Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Shame On TOMS And The Shoes He Rode In On: Part 2

The daughter mentioned yesterday came home last weekend with a pair of TOMS knockoffs, cheap canvas summer shoes like the ones my mom used to buy for about $3. These new shoes look like TOMS, with the same soles and the same turned-over toe. The only thing missing is the feel-good-about-yourself blue label.

Before I finish that story, though, here’s one about my mom. My mother worked many years in a factory that made men’s clothing, sewing labels into men’s dress slacks. She would start the day with a pile of 700 labels and a pile of 700 pairs of pants, identical except for sizes. There would be 50 labels of some top designer brand sold exclusively in high-end men’s stores. There would be 50 labels each for the most expensive house brands sold at stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. There would be 200 labels for the top brands at Sears and JC Penney. The rest were for pants sold at Walmart and Kmart.

Different labels, same pants. Same pants, different labels. See where I’m going with this?

Our daughter paid less than $20 for her generic shoes, which means that the manufacturer and the store are both making money at less than $10 per shoe. So how much is TOMS making, even after giving a pair away?

It appears TOMS spends around $2 to have a shoe made, so do the math. The Classic sells for $54, other styles for $74. If they are spending $4 for the pair you buy and $4 for the pair they give away, that leaves $46 for TOMS. They’ve given away 1M pairs, so that mean’s they’ve made $50,000,000 or so doing it.
Give away $4 M, keep $50M? That isn’t especially noble. It's a pitch.

Why not buy a $20 pair of shoes for yourself, and a decent $20 pair for a child in a shelter near where you live. You just saved $14, and that ought to buy you some legitimate self-esteem.

Read Part 1.

Read When Only A Name Brand Will Do.


  1. John, we haven't met since your and Kelly were married after my last visit to see Nadine. However, I feel I know you from the blogs written by both Nadine and Kelly - and now your blogging.
    Thank you for the posts about the shoes! So few people have any real knowledge about the manufacturing and labeling of the merchandise we buy.
    if you don't mind, I plan to share these postings with some of my friends.
    Mary Ann Jones

  2. Hello Quilter Jones. You should know that you come very highly recommended. You are welcome any time. And, yes, please, tell your friends....

    Along those lines, I have a friend who worked in a shampoo factory, and he said the only difference between $2 shampoo and $20 shampoo is how much water they put in it. I think it is true of a lot of products.

  3. This whole thread reminds me of when my daughters were young. Of course they wanted to dress well. They had champagne tastes, I had a ginger ale budget. Garage sales and hand-me-downs were a way of life. I told them I would buy the "needs" but they had to buy the "wants."
    They learned to head directly to the back of a store for the clearance racks. I pointed out the high cost of a famous label. Their budgets dictated they be more discerning. Both daughters can now afford costly apparel, but rarely choose to do so. I love it when one of them says to me, "Mom, can you believe I got this $50 skirt for $7!" They learned the lesson of value versus hype.

    1. "Ooooooh, we used to dream of having ginger ale...."

      Good for you, Wee Gran. Most of my kiddies have gone through name-brand-only phases, but like yours, most of them are content with the bargain hunt now.

      Personally, the closest I came to brand name lust as a youngster was waiting until 9th grade when mom would finally buy us Converse All-Stars. What a big day that was.

  4. This is why I like flip flops or those $70.00 Clarks. ~Kelly

    unDeniably Domestic

  5. Your sidebar, America Out My Window, certainly resonates with me. Too casual dress is a symptom of declining respect, by people who have lost, or were never taught, a sense of the sacred. Have you read Robert Bork's insightful book, "Slouching Toward Gomorrah?" in which he points out where the rise of modern liberalism, which stresses the dual forces of radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than opportunities) and radical individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification), has undermined our culture, our intellect, and our morality.

    1. I've not read the book, but will investigate. I'm still debating "Nation."

      Your thoughtful response has me wondering. I agree that casual dress is a symptom of declining respect, but I wonder how much of that is a decline in self respect. It seems hard to care about institutions and traditions events when we don't respect ourselves.

      Teaching public speaking, I strongly encourage my students to dress up for speeches, but they fight it. They perform better when they do, simply because they feel better about themselves. The ones who resist, I tell them to try this experiment: put on your best clothes, do your face, do your hair, go all out. Then sit on the couch and watch "Ice Road Truckers." You can't do it for more than a few minutes. Dressed up, you want something better.

      I think it matters, not as a smoke screen, but as a mirror. You see yourself differently and you behave differently.

      Look, I've ranted. I could have made this into a post on all by itself....


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