Retail Web sites that actually show Country of Origin information

Retail Web sites that actually show Country of Origin information

If you’re on this site, it means you care about where your products are made. You don’t want to support a tyrannical regime that has no respect for human rights, worker’s rights, animal protection, the environment, or the sovereignty of free nations like Taiwan.

When you go to a store, you can easily check the label or outer box to see where a product is made.

But have you ever tried finding the country of manufacture online? Unless you live in India, it’s almost impossible.

Some retailers, like Amazon, show this information sporadically. If a seller chooses to disclose it or if a customer asks a question and answer, you’ll see the information. But this information is on the “honor system”–there isn’t anyone proactively checking whether the information is accurate.

In most cases, online retailers hide this information. They either completely omit it, or they state that the product is “imported” (which maybe had some meaning 25 years ago, but these days everything is imported). Even more ridiculous, some retailers will proudly state that a product is “made in the USA or imported”.

What does the law say about country of origin?

Every company, brand, and subcontractor that manufactures a product must put the country of origin on its outer packaging or its label. That law, believe it or not, has been in place since the Tariff Act of 1930, also known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. The law originally exempted meats, produce, and other agricultural products, but the 2002 farm bill (no doubt spurred by China’s entry into the WTO) put that requirement on fresh fruits, vegetables, red meats, seafood, and peanuts. Other laws were added on over the years that added more detail (for example, the 1933 Buy American Act requires that a product must be made in the USA of more than 50% US parts to be considered Made in the USA.

However, the law was never updated to include requirements for online labeling, so it’s pretty much the wild west on the Internet. As I wrote in my article titled How to Tell if a Product is Made in China on Amazon, India has already passed a law requiring country of origin labeling online. The US has passed this law in the Senate, but it’s stuck in the House. If you live in the US, write to your Congressperson and demand that they pass this law. If you live in Canada, sign petitions like this one to encourage your lawmakers to care about the issues.

More importantly, talk to your fellow citizens and tell them to care. It’s sad, but most people–including people close to you–don’t. But that’s where you need to educate them.

Ask them if they know that the Chinese Communist Party has broken every promise it made when it was allowed into the WTO in 2001. It has brought poison to our shores through dog food laced with melamine or children’s toys filled with lead. It bullies brands into becoming vocal advocates of its tyranny in exchange for access to its markets. And it is building up a military aimed at destroying free nations like Taiwan and eventually India, the Philippines, Australia, and the whole South China Sea.

And a portion of EVERY product they buy that is manufactured in China goes to fund the CCP. The power is in their hands, not the government’s hands, and not even corporations’ hands.

So why don’t more companies put country of origin online?

Put yourself in Amazon’s shoes–and remember that Amazon has one focus–to increase its profits.

Amazon has always been good about listening to its customers and building a great customer experience. So why is it that when thousands of customers ask them to be more transparent with country of origin, they don’t do a thing? To the contrary, they are heavily lobbying against laws that will require it, to their shame.

It comes down to one thing: money. Amazon knows that if it gives its customers more information, customers will use that information. Customers may think twice about buying a product that’s made in China, or they may opt to choose a “made in the USA version” (which ultimately cuts Amazon’s profits,–they don’t want their customers to think, they just want them conditioned to go with the lowest price possible so their vendors can maximize something called “sales velocity”.)

If Amazon did more to promote products that were made in the USA, more people would buy them (even at a premium price). That would allow these companies to achieve economies of scale again. But the opposite is happening. By obfuscating country of origin, Amazon is all but guaranteeing that China sellers and China manufacturers dominate the listings, which effectively starves any manufacturer outside of China.

Can’t I just type ‘made in the USA’ or ‘not made in China’ into their search box or Google it?

No. as I demonstrated in this article and this one, searching for a product “not made in China” or “made in the USA” simply doesn’t work. Despite these being probably some of the most popular search terms on their site, Amazon has chosen not to correct its algorithm to yield useful results. Why? Because people trust Amazon so much that most of them will simply assume that the search worked. These consumers will simply trust these search results at face value, and most will not have the time to verify.

Google is just as bad. Search for “products not made in China” and you get garbage search results pages from companies like Amazon and Etsy, as well as sites and blogs that in some case haven’t been updated for years (it’s somewhat telling that this site has been out for a few months and Google is not ranking it for “products not made in China”, while Bing and DuckDuckGo have it as #1. I don’t think Google is nefariously blacklisting this site, but I do think that their algorithm is sloppy.

That makes it all the more important for you to find sites that are transparent with Country of Origin.

Is it difficult for companies to put country of origin online?

