TOMS responds and I make an offer

In case you didn’t see the comments in the last post, TOMS responds!  And then I respond to TOMS and make a super-special offer.

(I out Taylor as a TOM employee in my response. I got his last name from his email address. Here’s the proof.)

April 7th, 2011 | 11:50 am Taylor said:

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.

And my response, along with a special offer that I hope TOMS takes me up on.

April 7th, 2011 | 12:59 pm Kelsey Timmerman said:

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.


Kelsey, this could be our mission trip. 🙂

Jess says:

I love your positive take on the whole issue. Although you do ignore the stronger criticisms (shouldn’t good aid programs trump raising awareness) of professional aid workers, you try to be fair.
I would love to see a TOMS response to all the criticism. If they can prove that their model is effective and DOES have a positive impact that outweighs the negatives of GIK more power to them.

Kelsey says:

Jess, I always say step 1 is giving a shit. I don’t think we should undervalue raising awareness. Of course, raising awareness and not action is somewhat worthless, which your comment really gets at. I agree that TOMS does come under some very heavy criticism. Sandra’s blog’s title say it all, “Good Intentions Aren’t Enough.”

camila says:

No response from Tom’s yet?

I actually think that is such a good offer. I agree with TOMS handing their products to the poor children and folks of the poor parts of the world, They do a much greater job by handling them out than the UN (That’s obvious) or other social working institutions, but to every great enterprise there is a catch and I think we are about to presence a big truth.

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