Monday, October 4, 2010

Do You Cause More Harm than Good by Giving TOMS Shoes to the Poor?

After returning from a two-year tour with the Peace Corps I have only been home in New York for three weeks, and over the course of these three weeks at least a dozen people have told me to check out this new brand of TOMS Shoes and their “One for One” campaign – leading me to believe that this is the new trendy thing in humanitarianism. If you haven’t heard the pitch already;
In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need… Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.
Now in its fifth year of operations, TOMS has given away more than 1 million alpargata shoes to children and adults in Argentina and more impoverished, even more trendy Third World societies where the poor go shoeless such as Haiti, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. Blake does not consider himself to be just another businessman selling a product to make a profit, but as the CEO of a “movement”.
After all, an Argentinean alpargata shoe is not just a fashion choice to impress your Williamsburg hipster friends with your awareness of the oppressed indigenous peoples of the world. So their Birkenstocks were made by high-paid union workers and their Chacos were manufactured with limited carbon footprints – that’s so bourgeois! But if you buy a pair of TOMS Shoes for yourself, you’re directly helping the poor because Blake is going to give another pair to a child running barefoot through the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince!



The way the TOMS system works is very straightforwardly the way that it is advertised. Similar alpargatas of comparable quality sell for a retail price of $20 to $25, so when TOMS sells their shoes for $38, $44 or $54 the consumer is essentially buying one for the price of two. So yes, TOMS is giving half of their shoes away to the poor, but its not like those donations are coming out of corporate profits - all of the charity is paid for by the Western consumer. TOMS Shoes is profiting from both the shoe the wealthy Western consumer buys for his- or herself and TOMS Shoes is profiting from the second shoe the wealthy Western consumer buys for the person in need.

All through the promotional materials, Blake Myscoskie lays out the case that his shoes are not mere fashion items but humanitarian supplies necessary to promote health and education;
A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
For those Westerners who have never stubbed their toe, Blake explains how the shoeless suffer from mundane ailments;
Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
Furthermore, the lack of children wearing adequate footwear impedes education;
Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school.


Blake seems to have an adequate understanding of the importance of wearing shoes in the developing world. Though I feel the need to elaborate upon one particular “soil-transmitted disease” to which the One for One media implicitly refers: hookworm. If you talk to any doctor familiar with tropical diseases, they will tell you that there are many reasons why one should always wear shoes outdoors; ants, snakes, scorpions, ascariasis, schistosomiasis, rusty nails, broken glass, splinters, etc. But if there is one danger that a doctor is going to cite as a reason to wear shoes in the tropics, it is probably going to be hookworm.


The hookworm is a parasitic nematode which lives in the bodies of carriers and the soil, or to be more precise, in soil soiled with fecal matter. There are many species of hookworm which inhabit different kinds of mammals. People who walk barefoot around places where pigs and humans shit freely are prone to stepping in dirt teeming with larvae of the hookworm species Ancylostoma duodenale or Necator americanus which prefer to reside in our digestive tracts. The larvae need a host in order to feed so they penetrate the skin – usually the underside of the foot. Hookworm larvae then migrate under the skin through the vascular system and into the lungs, and from there they crawl all the way up to the trachea where they are eventually swallowed. The larvae then travel down through the esophagus and the digestive system until they finally reach the intestine where they mature into adult hookworms and grow to a size of 5 to 13 millimeters. Once female hookworms have reached reproductive maturity they can lay as many as 30,000 eggs a day – or 15 to 54 million eggs over the course of a single worm’s lifetime. Hookworm eggs pass through the host’s feces, and once they hatch a pig will eventually lay in the muck or a barefoot child in Nigeria will walk through a schoolyard without adequate latrines… and the life cycle of the hookworm continues…

Hookworm causes a host of physical symptoms among its human hosts, including nausea, fevers, painful diarrhea and anemia. Children born to mothers who were also incubating hookworm eggs in their intestine tend to suffer from low birth weight and prematurity. And I am inclined to assume that Blake Mycoskie’s One for One campaign is referring to hookworm when it invokes the “long-term physical and cognitive harm” caused by diseases incurred by barefoot-walking poor people; after all, hookworm is by far the most widespread ailment which causes cognitive harm which could be prevented by wearing shoes. Especially if contracted at a young age, unwitting hookworm hosts become increasingly more unwitting as the natural development of their brain is retarded and their cognitive abilities either level off at early childhood or they pointedly regress. This is among the many reasons why adequate sanitation and hygiene is so vital for improving education in the developing world, because when children are shitting all over the schoolyard and walking barefoot across the contaminated soils at least a quarter of the student body will probably contract hookworm and become neurologically incapable of learning.

Accordingly, one must understand that the combination of people walking barefoot, inadequate sanitation infrastructre and open defecation is one of the primary reasons why all of the above symptoms are so pervasive in the developing societies of Africa, South Asia, Latin America and Oceania. It is estimated that 576 to 740 million people are afflicted with hookworm worldwide; a stunning majority of 198 million are estimated to reside in sub-Saharan Africa (about a quarter of the total population of 800 million). If you haven't digested that statistic thoroughly enough, that means that - in addition to Down Syndrome and Klinefelter's Syndrome and general malnutrition - as much as a quarter of sub-Saharan Africans might be suffering from some degree of mental disability because they have been walking barefoot in fecal matter.

However, after a thorough reading of all of TOMS Shoes’ literature, I could only find indirect allusions to and one single fleeting mention of what is perhaps the gravest reason why anyone who walks around in the tropics should not walk barefoot. The sole explicit mention of hookworm I can find in the entire plethora of One for One materials is presented in such a way – buried in a misleading post titled “Let’s Talk About Podoconiosis” – that the symptoms of hookworm can be easily confused with this very completely different disease that is only related in that it can also be prevented by wearing shoes.

The One for One campaign explains the relevance of shoes to public health by focusing on podoconiosis – an illness which causes the grotesque swelling and deformity in the feet and legs properly known as elephantiasis.