That’s the irony. It’s not difficult at all. Every retailer has this information in their systems. Remember, by law country of origin is on the label and outer packaging of every single product they sell.

Those who choose not to divulge it are just insulting your intelligence. They’re telling you “you don’t need to worry about that”, or worse, “you can’t be trusted with this information to do the right thing” or “you’re a racist if you shop based on this information” (spoiler alert: you’re not).

But the e-commerce sites that are transparent with this information–they’re the ones who are telling you that they value you, they understand your wishes, and they will go out of their way to respect you.

What can we do to force more companies to put country of origin labeling online?

If you’re in the US, write to your congressperson. If you’re in another country like Canada or UK, sign petitions and come election season, tell your representatives what’s important to you.

Most importantly, REWARD the sites that are transparent with country of origin. In fact, even if Country of Origin Online Labeling becomes law and every one of these companies has to comply, remember the companies I list below–because they’re the ones that respected you enough to provide this information BEFORE they were forced to by law.

Enough talk–which sites are transparent with Country of Origin? And how do I throw my money at them?

I’ll provide two lists below–the first is a list of the top retailers who provide Country of Origin information online. The second is a list of retailers who aren’t as big, but whom I’ve personally used. If there are others you’d like to suggest, please let me know in the comments.

Top Retail Web sites that are Transparent with Country of Origin

I went through the top e-commerce retailers of 2021, as identified on this list. It’s sad that of the top 50 most profitable e-commerce sites, only 7 see fit to reveal country of origin to you.

As I said, these are the ones we should all be rewarding, EVEN if the price is a little higher than the Amazons or Walmarts out there, because these are companies that respect you enough to make a decision without hiding information from you.

1. Wayfair – A-

I was originally thrilled when I searched for “Area Rugs” on Wayfair and saw Country of Origin as a filter option on the left rail.

I thought about how Amazon loves to talk about how they’re the biggest e-commerce site in the world, and Walmart has boasted for years about how they’re revitalizing US industry (which in retrospect looks like a bunch of PR stunts). Could it be that Wayfair has surpassed both of them and is actually giving us the ability to filter products by Country of Origin?

Well, kind of. Country of Origin is only activated for a certain number of product categories (sofas and furniture), so it’s not a filter option that appears on all categories.

Where it does appear, it’s fantastically useful. For example, the “Area Rugs” category has 350,000 results, but when I select “United States” it goes down to 26,154 results–still plenty for me to choose from if I want to support local communities.

Even though it’s not a filter option on all categories, I do notice that on every product Country of Origin is listed under “Specifications”. In most cases an actual country is named, although in some cases they’ll use the generic “Imported”.

Furthermore, unlike Amazon and Walmart, they have very helpful customer service agent who are there to help you. I opened a chat session and asked if the rep could help me find air fryers not made in China. The agent was super helpful and pointed me to a few models I hadn’t considered.

It’s not foolproof–because they’re doing this voluntarily and there are no legal consequences for lying, it appears that some of their vendors are openly lying–the Wayfair agent pointed me to brands called SDPP and Love Life who have product listings that say “Made in the USA”, but just eyeballing the products I’m thinking there’s no way that’s true. So take Wayfair’s Country of Origin with a grain of salt. Hopefully once Country of Origin Online becomes law they’ll do a better job of enforcing honesty among their sellers.

Having said that, just having Country of Origin as a mandatory field puts them head and shoulders above every other large retailer, and that’s something we should be rewarding. If you haven’t shopped at Wayfair before, give them a try. They’re known as a furniture retailer, but as you go through their site you’ll see they go beyond things like sofas, lighting and rugs, selling things like kitchen appliances, children’s play sets, and holiday decor.

2. Sam’s Club – A

This was one I was pleasantly surprised to see. Walmart is one of the biggest offenders in hiding country of origin online, which their late founder Sam Walton would probably have found reprehensible. But Sam’s Club, the other business he founded, does a reasonable good job of listing the country of origin on each product; in fact, it goes beyond and lists both “Component Country” (where the raw materials are from) and “Assembled Country” (where the product was put together).

They don’t offer the capability to filter or search by country, but it is nice to be able to see where various products are made. For example, I was pleasantly surprised that their own private label tents were assembled in Bangladesh. I was also saddened, but not surprised, to validate that my research on ASUS laptops was correct–every one of the models they sell was made in China, despiite ASUS being a Taiwanese company. And for all the talk Apple made of them shifting production of certain iPhone models to Vietnam, I see that every single model is still made in China.

