Sears accused of misleading public on Craftsman line

A lawsuit says the company wrongly claimed its tools were made in America. A California judge refuses to certify class-action status, but plaintiffs say they will appeal.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 7, 2012 3:47PM
Sears store in Milford, Connecticut -- Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesSears Holdings (SHLD) says its Craftsman line is America's most trusted tool brand. But are those tools even made in America?

That issue is at the forefront of a claim that the company snookered consumers into believing that its famous Craftsman tools were made in the U.S. Sears has beaten back the lawsuit for now, but the battle appears to be far from over.

A California judge rejected an effort late last month to certify the suit as a class action. In his 42-page decision, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr argued that there were "serious problems" with the case and that it would be a "nightmare" to manage because there are 40 million potential class members, according to the National Law Journal.

Sears, which registered the Craftsman trademark in 1921, cheered the decision. But Barbara Hart, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the ruling will be appealed. In an interview with MSN Money, Hart said that her clients will seek certification under a narrower class definition. 

"We are pleased with the court's ruling but as the matter is still pending, we decline to comment further," Sears spokesman Larry Costello wrote in an email.

Costello declined to say how many Craftsman tools were made in the U.S. and Hart, who filed suit against the retailer in 2004, isn't sure either. After the suit was filed, Sears took Craftsman tools off the shelves and blacked out the words "Made in America," she said.

Sears will not share records about where its Craftsman tools are made, but Hart said the company utilizes more than 130 Chinese manufacturers for the Craftsman line.

Craftsman has been one of the few bright spots for Sears in recent years as the retailer has  struggled to compete against larger rivals such as Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT). The stock has slumped more than 20% in the past year. Sears not a bargain for investors, trading at more than double its average 52-week price target of $17.83.

According to a recent report in the New York Times, the "Made in the USA" label has grown in popularity because it is a "signifier of old-school craftsmanship." It's also hard to find in today's global economy. The U.S. trade deficit with China alone is about $232 billion. 

--Jonathan Berr is long Target.  Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.


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Dec 7, 2012 4:31PM
Very little is made in the US now and yet people wonder why there are no jobs! May just be a connection!
Dec 7, 2012 5:43PM
The only thing that I'm sure thats made in America is Jack Daniels.....and I support them as much as I can!
Dec 7, 2012 4:42PM
Any company that misleads the American public , needs to fail.
Dec 7, 2012 6:04PM
Its crazy. All of our scrap metal goes to China to get recycled and we buy it back !!  Remember a hot water heater use to last 30 years ? Today they last 10-15 years and start leaking water. The Craftsman's ratchets always break. I like Snap on. Sears used to be good before the 1990's. Its all across the board that most things are built like s*&t. Bring back the American workmanship that we pride in. Yes I am a business owner that works with tools everyday. I will pay that extra dollar for it not to fail. USA !!

Dec 7, 2012 4:40PM
Just another blunder by the management at this dying giant.  How did they think thet were going to get away with labeling Chinese tools as " made in America" in this day and age.
Dec 7, 2012 4:49PM
Even the "Geniune Harley Davidson" chrome goodies on the walls at the local Harley dealers are made in China. How's that for a name that crows about being made in America?
Dec 7, 2012 5:20PM
personally i like craftsman products but i had always been under the impression that the tools were made in america and lately i have gone out of my way to try my bestto buy made in america products, thats if i can find  such products because its truly hard now adays  and i would hate for a store like sears to go under because theres really notthat much left where you can go and just browse ...and plus its just another nail in our ecnomy.....people need to start shopping  and buying american when ever possible..if you truly want manufacturing to come back to america..there has to be a reason to come back... also our governemnt needs to make it easierfor companies to do business here in our country ......what we really need is leaders with  true vision and a congress willing to make that vision happen...
Dec 7, 2012 6:13PM
this is about the plantif lawyers making money, and nothing more. The tools will not change, the name wil not change, no one will get any money back, but the lawyers will make millions
Dec 7, 2012 5:54PM
A couple years back I was looking for a drill made in America.  I looked at Sears and it was clearly labeled - it was not made in America anymore.  This year I went on a search again, this time for hammers and I did find some made in America, such as Vaughan Hammers.  I have made it a practice to look and see 'where' the product was made.

