It's best to be an informed buyer. I have had similar issue with whiskey shoes. My response? To buy less of them and to focus on color 8, black, and cigar, shoes that I wear more anyway. Also looking at more tan calf. Discussions like these help buyers address issues and make purchasing decisions.
The appeal of Alden shoes is unchanged - great dress or dress casual shoes and boots, unique leathers (deep cordovan shades, quality suede, durable and good looking CXL, etc) versatility and durability. I don't know why the appeal would have changed any really over the past few years (outside of less availability). Quality control has been an issue since I have been buying the shoes and the issues are well known, but you take the bad with the good.
I would not buy anything other than Alden's shell. Their shell finishing is magnificent and top-of-the-line. Nobody can deny that. However, the price of their calf/suede/etc offerings are far too high to warrant retail. For that, I'd rather look at some of the European shoemakers, who do a better job in the same price range, and with better lasts, without all the crap you have to put up with from Alden.