I was going to say that the Sam’s Club site would be a good one for double-checking where something is made before you buy it on another site. But the best thing you can do is reward them for taking the time to provide you with this information, by buying a membership.

3. Grainger – A-

You may not have heard of Grainger before unless you purchase tools or industrial supplies. But anyone who does any kind of maintenance or repair (MRO) work knows them well. They sell industrial supplies like safety equipment and supplies for construction and repair. But they also sell items you can use in your household, like power strips, hardware tools, cleaning supplies, and much more. In fact, if you shop at Grainger, chances are you’ll be able to buy higher quality products than you’d be able to buy at Amazon and Walmart, because their customers are professionals with exacting standards.

It’s this professionalism that probably was behind their decision to put Country of Origin labeling clearly at the top of every product description. Professional contractors are judged by the quality of their work, so many of them have learned (some the hard way) that using cheap made-in-China products and parts will reflect negatively on them.

If you’re handy around the house, you’re going to want to give Grainger some of your business. Amazon, Walmart, and even Home Depot and Lowes are in a business to sell large volumes of junk as quickly as possible. Companies like Grainger are for those who value quality.

4. Overstock – A-

Overstock is another company where I was surprised to see Country of Origin at the bottom of every product listing. It looks like it’s listed fairly consistently under every product. Unfortunately as with the other sites there’s no way to quickly filter by country of origin. But as many of you, I’m a search engine expert, so I’ll share with you a little “hack” using Google.

Let’s say you want to shop for clocks that aren’t made in China. Type this into Google:

site:overstock.com/Home-Garden clocks "Product Overview" -"Country of Origin: China"

What you’re basically telling Google is:

1) Search the subdirectory called /Home-Garden on Overstock.com

2) The pages should be related to “clocks”

3) The pages must have the words “Product Overview” (this is to weed out the sub-category pages and ensure you’re only looking at Product Pages)

4) The product pages must NOT have the words “Country of Origin: China”

The results are a nice assortment of clocks made in Canada, India, and more.

Like I said, it’s a hack, but beggars can’t be choosers. Experiment with different product categories to see what you come up with.

One nice thing about Overstock is that it sells a wide range of products. Like Wayfair, it deals largely with furniture and home decor, but it also has everything from large appliances to pet supplies to shoes.

As with Wayfair, their biggest problem seems to be quality control for Country of Origin–some products (especially those sold by third parties) get really sloppy in accurately representing the Country of Origin (since the country of origin is clearly labeled on each box, it’s likely a deliberate oversight). For example, this induction cooktop is listed as “Country of Origin: United States”, and yet reviews angrily note that the box they receive clearly says “Made in China”. If you buy something and this happens to you, leaving a review isn’t going to help–you’re going to want to initiate a return at their cost due to false representation.

But as I said with Wayfair, the fact that they have Country of Origin at all is a point in their favor, and one which should be applauded and rewarded.

5. Walgreens – A

I was pleasantly surprised to see Country of Origin on most, although not all, Walgreens product pages. For example, I was recently in the market for a Braun thermometer and I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent trying to figure out where they were made. But after a five minute visit to Walgreens, I can tell you this Thermoscan 5 ear thermometer is made in Mexico while this forehead one was made in China.

After surfing around their site, you start to understand why so many sites like Amazon hide Country of Origin. All of Walgreens’ own brands are made in China (just as Amazon Basics or Walmart’s Equate brands), and I’m sure some finance person is always trying to convince Walgreens’ Web site people to delete country of origin because it’s eating into their profits.

I tend to trust the listings here more than, say, Overstock or Wayfair because it’s all first-party information (likely from Walgreens inputting it directly from the products).

I’m glad Walgreens is respecting its customers. If this means something to you, then I’d suggest you take your business from CVS and Rite Aid and send it to Walgreens.

6. Apmex – A

Apmex is the largest e-commerce site dedicated to buying and selling coins and precious metals. What’s great about this is that every coin and most precious metals are produced on a country-by-country level.

When buying bullion and bars, you’ll be able to tell from the product itself what country it’s from, whether it’s a Krugerrand from South Africa, a Maple Leaf from Canada, a Philharmonic from Austria, a Britannia from Great Britain, or an American Buffalo or Eagle from the United States.

Of course, since you’re buying on the secondary market you’re not really “helping” or “hurting” the issuing country by buying its precious metals. It’s only when you buy directly from the issuing Mint that the profits will go directly to the issuing country. But of course, buying on the secondary market can affect the demand for future releases. For example, buying an American Gold Eagle directly from the US Mint will let the profits go to the US Treasury, while buying one from Apmex will let the profits go to Apmex and (if they were lucky) whoever sold the coin to Apmex. If enough people buy American Eagles this year, it will encourage the US Mint to issue more next year, which means more money to the US Treasury.

