TOMS Shoes – A “hand-out” vs. “hand up”

TOMS Shoes first surfaced 7 years ago with a new responsible and sustainable business model: Buy One Give One (BOGO) – when you buy a pair of shoes TOMS gives a pair to a poor child in an underdeveloped country.


Blake Mycoskie, founder and CEO of the company, first came up with the idea in Argentina when he realized barefoot children, who accounted for over fifty percent of the children, weren’t allowed to go to school. Mycoskie contacte a local shoemaker in Argentina and ordered a few hundred pairs to sell, with BOGO model in mind, in his hometown Los Angeles. Soon, the shoes became a phenomenon, a movement some call it. It’s one of those companies that has a positive image in almost all consumers minds, and the first that comes to mind when thinking about socially conscious purchases.

In 2011, after selling millions of pairs of shoes, the company branched out to eyewear, promising to give out one glass in the developing world for every purchase. Last month, the company announced they’re expanding into the coffee market – Mycoskie stated that for each coffee bag purchased ($12 per bag), they will give a week of clean water to someone in need. Their new product will be available for purchase on their website, café, and Wholefoods stores nationwide.

Although the coffee market is a very crowded one today, Mycoskie says that they picked up on the current trend in America of artisanal coffee roasters, and argues that they will have a better hand since people feel better about themselves with purchasing from a business with BOGO model. He believes that “the same conscious consumers that love his slip-ons will dig his beans.”

However, TOMS Shoes has been the target of a backlash from consumers and philanthropists who criticize the company’s business model for not being helpful in the long run. Now with their new venture, they are sure to receive more criticism from the same people claiming that the giving people a fish and teaching them to fish are two different things and the latter is more effective in the longer run.

The Intern Problem in Today’s Economy

In 2013 two former interns, Lauren Ballinger at W magazine, and Matthew Leib at The New Yorker, sued Conde Nast for violating federal and state labor laws. Conde Nast, one of the most prestigious publishing houses in the country, owns more than 25 publications, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and GQ.

With the economy still in a slow pace, it is no surprise that internships nowadays don’t pay much, or any money. Most internship advertisements clearly state that they won’t be paying and that the internship is only available for school credit. The two Conde Nast interns were paid “$12 a day for shifts that last 12 hours or more,” which accounts to less than $1 an hour – way below the minimum wage. While industry officials claim that a Conde Nast internship is one of the most prestigious one in publishing that opens many doors, the publishing house has decided to end its internship program after the lawsuit was filed.

The problem with most internships today is that they require long hours, hard work, and little money, claiming that the internship is an invaluable experience. This, in return, creates a privileged candidate pool for these internship programs since not many students can afford living in a big city without any earnings. These internships are only available to those whose parents are able to support their stay, like the daughter of Arianna Huffington, or TV stars Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port. As a “former intern told The New York Times that if she didn’t have her parent’s financial support, she “absolutely” could not have accepted the internship.”


The purpose of the lawsuits filed against Conde Nast is to make minimum wage internships a law. However, with the economy still running slow, and publishing suffering, this seems like a stretch. Yes, the ending of the internship program might open up more entry-level positions – but there’s also the possibility that it might not. Frances Bridges of Forbes came up with a better idea. She stated that with long hours at Conde Nast interns weren’t able to get a second job and “that was the flow with the program.” She claims that if  “Conde Nast had decreased the intern’s hours, but paid the same, small stipend, it would have increased the amount the interns earned an hour, and would have opened up their evenings, allowing them to hold a second job.”

The publishing house decided to settle the lawsuit last week, but they didn’t say what their next move would be about the internship program. Applicants say that there weren’t any more openings in entry-level positions either compared to the previous years. I think this is correlated with the slow economy and the crisis publishing houses are dealing with in the past few years. Clearly, they don’t have enough money to hire more, and that’s why they were abusing the interns – but now that that door is closed, they need to come up with a plan B in order to both attract new talent and get the job done.