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 7, 2012 11:29PM
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I don't have any idea where Craftsman tools are made, but they are junk.  The "Craftsman" part is a joke.  My dad has Craftsman tools that belonged to his grandfather that have been used for about 80 years.  I bought Craftsman tools years ago and the only good thing about THOSE is that they have a lifetime warranty so you can get new ones every year or so.
Dec 7, 2012 11:26PM
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That's not a surprise because most of the American products are manufactured in China. It's cheaper and it yields more profits for them.
Dec 7, 2012 11:15PM
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Union made is the same as saying substandard.  If I see a union label or unionized workers I will not buy that companies products.  Detroit is the end result of socialism and their Marxist unions.

 

I laugh at the idiots that buy anything union.    The get substandard products that cost 3 times as much.   Fools...

Dec 7, 2012 11:11PM
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I have thrown out all Craftsman sockets because every one of them has broken on the first use. Yesterday my router/router table released the cutter while running, destroying the table and striking me in the chest. Let me tell you a cutter operating at 60,000 rpm hurts when it stikes you. Fortunately my coveralls and clothing prevented a serious injury. I am no longer a Sears costumer.
Dec 7, 2012 11:05PM
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I personally am a Sears Tool associate and we always let people know what tools are made in the usa and which are not. It states it plainly on the package which is not a big surprise that consumers go by a reputation from years past instead of reading the package. To all those who damn us, without Sears there wouldnt be any stores, catalogs, etc. We started it all with 140 years in business. That says a lot
Dec 7, 2012 11:00PM
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Just wondering, anyone that will no longer buy tools at Sears, where will you buy them? Home Depot has Husky, mostly made in China now. Lowes has Kobalt, mostly made in Taiwan and China now. Then we have the best tools out there: Snap-On, this would be my choice.. Most are made in the USA, but a few items are made in Canada, UK, and in China. The one's now made outside the US are at least labeled as Blue Point. So if you want a USA made tool go with Snap-On.

Dec 7, 2012 10:58PM
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Remember when you are shopping and the box says made in America, that may mean only the box was made in America not the contents.  That is not illegal and done all the time.
Dec 7, 2012 10:54PM
Dec 7, 2012 10:53PM
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Made in America is a joke, nothing much is made here. We have became a country of buyers and not producers. Walmart tops the list, Probably.
Dec 7, 2012 10:53PM
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SEARS,PENNEYS,other companies have lost their lustre,high prices,non-existent warranties,tools and products made cheaply in china,goods are getting shabby,a complete disregard for the American Consumer,time to go someplace else.
Dec 7, 2012 10:52PM
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One more thought, the unions literally drove manufacturing out of the USA not only by their ridiculous work rules, but they also went and bought the TV's, electronics, cars, etc. that were made overseas.  They can cry and bitch all they want, but they are their own worst enemies.  I bought many american made cars during my lifetime made by the UAW and none of them ever met the service I got out of our last two Toyotas.  So you folks who think everything made in America is the best, wise up.  I will buy the best of breed regardless of where it is made like the Union folks.
Dec 7, 2012 10:49PM
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craftsman tools have been made overseas for 15 years, anyone who is shocked by this has had their head in the sand since nafta was signed.

double edge sword, making things here, everyone complains about the loss of jobs, but, the average american consumer shops by price. period. we are unwilling to pay more.

Dec 7, 2012 10:44PM
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Sears probably went the way of other merchandisers. Sell a product that would be low enough in cost for the buying public. We are the ones who caused this problem. Starting back decades ago. We weren't satisfied enough to purchase one item at a time of good quality that would last for years. We wanted more. Union workers were right in there. Did they buy products that were made by other union shops? NO. I remember comment made in the 70's that it wasn't effecting their jobs. Well folks. It slowly creeped up on us. Conclusion. Don't be blaming the merchandisers. They were just trying to satisfy their customers. And these lawsuits! Just people looking for what they think is owed them. Good luck America. We are in trouble 
Dec 7, 2012 10:44PM
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It makes no difference if a case has merit or not, we have  enough blood sucking lawyers that they will sue anybody for anything.  If someone has been buying craftsman tools with the idea they were all made in the US then they should be seeing a Psych instead of a lawyer to find out where in the hell they have been for 40 years.  I buy craftsman tools because they are good tools, have a great warranty and on the box it says where it is made.  Good enough for me.  Thankfully this judge sees it the same.  Open up this pandoras box and every manufacturer and retailer in the US is in serious trouble.  Common sense is not as common as it used to be.
Dec 7, 2012 10:40PM
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It seems very few hand tools are still made in the US.  I wish it weren't so.  For years Stanley imported a lot of their tools from the UK.  Now a lot of familiar brands are made in China.  And you know what a lot of them are pretty good.  The fact is it doesn't take real high tech to make hammers just good quality control.  We need to give American companies a reason to manufacture their stuff here and not give them a reason to outsource to Asia.  OK, all you sunshine patriots are you up to the challenge?  In fairless to sears I don't think they claim that their tools are made here only that they are marketed under and long trusted brand name.....and they are still pretty good.  If you start making crap with a "Made in USA" label on it  you will hear soon enough from the customers.  Don't cut corners, pay attention to details, price competitively and you will make money.  When American car makes started to understand the importance of quality and innovation they found they could compete.
Dec 7, 2012 10:40PM
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Cornwell Tools has a lot of tools made in our Ohio plant. They are fairly priced too,
Dec 7, 2012 10:29PM
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Until we all stop buying from China we are doomed economically...they are now the new Economic Super Power...Gee I wonder what happened to our economy ?  American Greed turned into China Rises....When 30-35K a year in pay was not good enough for Unions/Employees and Corporations needed to profit in the 10's of millions the Dream ended.....factor in that credit card companies will finance a jobless person and too many Wal-Mart Mommies are government benefit hounds....Boom, it is hat simple....we let this happen....we have the power to change everything....shop smart and live inside your means and stop buying something if you do not have the cash....do you really need to 70" Sony ???
Dec 7, 2012 10:27PM
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I should have said I have lost ALL confidence in Sears products- sorry about the omission
Dec 7, 2012 10:27PM
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Get real.  The only people who make money are the crooks with law degrees.
Dec 7, 2012 10:26PM
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No surprise.  Hope I can still get my Craftsman tools replaced.  Probably be just like the last Thorsen ratchet I sent in.  I sent them a high quality American tool that was involved in an unfortunate incident and got a cheap Chinese piece of crud in return.
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