A09: My White Paper – The Global Barefoot Epidemic – Brent Adkins

The Topic Background: TOMS Shoes

TOMS Shoes, founded in 2006, was the product of Blake Mycoskie’s vision to give shoes to impoverished children in developing countries; for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, they give a pair to a child in need.  The one-for-one idea is the major selling point for the for-profit company, rewarding buyers with a sense of pride that they are, in theory, helping someone in need.  The company claims that these children need shoes to protect their feet from the diseases contracted from walking barefoot in undeveloped countries, as well as to be allowed to attend school.  As of 2012, TOMS shoes has given away over one million pairs of shoes in forty countries, including the United States.

My Working Thesis

TOMS Shoes, while intending to help those in need, does more harm than good.  Through the donation of shoes to developing countries, TOMS dismantles the local shoe market and undermines self-reliance; through sales tactics, TOMS gives customers a chance to pay indulgences and boast their altruism.  The company also performs these services poorly through poorly made footwear that neither supports the foot or ankle nor holds up under standard use and unreasonably high prices.

Counterintuitive Note

The recipients of these shoes often may be too impoverished to purchase shoes and shoes are a requirement of many schools in order to attend.  It is better to have shoes than not to.

(Some) Topics For Smaller Papers:

Quality

TOMS shoes, on average, last roughly 3-6 months with moderate, daily use.  That is less than a full year of school, requiring two pairs per child per year.  Inclusively, that is by usage in America by average wearers who may not have to walk miles each day back-and-forth to school, as well as while playing outside.  So, with that in mind, a pair of TOMS shoes may last even less than 3 months on a child’s feet in an impoverished country.  On top of all of that, TOMS shoes offer no arch nor ankle support, leaving wearers prone to injure themselves more often than they would wearing standard athletic sneakers.  The treads also wear down quite quickly, leaving a smooth, slippery sole to compliment the thin layer of canvas protecting the wearer’s foot.

Sustainability

If TOMS shoes do last 6 months, then each child would require 2 pairs per year.  That means that for every child in need of a pair of shoes, TOMS would have to sell 2 pairs per year.  That places a huge weight on the shoulders of TOMS and its consumers who desire to cure the global barefoot epidemic.

Competition

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Or, in this case, why pay for shoes when you can get them for free?  TOMS takes away business from all involved in the shoe industry in its benefiting countries.  The factories that create the materials used for shoes, the factories that make the shoes, and the venders that sell the shoes all lose business and financial stability, forcing them to seek new occupations and creating even more poverty.

Current State Of Research Paper

I have acquired and perused four sources in support of my thesis, but still have to locate sources of counterarguments. I am aware of, and beginning to plan rebuttals against, many of the counterarguments that exist.

 

Sources:

Anti TOMS

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/05/toms-shoes-buy-one-give-one

http://goodintents.org/in-kind-donations/toms-shoes

http://www.okayafrica.com/stories/the-trouble-with-toms/

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/african-aid-helpful-or-hazardous-0022175

Pro TOMS

http://www.success.com/articles/852-the-business-of-giving-toms-shoes

http://www.toms.com/our-movement

http://nonprofit.about.com/od/socialentrepreneurs/a/tomsshoescorporaterespons.htm

http://zacstravaganza.blogspot.com/2010/10/does-toms-cause-more-harm-than-good-by.html

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4 Responses to A09: My White Paper – The Global Barefoot Epidemic – Brent Adkins

  1. davidbdale says:

    This is an intriguing topic, Brent, which I’m very interested to see investigated. I’m hoping the program, despite its flaws, is doing real good in the world. I’d be crushed to discover 1) it’s hurting local commerce or 2) it’s simply a cynical marketing ploy.

    You’ve made some substantial claims in your backgrounder that will need to be proved, however reasonable they seem. Is the donation angle “the major selling point” for the shoes? Does it achieve its goal by “rewarding buyers with a sense of pride”? You might be able to get the company to prove this for you, but somebody should.

    Thesis
    Wow. “More harm than good” is very severe. Is it true? A very interesting question is whether the opportunity to “pay indulgences and boast of altruism” can ever be “more harm than good.” It may be, of course, but it’s debatable. Which services does the company perform poorly? The dismantling of the shoe market? The delivering of good feelings to its customers?

    Check your syntax on: “holds up under standard use and unreasonably high prices.”

    Counterintuitive Note
    It’s a remarkable turnaround that the benefit of shoes to the shoeless is your counterintuitive note, Brent! One would certainly expect the objections to the program to be counterintuitive.

    I think you’re looking at a definition essay to clarify what is meant by “moderate daily use” since your shoes are measured by US standards but worn elsewhere.

    You might be claiming, or getting close to claiming, that wearing Toms is more dangerous than going barefoot. Does “more prone to injury than when wearing proper sneakers” translate to “more prone to injury than when barefoot”?

    I see your point, but I hardly think Toms customers are obligated to shoe every shoeless child forever in order to feel good about shoeing one child for six months.

    I can certainly see that flooding a market with free shoes would depress the local shoemaking market if there were one. Is it true? Are there affected local shoemakers? I wonder if you might be considering a proposal argument: TOMS could contract the local shoemakers to make the “free” shoes on TOMS’ behalf, supporting the local shoe market AND giving away shoes for free.

    Share those counterarguments with us when you can, please, Brent.

  2. jpassalacqua says:

    You may be able to incorporate the companies ad campaigns into your paper. Searching for a few different commercials or ad’s for TOMS show a man walking through a city modeling the shoes. Throughout the videos, there is subtext explaining the companies “one to one” motto. There is, however, no footage of the countries that apparently get the shoes. Also, I have found an article that talks about the production of the shoes, if you are interested

    http://whereamiwearing.com/2011/04/toms-shoes/

  3. adkins70 says:

    I have updated my white paper and added sources.

  4. davidbdale says:

    Thanks, Brent. Nice work. I’ve made you my last entry for today on the A11 Assignment post. See it for recommendations about your Causation Argument.
    Grade Posted.

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