In 1999 there was a scandal known as the "Saipan Scam" - very deceiving in there advertising, but Sears; I am disappointed they have their tools made in another country now, but it is labeled on their tools.

I also would like to add there are many products made in America.  General Electric washers and dryers are 100% made in America and we bought a set.  GE brought all their washers and dryers production back from overseas to American shores - parts and all. 

Many of our retail stores pile up on products from overseas to make a profit.  How they make the profit can be a very sad story when at times it is off the backs of children and adults.  But, there are legit businesses too.  We as the consumer have to take the time and research.  And as my 95 year old grampa friend says:  "Even if I have to pay more for a product made in America I am willing."  It is a tough market and we are the buyers.  We have a responsibility too. 
Dec 7, 2012 6:10PM
Great - now if Sears goes under how good will that "lifetime warranty" be? How many Sears employees will there be? There are way too many lawyers in California. I would rate lawyers right under politicians - oh wait, aren't most politicians under employed lawyers?
Dec 7, 2012 4:41PM

Craftsmen tools, as well as Kobalt (Lowes) are really owned by a company called Danaher.

Sears/Lowes are just the retail outlets for them. They both have the same "lifetime" warranty, which works well. I speak from experience as far as Craftsmen is concerned. I have not had to return any Kobalt tools yet. Some of my  Craftsmen tools are 30 years old.

Dec 7, 2012 5:52PM
long time ago, Craftsman tool = a little higher priced tool that will last a lifetime or 2.
now, SADLY, most of it is junk.... 
Dec 7, 2012 6:03PM
To claim that "America's most trusted tool brand" Points to where they're made, rather than who trusts them, is a stretch at best.

When Sears started marketing Craftsman tools in K-Mart, and other variety stores, it should have been a hint.
Dec 7, 2012 4:41PM
Moore Drop Forge in Springfield Massachusetts used to make the Craftsman hand tools but the unions drove them out.
Dec 7, 2012 5:30PM

I bought a huge tool set from Sears MANY years ago in the mid 80's.  When I received them I found a lot of them said "Made in Taiwan",  The catalogue I ordered them from had many statements:

Made in America, (USA) always has been and always will be.

I took all the ones marked "Taiwan" back to Sears and they replaced them with the Made in USA

ones.  For a lot of years after that they still said made in USA.  Don't know about now though.


Dec 7, 2012 6:10PM
EVERONE knows and has known for years that most of the Craftsman tools were made overseas.
Same as almost every other top brand.
This is just another lawyer/law firm trying to make millions while the people they recruit for the lawsuit get pennies.
There is a real need for tort reform which we will never see as long as lawyers keep getting elected into the house and senate.

Dec 7, 2012 6:10PM
With millions and millions of illegal immigrants here in the country working in factories do they still consider these products as "Made In America" ? Seems like a catch-22 to me.
I bought over $5,000.00 worth of tools knowing they were Made in the U.S.A.  what a god dam rip off,all my other tools are made in china I guess all my tools are made in china which is our enemy their comunist why do we give our enemy's all our trade. We need a new government and congress.
Dec 7, 2012 5:55PM
It's true, some Craftsmen tools do no say Made in the USA.
Dec 7, 2012 5:55PM

You know, Craftsman tools and thousands of other products could still be made here in America if it were not for the unions.

Nobody wants to pay $20 for a pair of pliers made by some union yahoo making $30 an hour plus benefits.

The reason Wal-Mart, Target and the like are so busy, people want a product that does the job and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

If the people at McDonalds flippin burgers were union, the cheap burger would cost you $4.

ABOLISH the unions and you'll bring jobs back to America.

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