Amanda Taub

TOMS, Give Cash Instead

“TOMS tells you that making the world a better place is all about you: that you know best how to help poor people, and that you are so powerful that it will take barely any effort on your part to make a huge difference in the world.” – Amanda Taub, Vox.com

The article is argumentative for some, yet good. Taub stated that instead of making decisions for underprivileged people, why not just give them exactly what we’re using to help them — money. She feels that TOMS is promoting the ‘poor’ as helpless and that “it’s a bad way to run an aid program.”

“TOMS has a compelling origin story…Give them shoes. More specifically, create a for-profit company that funds free shoes for poor children without relying on donations,” said Taub.

People like shoes. People like helping other people. You can give, while donating and profiting at the same time. It’s all business. Now, TOMS does have steep prices where they make enough money to give $5-$10 per purchase. But to who — the shoeless children?

She went on to discuss similar charitable e-commerce businesses like THINX, a company that donates menstrual products to Ugandan girls when someone purchases their products. Taub also spoke on research where cash demonstrated that it can be an effective way to help save the world’s struggles.

But, isn’t that what TOMS is doing without the actual cash — helping? Giving more money to purchase more product, to give more shoes?

Aside from the harsh criticism that targeted TOMS specifically, I agree that not every charitable purchase will help solve the problems of poverty-stricken children in Haiti or Uganda. There can be more strategic ways of distributing essential products like shoes and menstrual pads, but for TOMS…shoes worked.

It’s kind of a contradictory article. (Read full story)

But I want to know…is the problem with TOMS or with other companies imitating the idea of ‘buy one, give one,’ and “we, as Westerns consumers” profiting from in-kind charity?