Category Archives: Issues

Snap-On Tools: What’s the Story?

A lot of people are curious about the Snap-On Tool Company after President Trump selected its Wisconsin headquarters as the  place to sign his latest executive order, which he calls, “Buy American and Hire American.

Trump at the Snap-On headquarters on April 18, 2017. One of the company’s familiar tool chests can be seen in the background.

Snap-on is an American company, but it has manufacturing facilities around the world – not just in the USA – and a recent report posted on its web site makes clear that it intends to build even more overseas facilities.

So it’s not entirely clear why this company and not one committed to full American manufacturing was chosen for the presidential event, although Reince Priebus did attend the local high school. In any case, let’s take a closer look at the firm.

The company was called the “Snap-On Wrench Company” when it was formed in 1920 and customers loved their groundbreaking ideas about interchanging wrench parts. The company made ten sockets that “snapped-on” to five interchangeable handles, an idea that changed the entire tool industry. They also made the unusual decision to sell their tools through visits to work sites and not through stores. In the 30s, they were the first in the tool industry to offer credit to customers.

The president stands outside one of the vans that visit job sites to sell the tools.

The company was no shrinking violet when it came to expanding overseas. According to the web site, “Snap-on entered the international arena in 1931.”  Today, Snap-on is worth over $3 billion and is listed on the Standard &Poors 500. It employs 6700 people at its ten American facilities. If financial industry estimates of a total workforce of close to 11,500 employees worldwide is correct, there are some 4800 foreign employees.

The Snap-On website has one of those infuriating search features that delivers zero results for “USA” even though it has product pages that clearly contain it. So, while you can’t browse American-made items, once you click on a product page, the country of origin is clearly marked.

Regards, Kathy

Oh No, NoNetz! USA Men’s Swimwear Maker Starts Chinese Production

I was sad to read that NoNetz, an American manufacturer of innovative, no-chafe men’s swimwear, has started to produce its products in China.  The news came in a disheartening article on CNN Money, entitled, “Trump is Pushing ‘Buy American’ But Customers (Mostly) Don’t Care.”

The sobering premise: after decades of buying cheap, foreign made merchandise, most Americans can’t bring themselves to shell out the extra money that comes along with the “Made in USA” label. This despite the fact that 85% of consumers say they want to buy American.

Regards, Kathy

Made-in-USA Labeling: If You See Something, Say Something

If you’re trying to buy American-made products and you notice any labeling that doesn’t look quite right, please take the time to say something to the seller. It takes vigilance on the part of consumers to keep shady businesses honest and honest businesses from making mistakes.

Disclosure: We’ll get a small commission if you buy through the links in this post. Please do!
Here’s my latest story, which involves Uncommon Goods, one of the good-guys when it comes to labeling products with country of origin. I was checking out one of their newest products, the Couch Bowl, a nifty item for those who like to eat while lounging on the sofa (guilty).  It has a thumb notch on the rim and a concave space on the bottom for your fingers.

I loved it immediately. I loved it even more when I realized it was from the same maker responsible for the brilliant, American-Made Ooma bowl, a hand-held personal chip and dip container. ‘Perfect for a post,” I thought, and started writing a story with the Headline “Couch Dining Perfected.”

Midway through it, though, I spotted something odd. Even though the Couch Bowl page said “Made in USA” and had Uncommon Goods‘ American Flag icon next to it, and even though it contained an image of New York State and specified that it was “Made in New York,” the very bottom of the text column said “Handmade in Mexico.”

I decided to get to the bottom of this. Of course it would be nice if one could just pick up the phone and call the top executive of a company, but that almost never works. I usually start at the bottom and work my way up, taking note of whether everyone has the same story.

So step one was an online chat with Tom, who quickly confessed that he did not have the answer to my question, but would look into it right away.

About an hour later I started to get impatient (my problem not Tom’s) and decided to call the company’s customer service line. The woman I spoke to, whose name I did not get, told me that the bowl was Made in Mexico but that it was marked “Made in USA” because the designer, Thomas Both, designed it in California. “But ‘designed in the USA’ is not the same as ‘Made in the USA’ I said, ‘And why does it also say “Made in New York?” Her reply: “Because it’s made exclusively for us and we’re located in New York.” I was beginning to get a headache.

I told her that I suspected she was wrong because Uncommon Goods does not usually do things that way, but in any case, it was misleading and should be changed. She agreed to bring it to the attention of the proper people.

A short time later, I got an email from Tom letting me know that the information on the product had been corrected. I checked and it was.

