We love stuff here at The Manual. That said, we recognize that consumerism and selfishness are often two lenses of the same designer sunglasses. It can be hard to buy frivolous items for yourself while millions around the world struggle to get their hands on basic necessities. For example, you might feel a tinge of guilt when purchasing your 20th pair of shoes, knowing that some people haven’t owned a pair their entire lives.
Since 2006, TOMS — a California-based accessories brand — has realized the consumer’s ultimate fantasy by turning something as simple as purchasing a pair of shoes into a moral good. If you know anything about TOMS, you know about their “One for One” business model; for every item you buy, TOMS helps someone in need. Suddenly buying an item for yourself isn’t such a selfish act, as you’re actually making a profound difference in a stranger’s life.
TOMS is perhaps best known for donating one pair of shoes to a person in need for every shoe sold, hence “One for One.” Now, TOMS stores across the country are using virtual reality to bring the public even closer to their charitable mission.
I had the honor of visiting a TOMS store in Portland, OR, where I participated in this virtual reality adventure. But instead of slaying dragons or shooting lasers at aliens, I found myself in a remote Peruvian village, “assisting” as TOMS and a local non-profit gave shoes to a group of schoolchildren. The highlight of the “Virtual Giving Trip” came when Julio, who can’t be more than nine years old, put his new shoes to the test with some serious dance moves. The whole experience was moving and impressive.
Anyone can walk into a TOMS store and take the Virtual Giving Trip. Once you’re in, you get a four-minute, 360-degree glimpse of the TOMS giving apparatus in action. In a sense, the Virtual Giving Trip is not “virtual” at all, but an actual presentation of what happens when you purchase an item from TOMS.
Of course, TOMS’ giving streak doesn’t end with shoes. They’re constantly seeking out partnerships with legitimate non-profits around the world, and providing funds, support, and products to those in need. TOMS has built a global charity network that serves underprivileged people in over 70 countries. To date, they’ve given 45 million pairs of shoes, improved the eyesight of more than 325,000 people, and done so much more.
If you’re looking to buy stuff without even a shade of guilt, check out TOMS. You can be absolutely sure that your money will go toward something other than a bloated executive’s wallet. Buy a pair of shoes, give a pair of shoes to the shoeless; buy a pair of glasses, help a child see clearly for the first time; buy some coffee, provide an individual with one week’s worth of drinkable water; buy a bag, provide midwifery training and a birth kit to an impoverished community. And oh yeah, I almost forgot — TOMS sells excellent products.