Not to be confused with lymphatic filariasis – the elephantiasis-causing disease caused by parasitic worms transmitted via mosquito bite – podoconiosis is the significantly more obscure elephantiasis-causing disease found almost exclusively in certain populations of people who walk around barefoot over red clayish soils associated with volcanic activity and thereby rich with the alkali silicon dioxide. Repeated absorption of alkalis into the skin causes the lymphatics to form fibrous tissue and block and for the femoral nodes to enlarge; eventually the skin of the infected area swells with fluid, and it becomes thicker, nodular and rough like the skin of an elephant (hence “elephantiasis”). Podoconiosis disables its victims to such an extent that they cannot work and it disfigures them in a way that they are usually shunned as social outcasts.

Since the environment for this disease exists only in remote mountainous areas, podoconiosis is found almost exclusively amongst isolated subsistence agriculturalist and pastoralist societies in places like Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and especially Ethiopia. In certain pockets of the Ethiopian Highlands where the soils are particularly rich with volcanic alkalis and the traditional farmers and herders walk around their fields barefoot, as much as 6 percent of the population is thought to suffer from podoconiosis. It is very difficult to conduct an accurate census in these parts of the world where such a significant part of the population migrates with the seasons or is properly nomadic, so compiling reliable statistics on this particular disease is a rather arduous task; nonetheless, epidemiologists estimate that anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million people worldwide currently suffer from podoconiosis.



Let’s say that you were looking for a way to reduce the spread of disease in Ethiopia. If you buy a pair of TOMS Shoes it will cost you anywhere from $38 for a pair of Youth Canvas Classics to $79 for a pair of Highlands Botas - plus shipping and handling. Equivalent products cost $20 to $25, so the cost of manufacturing a cheap shoe like this cannot possibly be more than $10 - it's probably closer to $5. The average markup from American shoe retailer to the consumer price is around 40 percent, the average markup from a shoe company to a retailer is around 50 percent. What that means is that even if you're buying two of these shoes, TOMS is making oodles of money on both the shoes you buy for yourself as well as the shoes you buy for charity. Yes, a single pair of these shoes per se is really only worth about $5 - but that figure is only applicable if Blake Mycoskie is manufacturing these shoes and sending them to the Third World himself; but if you buy a pair of Pink Murray Organic Cotton Men's Vegans online for $54 the cost which you pay to give a pair of shoes to Ndugu the Amhara cattle herder is more or less half that - or $27.

If there are 1,000 children at a school in an Ethiopian village, for you to provide TOMS alpargatas for the entire student body should cost about $27,000. I will be generous and assume that these foam-and-rubber-soled, twill and suede-topped shoes will last their wearer an average of 2 years before they inevitably rip, degrade and fall apart to the point that they either no longer serve any protective function or they cannot be worn at all – seeing that these kids will be walking over rough terrain and doing heavy labor in the fields, 2 years is an extremely generous estimate. And I’ll be even more generous and assume that 100 percent of the recipients of these free shoes will be protected from contaminated soil as long as their shoes remain intact and wearable. So by handing out 1,000 pairs of free shoes to the sum total of $27,000, you could theoretically protect 1,000 children from hookworm, ascariasis, podoconiosis and stubbed toes for about 2 years.

Another way to improve public health would be for you to donate to a reputable non-profit on the ground in Ethiopia to build latrines at a public schoolyard so the students wouldn’t have to walk through each other’s feces in the first place. I’ve built a row of latrines at a school in Mali for a total price of $1,969, and I've built latrines in private homes for an individual price of $41 per latrine. Though I have never built a latrine in Ethiopia, my understanding of cement prices gives me no reason to think that the cost of latrine construction there should be all that much more expensive than in Mali. Even if no one ever conducts any repairs beyond superficial maintenance, a decently-built concrete latrine should last for about 25 years. Though it would not protect them from disease transmission outside the schoolyard, a disproportionate amount of disease transmission is concentrated around schoolyards without adequate sanitation - so these $1,969 latrines could thoroughly reduce the chances tens of thousands of children contracting hookworm, ascariasis, giardia, dysentery, cholera and schistosomiasis over the course of a quarter century.

For $1,969 you could give 72 kids in Ethiopia a pair of shoes which will inevitably rip and degrade into rags within a few years – or you could send your money to a Peace Corps Volunteer or Oxfam or Water Aid to build one row of concrete latrines at a school which should last for decades. For the price of sending TOMS Shoes to a school of 1,000 kids for 2 years, you could build 13 latrines at 13 schools to benefit the health of tens of thousands if not a hundred thousand kids over the course of 25 years.

Giving a child in Ethiopia a pair of shoes might very well be a moral thing to do, but when a development agency or NGO is pursuing some sort of public health agenda they have to do these kinds of calculations to determine which of many policy options available to them are worth the expenditure of finite financial resources. If you are going to donate your money to some sort of humanitarian cause, you should do the same kind of math to determine which charity you feel best deserves your money.

Even if cement prices fluctuate and building latrines becomes relatively more expensive, it’s fair to say that – dollar-for-dollar – you could reduce the incidence of disease incredibly more cost-efficiently if you were to stop giving away free shoes and use that money to contribute to the construction of latrines at public schools. Or you could contribute to the construction of a water pump so people don't have to drink unpotable water contaminated with guinea worm. Or you can pay to build a hangar at the clinic so that parents don't have to stand in the blistering sun for hours at a time during polio vaccinations and more kids will get vaccinated. Or you could pay for a village community health organization to get their hands on visual educational materials so they can train illiterate people to recognize the warning signs of tuberculosis. Or you could pay for the training of midwives in a rural village. No matter how expensive constuction materials might become in Ethiopia, the fundamental issue is that money spent on public sanitation infrastructure or education programs is going to be inherently more cost-effective than money spent on personal hygiene products because they last much longer for the direct benefit of a much greater number of people.

If Blake Mycoskie were running a non-profit charity mandated to reduce disease as effectively and as efficiently as he could on a dollar-for-dollar basis, then he would be spending money on sustainable water and sanitation infrastructure or rural health clinics or AIDS education materials in public schools. But he’s not – he’s a shoe salesman. As much as TOMS Shoes considers itself to be a “movement” rather than a mere profit-based firm, let us not forget that they are a shoe company first and a humanitarian aid agency second. And their niche in the galaxy of non-profits and quasi-non-profits-that-are-actually-for-profits is that if you buy a pair of TOMS Shoes, they give a pair to a poor person in Haiti or South Africa. Epidemiological or economic data be damned, their policy is to give away shoes.

