It's an old story, one I've told before. Years ago Craftsman was the go-to tool brand for the more serious home mechanic. The tools were a little more expensive than generic hardware store stuff but in exchange you got a no questions asked lifetime warranty that could be serviced in almost any town in America and generally good quality.
Today, not so much.
It seems to me to have started about 20 years ago, but they have been on a steady downward spiral. Where they used to walk the middle ground between tool truck super high quality/price and bottom of the line parts store stuff, as market pressure got tougher they decided the best approach was to go for the bottom end of the market. To that end they have introduced more and more 'gimmick' tools while discontinuing their higher end offerings. Even worse, they outsourced most if not all of their production to China with the expectant drop in quality control.
The last hold out was their sockets. For some time now they have still been US made and of decent quality at decent prices.
I needed to add some redundancy to my tools as I carry stuff in the van, in the Rover, and in the shop and hate having to move things between locations depending on where I'm working. So with the Memorial Day sales plus a $300 Sears gift card I had on hand I ordered their 299 piece socket set figuring that even though I didn't need all those parts it was easier than piecing together the individual parts I did need. To my surprise I found the sockets are no longer US made (when I asked, they couldn't tell me where they were made but thought probably China). 2 of the sockets were outright wrong, which they agreed to simply replace no questions asked. These are the 'laser etched' easy to read sockets and at least 75% of them are nearly illegible though. This doesn't prevent use as sizes are still stamped into them, but it was a specific selling feature. The chrome finish is also somewhat spotty with some rough edges that will clearly lead to early rust.
It's a sad day - I own hundreds of Craftsman tools but I think this will be the last time I buy any. Much as I hate to say it, I think Harbor Freight may have caught if not outright surpassed them in hand tools. OK, I still don't by HF hand tools as a rule, but they seem to get better every year while Craftsman gets worse.
The bad part is - what does the home mechanic buy now? Tool Truck brands are brutally priced new and much of that price is the convenience of having the truck come to your shop every week to service the techs. I don't have that option. I do work in an area where a Snap On guy has a regular stop and I suppose I could start buying from him, but I don't want to spend that much for my day to day hand tools since I work in a salt water environment and rust is an every present issue. I do like the convenience of a local vendor but it looks like I'm going to be forced to mail order from Amazon, Tooltopia, etc.
Bye Bye Sears. It was fun while it lasted.