Needless to say, you want to avoid buying any precious metals from the China Mint. Sure, those Pandas are cute, but what’s not cute is knowing that the profits you’re sending China are doing to fund weapons being used again China, re-education camps being used against Uyghurs, and police being used against Hong Kong freedom fighters.

7. West Elm – A-

Something I didn’t realize before doing this research was that West Elm–a furniture and home decor online retailer much like Wayfair and Overstock–is owned by Williams-Sonoma, who also owns Pottery Barn.

Williams-Sonoma didn’t make the list of the top 50 e-retailers, but Pottery Barn and West Elm did. Interestingly, Williams-Sonoma and West Elm both clearly mark country of origin on their product pages, while Pottery Barn does not. That probably tells you all you need to know about where Pottery Barn gets most of its crap.

As with Wayfair and Overstock, there’s a lot more than sofas and lighting fixtures here. If you’re looking to buy dinnerware, flatware, cookware, small kitchen appliances, in most cases you’ll find Country of Origin listed under “Details” on the product page (for some products it just lists “Imported”, but not every one).

Honorable Mention: Other Great Retailers that Provide Country of Origin

These retailers didn’t have enough revenue to rank among the highest, but you should support them anyway, as they don’t insult your intelligence by hiding country of origin from you.

1. Fat Brain Toys

On every Fat Brain Toys product page there’s a row under “Product Specifications” called “Manufactured In” that provides the country of origin of that toy, as well as a little flag.

Here’s an even cooler thing. They let you filter their entire catalog by country of origin. Visit their Where Is It Made page, and you’ll be able to click to see all the toys that are made in the USA, which you can further refine or sort by category or popularity. Want to support the sovereign people of Taiwan that are under constant threat from China, as well as those manufacturers who refuse to compromise on the quality and safety of their product by sending them to China? Visit the Toys Made in Taiwan page.

For me, Fat Brain is the gold standard for how every site should be built. For the love of all that is good, please shop there for your toy needs and not Amazon, Target, or Walmart.

2. Weee

When I learned about Weee I literally jumped up and down with excitement. Why? My wife’s family is from Taiwan, and when we went to visit there a few years back (transiting through Japan) I got hooked on a number of things. Taiwan rice. Taiwan plum juice. Japanese gummy candy. Japanese ramen. And so on.

When I tried buying these products on my own, they were almost impossible to get. If I even found them they would be prohibitively expensive. And yet Weee sells both fresh produce (think Amazon Fresh) and pantry items (think Amazon.com) from the US, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and many more countries. Best of all, there’s a filter option for anything you search on that will limit your searches to just products from the countries you want (they also sell stuff from Mainland China, but I always uncheck that box).

The prices are surprisingly affordable–much more affordable than, say, hopping on a plane and stuffing a suitcase full of rice and noodles.

Sign up using this link, and you can get $20 off your first order (full disclosure: my wife will earn rewards points too).

3. Williams-Sonoma

I mentioned Williams-Sonoma above, but it bears repeating that their site does a great job of listing country of origin under each product, under the “Dimensions & More Info” section of their product page. If you’re looking for any kind of kitchen product this is a great place to cross-reference where it’s made. You should be prepared for disappointment, as some categories (such as kitchen scales) are completely made in China. But there are other categories where you still have a choice, and I’m glad that Williams-Sonoma trusts you to make them.

4. Lulus

Clothing retailer Lulus doesn’t provide Country of Origin on all their products (for most products they simply say “Imported”. But I included them on this list because they took the time to create this collection of almost 1,000 SKUs that are made in the USA. That’s more than most clothing retailers have done, and it’s worth a visit.

5. LL Bean

LL Bean also does something similar to Lulus. They don’t disclose country of origin for all their products, but they created this special collection of almost 400 products that were made in the USA–in most cases close to their Maine headquarters. Buy from this collection and you’ll not only be keeping a community in Maine alive and thriving, you’ll be buying the best of the best of what LL Bean offers.

6. Crate & Barrel

I don’t know what it is about these furniture and home decor retailers that compels them to list country of origin on their product pages, but I’m glad they do. Crate & Barrel has country of origin on every one of their pages, and unlike what I see on Overstock and Wayfair, these look completely accurate–a benefit of them controlling their own inventory and not opening their site up to third party sellers.