But unless you yourself own stock in the TOMS Shoes company, you don't have any vested interest in sending a Tutsi girl a pair of shoes. You can donate to one of infinite charitable causes. Why not pay for her to have clean water? Or a mosquito net? Or a year's worth of antiretroviral treatment?

So what if we assume that podoconiosis is the only disease that you care about, that you are dead-set on contributing to that one particular cause - and the only way to prevent podoconisis is to get more Ethiopian Highlanders to wear shoes? Or let’s even forget about disease transmission and assume that you want to decrease the number of people without shoes as an end unto itself. Does that mean that giving away shoes is the best way to clothe the naked? Not necessarily.

To shed some light on my own point of view, as of late I have developed a strong sense of skepticism towards rich people who aim to improve the lot of the poor by simply giving things away because I have seen firsthand how such acts of well-intended charity can all-too-often result in painful belly flops of failure and can even be counterproductive to its stated goals.

While I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali from 2008 to 2010 I lived in a concrete home built by the Christian NGO World Vision to house its own development extension agents (missionaries with secular humanitarian agendas) who lived there from 1988 to 1998. Though World Vision’s personnel had never returned since they closed down operations in Sanadougou in 1998, 10 years later the legacy of their actions remained tangibly apparent. Not only had they built the house I lived in, but they had built a clinic across the street from my house which was full of patients and decently staffed every day. They built a kindergarten which was still used despite the fact that it was falling to pieces. They built a solar pump system which could provide the town with potable water, but it was never managed, never maintained, in need of serious repairs and was for all practical purposes non-functional. They built a library that no one ever borrowed books from. They built a dance hall that was used a total of 4 times in 2 years. And even more durable than their legacy of steel and concrete structures, the well-intentioned NGO had completely distorted the incentive for perfectly rational economic actors to spend their own money to buy shoes for their children.

Every Christmas countless churches throughout the affluent West decide that they should spread their love for all of God’s children by putting together boxes of gifts to send to poor kids in Africa. By May or June hundreds of these boxes of gifts would have arrived in World Vision’s Bamako bureau and eventually a portion of them would make it to Sanadougou and the World Vision agents who lived in my house would go out and distribute these gifts to Christian children in villages around the area. As I have been told by my neighbors in Sanadougou, these gift boxes contained soccer balls for boys, baby dolls for girls, and every gift box contained an age- and gender-appropriate pair of shoes. Depending who was telling the story, I was told that “the White People gave us cadeaux” on various years with occasional differentiations in the contents of the box – my understanding is that the Christian NGO personnel distributed shoes to kids around the village to celebrate a number of Christmases in June.

None of these shoes from Christmases past still existed for me to see in 2008 – even the most professionally child-sewn Nikes could never last a decade’s worth of wear in Africa. The enduring legacy of these well-meaning Christian philanthropists was rather the dog that did not bark; at least part of the multitude of bare feet. In Sanadougou all but the poorest adults would walk around in a pair of shoes, so did most kids 12 or older – those old enough to work in the fields. But the majority of kids younger than that – young enough that they are most susceptible to serious complications of hookworm, ascariasis, etc. – always walked barefoot. Of course, part of this is because many a farmer did not have all that much monetary income to spend on shoes for every single one of his 9, 12, 15, 20 children. But there were also a lot of people who did have enough income from cash-cropping, livestock sales, blacksmithing, carpentry and assorted other trades, people who could most certainly afford to pay for shoes for their kids but decided to spend their money elsewhere.

In Sanadougou’s market a pair of the cheapest, lowest-quality Chinese-manufactured plastic shoe costs 800 francs CFA (~$1.60). The equivalent pair of flip-flops costs 500 francs (~$1). A packet of tea costs 200 francs, a kilogram of sugar costs 450 francs, a cigarette costs 100 francs, and a full motorcycle gas tank costs 2,000 francs – 3,000 if it’s a Yamaha. In a small town like this, phone cards are sold for denominations of 1,000 or 2,000 francs. 500 francs for a pair of flip-flops is not so unaffordable to explain why so many kids in my village walked around barefoot.

Some adults in Sanadougou were very, very poor and could not afford shoes even for themselves – but they could afford to brew three rounds of tea and sugar every night. I’d go to the butigi to buy some matches and there would be Nouhoume sitting in his place as usual enjoying his afternoon cigarette and he’d point at his cracked, broken feet,

“Madu, you have so much money! Why don’t you buy me a pair of shoes?”

“Y’know, Nouhoume, if you forego cigarettes from today until Thursday, on Thursday you will have saved enough money to buy a pair of shoes yourself!”

What really infuriated me was when people would show off to me their conspicuous consumption of top-of-the-line Western electronics that they absolutely could not afford – because it was always shamelessly juxtaposed with the abject want of necessity. In particular I remember this one guy Sori Sogoba; Sori is a 22-year-old who farms millet and peanuts and goes to Bamako every cold season to sell phone cards, and he has a wife and three kids who walk around town barefoot. And he has an iPhone. Just about every time I saw him he would always steer the conversation to “My iPhone is better than your dinky Nokia. Your telephone can’t even play music videos!”

“Yeah, but everyone in my family has a pair of shoes.”

I would try to make the connection between the abundance of unaffordable luxuries and paucity of necessities like shoes and mosquito nets whenever granted the opportunity. And I pissed off a good many people in the process – especially Sori.

He would respond, “Yeah, well, I don’t have to buy them shoes because one day The White People are going to come back and give shoes to the children. My kids don’t have shoes because The White People haven’t come yet!”

In so many inversions, dozens of Malian parents have told me this same sorry excuse on even more numerous occasions. They would always cite the fact that once upon a time the World Vision gift-givers drove around the village in their big SUV and handed out shoes to a couple dozen children every other year or so from 1988 to 1998. The Time That the White People Came and Gave Shoes to the Children is one of the few legends of Sanadougou lore that is recounted over the teapot on a fairly regular basis, and in accordance with their Messianic creed they had every reason to have faith that one day The White People shall return – with shoes, of course. Back in 1997 many of today’s fathers were then among the recipients of the White People’s Christmas gift drive, so it seems only natural that this formative experience has made a lasting impression on their parenting now that they have kids of their own.

