Ways Companies Trick You Into Thinking Your Product Is Made In America

Made in AMerica Cover

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Made in AMerica Cover
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Made in America?

Conscious consumers are increasingly prioritizing American-made products. Whether they want to pour back into the local economy, ensure a certain level of quality, or show pride in their country, purchasing products made in America isn't always as easy as it sounds. Some companies pull the red, white, and blue wool right over consumers' eyes, tricking them into believing their products are made in the U.S. of A. 

Watch out for these common ploys so you don't accidentally buy something not quite all-American. 

manufactured in america label
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1. Ambiguous Wording on Labels

We've all heard someone back-pedal their way out of a lie, justifying it as a fib or a white lie. Some companies do the same thing with their American product labels. Word choice is key here. If you see a label that says something like, "manufactured in America" or "assembled in the USA," pay close attention to those pesky verbs. They might just be the company's little loophole toward convincing consumers their products have fully red, white, and blue roots. 

Companies will use the same tricks with marketing materials, implying U.S. connections without explicitly stating that the product is made there. Watch out for phrases like "designed in the USA" or "inspired by American craftsmanship."

Related: Why You Can Soon Have More Faith in 'Made in the USA' Meat Labels

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2. Implied American Heritage

Marketing materials and product descriptions on packaging that embrace the story of the company's history have a way of connecting with consumers, especially if those stories are rooted in American heritage. Keep in mind, those stories might still be true, but the part that goes something like "since then, most of our production has moved overseas" is strategically omitted, creating the perception that the products are American-made. 

Related: Iconic U.S. Brand Products That Aren't Made in America

american flag label tag
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3. Misleading Branding and Imagery

Beware of simplistic American flag labels. There is a reason words are absent from these patriotic little guys. Companies might use patriotic symbols, colors, or imagery associated with the United States in their branding or packaging, even if the product is not entirely made in the country. 

Related: Big Names That Changed With the Times to Avoid Being Canceled

american label with mountain imagery
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4. Location-Specific Branding

This ploy can be as simple as the imagery used on product labels. A majestic, flowing American flag amid a Colorado mountain scene, outlined by snow-capped mountains and luscious evergreen trees. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Sometimes deception is pretty, guys, but it's still deception. 

Related: 7 of the 10 Most Valuable Brands in the World Are American

american flag outside shipping containers
iStock / AmyLaughinghouse

5. Evading Outsourcing Acknowledgments

Companies' American-made labels might not be an all encompassing lie. There could be some very real American ties involved. They also might outsource the manufacturing of certain components or assembly processes to other countries but still claim the final product as "American-made" since a portion (sometimes only a small one) of the production occurs in the U.S.

Related: Want a Truly American-Made Car? Pick One of These

Made in USA United States. Cardboard boxes with text made in USA and american flag on the roller conveyor.

What Qualifies As a 'Made in America' Product?

According to the Federal Trade Commission's Made in USA Standard, for products to qualify for "Made in USA" labels or claim American origins, the product has to be “all or virtually all” made in the United States, which includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and any U.S. territories and possessions. "All or virtually all" is defined as all significant parts and processing behind a product have to have U.S. origins. So, the product should not contain any foreign content under that presumption. 

Related: 51 Clothing Brands That Are Still Made in America

Pretty Woman Looking At Apparel Label In Store

Tips for Buying American Made Products

If you're looking to buy American made products, the "Made in USA" moniker is paramount. You can also research the brand in question to uncover its origins and roots or explore online directories to lead you to retailers that sell American made goods.

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