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TOMS: No Partnership with Focus on the Family

TOMS: No Partnership with Focus on the Family

UPDATE, 6:30 pm EST, July 9: Looks like Blake Mycoskie decided to do the right thing and not partner with FotF.


I’ve been thinking of getting a pair of TOMS shoes for awhile. Good price, my hard-to-find-size is regularly in stock and why not support a company that makes doing good a policy with its one-for-one movement? A consumer gets shoes for a good value and “does good” as a child in one of 23 developing countries receives a free pair of shoes.

But now I definitely won’t be getting TOMS shoes. As the company says in its 2010 Giving Report, TOMS is working to “establish shoe-giving partnerships with humanitarian organizations worldwide that have deep experience and long-term presence in the countries and communities they serve. The report doesn’t specify who TOMS is seeking to partner with. According to Christianity Today, one organization is Focus On The Family. The anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-evolution, definitely anti-gay-marriage (as its guiding principles make clear) organization is “working to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa.”

Indeed, last week, TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie was a featured guest at an Irvine, CA, FotF event called Feet on the Ground. As FotF director Jim Daly wrote on his blog, part of “Feet on the Ground” was a “Style Your Sole” event in which people could purchase a pair of TOMS at a discount and decorate them. For those unable to be at the actual event, TOMS was offering a special Friends and Family discount as Daly noted:

To receive the $5 discount, simply enter the coupon code of FOCUS when checking out online. This is a great way for TOMS to see the value of teaming up with Focus, and a great way for you to help a child receive much-needed quality, footwear.

Am I reading too much into Daly’s words or is there a little subtle push for the online FotF community to buy TOMS to show “the value of teaming up with Focus” — so TOMS might sell (and donate) a few more shoes?

TOMS is a company that I feel odd about critiquing. Sure, we’re just talking about shoes here, and shoes sold by a company that has made doing good part of its business ethos; some might even feel they ought to send kudos to FotF for wanting to help distribute shoes to children in need in developing countries. But as Irin Carmon writes at Jezebel, TOMS’s potential pairing with FotF could make progressives look askance at TOMS and seek out other purveyors of eco-friendly footwear:

There’s nothing inherently political about distributing shoes to African children, of course. In theory, it’s a good thing for Focus to spend less time trying to police sex and more actually helping people, but they’ve not really cut back on the former. And Focus On The Family isn’t the only group TOMS could have turned to for collaboration, nor is it the only Christian group involved in charitable missions. It carries significant cultural and political baggage, for good reason. TOMS is at major risk of alienating a constituency that has enthusiastically adopted their product, including yours truly.

You can be sure TOMS has already lost one customer and not just because I didn’t think the canvas shoes would hold up in a rainy walk down litter-strewn, puddle-ridden Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City where I work. I’d rather put my dollars behind a company that doesn’t pair with an organization whose “guiding principles” are anti-everything I believe in heart and soul and, yes, down to the soles of my (not-TOMS) shoes.

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76 comments

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6:55PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

I was also against TOMS shoes long before this for another reason: the danger of "gifts in kind." The kind of "humanitarian aid" that institutions like TOMS perpetuates really just cripples countries and their domestic market. There are several local places and people you can buy shoes from in other countries. Bringing in free things like clothing and shoes from "developed" countries only keeps other countries from building up their local economy and keeps them dependent. It is truly a problem that targets the infrastructure. I would suggest not falling prey to such causes that seem well-intentioned but only chip away at the heart of the issue.

4:18PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

I had never heard of Tom's until last month when I went online (via a Google search) to look for a pair of shoes. I viewed many shoes but ultimately did not buy anything. "Coincidentally", two days later, I got an email from my credit card company that a quantity of shoes had been purchased from Tom's and they were concerned about the validity of the order(s). Sure enough, I was hacked and somehow my credit card information was used repeatedly at this company.
Now, I read this and it gives even a more uncomfortable feeling about them. Coincidence?? Who will ever know. But I do know that I really won't be doing business with them in the future after reading about Tom's and one of the most bigoted, intolerant groups "Focus on the Family".

4:49PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Never support anything thats "christian" or supports focus on the family. Nothing good can ever come from this type of support.

12:34PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Aside from the objectionable folks Toms buddies up with, I don't buy anything made of leather.

11:15AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Signed the petition though I think TOMS is not pairing with them anyway. Just signed to give them more support in not doing so.

10:31AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

The update looks like it's a caption for the photo, maybe an edit is in order?

10:00AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Will there be scripture quotes on the soles and "crosses" on the top?

9:14AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Glad they decided against that ridiculous idea!!

5:27AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Time to cut off our nose to spite our face. I want to make a political statement and I shall do so by refusing to provide shoes to starving kids in Africa. Go Liberals!

2:24AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Interesting. Thank you.

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