Of course this is a completely unscientific survey, but from my casual conversations with dozens and dozens of poor Minianka farmers in Mali, I only have reason to think that a significant number of people were telling me the truth when they told me that they had decided upon the inaction of not splurging 500 francs on a pair of shoes for their child at least partly because of the expectation that The White People would take care of this expenditure for them – and therefore they consider that to spend their own money on shoes would be a waste of 500 francs that could otherwise be spent on… say, five cigarettes. Likewise, I don’t think I’m going out on too far of a limb when I conclude that there exists a significant population of children running around Sanadougou barefoot and contracting hookworm, ascariasis, etc. who are lacking shoes precisely because once upon a time between 10 and 20 years ago World Vision decided to give away shoes for free.

Indeed, it is also quite likely that a number of men who told me that they didn’t need to buy their children shoes because in the past a Christian charity gave away free shoes were just making sorry excuses and that they would have never bought their kids shoes even if this precedent of Western intervention in the local shoe market had never been set. Even so, these men were still able to abdicate personal responsibility for the welfare of their children by citing the (in their minds reasonable) expectation that someone else would do their job for them – because this one time they did.

The incentive problem caused by the free distribution of shoes in Sanadougou seems quite similar to the problem with the free distribution of mosquito nets. As I have written in prior musings, every year the Sanadougou clinic gets a shipment of a few hundred mosquito nets from UNICEF which they give for free to every pregnant mother whom they admit to the maternity. Even though the overwhelming majority of the population is never going to be eligible for one of these free mosquito nets, the fact that some people are getting free mosquito nets allows for an economy in which no one – not even the wealthy and educated who do understand the value of this product and have more than enough money to obtain one by their own means – will ever feel obligated to buy mosquito nets for themselves and for their children. Even though sleeping under a mosquito net is the simplest, cheapest, most cost-effective way of preventing malaria, the knowledge that foreign charities are intervening to help some people obtain a mosquito net for free allows everyone else to completely relinquish any self-determination of their own health and well-being. Once a precedent like this has been established in the collective mind of the tribe, it’s really difficult to undo.

Philanthropic Westerners must understand that even though their intentions in giving might be perfectly benevolent, in practice just giving things away to people can have destructive implications. Before you give to a certain charity or purchase a pair of TOMS Shoes, it is imperative to comprehend that in these parts of the world where people have next to nothing, incentives can work in such ways that the recipients of your aid might adopt behaviors that Western do-gooders simply cannot conceive. I’m not saying that you should not give to charity – all I’m saying is that before you give whimsically to just any humanitarian-sounding cause, first take into consideration that it is possible that your unconditional generosity might just distort incentives to such a perverse extreme that any good that they might have achieve in the short run might be negated by the greater harm that they might cause in the long run.

So should Blake Mycoskie get out of the business of distributing shoes to poor people? Not at all. I do think, however, that he should consider getting out of the business of giving away shoes for free. Blake Mycoskie is a shoe salesman – he should be selling shoes to poor people.

In a study by Population Services International, a campaign to distribute free mosquito nets in Zambia resulted in only 30 percent of all recipients ever actually using their free mosquito net. However, as economist William Easterly describes the effort in culturally-similar Malawi:
PSI sells bed nets for fifty cents to mothers through antenatal clinics in the countryside, which means it gets the nets to those who both value and need them… The nurse who distributes the nets gets nine cents per net to keep for herself, so the nets are always in stock. PSI also sells nets to richer urban Malawians through private-sector channels for five dollars a net. The profits from this are used to pay for the subsidized nets sold at the clinics, so the program pays for itself. PSI’s bed net program increased the nationwide average of children under five sleeping under nets from 8 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2004, with a similar increase for pregnant women. A follow-up survey found nearly universal use of the nets by those who paid for them.
If people are still going to buy their $20 shoes for $54, TOMS Shoes should consider tinkering with the current “One for One Movement” and replacing it with some sort of distribution method that aims to decrease the number of people who are shoeless and nevertheless abstain from doing anything that might create a perverse incentive for people to not buy shoes with their own money. Why not try to emulate PSI’s successful Malawi Model? Step up efforts to sell alpargatas directly to Guatemalan and Rwandan and Haitian elites at a price that they can most likely afford – and only after the style catches on amongst the trend-setting upper class reach out to potential middle class and working class and subsistence agricultural class customers and set prices accordingly at levels that each respective class can most likely afford. Sell a pair of alpargatas to the poor for one dollar or fifty cents – a price that is low enough that it is within their price range and yet somewhat more expensive than free.

If TOMS is making profits giving away a free pair of shoes for every pair they sell, I find it difficult to believe that they could run into financial trouble by charging a nominal price for the shoes they now distribute pro bono. The only way that selling shoes to the poor could possibly be detrimental to the company’s bottom line is that a significant number of wealthy Westerners are buying alpargatas solely because of the premise that they are giving a pair to a barefoot kid in Ethiopia. But TOMS Shoes doesn’t even have to abandon the “One for One Movement” – only now, their slogan should be “For every pair you buy, we will sell a pair of shoes to someone in need for only fifty cents.” I find it hard to believe that the class of customers who will buy a pair of shoes because they want to make a political statement with their wallet is going to abandon the TOMS line if they're only selling shoes to the poor at 95 percent off.

Selling a quality product for a profit in places like Ethiopia and Rwanda is nothing to sneeze at. There are already shoes for sale there – the problem is that the only shoes that most people can afford are cheaply-made Chinese shoes that are of poor quality and they do not last through the rigors of farm work and they break too easily. Some people can afford decent shoes, but too many cannot. That is why the world needs entrepreneurs like Blake Mycoskie to devise a successful business model to sell durable shoes to the poor at prices that they can afford.

Nevertheless, as the company’s policies now stand, at the moment I remain a skeptic of TOMS Shoes and the “One for One Movement” because I think that its goals are misdirected and that its model does not seem to be cost-effective compared to viable and proven alternatives for reducing disease. I believe that at best this company is selling its customers a bunch of overpriced earth shoes whose expense can only be justified because they come with the satisfaction of thinking that one has made a difference, and at worst they might actually be increasing the likelihood that more children will walk around barefoot. But I also believe that this basic premise of TOMS Shoes is not without hope, and with some structural changes to the way that they do business in the developing world this firm can make a much better long-term, sustainable change in the clothing market which allows for more of the world’s poor to afford a decent pair of shoes.

