a kid without shoes. But why do I need to spend a total 50 dollars so 1 kid can have shoes? I feel like 50 american dollars in a third world should buy atleast 10 pairs of good shoes. I think 50 dollars can go a lot further than me wearing 1 pair of shoes, and 1 kid wearing one pair of shoes. I wish TOMS could assist me in using my 50 dollars to help more than 1 kid. I don’t even want the shoes for myself. Basically, its important to question everything, and not believe whatever is spoon fed to you.

Hannah says:

Agreed, my feet smell awful after wearing TOMS with no socks.

Kelsey says:

Hannah, I catch so much flak from the comment in my post about the people wearing TOMS barefoot have stinky feet. Thanks for owning up to your stinky feet!

colway says:

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Stan Neerman says:

Most of the brick and mortar stores that sell Toms are less than thrilled with how they run their business. They are very arrogant. They require very large orders for at once and then large future orders for new products they come up with. They constantly come up with new display criteria which are mostly ignored. You even have to write them a letter telling why you should be a Toms retailer. The retailers I know are concerned that when the fad dies they will really be stuck with loads of unsaleable inventory.

Kelsey says:

Fascinating Stan. I haven’t heard from anyone with that perspective yet. I used to work at a store that sold shoes, but they didn’t sell TOMS. They probably do now.

Stan Neerman says:

Forgot the biggest complaint of the retailers: THE SHOES ARE CRAPPY AND OVERPRICED ! They can give away more than one pair after what they get at wholesale.

Kelsey says:

Stan, Now that argument I’ve heard.

Corey says:

This is the perfect webpage for anyone who really wants to understand this topic.

You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you
(not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that has been discussed for
ages. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

Lin S. says:

The point is that people need to learn and pass on to the future that “GIVING” is a good virtue, a good quality to pass down generations after generations. Yes, we can’t end world hunger, and fighting poverty could be endless, but the idea of learning to give and be giving is a good thing, I think that’s the main point about TOMS. Making someone happy even if it’s only for a few minutes, even if you’re making just one person happy, you made a difference in that one person, how much more in a whole community. People have forgotten how to show love to one another.

nicole says:

I was suckered by the buy one give one. I was purchasing shoes for my 2yr old. I didn’t think to ask or look where they came from… I just didn’t think and I like to think I am a parent who does make a good attempt of doing this because I would like to set a good example.
It is a great marketing tool. Sucker parents like me simply look at our child and the idea of giving another child a pair of shoes seems the right this in the moment.
In the moment. Thank you for bringing me back down off my BOGO high horse. I will be returning these shoes and looking for a better alternative.

Dominique says:

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Unfortunately, 99.999% of companies are concerned with only one thing: profit. How much money does one person need? Why is an extra $10 an item more important than helping to create a better world? How can you justify flying around in a helicopter while there are people without food or clean water?!

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Pieter says:

Hello everyone,

I think that the comments on this thread have all been pretty good. First of all, TOMS may not solve poverty in third world countries by giving children shoes, but they are doing good. Yes, there are probably some great and better non-profit organizations out there that do not get the “credit” that TOMS gets. With that said, I do believe that even though the shoes are made in China, Argentina, and Ethiopia,that Blake and TOMS are really trying to make a difference. Like previously stated, that their may be a problem with the BOGO “Buy One Give One” model. Just take yourself outside of what TOMS has become. I purchased my first pair of TOMS 5 years ago in California, and it was just a west coast company trying to get a start. Think about how many shoes they have put on children’s feet. Yes it may be the new “hip” thing to wear around college campuses, but I really do think that even though it may be a perfect model, I really do think that TOMS is doing more good than harm to this world. As a scientist, I would like to the see the statistics on what TOMS has done for the communities around the world that they have given shoes too.

I think that Kelsey has brought up a great point about TOMS, and it needs to answer some key questions, but it is hard to argue that TOMS has not made a impact of children’s lives in this world. That is the most important thing. It is the GIVING.

Also for people arguing that TOMS is a for profit organization, it is but Blake does not live in a 60,000 square foot mansion like Bill Gates, he lives on a sail boat. Yes it may be a very nice sail boat, but he is still trying to practice what he preaches. I have to give credit to Blake and TOMS for getting young adults in the mindset of “giving”. Very Well Done!


Adriana says:

I really like the TOMS motto but I also agree with what is being said here- fix the root of the problem. However, you can’t just eliminate a movement like TOMS. What about the kids who don’t have parents, that live with only their older siblings (who can’t work)? What about the hundreds, thousands of kids in orphanages?
I think that both TOMS and SoleRebels are great movements- each works well with different communities.