Only problem is, I won’t be buying the Couch Bowl now. Still, the Ooma is pretty awesome, as are the many other American-made products at Uncommon Goods.


And Now, We Have to Check the Country-of-Origin on Oreos

We eat fairly healthy at our house, but we both have our vices when it comes to sweets. Oreos have always been a big favorite, but now things are going to change. I won’t be putting that familiar bag of sandwich cookies in my cart unless it says “Made in USA.”

That didn’t used to be a problem because all Oreos were made in America.

However, July 8 was a sad day in Oreo history.  According to The Chicago Tribune, the Windy City produced its last Oreo cookie that day, as production was moved to a new plant in Salinas, Mexico. The move means a loss of 600 American jobs and the end of an era that began in 1953 when the first Chicago-made Oreo came off the line.

Yes, Oreos are still going to be made in several other U.S. plants. And yes, the Chicago plant, minus half its work force, will continue to produce other baked goods. Still, I find myself completely turned-off by what looks to me like pure corporate greed.

Oreos brought in $2.9 billion in sales last year, but the CEO of parent company Mondelez Foods, Irene Rosenfeld, made it clear that the company wanted more profit out of the cookies. “Continuing to focus on efficiency and productivity is essential to our ability to create value for our shareholders,” she said, according to the Tribune.

But here’s the kicker: the company said it saved $46 million by building the new facility in Mexico rather than upgrading the Chicago plant. Rosenfeld, the CEO, makes about 20 mil a year. So, ditching those 600 American workers will only give the company enough to cover the pay of a single executive for just over 2 years.

Oreos are leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe I should revisit Hydrox. How about you?

P.S. If you’re really motivated, the Made in America Movement has posted a recipe for a homemade Oreo alternative.


Let’s Banish the Ridiculous Phrase, “Made in USA or Imported”

Dear Online Retailers: When writing product descriptions, will you please stop using the phrase “Made in USA or Imported?” I can give you two good reasons:

First, it’s utterly meaningless. Every product in the world is either Made-in-the-USA or not Made-in-the-USA (imported), so stating that an item is “Made in USA or Imported” doesn’t help consumers one bit in their purchasing decisions.

Second, it’s sneaky.  Using the phrase, “Made in USA or Imported” means that the shorter phrase “Made in USA” will be visible to search engines, and your product will appear in the results when a consumer is clearly looking for American-made products.

Another part of the sneaky factor is how easy it is, when scanning a product description, to see the words “Made in USA” and miss the words “or Imported.” I made this mistake myself on one of our posts and a reader had to point it out to me (thank you, my eagle-eyed friend).

brooks4Above is a screen grab from The Brooks Store on Amazon, which describes this running shoe as “Made in USA or Imported,” Those words appear in the text just below the product pictures. But further down the page…

brooks3..amidst a big block of text, we find that China is the country of manufacture. While the Brooks website brags that “every stitch” of their product is designed, engineered and specified in the United states, the fact remains that none of their shoes are MADE here, so the term “Made in USA or Imported,” does nothing more than confuse the consumer.imageAnother interesting example is this swimsuit from Land’s End. On the website, it is described as “Made in USA or Imported.” I used the Live Chat feature to ask a customer service rep for more info. Here’s the gist:

Me: I’m looking at the Women’s Slender Grecian One Piece Swimsuit and it says “Made in USA or imported.” Can you please tell me which it is, “Made in USA” or “imported”?

Land’s End: That’s a great question! We have two factories that make that suit. One is in the USA, the other in Columbia.

Me: When I get the suit, what will the label say?

Land’s End: It will say where the product was manufactured.

Me: It might say either USA or Colombia, depending on the individual suit?

Land’s End: Yes

Me: Can I request a Made-in-USA suit?

Land’s End: Yes. You’d have to write that in the space for special requests.

I wasn’t expecting that answer and it was good to hear that it was possible to request the American-made item (presuming the information was correct). Still, I wondered if the suit was simply in the middle of being transitioned overseas.

Anyway, I can’t seem to think of a scenario where using the phrase “Made in USA or Imported” is of any use to the consumer, so let’s encourage the retailers we frequent to stop using it. I’ve decided I’m going to leave a comment whenever I see the phrase. Please join me.

Here are a few people that are way ahead of us.

From the Target Facebook page:Target

From Amazon.comZippyFunBandanaDrool

Also from Amazon.comLevismensmarblehenley

From the Made in USA Project BlogMadeinUSAProjectBlog

Regards, Kathy