Made in the USA. Maybe.

made in usa

Image by Shutterstock.

Patriot Puck sounds like a great place to buy a hockey puck, especially when trying to support American manufacturing with your hard-earned dollars. Along with its patriotic company name, it claimed its pucks were made in the U.S.A.

Except they weren’t. They were made in China.

Sandpiper and PiperGear are companies that manufacture deployment bags and tactical gear. Buyers of their products are active and retired American military personnel. The products were marketed as made in the U.S.A., but again—were primarily manufactured in China.

The Federal Trade Commission had an opportunity to impose penalties on all three of these firms for falsely marketing their products as American made. But the commissioners—with a Republican majority—chose instead the “don’t do that anymore” approach.

No fines. No penalties.

The message the FTC sends is to break the law until you get caught. When—and only if—you get caught, you’ll be told not to do that anymore. It encourages greed-centric companies with no loyalty to this country to put U.S.A. flag stickers on products actually manufactured in China, until the FTC issues a mere warning.

And countless American consumers are being duped.

According to research firm, Morning Consult, a 2018 survey showed that 81 percent of consumers were willing to pay more for a product if it supported American manufacturing. How much more is debatable. The survey found that American companies don’t have to be the cheapest, but they do have to be in the ballpark. When a foreign-made item can be purchased for significantly less, support for American manufacturing drops off.

Still, the desire for citizens to buy American-made products is a known preference to companies. And it’s marketable. Some are luring consumers with false “Made in the U.S.A.” marketing to get the sale.

And while most American manufacturers likely follow the rules, there may be more “Patriot Pucks” out there than we know. As a small business owner, I’ve encountered the supplier who advertises “Made in the U.S.A.” on its website but then blames an overseas manufacturer when products go on extended backorder.

It’s difficult enough to find anything made in this country. (Try buying an American-made frying pan. Sometimes the only choice is a cast-iron skillet.) But now even when there’s success in finding a product labeled as “Made in the U.S.A,” there’s really no way to be sure it’s the truth.

Because the FTC seems reluctant to enforce the law.

In the Patriot Puck/Sandpiper/PiperGear ruling, commissioners commented that the agency has limited funds to successfully prosecute companies. The FTC has a nearly $310 million operating budget and employs about 1,100 full-time government employees. A third of a billion taxpayer dollars should be enough to accomplish more than, “don’t do that anymore” memos.

President Donald Trump wants to make America great again. He wants to bring back manufacturing jobs. He wants citizens to consider purchasing American products first. Who wouldn’t want all of these things?

But none of this aligns with the FTC’s recent decision. It’s a total disconnect from messaging coming out of the White House.

The official mission of the agency is, “Protecting consumers and competition by preventing anti-competitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.”

It is a nicely worded mission statement. But taxpayers hired the agency to do more than talk nice.

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