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arielle says:

I only heard of Toms Shoes through excessive spamming on Pinterest and Facebook, and quite honestly that was enough to put me off. They’ve created fake profiles and just gone around every “board” and “group” on they can find, posting hundreds of pictures with stupid comments like “Great TOMS shoes you have there! I wish I could have some great TOMS shoes”. This was enough to put me off the shoe in the first place, but now hearing what crap quality they are too…

Also – at no point was anything mentioned about their charity ideas etc… I don’t know, none of this has given me any faith in the brand, OR any desire for the product.

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i would be interested to know if you checked with the Kids / community that receives the free Shoes “How they feel about it”

IF the community or the beneficiaries feel what TOMS is doing is helpful and makes a difference, then i think it is worth all the effort TOMS takes in manufacturing and distribution of the free shoes. The people working at TOMS should feel happy and product about it.

Anyone who attempts to address a problem in the society, understands and experiences it in a certain manner. And then he tries to do his bit in the best possible way he can. it never possible for one person to solve every problem.

If TOMS is working towards helping a community by providing shoes, someone else should or would (hopefully) take the take job of addressing the problems faced by the community where it is being manufactured. One can be sensitive to it but it is unfair to expect toms to be solving it.

The final sentence in your blog says “I do wish that TOMS would not just give shoes on the back end, but give quality jobs on the front end. ”
I would like to ask you if you appreciate what it takes to “Just give shoes”. Had the tone of the article been appreciative of what they are doing and then urge them to do more than what they do now, it would have been a great read. Being cynical is easy……. Being responsibly cynical isn’t.

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Natalia says:

Thanks for introducing me to soleRebels! Like you said, TOMs is definitely better than the majority of shoe brands, but as consumers we shouldn’t feel like heroes for wearing TOMs. So even though I have a pair of TOMs (that I love) I have recently been looking for clothing and shoe companies that are ethical in their MANUFACTURING, especially in light of the tragedies in Bangladesh.

So Kudos to TOMs, but lets not stop there. The manufacturing side of things is actually what is most important right now. It’s what has this whole world off of balance. Economies flourish off of the abuse and enslavement of workers that produce almost for free.

Does anyone know of a fair trade brand that sells basics like tank tops and t-shirts? Thats what I used to go to H&M for but I’m so disgusted with them that I don’t want to buy there again, and it’s going to be hard not to without an alternative!

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So in your opinion shoes that can are three times as expensive to produce is your idea of resource allocation efficiency?

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Anne says:

I totally understand what you’re saying; at first I didn’t get the whole idea of TOMS either. I understand that when you buy a pair, you give a pair, which is great, but that’s all that happens. A child in need gets shoes. Does that help them? Yeah, because you give them shoes, but that could be one small problem from a list of many.

TOMS is currently working with artists from Haiti though, and according to their website:

“In a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, we commissioned 30 local artists to create limited edition TOMS Shoes.

This initiative creates and supports local jobs, while giving artists a global canvas to bring the beauty and richness of Haitian culture to people worldwide.”

At least now they’re doing more than just giving shoes…but I will say that yeah, they could do better.
I do admire Blake though, for coming up with this idea.

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Interesting to hear mostly younger people (just a guess)discussing what will help or hinder other people in our world. Kudos….because it sounds as if many of you have yet to participate in the helping traditions or have raised children…yet you are considering all sides of the issue. I used to try to explain to my peers that feeding children who didn’t have enough to eat was a great idea and necessary, but what is being done for them as they enter adulthood and are left to the side while we keep on “feeding the children” Some thought I was mean spirited….they assumed I wasn’t in favor of “feeding the children”. They missed the point. I have great confidence that a generation younger than myself (I’m 73) is about to make an addition to a better world….because we are locked together on the internet to see each other’s struggles….it should be a good ride and I intend to live at least 30 more years to see it. Start with trying to find out the whole story of people who would seek to do good….the real story might be partially good and partially not so good….stay right on this….don’t become one of the many people who are content to say “they should do this and they shouldn’t do that.” Unless discussing things that way helps you understand better how people’s minds work. Good luck, God Bless, I know you will do a great job.

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For starters…I feel like a dummy for falling for the TOMS thing. I was under the impression that they were made in countries where they were making the donations. Lesson learned.
So what are the odds that TOMS is also claiming their donations for tax deductions? Companies like these often donate extra stock and claim the retail value as a charitable donation on their taxes. Essentially, TOMS would be selling a pair of shoes at a high markup, donating extra stock and claiming that second pair at retail value receiving 50% of the retail value back on their taxes. Am I wrong? I really would like to be wrong.

