My daughter and my niece, both in their teens, were coveting Tom’s shoes during our recent back-to-school clothes shopping. Having heard so much about their philanthropic one for one philosophy–when you buy a pair of shoes, they give one to children in need, I gave in despite the hefty retail price of $45.
But we bought them feeling good that we were actually doing good. She wore them about three times and they immediately began fraying at the back of the heel. Hmmm. We must have somehow gotten a defective pair. I began googling Tom’s shoes to see if anyone else had the same problem and got inundated with consumer reviews – some mixed for sure, but plenty that were not good. And many experiencing the exact same falling apart issue after just a few weeks of wear.
The comments indicate that consumers are unhappy about being “ripped off” with shoes that fall apart in a matter of weeks since they are basically made of canvas burlap. Furthermore, they describe if their shoes are falling apart so quickly and easily, imagine how the shoes are faring in underdeveloped countries with harsher road conditions. Are little kids running around in Argentina and Haiti with their shoes ripping apart? Consumers are unhappy about the inferior quality, the fact that they are made in China and then charged such a high price. They are so agitated that there is even a Facebook page devoted to Toms Shoes is a Scam.
Many consumers have already done the math. Tom’s is not giving away the shoes, the consumer is actually giving them away because they are in reality buying two shoes for the price of one and Tom’s is making a profit on both pairs they are buying. So who is really “donating” the shoes?
Reality check. Corporate social responsibility is a very sound strategy for business. Tom’s marketing campaign does a great job promoting the company’s goodwill and I am sure the company has good altruistic intentions. However, they are failing to deliver a quality product on a consistent basis and the higher price throws off the value equation. I am sure consumers would feel better about their philanthropic role if the shoes lasted more than a few months. Lesson learned: when you are doing well by doing good, make sure that you are being corporately responsible to all your stakeholders –including consumers or they just might just give you the boot.