Are you talking about the lower eyelets that hold the first four laces, or the uppers that hold the top two? I've owned 4 pairs of Timberlands for over 5 years apiece, and never had problems with the any of the eyelets for the laces, including this version. I got these as a bday gift a few months ago and am really pleased with this boot.
So I don't know where you're coming from with your statement about shoddy design. Also, if you've got multiple pairs of brand new boots of the same design (???) why not just try a couple more out and see if the eyelets give you trouble.
These were pretty easy to break in, and they've held up well to the Colorado winters. I've got the mink oil, but haven't gotten around to applying it, and they still keep out the snow very well.