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I think it’s all a pile of crap. You know as well as I do that these shoes are made in China by children and workers who are almost slaves. This is just another “feel good” marketing campaign so that spoiled American’s can feel better about driving their gas guzzling SUV’s while wearing a pare of shoes like Tom’s.

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Caren says:

Kelsey, thank you for the interesting blog. I am a lawyer in South Africa and have a client with a shoe factory in Cape Town. We, in Southern Africa see the results of poverty and truely believe that education and job creation are the only real answers. We can however also see the benifits and needs of giving. “Not giving” is definately not the answer as we do have a socail responsibility.
As South Africa has some of the best labour laws in the world and as Toms are not available to buy in Southern Africa, my client and I wanted to make a proposal to Toms to manufacture in Cape Town (for distribution in Southern Africa – and maybe USA, as it can be exported to USA duty-free.) This way, they will share in education, job creaton and BOGO! We however had no response from Toms on all our emails. Does anyone know who we can contact to try and make this possible?

James says:

This article is outdated…If you actually want to know how TOMS gives, go to
some quick notes:
10 million pairs given to children across 60 countries (they go back to the villages every few months to provide new/larger shoes for the growing kids)
TOMs teams up with organizations who focus on vaccinations, nutrition and other issues that affect these villages; so they aren’t ‘just’ getting shoes.
They are producing ‘Giving’ shoes in the country they are giving them and developing shoes for specific regions
They donate millions to global charities (Eastern Congo initiative, Chairty:water, MOvember etc etc).
They also team up and assist start up companies and charities; one of these small companies could be the next ‘TOMS’.
Ultimately I read a lot of negativity on here….what have you done?

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izzy says:

TOMS is All About Blake. Narcissus loving his own reflection of the Great White Male saving The Poor. So-called ‘Social Enterprise’ and ‘Conscious Capitalism’ are Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing. The point of business is to make money, plain and simple, be it oil, guns, cars, toys, films, books, food, eco-tourism, airlines, news, sports, make-up, clothing, pharmaceuticals, hamburgers, or shoes.
No matter how you Spin It, The End Game Is Still MONEY. TOMS does not give that away!

Laurie says:

This comment is nothing about the checkbook charity that the company does but the overall quality that Tom’s shoes are. They are crap. This was my first pair and the third time that I slipped. The prior times I didn’t have a serious injury but this last time was it. No more junk. I intend to take the to the front street and burn them.

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Haters will always hate… Keep up the great work TOMS!

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Shoegirl says:

Hi Kelsey, just as an FYI, the TOMS shoes business model was created to be sustainable so that they could continue to give shoes to the kids who need them over the years. Their mission is not to end world poverty; it’s to effectively solve an immediate problem. If more charities would focus on actually solving problems rather than spending donors’ money on recognition parties and other wasteful overhead and their time in action rather than lengthy discussion, they might start to have a similar impact.

Kelsey says:

Dear all haters, TOMS has taken many of the questions I and others have posed very seriously and are rethinking their model. They are opening a “responsible and sustainable” shoe factory in Haiti to provide opportunities/job to Haitians. They also plan on manufacturing their “giving shoes” in the countries where they are given.

These are very positive moves in the right direction. Kudos to TOMS. And kudos to all of the brave souls willing to speak out about how the TOMS brand could be used to make a real and lasting impact on our world.

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Tom Mycosckie is now a 1%-er. He is doing well. For all of you that complain about big banking, big business, and the wealthy, remember that.

This is a Capitalistic Enterprise. And I commend his good work. I take issue with Tom using China as the biggest manufacturer. China is a communist government using the very poor and incarcerated to make it’s money.

And we, the USA consumers are the suckers. My challenge to Tom is to remove all manufacturing from China. The same with every other company using their workers. At the same time, we need to eliminate the trade and other unions in the United States that are forcing companies to outsource. We have the hungry and the homeless here too. Buy from small companies in the Right-to-Work states.

The good thing about his intentions is that giving (as in BOGO) is voluntary, as charity should be, and not an act of compulsion by a government (as in your taxes going for silly research or to fund the tyranny we now experience here in the USA)!

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I just purchased a pair of Toms… I was looking on the website for country of manufacture and was wondering why it wasnt listed, and its not reflected in any of the reviews. Surely someone had noticed this…

Anyway, the question I posed to myself was wouldnt I be better off buying a pair of 10-12 dollar tennis shoes made in China that are likely equally as comfy and just donate the balance of what I WOULD have paid for a pair of Toms directly to a charity.

I think that companies like Toms are intended to ease our conscience while still allowing us to be the consumers we are.

Like the article above says: not having shoes isnt the problem, poverty is the problem.

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