In the meantime, I think that anyone who is buying one pair of mediocre shoes for the price of two is just wasting their money. If you want to spend your money in a way that helps the world's poor, you might as well just buy another brand of alpargatas for $20 and take that other $34 you would have spent had you bought a pair of TOMS and donate it to Oxfam, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders or some other genuine non-profit that is more likely going to spend it on more worthwhile projects that will make a much greater impact.



75 comments:

yulia said...

Very illuminating. thank you. You should send an abbreviated version of this (with the latrine and mosquito net models as contrast) to the founder of TOMS. Hopefully, he'll listen if he actually cares.

Eric said...

Great post Zac. Really interesting stuff.

Pily said...

Several things:

1 - (Shameless and repetitive plug) If anyone need someplace to stash that extra $30, donate to my project!
https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=688-339

2 - I agree that you should actually send this to TOMS - but don't abbreviate! You're wordy but articulate, it works for you, and no one can say you don't back up or research your points.

3 - I'll miss seeing you in San for Halloween! :-(

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roger said...

How high do you think "self-determination of their own health and well-being" scores on the daily priority scale of the people you are talking about?

Jane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

U on twitter? What's ur handle?

@zulusafari

Tim Ogden said...

The one RCT testing whether giving bed nets away or charging for them had an impact on usage found that charging even nominal fees "considerably dampens demand". Meanwhile there is "no evidence that cost-sharing puts [bednets] into the hands of women who need the net most." Nor is there any evidence that charging for the nets had any impact on usage--those who paid were no more likely to use the nets than those who got them for free.

For the full details see:
http://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/free-distribution-or-cost-sharing-evidence-malaria-prevention-experiment-kenya

Anonymous said...

Good post, however the boxes sound like the work of Samaritans Purse.

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Pack_A_Shoe_Box/

Auren Kaplan said...

If I were a poor third-world villager, I would want the white people to come.

They bring iPhones, and shoes, and shiny toys. Do these things help? Maybe one of the three. I write this more to defend the taunting of the iPhone-holding farmer than to make a serious point. Shiny gadgets are cool whether you're using an iPad at a trendy LA coffee shop or tending a farm in Africa.

Now in response to your post. If your argument is that TOMS shoes doesn't solve the serious issues facing the world, and it isn't the answer for people that want to get involved in making the world a better place, then in large part I agree.

TOMS doesn't provide an adequate solution for someone who wants to solve podoconiosis.

But it does provide an American consumer an opportunity to engage with an important cause in a way that's easy - buying stuff. It's what we do best, other than invent the television, electricity, the car, and modern democracy.

I highly respect the perspective you had of coming back from serious and meaningful work in the Peace Corps, and then seeing your efforts homogenized into a shoe that's making a few people wealthy.

First, there's nothing wrong with being wealthy. Without wealthy people, there wouldn't be civilization (capitalists are the reason why you can get Dole bananas from Ecuador for breakfast). But my point isn't to convince you that capitalism is a good thing (even though I think it is).

My point is that TOMS is doing something really significant. It's showing people that they can do good by buying. And it's making consumers more demanding of products that do good in the world. If 12 people tell you that you ought to buy TOMS, that's a sign that there's a larger movement afoot - and there is.

Social entrepreneurship is in fact a movement to harness the mechanism of business to improve world conditions for people. Street youth are being employed in Kenya (Kito International), people are being provided glasses from neighbors who are becoming entrepreneurs and earning more (VisionSpring),and business is being reshaped as a tool to fulfill a social mission.

That's important, and powerful. I deeply respect your service in the Peace Corps. I've been to Bolivia and experienced extreme poverty. My best friend worked for an alternative spring break company that had Americans coming to Guatemala to build homes for the poor. I am one of the people who "gets it".

But my point is that in the first world, capitalism runs things. People buy, people sell, then we get roads and iPhones and some of it doesn't matter, but I am writing to you through particles that go through the air and under the water and I'm pushing plastic buttons to make it work, and capitalism has a lot to do with that.

So if people, if humanity, can harness the very benefits of capitalism that make it so successful, and then apply it to issues related to global poverty, and hunger, and yes, shoes on the feet of kids, then I applaud them. And, I join them. Because they are leading a charge that is based in the same heart-driven ideal that brought you to the peace corps, even as they operate in a drastically different context.

I hope you find this response meaningful. In retrospect, I may turn it into a blog post of my own.

To best success in shaping the world as it ought to be,

Auren Kaplan
Blog Manager, Cause Integration
A CAUSECAST Blog
http://causeintegration.com
http://causecast.org

Meri McCoy-Thompson said...

Great post, Zac. I do wish you were on Twitter so we could more easily share your comments. I worked in Togo in the 1980s and also saw the devastating effects of "handouts." It is easy to forget that incentives work for ALL of us. If we can get it for free, why pay? I am not sure Auren Kaplan read your whole post, as you don't suggest that TOMS quit using capitalism to solve the shoe problem; in fact, it is quite the inverse. You are asking TOMS to USE capitalism to market shoes better to the poor in developing countries, so they WANT the shoes.

Tate said...

I agree. http://shortsentences.org/2010/03/16/toms-shoes-out-competing-local-entrepreneurs-since-2006/

annette said...

wow, that is some post! i like it, almost stopped reading three quarters of the way through, but hung in there and made it to the end - am glad i did. i generally try to think through where my money is actually going before donating , and this just solidified that effort . thanks for all the work you put into this. will share it....

EmmaJ said...

Very well thought-out. I have heard similarly disturbing outcomes related to the giving of things like clothes and sewing machines - how local entrepreneurs are then disadvantaged and thus the donations hurt, rather than helped. Have you read When Helping Hurts (http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/)? You have just reminded me that I need to finish reading that book, myself.

Clearly you have already fully grasped the principles discussed therein, but if you haven't seen it, it might be of interest as a book which deals with the same sorts of issues that you have discussed here.

