Don't Walk a Mile In My Shoes
July 11, 2010 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I've got a serious poison ivy style rash from a new pair of sandals. What should the company do about this.

I bought a new pair of sandals recently. I've worn the same brand for several years. This years model had rubber in direct contact with the skin. There had always been a fabric cover over the rubber in the past. I came down with a severe skin reaction where the rubber was in contact with my skin and needed cortisone cream to stop the reaction (also stopped wearing the sandals). I brought them back to the store where I purchased them. The store was not too interested in helping me though they did give me the customer service number of the company, who have not called me back as yet. One employee of the store said the word formaldehyde in referring to the sandals.

Is this a product safety problem for the company? How should I precede from here in talking to the company?
posted by Xurando to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might be interested in what happened when this occurred with a run of flip flops from Wal-mart. The Snopes link is here.
posted by theraflu at 12:43 PM on July 11, 2010

It woill depend in part on how many other people are affected. If you're the only person to report problems the company won't rectify the problem. Maybe do some searches online to see if other people have reported similar problems.
posted by dfriedman at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of noxious volatile chemicals are involved in the manufacture of plastics. The intent is to drive them out of the finished product before it's put into use, but there is no procedure so foolproof it can't be screwed up. It is a problem for the manufacturer but since it's a cheap product sold in large quantities and it may only affect a limited number of batches of a precursor chemical bought in bulk, it's very unlikely they will do anything beyond refunding the purchase price unless many people complain.

It's very likely that whatever is in the plastic that caused the reaction will eventually evaporate out, though I could understand one's reluctance to test this. As a general rule I try to avoid wearing things made of any kind of plastic material directly against the skin for this reason. I have taken to wearing sandals recently (it really helps with some foot problems in a hot humid climate) and the ones I find most comfortable are all plastic and rubber, so I wear socks with them. It might not be fashionable but it's safer.
posted by localroger at 2:07 PM on July 11, 2010

Send in the correspondence to and I'm sure that whatever you want, within reason, from the company will get done.

I would ask for a refund. Anything more and you are pushing it, unless you had to go to the hospital and you can prove it was because of something in the sandals/manufacturing process of the sandals.

What brand?
posted by TheBones at 2:46 PM on July 11, 2010

Ar you sure it's rubber and not neoprene? A significant minority of people have bad reactions to neoprene, some kind of contact dermatitis.

I doubt it's a "product safety" issue for the manufacturer, I can't wear watches with plastic bands without all the skin peeling off my wrist but that's my problem, not theirs. I'd give them the benefit of the doubt, contact them, tell them you're a repeat customer and had a reaction to the new sandals and see if they refund your money. Ask them what the material is (I doubt it is actually rubber) and don't buy anything like that again.
posted by fshgrl at 3:56 PM on July 11, 2010

I'm surprised the store where you purchased the shoes isn't willing to do something for you. Were you way outside the returns/exchange period (and I mean by months, not days)? Was it a chain store or a mom & pop? I'd definitely speak to a manager and request (politely) a refund or a credit/exchange (obviously not for the same kinds of sandals). Just go higher up the food chain at the store to get a remedy. I consider dealing with the manufacturer to be a solution of last resort in most cases.
posted by victoriab at 4:00 PM on July 11, 2010

Do you have a latex allergy? If rubber that was previously covered on the shoe now isn't, it might be that you have a latex sensitivity/allergy.
posted by 6:1 at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2010

Have you had this kind of reaction in the past? If so, I think it's your responsibility to check out the shoe before buying it. Seeing that this year's model doesn't have a fabric cover is pretty easy to figure out.

I get physically ill from milk, so that means I check the ingredients list before buying any food rather than trying to get food companies to change their recipe.

But, if this is new to you, I can think of a couple of choices:

1. Return the sandals, and write the company about it. Maybe next year the fabric cover comes back.
2. Take the shoe to an allergy doctor. Maybe this is something you need to look out for in the future.

And I wouldn't take a store employee's gossip as all that meaningful.
posted by jsmith77 at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2010

TheBones: "Send in the correspondence to and I'm sure that whatever you want, within reason, from the company will get done."

They've covered this before. I'm having some problems with my internet connection and I can't get Consumerist to load to get you the correct link, but just search Consumerist for flipflops.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:52 PM on July 11, 2010

If you don't have a latex allergy. there is a possibility that you're allergic to the accelerants used to soften the rubber. For me, only certain rubber products will give me contact dermatitis.

I can never really tell which rubbers I'll react to, so I just stay away from any that will be in contact with my skin.

Good luck, and I hope you were reimbursed by the store at least.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:30 PM on July 11, 2010

Yeah, if you have what that chick kelly had, that's a little beyond contact dermatitis. I guess, my question would then be how far do you want to take this. I think that if this is the same in your case that taking it to a lawyer wouldn't be overly litigious. However, you'd be in for a long fight with minimal (if any) payout, but, yeah, those cases were bad.
posted by TheBones at 8:11 AM on July 12, 2010

Yeah, if you have what that chick kelly had, that's a little beyond contact dermatitis.

Just curious, what exactly are you referring to? Also, contact dermatitis can get pretty damn bad, which is why my particular case took so long to diagnose. It looked nothing like traditional contact dermatitis. It was a burning, weepy, open wound that looked like some kind of skin-eating microorganism. Turns out it was just a severe allergic reaction.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2010

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