Sherrill (WSYR-TV) -- When you search for “flatware made in the USA” on Walmart.com, the first product the company suggests is an Oneida Mooncrest 45-piece flatware set, but Oneida Limited hasn’t made its products in the U.S. for six years.
Greg Owens with Sherrill Manufacturing Incorporated took over the factory where Oneida Limited once operated. That factory once employed 2,500 people. Now, just 19 people make knives, forks and spoons for Sherrill Manufacturing.
Everything at Sherrill Manufacturing is made right on site. The steel comes from Pennsylvania; the buffering compound comes from Utica or Ohio.
“The concern for us is that here we're making an honest effort to provide jobs and do something that we're very proud of, and then somebody steps in and steals our thunder and perhaps takes sales away from us through a misleading advertising campaign and that's just very disturbing,” Owens said.
When you click on the Oneida Flatware set on Walmart.com, nowhere on the product page does it say “Made in America.” So why does it show up on the search list of flatware made in the USA? Because the page's source code clearly states: When someone makes that search, the site is to show "made in the USA products such as Oneida Mooncrest 45-piece flatware set."
Looking further down the same search results, NewsChannel 9 found another issue -- another product listed under "Made in the USA," even though it clearly states "Made in Vietnam."
“We just want them to remove the deceptive advertising campaign, and then we'll be happy,” Owens said.
Owens says he’s contacted Walmart several times over the past month about the problem.
NewsChannel 9 reached out to Oneida Limited -- and it's distributor Robinson Home Products -- which both say they too have tried to get Walmart to address the issue. It wasn't until NewsChannel 9 called Walmart that the company responded.
A Walmart spokesperson told NewsChannel 9: "Search engines always return some type of results, and in some instances, may do so by removing words from the query that are not found in product descriptions. A search for "flatware made in USA" on several sites returns top-selling flatware products first and drops "made in USA" all together."
But specific source code used by Walmart links “Made in the USA” specifically to the Oneida flatware set, even though it’s not listed in the product description. Also, products that clearly state they are “Made in the USA” appear lower in the search result list.
Owens has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a spokesperson confirmed with me that they've received it. The FTC will not, however, comment on whether or not they’re investigating Walmart.
We found something else surprising too. Since the FTC began enforcing Made in America Standards in 1997, only 17 companies have been investigated nationwide for false claims. Walmart isn't one of them.
An FTC spokesperson said there can be grounds for an investigation if something is blatantly mislabeled, which is not the case here. However, an investigation could also be launched if a customer could be led to believe the product was made in America.
A spokesperson for Walmart tells NewsChannel 9 that they’re looking at several ways to change the source code and say the adjustment will be made within a day or so.