I’ve been looking into footwear lately.
Namely, replacing what I own in terms of shoes, with things that are not made in cheap, Third World countries.
My basic footwear groups:
- Rainboots: DONE! Covered by Aigle, as they are made in France.
- Leather Boots: Pending. It’s too hot now, I’ll have them custom made in August for Autumn.
- Ballet Flats: The Fryes I have are made in Mexico but I can replace them with Repettos made in Paris, France, or those luscious Chloe ballet flats I found that are made in Italy.
- Regular shoes: Sneakers or basic, fabric-covered shoes.
- Heels: Already have one pair of thrifted Manolo Blahniks made in Italy in Size 7s (the golden unicorn of shoes especially as they were thrifted); not sure I really need another pair of heels.
So I was looking at Toms to be my “regular shoes”. Something covered, not in a leather, fabric, and comfortable.
I was also interested because it’s a “Buy one pair, provide another for a child” program, and I was willing to pay that (kind of ridiculous) $60 pricetag on what is essentially a pair of recycled shoes, that I am sure, only costs $5 in materials to produce.
Anyway all that aside, I was prepared to pay $60 for overpriced canvas shoes, until I discovered they’re made in China.
COMPANIES ARE LITERALLY & FIGURATIVELY FULL OF CRAP THESE DAYS
China. You can’t see the nasty fog of pollution, but it exists, choking the oxygen out of their country, surrounding land and the rest of the world.
Then I read this on their Corporate Responsibility website:
As we’ve disclosed previously in our Giving Report, our shoes are made in China, Ethiopia and Argentina.
We are aware of the challenges associated with overseeing a global supply chain and our global staff actively manages and oversees our suppliers and vendors to ensure that our corporate responsibility standards are upheld.
On an annual basis, we require our direct suppliers to certify that the materials incorporated into our products are procured in accordance with all applicable laws in the countries they do business in, including laws regarding slavery and human trafficking.
We also clearly define appropriate business practices for our employees and hold them accountable for complying with our policies, including the prevention of slavery and human trafficking within our supply chain.
Love it. /sarcasm
Let me break it down for you what this corporate speak means:
“Aware of the challenges Associated” = Dealing with consumers who want to know why the heck they’re making shoes in China, Ethiopia and Argentina, and not in the U.S.
“Global Supply Chain” = Cheap Labour, as in ~$1.61/hour* versus the wages of $7.25/hour for an American. * Source
No where in that carefully crafted corporate blurb up there, does it mention fair wages for those workers.
“On an annual basis, we require our direct suppliers to certify” = Only once a year, and probably just a week before, these suppliers “certify” that the LATEST batch of materials pass certification.
Oh and where are these certifications?
Consumers don’t want to read that crap, or do we?
Fossil also has a nice trick with these “certifications” as well.
They told me via Twitter that they certify with their suppliers, but… no evidence to prove that they do so, or that they do so thoroughly:
Here’s my conversation:
CAN WE JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE IRONY HERE?
People are buying Toms shoes and are basically being hoodwinked into feeling like good consumers because they’re providing a child with a pair of shoes in Africa (presumably) who walks around barefooted.
In the backend of this brilliant, greenwashing, hippie-sounding, do-gooding marketing machine, they’re screwing all the factory workers in the U.S. by not manufacturing their shoes there, because the labour in China, Ethiopia and Argentina is just so frickin’ cheap!
So we rob from Peter (China, Ethiopia, Argentina) to give a pair of recycled shoes to Paul (A Third World child in need).
It’s a bit disgusting if you think about it.
This kind of practice, just keeps people in those countries in the cycle of poverty, while going around crowing about how great it is that you buy a pair of shoes to provide a pair for another child somewhere.
I mean, Toms, they are a FOR PROFIT company after all, aren’t they?
Look at all the stupid competitors who have popped up — Bobs, Saludos and all those dumb companies selling to dumb consumers (like us).
THEY’RE ADMITTEDLY THE BEST OF THE WORST
So Toms — they’re not the worst of the bunch if you can believe that.
At least they tackled the issue of the Third World factory thing head on.
I’ve seen companies act a lot worse.
The worst for shoes, would be shoe brands like Vans, that evade your questions about WHERE EXACTLY the shoes are made.
“Asia“, was the one-word answer I got via an e-chat.
“We have outsourced our shoes since ___insert years____”, was another glib answer when I was told to email them for details.
I got tired of pushing them to try and reveal where their stupid factories are, so I just crossed them off the list as evasive and probably a scumbag company if they can’t be honest with a consumer.
OTHER CORPORATE-SPEAK WORDS USED
“IMPORT” = This almost always means China.
But doesn’t it sound sexier? “Import”.
It’s just so… FOREIGN, and EXOTIC, no?
Gosh I feel like I’m about to don a beautiful silk cheongsam with that kind of sexy corporate speak, and go paint the town red!
At least, in the J. Crew website, in their catalog and online, “imported” always means China.
If not China, then it’s India for the scarves (and I only found 2 scarves that were from India, the rest were from China).
Otherwise, if it’s “imported” from ITALY or FRANCE or some other wonderful First World country, they are not shy in screaming that their shoes are from Italy.
HONESTLY, WHAT ARE THEY SO ASHAMED OF?
They built the factories there, didn’t they?
Those sly SOBs knew what they were doing.
Most of these companies, are always so evasive and slippery when it comes to questioning them about where their shoes are made, or their things are manufactured.
