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 8, 2012 5:26PM

Craftsman tool cabinets are nothing but junk these days.


I do like the looks of the stainless steel Kobalt tool cabinets though.

Dec 8, 2012 5:22PM
Well i have not shopped at sears for years! Just another reason not to go back! No, I don't shop at wally world either!
Dec 8, 2012 5:21PM
I don't buy Craftsman any more. But if they return to being Made in the USA, I might change my decision. Craftsman used to be top quality tools but they no longer are. Even their warranties have taken a big nosedive.
Dec 8, 2012 5:08PM
nothing is ever made in america anymore that is why the economy is so screwed up and the few things that are made here you can not afford to buy.............wake up people and get your head out of your butt and lets make a big change
Dec 8, 2012 4:22PM
Everyone is a film critique,but never a movie star!
Dec 8, 2012 4:03PM
People need to get over it...I'm all for buying American Made however the only way anyone knows if something is truly made in if they make it themselves. But, even then, just because you put it together doesn't make it "American made" because some of them parts you use...may have come from China, Mexico, Tiawan...anywhere! We need to stop suing everyone over frivolous crap and start rebuilding this couny! 

Dec 8, 2012 4:01PM
How much longer for my NEW Twinkies?
Dec 8, 2012 3:55PM
So this makes you wonder were Twinkies, Ring Dings and HoHo's made in the USA?
Dec 8, 2012 3:53PM
Don't understand why we can make freekin tools in this country. How many jobs could be created by making tools, computers, and various other things here. The problem is, its costs less for the mfg. to send it to china or mexico round trip than it does to keep it here. Between labor costs, unions, and insurance it makes things very difficult to not consider outsourcing. Things need to change soon or this country will be a third worlder., globally.
Dec 8, 2012 3:48PM

as usual missing the point...what damage was caused to anyone that would require a law suit to be brought???


This should have not only been dismissed the plaintiffs should be fined for wasting time an money.

Dec 8, 2012 3:41PM
Dec 8, 2012 3:36PM
If the company put misleading claims about origin on its products, that's a matter for an FTC complaint to make them comply with "truth in advertising" laws. But I don't see how anyone except an "ambulance chaser" would think there is a lawsuit there. Exactly how do you show any purchaser was harmed financially or personally? You would have to prove that "Made in USA" tools would have been cheaper, better, or less dangerous. I doubt that is possible. I doubt it's even true, since I was around when most products were "Made in USA" and were definitely not cheaper (considering inflation), not better (if Sears made sure the quality was equal to what they had before), and all hammers are equally capable of smashing your thumb.
Dec 8, 2012 3:33PM
No more Craftsman Tools for hubby!! I never knew they were made in China!! Always thought they were made in USA!!! Grew up believing they were made in the USA!!!
I have a mind to fight for every dollar I spent giving Craftsman as Christmas and Birthday gifts for my dad and my hubby!!!!
Sears just lost another 3 loyal customers!!!
Snap-on may be expensive but they last and are Guaranteed and have a Warranty!!! Also, the kicker.... Snap-on IS made in the USA!!! Worth every penny!!!
Dec 8, 2012 3:32PM
I am a former union member because I am fed up with the communists running them .  To me communism is not only destructive of our freedom and liberty , its a cancer on the planet , get the communists out of the union leadership and I will gladly support the American workers .  There can be no doubt that the unions have done a great deal for all American workers , but that was before the communist takeover .  I realize most of the rank and file membership are not communist , so all they really need to do is clean up their leadership to get my support .
Dec 8, 2012 3:29PM

Lifetime warranty, and no arguement when trading for a new one.

Not good enough for you?

Sheesh! You can't please some people.



Dec 8, 2012 3:15PM
Where did Sears state the tools were made in America?  All it says is Craftsman is America's most trusted brand.  That in no way implies that the tools are made in America.  I worked for a company that made Craftsman air compressors, in China, and most of them were defective.  This is a nuisance suit and the court needs to just reject it.  There was no harm to anyone by the tools.  If you are dumb enough to believe that anything is made in America these days, you need to have a wrench upside your head.  
Dec 8, 2012 3:14PM

A corporatized American government plays the role of taxpayer protector while using the companies for money and then portrays those same corporations as the bad guys.  Washington plays the game 'we're rubber, corporations are glue, it bounces off us and sticks to you'. Whose the bad guy? Political manipulators smokescreening the public. Obama wants to create a 'department of business'? No scam here in the transparent smoke-filled oval office. 

Dec 8, 2012 3:07PM

Made in the USA ............or it can stay in the seaway

Dec 8, 2012 2:51PM

When I brought Craftsman Lawn Sprinkler,Trowel,Hose End Sprayer and other garden tools back for replacement,they tried to give me replacements that were only warranted for 2 or 3 years.The original ones I bought were warranted "FOREVER" so I told the salesperson that I would only accept ones that were warranted "FOREVER" as replacements. After talking to management I was finally given warranted "FOREVER" replacements. They will try to screw you if they can!

Dec 8, 2012 2:29PM
I have a set of craftman wrenches that I won a bet with and I've had them for around 18+ years, Well Sears had a problem for a while getting enough tools made here in the USA  to  meet the demand and had to resort to having some made in Japan.  Well these wrenches are clearly marked "Made in Japan". The bet was that ALL craftsman tools were American made---I WON.       I would think that these wrenches made in Japan would be as good as those made in America, don't think I could say the same about any Craftsman tools made in china though as I did have a socket crack about 4 years ago and it was replaced for free. I do know Sears-Craftsman's policy  now it won't replace a broken wrench or socket twice in the same year and there some older ratchets which are prone to break the gear inside and they have or had the replacement parts right at the counter,  I know this from personal experiance as I have one.  
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