I bought a pair of TOMS shoes: you know, the shoes sold in those TV commercials by that really cute, earthy-crunchy guy with long, wavy, light brown hair (whose name is actually Blake Mycoskie) who gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of TOMS shoes you buy. Oh, and he lives on a sailboat. I’m not kidding. He really does live on a sailboat. As if he isn’t a dreamboat enough as it is, the guy goes sailing around the world helping kids.
Let’s talk about Blake here for a moment. He has the whole good-looking, outdoorsy, good-guy thing going on. I bet he doesn’t even NEED deodorant. He’s like the perfect guy; the perfect guy who would fall in love with me if I were 30 years younger, beautiful, unmarried, tall, thin, and had waist-length, wavy light brown hair, and a perpetual tan. But, I’m Jewish.
I had heard great things about TOMS shoes from several friends who own them, like they’re really comfortable and not that expensive; and then there’s that whole donation thing. I was on www.amazon.com ordering a pair of super-cute Asics gym shoes to replace the super-cute ones I had worn out. On a whim I decided to pop a pair of TOMS shoes into my virtual shopping cart because I needed shoes that were a little nicer than gym shoes and a little less glam than 5-inch-heeled gladiator peep-toes.
As I waited for my package to arrive I began to notice how many women were wearing TOMS shoes out and about and how good they looked on each of them. But, as it turned out, I didn’t think they looked so good on me. The shoes looked pretty groovy online and in person when they arrived. They had kind of a Native American vibe and color-scheme that just spoke to me. And, while they fit really well, they were “classic flats” and after looking at them on my feet, which are accustomed to wearing anything but something “classic”, I thought they made my feet look old and boring.
It’s hard enough to fight the signs of aging on my face without developing additional worry lines because these shoes made my feet look old. But then the other shoe dropped. I realized I had more to worry about than worry lines and old-looking feet. That donation thing of TOMS is as virtuously lofty as a pair of 6-inch Wedgies. As I said before, for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, TOMS will donate a new pair of shoes to a child in need. In a feeling of sudden and complete panic I wondered, “If I return the shoes will TOMS still give a new pair of shoes to a child in need?”
Or, worse, would Blake give a pair of nice, new shoes to a child in some remote, lifeless wasteland only to rip them out of his or her tiny, little hands simply because Leslie Korengold of north-suburban Illinois returned the shoes she bought because she thought they made her feet look old?
Normally, if I don’t like a pair of shoes I buy online for whatever reason, I just return them. But, TOMS shoes come packaged in a way that makes you feel like the amoeba that eats the pond scum left by the pond scum if you return them.
First, there’s the box. The top of the box reads “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.” The bottom of the 80% recycled post-consumer-waste box printed with soy ink says, “You don’t have to throw this box away! Reuse it, reinvent it, get creative, it’s your box now. Keep TOMS in here, travel photos, souvenirs, old love letters –whatever you want!”
Inside the box are the shoes, of course, which have several tags on them. One tag has the word “Sustainable” and three little symbols on it that I think mean “vegan”, “recyclable,” and “leaf.”
The back of the tag reads, “TOMS sustainable shoes are vegan friendly,” which I think is really nice because most people are not very friendly to vegans. If you say you’re a vegan people tend to look at you as if you eat the amoeba that eats the amoeba that eats the pond scum left by the pond scum.
The tag continues, “The uppers are made of either pesticide-free cotton, or a unique twill featuring hemp (isn’t that a fancy word for ‘weed’?), and recycled plastic bottles”. (Oh, come on, Adorable Sailing Dude, you’re killing me!). “The durable outsoles utilize recycled rubber, and the cushioned footbed has a canvas cover for comfort and breathability.”
The second tag talks about the One for One thing again and goes on to say, “Join us: Supporters of the One for One movement are uploading their stories and pictures right now at www.TOMS.com/wall.” I doubt very highly that Tom wants a photo of me on his wall returning his sustainable, breathable, weed shoes.
But that’s not all! There’s a sticker in the box; one side says “TOMS”, and the other side says, “5 Ways To Get Involved, 1. Put this sticker on your laptop, notebook, car, or wherever people will see it. 2. Host a “Style Your Sole” party with friends and family. 3. Screen the TOMS documentary, “For Tomorrow: The TOMS Shoes Story”. 4. Go barefoot on (TOMS’ annual event to raise awareness of the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life) One Day Without Shoes. 5. Stay connected and share your TOMS story. Follow us on (the logos for) Facebook and Twitter, and a logo I’m not familiar with, but it probably refers to weed.
But wait! There’s more! Inside the box there’s also a flag. (Are you kidding me?) The tag on the flag, which I’m sure is made from recycled and filtered feline feces that has been spun into sustainable, edible cotton, suggests “Show it. Share it. Raise it. Fly it. This is your flag. You are now part of the One for One movement. Keep it. Give it. Hang it. And post it all at: www.TOMS.com/wall.” The recycled and filtered feline feces sustainable edible cotton flag reads, again, “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”
We get it, Blake: You’re a really good person and I’m not. But, I can’t live with myself knowing that somewhere in the world that you’ve sailed to, for Pete’s sake, there’s a child in need who received a brand new pair of shoes only to have them pried off of his or her tiny, little feet just because I refused to wear shoes solely because they made my feet look old.
I had to know the answer to this question. But I wasn’t going to call TOMS to ask. I searched www.toms.com/ to find out what would happen to the orphan with the new shoes if I returned mine because I apparently have vanity issues about my feet. Even though I didn’t think anyone would ask such a ridiculous question, I clicked on the link for Frequently Asked Questions. I just had to see if anyone else was as nutty as I was worrying that the action she took by returning the shoes would cause an equal and opposite reaction of new shoes being callously stripped away from a child in need making me feel like a heel.
And there it was. Someone had asked the question. In response to the question, “If I return my shoes does TOMS take a pair away from a child?” TOMS replied, “TOMS accepts exchanges and returns within 60 days from the date of purchase. This is how we evaluate how many pairs of shoes are final sales and can be counted towards our giving program. Once shoes are given to a child, they are their shoes. We would never take back a given pair.”
Oh, thank God! I felt so much better, but less about the fact that TOMS wouldn’t take away a pair of shoes given to a child. I felt better because a lot of other people must have wondered what would happen if they returned a pair of TOMS shoes for it to become a “Frequently Asked Question”.
Feeling relieved that by returning the shoes I wasn’t contributing to Global Warming, causing another stock market crash, or disrupting the space-time continuum, I printed out the return shipping label. I placed the weed shoes with their tags, sticker, and flag back into the recycled box and set it aside until I had time to take it to the post office to return them to www.amazon.com.
Today, just for the heck of it, I tried the TOMS weed shoes on one more time. To my surprise, I actually liked them! They didn’t make my feet look old; my feet are old. The colors clashed with my excessively white legs, but that’s nothing a little Sally Hansen’s Airbrush leg makeup in “Deep Glow” can’t fix. (Girls, if you don’t have Sally Hansen’s leg makeup, go get it now.)
So, I will wear the shoes, fly the flag, put the sticker on my laptop, and store stuff in my 80% recycled post-consumer-waste box printed with soy ink. And, I signed up for e mail updates about TOMS One Day Without Shoes 2013 (www.toms.com/onedaywithoutshoes) so I can participate. I feel good knowing that I am a part of the One for One movement. And while 80% of me likes the shoes, the other 20% is trying to accept the fact that I have old feet.
Read more about TOMS shoes on the blog: blog.toms.com/.