Clearly, if you can’t proudly post online like Aigle, that your boots are manufactured in France by people who take 2 years to learn the craft, it means that you’re hiding something.
As a consumer, I’m not a fan of companies hiding stuff because it’s usually the bad stuff being hidden, not the good.
For good or for bad, if your consumer is asking you to list all the factories and the countries you make your overpriced things in, then you should tell them.
Otherwise, if you are feeling ashamed of your practices and want to try and be slick or slippery with the info, some consumers might still buy from you any way…. or just think you’re scumbags.
Unless it becomes part of their marketing campaign (you have to watch out for Greenwashing in this case), you can’t really be sure about what they’re saying.
AS CONSUMERS WE’RE PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE FOR CHEAP CRAP THAT IS MARKETED AS BEING EXPENSIVE
Those who have worked in retail, know that we’re paying through the nose.
Of course, they can’t say too much because it’s not something they’re allowed to disclose, but if we can imagine this:
$1690 RMB a month as average wage
$1690 RMB = $272.58 USD a month (exchange rate is 1 USD to 6.2 RMB)
$272.58 USD x 12 months = $3270.97 a year
I don’t really know how much it costs to live in China, but let’s say it’s a big chunk of their money, around 1000 RMB a month.
Now in a year, the equivalent time of a worker after 8 hours could make let’s say 2 full pair of shoes a day – this is just a rough guesstimate to see what the numbers end up being.
Assuming they work “normal” Western hours (a long shot), at 40 hours a week, 2 weeks of vacation and on a 5 day workweek it looks like this:
2 full pairs of shoes a day x 50 weeks x 5 days = 500 pairs of shoes
For $3270.97 earned per year, a worker could produce 500 pairs of shoes to be sold.
RETAIL PRICE AND PROFIT FOR TOMS SHOES:
RETAIL PRICE: $60 a pair x 500 pairs = $30,000 a year
BASE LABOUR COST: $3270.97
GROSS PROFIT PER WORKER: $26,729.03 a year, per worker just on the basis of wages alone.
If we think about shoes that are being made in China, and sold for a HECK of a lot more than $60, let’s say those Hunter Boots I had previously wanted (and am disgusted with now), at $160 for a single pair, the profit margins look like this:
RETAIL PRICE AND PROFIT FOR HUNTER RAINBOOTS:
$160 a pair x 500 pairs = $80,000 a year
BASE LABOUR COST: $3270.97
GROSS PROFIT PER WORKER: $76,729.03 a year, per worker just on the basis of wages alone.
You don’t say.
Even with the raw materials taken into account (which are EVEN CHEAPER as they haven’t been processed through a plant in any way), overhead, and the big fat marketing machine that they need to throw bundles of money into to keep it going, it simply does not equal the price of what we’re paying.
I’d say at a best guess, we’re overpaying by 300% – 400% when all the costs are said and done.
RETAIL PRICE AND PROFIT FOR FRENCH-MADE AIGLE RAINBOOTS COMPARED TO HUNTERS:
Just for kicks, let’s see what the French brand would end up with, as they make rain boots just like Hunter (of a much better fit and quality, I might add).
1425.67 EUR a month is minimum wage and converted to USD, it’s $1831.27 a month.
(Exchange rate is 1 EUR: $1.28 USD)
$1831.27 x 12 months = $21,975.24 USD (one worker’s wages for a year, making 2 pairs of shoes a day)
$160 a pair x 500 pairs = $80,000 a year
BASE LABOUR COST: $21,975.24
GROSS PROFIT PER WORKER: $58,024.76 a year, per worker just on the basis of wages alone.
Their profit drops by a whopping $18,704.27 per worker.
That is no small chunk of change.
Assuming 400 workers in a factory, that’s $7,481,708 a year, saved on labour costs by outsourcing to China.
That’s right. Almost $7.5 MILLION SAVED a year.
Sure, those poor workers get to keep practically nothing after the government gets their paws on their money (tax rates in France are horrific), but did I also mention just how amazing France’s healthcare system and general way of life is?
It is better than what I can get in Canada, and it is SURE AS HECK better than in China.
If that doesn’t get your blood pumping and your neurons firing in all directions as a CEO or CFO, I don’t know what will.
Oh and Chinese people need that job and want to work hard to keep that job, so it’s all right to force them to make 20 pairs of shoes a day rather than 2 because .. well, they’re hardworking right?
They’re doing such a GREAT THING, by providing jobs to Chinese workers who otherwise would be without a job.
Anyway, isn’t that the stereotype?
Chinese people are human machines who can work 10X as fast for a fraction of the price?
So what if quality suffers?
Consumers should have stuff that breaks apart easily so that they keep coming back to buy more cheap crap.
I AM NO SAINT IN THIS REGARD
One of the most notorious Chinese suppliers out there that make Macbooks and iPads and all the iThings that I own.
Had I known that before I probably would have purchased less.
I don’t know because that said, what other choice do I have for electronics?
Every laptop I have touched is MADE IN CHINA.
They are ALL UNDER THE SAME RULES and the SAME CRAP.
(Although I will say that Apple’s crap has lasted much longer than HP, Dell, Toshiba and Sony crap).
I can’t go without a laptop. It’s literally a requirement of my job and my working life.
This is where I become the most frustrated, because I am trying and there are no other options available for me as a modern consumer.
Anyway, rant over.
What I can control, is what I buy in the future, and that’s what I’m doing.
Update: Then I see this video and it gives me hope.