Whoops. The Truth in Advertising group has found more than 100 items sold on Walmart.com that were incorrectly identified as “Made in the U.S.A.” The news comes just more than a week before the retailer’s Manufacturing Summit and Made in the US Open Call in Bentonville.
Bonnie Pattern, executive director for TINA.org (Truth in Advertising), told The City Wire that when the organization first reached out to Wal-Mart on June 22 the company’s initial response was to blame manufacturers.
“Then they said it was a coding error and a small glitch in their system which they are working to correct,” Pattern said. “Now we see Walmart.com starting to make some changes in their website. Some of the mislabels we identified have been taken down. Wal-Mart should have better quality control and in this case it was sorely lacking.”
Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said the retailer was working on simplifying two entry processes into one that should help alleviate confusion around a product’s origin.
“We are continually working to improve our website listings and information. We are undertaking a more extensive quality assurance review to help eliminate these coding errors. Based on our initial internal review, we believe these errors are limited to a small percentage of items and we are confident in the overall integrity of the information on our website,” Lundberg said.
The last thing Wal-Mart would want to do is to undermine the work that is being done bring more awareness to “Made in the USA “ and support the return of manufacturing jobs onshore, said Jason Long, CEO of Shift Marketing Group.
“The scrutiny is unfortunate as Wal-mart is trying to do good here. It’s impossible to vet every third-party product for Made in USA and I believe the majority of consumers understand that. Hopefully Wal-Mart can explain this clearly and put a quick end to the story,” Long said.
Wal-Mart also said the badges attached to online items such as “Made in the USA” or “Woman’s Economic Empowerment” are being taken down from the website for the time being because of some incapability with various search engines.Lundberg said Wal-Mart customers like the badges because it’s easy for them identify products that align with certain causes. He said the retailer is working on another solution which will replace the badges.
“We are very excited about the progress we are making on our 10 year, $250 billion commitment to buy products that support American jobs. Just over two years in, we are on target to meet our goal and are seeing some great results,” Lundberg said.
Wal-Mart officials said in October 2014 there were 150 projects being worked. Recent successes touted by Wal-Mart include a $16 million hosiery plant in Hildebran N.C., and a $21 million investment by Korona Candles in Dublin, Va. In Chicago, Ferrara Candy has re-shored some of its production from Mexico, creating more than 100 jobs in the community.
“As sensational as Truth in Advertising’s findings may seem initially, there are quite a few mitigating variables at work. At this point, it is unclear how many of the offending made in USA ‘labels’ were affixed to products or simply improper designations given to products on Wal-Mart’s website,” said Carol Spieckerman, CEO of newmarketbuilders.
She said given Wal-Mart’s diverse supplier base and the complexity of its online platform, either scenario could occur without nefarious intent on Wal-Mart’s part.
“The timing could definitely cast a shadow over its upcoming Manufacturing Summit. At the same time, the summit gives Wal-Mart the opportunity to amplify its response to the problem, so hopefully the message will be honed by then. This is the latest story to showcase the pitfalls of radical transparency in retail,” Spieckerman added.
Wal-Mart is not the first retailer to face scrutiny over improper “Made in the USA” claims. Best Buy and Costco each have items listed on the TINA.org alert database.
Wal-Mart does require its suppliers to present signed certification that a product meets the Federal Trade Commission definition for Made in the USA. As more product manufacturing is slowly coming onshore it is possible that some new inventory held at Wal-Mart could now be made in the U.S., while the retailer also still has some of that product inventory made elsewhere.