Thanks for sharing these very lucid arguments with the world. I agree with the others who suggest that you send this to TOMS.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you read the agreement that the organization which receives the shoes has to follow. They are required to give the child shoes every year for the next two years. Regardless of how many shoes the child needs.

Mike G said...

I read a recent piece in C&EN about providing leftover lab equipment to labs lacking equipment in different parts of Africa. The group was astute in first asking the people what they needed and then only accepting things on people's want lists. I think this an important concept not mentioned in the article- working with the people you're helping. This eliminates dumping stuff on other nations, and creates better connections between givers and receivers.

Brooke Jeter said...

I think you make a good argument but I think perhaps you are asking too much of TOMS. They are just one company, with one idea to give shoes to those who need them. The model may be flawed, but it has a different affect on the american consumer. I think TOMS can be somewhat of a gateway, once one purchases them and feels good about this small act of kindness, they may very well be interested in pursueing other "better" forms of giving to those who have less.

Just a thought...

BenjaminAdam said...

I have been researching this recently and think you make some great points. Your critical eye is very valuable especially when approaching these issues.

1. TOMS does not operate in a vacuum. For example, the nonprofit Soles4Souls has given away 12 million shoes in the time TOMS has given away 1 million. http://www.soles4souls.org/

2. A market model is nice, but as you may known, secondary markets are extremely common for donated goods. The problem with both is that the underlying issue - political and economic circumstances which perpetuate poverty - cannot be address by handouts or subsidization. It is a larger issue that has little to do with shoes.

3. Your theory of negligence from dependency is very interesting, but I don't think it is a honest representation of all those in poverty. You know that though.

4. All in all I think you hit on the key points. Cut this down and put your key points at top before sending to TOMS. Persuasive brevity is bliss, especially in blogs and policy analysis. Your current writing style (10 single spaced pages in a word document) captures emotions and encourages your readers to think more critically about handouts.

Gisela Calle said...

I totally agree with the comment made by Auren Kaplan!!! Well said pal, and in my personal opinion we should all follow what Ghandi once said "Be the change you want to see in the world"

God bless

Aaron S. Williams said...

It's adorable how highly you think of yourself and the things you have graciously been given the opportunity to accomplish in your years. If only you were capable of using your time to applaud others who have the heart of giving similar to your own. Some people give time; others find giving money is sufficient for guarding their consciences as their head hits the pillow in their $250,000 homes complete with (probably) five pairs of shoes they will not even put on tomorrow. There is a reason that Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS and it wasn't out of the heart of being a shoe salesman, but it was instead out of the heart of being a giver.

Cristy said...

Hi,
I'm a total stranger who happened upon your blog when I Googled TOMS. I'm so glad to have found this post! It's an incredibly well thought out response to this "movement" TOMS has going on and exactly what I had been searching for before I spend hard-earned cash on shoes and (sort of)charity. I think it is indeed noble cause to give shoes away but at the same time, slightly cheapened by a charity marketing ploy. I'm still torn about whether or not to purchase TOMS but reading this post takes away the punch in the gut guilt that the TOMS website gives me. Thanks for the insight.

GL said...

Interesting post.

While you bring up some good points (donated goods distorting incentives, more effective forms of aid) I think that your argument is weakened by a false assumption. Namely, that everyone that buys a pair of TOMS would otherwise donate ~$20 to Oxfam. I have many friends that have never donated to an international aid organization but have one (or more) TOMS. I'd bet you do as well.

Your point about more effective methods is good though. Love Easterly and am on board with that model. However, "You buy a pair, we give a pair" is quite a bit more compelling than "You buy a pair, we sell a pair at a 95% discount". Don't know how many shoes our boy Blake would have sold with that slogan.

But this brings up a good question: Is a 5% effective use of $1M better than an 100% effective use of $5K? I've got to go with the former.

And now for the ire... if we want to talk about effectively using our money, might not it have been better for you to stay in the US and work as a lawyer or consultant (you seem like a smart guy) and use your above average income to pay someone else to build your latrines? Actually pay five someone elses to build your latrines? Then you wouldn't have put the latrine builder out of business with your free labor AND could have built a lot more latrines.

All that being said, I quit my rather well compensated consulting job to work in Honduras with an NGO. Oh, and to counteract those that have decided to not buy TOMS as a result of this post (and most likely haven't donated to an Oxfam), I'm going to go order a pair of TOMS. I'm thinking red twill but am open to suggestions.

GL said...

Also, in your letter to Blake, you should point out how many millions you've donated to the developing world.

Matt Hew said...

Great logical analysis of an organization that feels really good about itself, tries to make everyone feel better about how they are "helping," when in actuality they are doing much more than perpetuating their own existence.

Sadly, it is the same kind of argument one could make against the existence of the Peace Corps itself.

Think about it.

Matt Hew said...

sorry ... should have said, "not doing much* more than perpetuating their own existence."

joseph michael said...

a little ode to TOMS shoes and the people who wear them. just some fun satire. ...and yes, I also own a pair. :(
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t9B5utlBBI&feature=channel_video_title

Johnny Adams said...

Interesting arguments. I think your negative tone at the beginning might do more to hurt the piece as a whole. By the end I'm willing to engage with the ideas you're putting forward, but the snarky sarcasm at the beginning almost lost me. That being said, I think you're on to something with the TOMS for cheap rather than for free idea.

Christina said...

great post- thanks for this! :)

Jaycee Adams said...

Not defending Tom's here, but I'd like to point out that no matter what you do, there is always another way to do it more effectively.

Tom's isn't the most efficient use of money, but it works because it gets attention AND physically puts something in soemone's hands. How many hours did you spend writing that to convey your point? But we already know there are a lot of poor people without shoes. Of course the bauble wins.

I didn't think Tom's was all that good of an idea because of the different cultures between here and over there. Here, we're used to wearing shoes and our feet are soft. Walking on gravel hurts! But over there, they're used to walking bare-foot, so they have callouses and such and they can walk on gravel just fine. How did humans ever make it out of the stone age if the lack of shoes was such a huge problem?

We, the soft-footed, believe that lack of shoes is a major problem. We can identify with that pain. It's good, solid marketing.

As to sanitation... I have to wonder how hard it is to dig a ditch, and then use that to poop, and then NOT walk in it. Maybe I'm too ignorant in the ways of the ultra-poor, but basic sanitation seems like a prerequisite to civilization to me.

