On my niece's recent trip to NYC, we went on a hunt for shoes. We'd gotten her excited to get a pair of TOMS. My wife got her first pair of TOMS and absolutely fell in love with them. She does not buy shoes. She hates buying shoes. She would rather, nay, insists, on going somewhere to buy the cheapest shoes she can find that are guaranteed to fall apart within months than go spend the kind of money that would get her a pair of shoes that last forever. It's just how she is. She also has very small feet and we have a hard time finding shoes that fit. So, TOMS have been a godsend. Inexpensive, small sizes, they fit, they're very tough and well made and they have true heart behind what they do.
If you don't know the story of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, owner and founder of TOMS traveled to Argentina and his during his visits he continued to see and meet barefoot children As the company website explains, he set up his generous business model, one free pair of shoes to a child for every pair sold, because of this experience.
So, this brings me back to my niece. We walked into a store, looked at the TOMS and my wife said, "I love mine. They have carried me through the streets of New York, the cobblestones of Amsterdam, walked the sandy pathways of the Tuilleries and the gardens of Versailles. I have worn them playing with Turtle in the park and running orientation at Hunter College. I'd like a closet full of them."
My niece, not realizing that the price tag for a pair of TOMS in NYC is the same as the price tag in SLC, balked.
Then she said, "I can get BOBS for cheaper."
"What the hell are BOBS?"
So, I started checking into BOBS.
Now, I've bought and owned a few pair of Skechers. They usually last me about six to nine months. I've had them fall apart, had the entire sole crack in half, had the leather split and blown through the sole of the last pair in less than five months. They're not exactly cheap, but not expensive. They're typically less expensive knock offs of much more expensive shoes. Their Shape Ups are a great example. a $70 version of the $200 MBX shoe. (Not that I'd be caught dead in a pair of Shape Ups. I envision the platform shoes Tom Cruise wears any time he works with an actor over 5'10".)
But to knock off, almost exactly, a great simple shoe and a great concept seemed a little cynical to me.
Stealing the concept was the only way they could get people to buy their TOMS knockoffs. Why buy them for $2 less if you weren't going to have the same kind of philanthropic element. BOBS has partnered with Soles4Soles, outsourcing their philanthropic program. Very different from TOMS where the philanthropy is the core of their entire business.
Now, I'm fine with a shoe company making a profit, fine with them ripping off designs. If you want to buy a pair of BOBS, fine.
But the the absence of an original idea... that irks me.
TOMS built their entire company around an idea that every child in the world deserved a pair of shoes. BOBS cynically stole that idea to make a profit; because it was the only way it could compete. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has said he hopes more companies follow suit. But what BOBS did was to produce an inferior replica of TOMS product, appear to make replicate their concept and then claim it's less expensive.
It's a rather transparent bit of chicanery. One can but wonder what they were thinking. Big, unoriginal corporate monster steals an idea from a small, smart, compassionate company. Again.
So, to you, to my niece (if she reads this) I say, go get yourself a pair of TOMS. Spend the $2, bet a better product, know you're doing some good in the world.
To Skechers I say, please figure out what you really stand for as a company, as a brand, and do something philanthropic around that. Do something unique. Be original.
To read more about the TOMS/BOBS... thing... there are some articles here and here and here.
If you have barely worn shoes to drop off, you can find a soles4soles location here or donate.
(thanks to digitalmomblog for this info.)