Giving Charity the Boot

This looked interesting when I ran across it. Schoenen-ophaalacties: OK, the Dutch means “shoe-gathering actions,” but whazzat all about? Whatever it is, now seems to be the time of year for it.

The first paragraph after the lead reads:

By now everyone knows about the shoe-actions. [Oh yeah?] You bring an old pair of shoes into the store and get a voucher for a new pair in exchange. The old shoes go from there to a good cause, so it is said.

Interesting! But incomplete: Is this only a Flanders phenomenon? (The “VRT” in “VRT” after all stands for the Flemish radio and TV network.) Surely the voucher one gains in exchange does not cover the entire cost of a pair of new shoes, right?

And then a question on the lips of those who are already familiar with this phenomenon: Is this on the up-and-up? That is, do those old shoes really get passed on to “a good cause,” to people who need them?

As you might expect, in these cynical times: Not always. A reporter from the VRT radio program De Inspecteur (yes, it means what you think, as in “Clouseau”) went investigating. Some of the shoe companies do indeed go on to work with “fair trade” organizations such as Oxfam which pass on the shoes for free to those in need. But quite a few of these shoe companies in effect sell them onward and pocket the profits.

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