FACT CHECK:   Does a photograph document that Walmart stores were ordered to remove “Made in the USA” signs because the company is “ashamed of the U.S.”?

Claim:   A photograph documents that Walmart stores were ordered to remove “Made in the USA” signs because the company is “ashamed of the U.S.”

   MIXTURE

Example:    [Collected via Facebook, July 2015]

Walmart has been told to remove Made in the USA signs! They are ashamed of the US! Boo Hiss!

Origins:   Around the Independence Day holiday in 2015, an image (seen above) was circulated via social media purporting to be a memo sent out by the corporate offices of the giant WalMart retail chain, ordering all stores to immediately remove any “Made in the U.S.A.” signs from display. The posting of this image was typically accompanied by comments such as “WalMart is pulling all merchandise marked MADE IN USA from shelves because they do not want to offend anyone!” or “WalMart are ashamed of the US!”:

The wording of the 2 July 2015 memo, however, revealed the reason behind WalMart’s instruction to their stores to remove “Made in the U.S.A.” signs wasn’t about the company’s wanting to avoid offense or being ashamed of the U.S. Rather, WalMart stores were offering items (including 4th of July-related patriotic merchandise) misleadingly flagged as “Made in America” and “Made in the U.S.A.” even though the items were actually products of countries such as China and Mexico. As the memo warned, “There are legal implications and public relations risks associated with having these signs hung.”

Shortly before the issuance of this memo, the group Truth in Advertising (TINA) announced they had put WalMart on notice that many items advertised on the company’s web site as “Made in the USA” were actually manufactured in China:

Walmart is going all out for America, pledging to buy an additional $250 billion in American products. To that end, the world’s largest retailer will host a manufacturing summit next week where it will look for U.S.-made products to sell. The event starts three days after the Fourth of July and promises to be a star-spangled affair.

But one item that probably won’t make the agenda: The made in the USA labeling mess on Walmart.com that the company has pledged to address after TINA.org brought the issue to corporate officials.

TINA.org’s investigation into the retail giant’s website readily uncovered more than 100 instances of false and deceptive made in the USA representations. The investigation revealed products labeled “Made in the USA” though packaging indicated they were “Made in China.” TINA.org also found USA product labels on Walmart.com that were in direct conflict with the site’s own specification information on the same webpage.

In a letter sent June 22, TINA.org called on Walmart to remove from its site all false and deceptive made in the USA representations. The company cited multiple reasons for the mislabeling issues including “coding errors,” outdated information from suppliers, and a convoluted process by which USA labels and product specifications are handled separately on the site. Walmart said TINA.org’s letter has since prompted the decision to streamline that process.

But while Walmart pledged that it would fix the problems, and has made limited progress in removing some of the false labels, the website is still riddled with USA labeling issues.

Last updated:    6 July 2015

First published:    6 July 2015