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 6:08PM

How can they possible say "made in America" on the tools if they are not?  Isn't that fraud (at least)?


Dec 7, 2012 6:06PM

Both Sears and Kmart are virtually DEAD, though the doctor hasn't informed them yet!

Dec 7, 2012 6:06PM
Sears has been lying to the public for years! Remember the big auto repair scandal where they trying to sell shocks & struts to everybody, whether they needed them or not? Sears-Roebuck was a great retail giant many years ago. It wasn't Walmart, K-Mart, Target & others that did them in, it was their own greed. In 2012 their just another Montgomery-Ward waiting to happen. Another very sad American retail story. I just hope all the folks that work there don't crash and burn with it when it goes.
Dec 7, 2012 6:05PM
Craftsman is junk anyways.  It is maybe good for the do-it-yourselfer who will use it a couple times.  Anything sold by a box store as their "own" line is usually junk.  Craftsman is not much better than Menards' Tool Shop brand
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 6:04PM
If this lawsuit is won then isn't every major 'mart'  going to be sued.  Afterall nothing is manufactured here anymore.  Everything is made in china and imported here. 
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 5:59PM
consequently, most of the Craftsmen carrying cases for tools, toolboxes, and tool accessories are made in China, I don't think they are trying to hide that fact, they just don't advertise it either.
Dec 7, 2012 5:58PM
I just buy German made tools, like Knipex or Wiha instead for basic tools. They are soild and a pleasure to use
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.

Dec 7, 2012 5:55PM
It's true, some Craftsmen tools do no say Made in the USA.
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 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 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 5:34PM
It's not Obama or democrats or republicans it's us for putting up with all the liberals selling us on no ones bad everyone is good if you just show them the way.We buy not thinking when we vote for someone we really don't know anything about them except some person at a newspaper or TV channel( radio) says this is great go along with it.The governmant has almost one thousand companys that pay no taxes because they moved their so called main office out of country.GE is the big that screws us daily and laughs all the way to that foreign bank account.I thinking of incorporating a putting my cousin as corporate office since he lives in Vietnam for last five years.WE did this to ourselves and not anyone one person just a bunch of lazy people who didn't vote /didn't listen /or just didnt care.I have no education so the grammer is not very good.
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 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 4:57PM
Yep, those idiots who voted for Obama are at fault... he is destroying all we stand for in this country.  Those too naive to see that Obama is just another Jim Jones and those who follow him will self destruct and won't understand why.... duh.  Get smart... don't fall for his ability to speak and convince you to help him take away our freedom.  This is happening, wake up !!!  
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 4:44PM
Well this will absolutely force more into bankruptcy and foreclosures.  Nicely done US government once again you could care less about the people you server or suppose to be serving and pad your pocket books with kickbacks by lobbyists and don't get put into these new tax hikes cause you have accountants to hide the money.  Well done.
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