7. New Balance

I mentioned New Balance on my write-up on footwear companies. They only have a few SKUs left that are produced in the United States, and even then they’re under attack from certain lawyers who want to punish them because they get their raw materials from overseas (I wish I could ask these lawyers–would it make you happy to force the very last sneaker manufacturer in the US to shut down? Give them a break, man.)

I’ve personally owned a pair of 990s or 993s over the last 20 years. These shoes are amazingly comfortable, and amazingly indestructible. I’ve been wearing an old pair of 990s for years now until the soles are down to smooth rubber, but the sneaker itself looks almost in brand new condition after I run them through the washer.

8. Little Tikes

I mentioned Little Tikes in my write-up on toys. I love how they sell direct to the consumer, and how they have over 180 toys in their line that are made in the USA, including some of their iconic products like their indoor slide, shopping cart, indoor basketball set, and Cozy Coupe.

9. Duluth Trading

As with a lot of other sites, Duluth Trading marks most of their products with the nondescript word “Imported”. But at least they still maintain a collection of products still made in the USA. It’s down to a paltry 133 items as of the time of this writing, but hopefully Duluth will go back to its roots and embrace stuff made in the USA again.

10. Etsy

It took me a while to figure out whether Etsy’s Made in the USA collection is really made up of products made in the USA, or if like Amazon they just have a lame algorithm that looks for the words “made” and “usa” on the product page, even if the sentence is “this product is not made in the usa”.

But happily, from what I can tell in the vast majority of cases both the product and seller are based in the USA.

The full analysis of the top e-commerce sites

For this “report card” the “grade” refers to how well (or not) the retailer communicates the country of origin of its products, NOT how many “made in China” products the retailer sells.

By making this information transparent, the retailer is telling you that it trusts you to use this information wisely.

Retailers who hide this information are basically telling you that you cannot be trusted with this information, and that you will buy the cheapest product regardless of where it comes from.

RetailerWeb siteCOOL?What it doesGrade
Amazonwww.amazon.comNoCountry of origin on random products and in some customer-provided Q&A contentD
Walmartwww.walmart.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Best Buywww.bestbuy.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
The Home Depotwww.homedepot.comNoCountry of origin completely hidden. Available in some customer-provided Q&A contentD
Targetwww.target.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Applewww.apple.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Wayfairwww.wayfair.comYesCountry of origin listed under “Specifications”A
Loweswww.lowes.comNoCountry of origin completely hidden. Available in some customer-provided Q&A contentD
Krogerwww.kroger.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Chewywww.chewy.comNoCountry of origin completely hidden. Available in some customer-provided Q&A contentD
Costcowww.costco.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Macyswww.macys.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Kohlswww.kohls.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Sam’s Clubwww.samsclub.comYesThey list “Assembled Country” and “Component Country under Product Description. Certain products are marked as “imported” only.A-
Carvanawww.carvana.comMehFor each VIN they provide a scan of the window sticker which lists Country of Origin and Final Assembly Point. However, if they don’t have access to the original sticker they recreate one that omits this information.C
Gapwww.gap.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Graingerwww.grainger.comYesCountry of origin available in main product description. Certain products are marked as “varies”A-
Nikewww.nike.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
QVCwww.qvc.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Sheinwww.shein.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Nordstromwww.nordstrom.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Dick’s Sporting Goodswww.dickssportinggoods.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Overstockwww.overstock.comYesCountry of origin marked under Product OverviewA
Bed Bath and Beyondwww.bedbathandbeyond.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Stapleswww.staples.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Office Depotwww.officedepot.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
JCPenneywww.jcpenney.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Bath and Body Workswww.bathandbodyworks.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Victoria’s Secretwww.victoriasecret.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Walgreenswww.walgreens.comYesCountry of origin listed under product DescriptionA
Sephorawww.sephora.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Ultawww.ulta.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Apmexwww.apmex.comYesCountry of origin on every product 🙂A
Pottery Barnwww.potterybarn.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Dellwww.dell.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Zulilywww.zulily.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
LuluLemonwww.lululemon.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
American Eagle Outfitterswww.ae.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
Adidaswww.adidas.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
NewEggwww.newegg.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Searswww.sears.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Build.comwww.build.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Nordstrom Rackwww.nordstromrack.comNoCountry of origin simply marked “imported”F
HSNwww.hsn.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Ikeawww.ikea.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
CVSwww.cvs.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Menardswww.menards.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
Vitacostwww.vitacost.comNoCountry of origin completely hiddenF
West Elmwww.westelm.comYesCountry of origin listed under “Details”A

Do you know other online retail sites that are completely transparent and open with country of origin? Let us know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *