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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794Comments
Dec 8, 2012 1:59AM
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Actually Craftsman Hand Tools are now made in China by a Bain Capital controlled company.
Dec 8, 2012 1:49AM
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When Sears merged with K-Mart, Sears became a dead brand walking.  They followed the idiotic model of pushing K-Mart quality goods at Sears level pricing.  It didn't take the public long to catch on.
Dec 8, 2012 1:48AM
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that's no big surprise I stopped buying craftsman 5 years ago cuz the quality has gone to ****. and too expensive for what you get. don't last any more. dam shame. and black and decker are junk just like dewalts are just yellow black and deckers. all ****.

 

Dec 8, 2012 1:38AM
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Good for you Just me O, taking the product back and demanding a replacement was smart.  We had to know even from the economy back then things were changing, unfortunately,  you were wise...
Dec 8, 2012 1:34AM
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seems now that corporations are legal people.....arrest them as criminals.... the entire line of               co-conspirtitors from ceo to the legal secretary are criminals....companies don't commit crime. criminals do
Dec 8, 2012 1:33AM
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I regularly buy Craftsman hand tools (sockets, ratchets, wrenches etc.).  I would not have dreamed of buying them if I would have known that they were made in China.  The lifetime warranty means less to me than (1) knowing that I am buying an American-made product, and (2) feeling confident that when I am pushing with force on a ratchet or wrench, it will not break and slam my knuckles into an engine block or firewall.  I feel cheated.  I have been paying a premium for Craftsman tools. Now  I wonder where the Snap-on tools are made and if I should not be buying them instead.
Dec 8, 2012 1:30AM
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this is why I stop using Craftsman long ago as they were saying made in America on the package and the tool said made in China!!!! down with Sears for misleading people and we want to know where the tool is made not the packages.
Dec 8, 2012 1:27AM
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Don't buy there 27 ton log splitter. It's a POS. Mine lasted 14 months. 12 of those it was in my garage.
Dec 8, 2012 1:22AM
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SearsMart,  Craftsman sold me tool via Sears over the years that said lifetime warranty, if it brakes, just return it and get a new tool. That was a lie. Has anyone taken a wrench or broken socket back because it broke? What did they tell you? Ha Ha Ha, the young sales lady ROFLAO and said reallllly... Sears is a joke
Dec 8, 2012 1:19AM
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Who gives a RA where the CRAFTSMAN Line of superb tools are made they are still guaranteed for life and they last a lifetime as well as being the best tools made.  Take that Wal~Mart bike builder Jerry and stuff your favorite tools you know where!
Dec 8, 2012 1:14AM
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The Judge rejected the lawsuit because "it would be a "nightmare" to manage because there are 40 million potential class members." Oh well I guess the more people you con, the better off you will be in the eyes of our judicial system. What a crock!
Dec 8, 2012 1:04AM
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i think 1flyguy1 makes an excellent point. sears does not actually manufacture craftman tools. they are  just the retail outlet that sells them. if anyone has some explaining to do, it's the company that actually makes the tools! by the way, i was at walmart just before 4th of july to by an AMERICAN flag. they were all made in china and twain!!!
Dec 8, 2012 1:02AM
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I want my money back with interest, penalty and fines for mileading 
Dec 8, 2012 1:00AM
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I think a lot of people are forgetting that Craftsman is not a Sears product, Sears is just a major seller of Craftsman.  Ace Hardware and Kmart sell them too.  It is just whoever Craftsman chooses to carry the name.  They need to take the lawsuit to Craftsman and their owners because right now it would be like suing Wal-Mart because your Xbox didn't work. Right idea, wrong company.
Dec 8, 2012 12:54AM
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Im just tired of companies claiming to be "Made in USA". I know Kershaw knives also made this claim. I bought a pocket knife for my husband because he lost his old one and I went to Kershaw website and bought a knife and turns out it was made in China.It just pisses me off that manufacturers are taking advantage of other countries by paying them mere wages and making us Americans think its USA made.
Dec 8, 2012 12:34AM
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If modern Craftsmen tools are junk  it is not because they are made in China. We have always been capable of making junk here at home. If they are junk it is because they are made to a certain price line that price being what we are willing to pay. If we shop by the lowest price we should expect what we get. The chickens have come home to roost.

 

If Sears should be sued because they mispresented the product who should we sue for all the politicians who have misrepresented themselves? We get what we paid for.

Dec 8, 2012 12:27AM
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no they are made in china by a Lowes owned company called KOBALT another piece of junk that I have broken the same wrench 3 times. I go to auctions looking for American made some store carry a few American made fleet farm does they are in northern wisconsin.
Dec 8, 2012 12:26AM
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I try to buy Made in USA and go for the Craftman brand. Sickening to see such a great company go down the import road. Some are made in USA still. I see their impact sockets and and most of the new silly do-it-all ratchets and wrenches are made in China. I will NOT buy a craftsman tool made in China- I'd rather buy it for 1/2 the price at Lowes. (meaning I am prepared to spend more money for a made in USA tool) Idiots.
Dec 8, 2012 12:25AM
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Unions did not put Amercan companies in dire situations.  I was nothing more than greed that caused our factories to move to foreign soil.  NAFTA had a lot to do with it also.  If you asked most Americans, they would be more than happy to pay more for a quality U.S. made product than a cheap knock-off of poor quality.  We did not have a choice in this and often cannot find a product that we need that is produced in this country for any price.  I always try to purchase goods and food produced in this country but often there is no choice.  A very sad situation for our economy and our workers.
Dec 8, 2012 12:24AM
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Sears is following Montgomery Wards in business 125 years bad products worse prices RIP!!!!!
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