Skylor said...

You make interesting points about how TOMS is flawed and can be done better, but you've severely underestimated the impact that they have made and the money that they have raised from people that otherwise would not have donated anything. Of course there are more direct and effective ways that people can spend their money, but the majority of people AREN'T spending their money in those ways, thus TOMS provides a way to reach out to those people. TOMS is one organization. It does not represent the entirety of charities. Collecting change outside of Walmart isn't the most efficient fundraising technique either, but it IS one technique and it DOES tap into a portion of society that would not have otherwise saved their own change to donate to another cause. Nobody reading this article should let it dissuade you from buying TOMS shoes. Following the logic of this article would mean the end of virtually all charities.

Josh Eshbach said...

Good thoughts from everyone. I hope this discussion continues.

I think a lot of people underestimate how hard it is to create and maintain a traditional successful business. Much less one with a model that seeks to give something away. The success of Toms proves that it is not being supported by only the generous and socially conscious, but has tapped into the trendy rich who could care less about the rest of the world.

Business is brilliant at separating people from their cash. The movement that Toms is apart of is defined by the cash collectors caring about someone other than themselves.

WOW Gold said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You're the shit, Zac!
I'm essentially writing the same piece for my school paper and a college app. Thanks for addressing the cost aspect.

Kyla Springer said...

Thanks for posting these thoughts and observations, Zac. It's one thing to see what's marketed to us as consumers in the U.S. and quite another to hear a perspective from the countries where the shoes are donated.

We just posted an article about the "one-for-one" model on Mercy Corps' student-written blog, Global Envision, mentioning your post. Warby Parker, which makes eyeglasses, has a similar "one-for-one" campaign but has smartly partnered with the nonprofit Vision Spring to manage the donation side of things. The group trains local women to sell glasses - a really effective 'tweak' to the one-for-one idea.

As Auren Kaplan commented, "[Tom's is] showing people that they can do good by buying. And it's making consumers more demanding of products that do good in the world."

To make consumers aware of hardship around the world but empower them to make a difference through an everyday kind of purchase is a good thing, undeniably. And it's unfair to expect consumers to know a short-term vs. a long-term solution to poverty, or what kind of aid does more harm than good. At the same time, it's unfair to expect a company to understand the nuances of international aid and development. But I'd argue that if a company is going to jump into that sphere and make money off it, it should partner with a nonprofit that deeply understands the issues and nuances, and one which employs a "do no harm" approach to their work.

Thanks again for sharing your perspective. I'd be interested in your thoughts on our article:

http://www.globalenvision.org/2011/12/18/why-warby-parker-may-succeed-where-toms-fails

Anonymous said...

thank you for this piece. I wish more people would take second look at this company and the model which is a capitalistic venture first and a 'charity' last. nothing wrong with making money but dont pretend you are saving the damn world.

Christa aka The BabbyMama said...

Really interesting analysis and shows the flaw in the 'buying to do good' movement so well. Yes, we can spend wisely, but buying something we don't need to donate 10 cents to someone who does need is kind of silly.

Chavi said...

You make good points but at the end of the day, the average American consumer is not giving away $54 or $27 to charity, but they will spend it on something cool. Some of that ends up going to a good cause.
They're capitalize the capitalist system, not work outside of it. There's sense in that.

Anonymous said...

I think you're missing one key element here....people buy Toms because (gasp) we LIKE them!! Anyone who wears Toms will tell you that they are insanely comfortable and they come in a variety of styles and colors. These cheaper shoes you keep mentioning are not on the same level of comfort and quality. Yes the price is jacked up, yes you're essentially paying for the charitable pair, yes they're making a profit. But I could easily go spend $200 on a pair of UGGS that give NOTHING. How much are those really worth? Not everyone goes out of their way to be charitable, but I say kudos to Blake for finding a way to make giving seem stylish and creating a product that people love! The point of running a business is to make money, there's nothing wrong with that. Plenty of people would pay $60 for his shoes whether it helped anyone or not. I only hope this post doesn't discourage too many people from buying a pair....and if they want to send money to build toilets, well they can do that too.

Don't get me wrong, I found your post to be thought provoking and informative, but at the same time it kind of puts a damper on giving to any charity at all! You really brought home the point of giving a man a fish vs teaching a man to fish...

Anonymous said...

No, you are right we should all sit at Starbucks and blog about a person who I assume at its inception was trying to do a good thing. Have you noticed that when someone does well no matter how big or small there is someone who is less comfortable with what they have done. If your point is that we are better suited spending less and giving the difference to a "more worthy" cause got it, could have done that before I read this blog and before i bought my little girl Toms. The point should be that I saw my little girl in Toms and thought that somewhere another little girl as precious as mine got a gift that might have made her feel a little more human. That someone like me "brown guy" bought her a pair of shoes. My point is that no matter what you give, its the point that you are trying, and you should not have to tell people when you do. If you want to do it, if not don't.
First ever post/blog.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think TOMS is doing a fantastic job. They must start our somewhere, and it just so happens to be one country. Maybe the company will begin to branch out to other countries after they reach a point where they are somewhat satisfied in Port-Au-Prince. I'm very proud of the TOMS shoe company and I am intrigued by how they have impacted the US.

Agnes said...

Thanks a lot for what TOMS has done! I have never heard of this serious consequences without shoes.We have a lot to do to help these people!

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Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!
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Anonymous said...

I think that this is very interesting, but you're missing the point that maybe it's not about the money. Sure people could just buy those shoes for less money and donate the rest, but if they don't want to? Then your whole argument goes down the drain.

TOMS isn't perfect. No one and nothing is, and I think that you're a very skilled writer. Next you should master the art of caring.

Jessie said...

Someone commented and said, "maybe it's not about the money." How interesting that they would think such a thing about a for-profit company. Yes, it is about the money. I ran across your post about TOM's while trying to decide what kind of slip on shoes to buy. The company Soda sell the same kind of TOM shoes for $18. The price of TOM's makes everything very clear. I have lived in Africa myself and currently live in Mexico. I read a book called Giving Wisely that changed my opinion about how to help the world in need. Thank you for your post.

coco said...

