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 7:42PM
Is anything "Made in the U.S.A."?  Not much because we were sold out by corporate America and the politicians who passed laws to allow jobs to go overseas. 
Dec 7, 2012 7:41PM
Some of Craftman tools with life time warranty  only have a 1 year warranty with receipt if you read the fine print
Dec 7, 2012 7:39PM
What did they expect? Almost everything we buy is made in China....except maybe, hookers.
Dec 7, 2012 7:39PM
I bought Craftsman lawnmower.  The lawnmower was garbage, and so was Sears service plan I purchased for it.  The summer I bought it I barely got to use it because it tookk about 30 calls and over 2 months before the "on-site" service finally showed up. 
Dec 7, 2012 7:38PM

soon the only MADE IN THE U.S.A. STUFF will be lawyers contracts !

a nation of paper shuffling pussefide pencil pushers !

Dec 7, 2012 7:37PM
Thanks Barak - Soon nothing will be made in America except your debts!!
Dec 7, 2012 7:35PM

 The first Craftsman ratchet I bought lasted over 30 years. The last one, clearly labeled made in USA failed after 6 mos. It was a 20" 1/2" inch ratchet and the shaft snapped. You could clearly see the inferior metallurgy. Had to fight with Craftsman to honor their warranty.


 For all the complaints about unions, can you live on a bowl of rice and a fish-head a day? An American citizen with bonafide citizenship is on the hook for rent, auto insurance, a mortgage, health-insurance, etc. I don't like unions either but I know they are the only thing between us an a standard of living equal to that in the Industrial Revolution.


 Any business that sells a product in the US must operate in the US and hire US citizens. The sham of the maquilladores must stop now. NAFTA must stop now. Require that elected officials be capable of utilizing basic math. Oh, and while we are at it, stop the expedited green cards for foreign educated workers. Hire only American citizens!!!!

Dec 7, 2012 7:33PM

Not only have they been fibbing regarding "made in America" but recently (allegedly) they stole the design from a supplier of a universal wrench that really was made in America. The owner of the company that made the wrench couldn't figure out why his orders from Sears had dried up. (BTW, he had to sign an agreement that he would sell to no other company but sears.) With a little investigation he found that they were having the same tool as his made in China and putting the Craftsman name on it. He is suing.



Dec 7, 2012 7:32PM
There in lies the heart of our country's economical issues. The jobs we lost overseas results in cheaper foreign products in our country. The government needs to aid our private sector in bringing jobs lost overseas back on shore. Help the private sector to be more competitive in the world market. And consumers need to buy more domestic made goods. Whenever possible I buy american made, if available. We all should do the same.
Dec 7, 2012 7:27PM
Sears, Home Depot, Snap-On, etc. share many of the same companies for making their hand tools. Company in Colorado Springs makes screwdrivers and pliers for Craftsman, Husky, Rigid, Kobalt, they drop out of the machine into different bins.
Dec 7, 2012 7:26PM
I'm made in China!  Everybody has a little bump in the road from time to time...
Dec 7, 2012 7:24PM

chinese tools (everything) suck! They can not stand up to daily use Lowes and Home Depot tools break...chinese tools are!  If Sears are making Craftsman in china, they should rename the line of tools to"Crapsman tools"

Why do you think that the Middle Class Chinese want American goods?!?...because of the quality built into our goods!

Dec 7, 2012 7:23PM

They have had so many issues claiming to be made in the U.S. and they told people they were made somewhere else several times so why sue if you like the tools You people are getting sue happy if you don't like it don't buy the DAMN thing. If you have that mush time to sit and pick at everything GO volunteer and hekp ibstead hurting and YES I love AMERICA I always will but people its getting down right stupid another person got burnt with hot tea and sued so who do you sue at home when you burn yourself or lie to your kid same thing different time GET A LIFE


Dec 7, 2012 7:21PM
I've bought Craftsman tool on and off my whole life. I know, and they tell you which tools are imported. I choose not to buy those tools. I don't need some low life lawyer to get rich because I didn't read the package.
Dec 7, 2012 7:21PM
I still love sears and their tools. Our local store has great service too!
Dec 7, 2012 7:17PM
If it says, "Made In America", that means anywhere from the tip of South America to the North Slope of Alaska.
Dec 7, 2012 7:16PM
I am just glad I don't have to wear those "tough skin" jeans my Mom used to make me wear!  They lasted forever.  This great country has been educated and Wallstreet savaged to a not so great place.  Where are the great companies that we used to be proud of?  Furniture, textiles, just to name a few...  Organizations like Wal-mart and food chain stores have all but erased our local cultures from coast to coast.  Being faster and more efficient is not always the best thing.  Quality of life has diminished.  Hand writing is all but gone.  Maybe I am just old...  
Dec 7, 2012 7:16PM

American steel is alot better than china, thats why the tools were better.


Dec 7, 2012 7:15PM
The Craftsman name is a shadow of what it once was. Used to be steel, now it's pot metal.  Like most things today, you want the quality you used to have? Break out your wallet because it costs more now.
Dec 7, 2012 7:14PM
This is just really sad and it says everything about American Corporations. Through much of consumer life, there were always things I went to Sears to buy. Same with Pennys. But no more. It's all over for quality American products and service you could trust. It's a whole new world and the generations behind me just don't get it. I am in my sixties and I lived through the best times this country will ever see. It's pathetic.
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