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 6:53PM
I don't believe that China has collective bargaining, so Sears made a good decision to keep their costs low or we would be paying twice as much so the unions could get their kick backs
Dec 7, 2012 6:52PM
the final nail in Sears Holdings, Inc. coffin. Shutter the doors, who wants to support a company you cannot trust. Mide as well shop at Harbor Freight for your tools, made in same place and are alot less expensive.
Dec 7, 2012 6:51PM
Dec 7, 2012 6:51PM
I have a Dodge Ram 1500 that was buit in Mexico and a ChryslerTown and Country that was built in Canada, so these are not American. They are imports!!!!
Dec 7, 2012 6:50PM
What a shame.  When most of your countrys flags are made in China what do you expect.  If you throw enough noodles in the bowl sooner or later you'll have a full pot.  Full of Chinese dinner!  Thats where we are now.  Unions have so outlived their purposes.  When a union of bakers can close a business after 85 yrears allowing thousands to be fired. What do you expect.  When a company (Frito Lay) has to discontinue a logo becasue if offends a minority what do you expect?  When all our concentration is on menial elementary bs you get what you work for.   the Mexican is the only one climbing the walls to get in and I think he's starting to figure it out too!
Dec 7, 2012 6:50PM
Where does it say "Made In America"?  It does say "America's Most Trusted Tool Brand".  This lawsuit is from class action lawyers who see dollar signs.  This would mean certain death for Sears if allowed to go to a class action suit.  The Craftsman name is the only brand Sears still owns which has value, if you take that away, Sears would go under immediately.  Thank goodness the judge saw through the law suit.
Dec 7, 2012 6:48PM
I have a small personal use wood shop with some nice toys. But nothing made in the US, but not for lack of trying. 220 V. table saw, dust collector. The rest is 120 V. Router, compound miter saw, scroll saw, drill press, and a variety of power hand tools. I would have paid more for Made in the USA. Nothing runs like a Deere powered by Kawasaki.
Dec 7, 2012 6:47PM
I have a hard time understanding why so many of you are in favor of suing Sears.  As previously stated, the tools are good and have a lifetime warranty.  How have you been harmed?   Are you not smart enough to realize that this will just make the tools more expensive for everyone and the only real beneficiaries will be the lawyers.  This is the case for most class action suits of this type.  The plantiffs get a pittance and the lawyers reap tens of milions.  Meanwhile, the cost is passed on to use all in increased prices.  But you are happy now as you have punished that big greedy corporation. 
Dec 7, 2012 6:42PM
I think this kind of sue happy BS is part of the problem in our country today. I have many Craftsman hand and power tools and Sears is the only place that I've ever got a free replacement for a tool that broke. These greedy scumbag "class-action" ambulance chasers need to get over themselves.
Dec 7, 2012 6:40PM
NO MATTER HOW YOU LOOK AT IT, it is FALSE advertising!  Sears now sucks bit time and did away with the one thing the MIGHT have kept them in business.
Dec 7, 2012 6:36PM
Craftsman tools are all I ever buy and it doesnt matter to me where they  are made they are a GOOD tool worth the money IF you have a problem, Like with a rachet, they replace no questions ask. At least you dont pay for the name like SNAP ON same tool BIG price. Walmart does not sell a Quality tool like Craftsman.
Dec 7, 2012 6:36PM
believe it or not, Snap On tools are better, wonder where they really are made?
Dec 7, 2012 6:35PM
Diddo here ya'll I also have some craftsman tools that are about 47 years old but I believe those were made in the old U.S.A. not like the newer tools, just say-in. One thing though people around here where I reside don't put much value on the "CRAFTSMAN MOWER" like they used to, it seems they are built to break down just after the guarantee is up, like the new, new" CUB CADET" Z.T.R. which is or was the old M.T.D. PRO Z.T.R. mower, after MTD's merger with CUB CADET of which I still have in operation since about 1996 just had to replace the blades as they wear out and spark plugs and fuel filter and oil changes by the way its great for small brush hogging work now w/ the new plate, oh I almost forgot I had to replace the "BOLSTER PLATE" which was made out of 3/32 inch plate, to small for brush hoggin work which I updated with 3/16 inch plate and made the front end removeable w/ four bolts other wise it's a great machine some thing which CUB CADET hasn't thought of as yet. 
Dec 7, 2012 6:34PM
Went into Paramus Sears to buy a vest from the Lands End department.  Had a couple of questions.  Not a sales person in sight.  Eventually, left and went to LL Bean (also in the mall).  Was waited on by a nice young woman and bought the vest.  I wonder why Sears hangs on.  I can't imagine there was ever a store that cared about sales less than Sears.
Dec 7, 2012 6:33PM
So it's okay to lie? Companies like Sears deserve the lawsuit if they blatantly lie like this. An accident is one thing, but this is company backed scam and they deserve to lose the money.
I bought Craftsman tools because they were made in America. Now I know Sears is just one more corporate scam and I will never ever shop there again.

Dec 7, 2012 6:30PM
I have not bought a Craftsman tool in about 8 years. Ever since I found out they are not American made. The labels say they are, but a look at the fine print on documentation told me otherwise. I hope they lose this suit, they deserve to.
Dec 7, 2012 6:29PM

This is not a surprise. Actually other than the hand tools (socket wrenches, screwdrivers, ect) most of the rest of their tools are made in other countries and if it uses electricity you can almost count on it. Just one more way our country is being sold off by a select few to make a couple extra bucks, though it appears that is changing somewhat.

IMO I think Sears should drop Kmart, and the softer side (clothes and the like) and focus on the tools, appliances, limited electronics, batteries and auto and do what they can to get as many of their tools made in the USA. They may cost more but if they did that and the quality was there, I'm sure they would sell alot more. As it is I still buy Craftsman hand tools but I check to make sure it is made in USA.

I think its time

Dec 7, 2012 6:29PM
Where has everyone been...Sears Tools have been made in CHINA for Years. This is nothing new. Look Around isn't everything we buy made in China. Do you shop at Walmart...almost everything they sell now is made in China. Does that stop anyone from shopping because when we want jobs, we complain, when we want to SAVE money, we shop at Walmart. Wake Up People!!! Our jobs are gone, that is why so many people want a president like Obama that wants us to just get relief off of the Government.TAXES!!!
Dec 7, 2012 6:27PM

wilde tool in hiawatha ks.. 100 years now.

real Americans,, Real American tools ..... NON UNION 

Dec 7, 2012 6:26PM
I support America made stuff and don't think they should have lied but it makes no difference in the product where it is made.   When a company like Sears contracts with a supplier or manufacturer.   They have specifications and quality standards they have to adhere to.    So really the quality isn't suffering Craftsmen is still a good brand.   I wish more things could be made in the USA again at a competitive price.  Lawsuits like this are just a waste of time, the only one that wins is the lawyer handling the case.  I hope this case gets thrown out.  I think the judge made a good decision.
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