As i read the beginning of your post my mind was changing and my want for those pair of navyblue toms faded into the background. By the end of your post i realized this is really sort of a one sided opinion. Its just, even though Toms is making so much profit off the pair of shoes we buy, its not like theyre taking all of the profit. Some of the proceeds goes towards a new pair of shoes for someone on the other side of the world who didnt have that privilege. To be honest, a lot of the things we buy dont have a charitable cause behind them but yet people still buy them.

Recently the new iPhone 5 came out and people literally camped outside for it and spent a great deal of hard earned cash on something that wasnt too essential to there lives. Not hating on iPhone or anything but NONE of the money we spend on it goes towards charity, and if any did its a very small amount and its not guarenteed. Toms in a way guarentees that if not all but some of our money goes towards a good cause.

In reality not a lot of people are gona donate to a good cause unless theres something attached for them. Toms is a great way to promote a good cause and yes it has flaws but if we look at the bigger picture ... I think everyone would love to see a child smiling and running around without the worry of them getting infections because they have shoes.

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Anonymous said...

Your argument is sound but I think too critical. You are asking this all of one company. On another website, someone posted a critic as well and gave also some pretty good advice. It went along the lines that whether TOMS really helps the main issues, this movement has caused children to think and question how they can help others in the world as well. TOMS is one company that is trying to make a change. The movement that TOMS and other corporations have made will cause the future generations (hopefully) to think critically about how they can also strive to make a change.

You had an amazing set of arguments, but again - at least they are trying to make an effort. That's better than the majority of the people globally are.

Jolene Posivio said...

What if Tom's merely learned from this article and simply adjusted their future strategy? I don't expect a shoe company to be on the edge of the best strategies for charitable actions... I do however expect intelligent people to learn. If indeed the crew at Tom's had any desire to help, they will also be open to change as new and better strategies become evident. If they do not adjust, then we can all know their most probable goal- to make money and get a great tax write-off!
Those who feel the visceral urge to defend a for profit companies strategy, you may want to consider the benefits of an expanded perspective rather than thinking there is some value in taking a side.
It is incredible that there are those that generalize those who buy shoes from Tom's as people who would never give otherwise... That is false and silly! Those that buy are looking for an opportunity already! Imagine if the charitable alternatives had the advertising budget the for-profits have... We could even imagine for-profits helping to promote effective humanitarian... Is that too much to ask? Maybe. Especially if they only truly serve the Almighty dollar! Actions will tell. Anecdotes abound; My young friend just bought her first pair of Tom's- and for humanitarian motives no less, I shared with her parts of this article and she felt fooled and foolish. I'm not sure why she maintains her passion for shoes as an outreach, but she is now looking into souls4souls as an alternative to buying expensive shoes from Tom's... Those who desire to gain wisdom and those who desire to justify and choose sides; do what you do.

Anonymous said...

TOMS: plastic, glue and fabric, made in China, 50$ to 60$

THE REAL ALPARGATA ESPADRILLE: handcrafted jute sole, handstitched cotton canvas, 100% made in Spain by people well paid, in a small village of 1000 people, under 30$ !!!!

Now that is just wrong.

See here how a real espadrille is made in Spain:
http://www.espadrillestore.com/en/how-its-made/

Cypher Jackson said...

i don't think that giving Tom shoes to the poor will cause more harm than good. i mean if the intentions is good then their no reasons it will hamper the recipients. otherwise, the one giving itself should be felt negative towards the other side.

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Anonymous said...

I think if you spent as much time creating your own shoe charity, visiting the poor and uniting the masses to action as you did writing this article you might convince me that what Tom's is doing is negative.

I would rather buy the more expensive shoes than send a check for $30 to a charity that may or may not do anything.

Show me action more than words and I'll be impressed.

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ImagineINMontana said...

This is why the world only changes by generations... Slowly and painfully. Stop grinning for any dollar you can grab. The kids who get these shoes are human beings. When you defend the "intentions" of a companies policy over what is actually best for the kids, you are acting like the zombie tools they want you to be.
If someone doesn't intend to give you a cold, are you well? If someone did not mean to shoot you, or hit your car with theirs; is nothing damaged? Oh course not! Our actions are not justified by our intentions. Our actions each bare their own consequences. When a government makes a policy in am attempt to educate your children, are you willing to sacrifice the well being of your child to support a policy even though the actual effects of the policy turn out to be less than wise?
It's a logic of simplicity.
If it were you and your children, would you want the kids of your village have some shoes to protect them from walking in feces? Or would you rather have latrines that help and protect the whole village?
What would you as a village resident like to see?
This article is not a debate or an attack. It gives broader information in the hopes we all get a perspective that we can add to our own and make better descisions. A company is capable of this "learning" process too.
We would get a lot further in life if we stopped trying to make and defend the "right" decisions, and started adding to understanding to make better decisions for the future.
IMO- Toms did a great thing. If they want to continue going good, they are capable of doing better with perspectives like this article in front of them. Time will tell. Will you listen?

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Maina Khan said...

Very illuminating. thank you. You should send an abbreviated version of this (with the latrine and mosquito net models as contrast) to the founder of TOMS. Hopefully, he'll listen if he actually cares.
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Chris Arveson said...

I couldn't disagree more. Finally a for-profit company seeks to do good, and only gets lambasted for it. You adequately demonstrated the need for shoes. This company does something about that. It may be temporary, but so is giving a starving person a meal.

At least Tom's is likely to waste little money on overhead, unlike Oxfam and 90% of non-profits. At least when a customer buys a pair of Tom's shoes, they know that a portion of that sale will go to pay salaries. most folk are unaware of the exporbitant salaries paid to CEO's, CFO's etc. of non-profits.

No, giving shes away is a good thing. You can bring your oh-so-snooty moralizing about tea and sugar and cigarettes, but you have proven the need for the free shoes. Because the father spends his money on something you disapprove of, the kid goes without shoes. Father is not going to stop spending the money in ways that your morals disdain, so the kid who needs shoes will never have them.

No, if I could afford $40 for Tom's shoes, I would probably buy them. A company seeks to do good, as well as make a profit (which you probably find immoral) and you rake them over the coals.

That's the problem with the Peace Corps types. You are always ready to spend other people's money for them.

What a shame.

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