Thursday, February 09, 2012

Looking out for a U.S. company

I’ve been an admirer of apparel and outdoor equipment made by The North Face for nearly 40 years.

I still have the North Face down-filled sleeping bag I bought during my northfacebackpacking period in the early 1970s and I wear a North Face Denali jacket that is as good as they day I bought it back in the late 1990s.

North Face stuff has tremendous cachet here in northeast Arkansas and anybody who is anybody has something with The North Face logo on it.

North Face stuff isn’t cheap. A men’s Denali jacket retails for between $165 and $199.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I walked into a flea market and noticed a rack of more than 40 Denali look-alike jackets, bearing The North Face Logo and being offered for $60 apiece.

I know the quality that goes into North Face garments and it's completely absent in these. They all have red "North Face" garment tags. Many are marked "made in China," some are odd colors that I seriously doubt have ever been in The North Face's palette and nearly all of the zipper pulls are plain, without a YKK or other manufacturer's mark. Some have a zipper pull emblazoned with Chinese characters.

I asked one of the women who run the flea market if the jackets are genuine North Face products or Chinese knock-offs (I chose not to use the word "counterfeit" so as to keep her from going defensive).

She said the man who rents the space for the jacket display told her they are "factory seconds."

I assume The North Face is sufficiently focused on its reputation of superior quality and would never let "factory seconds" enter the marketplace.

I raised this issue with the Arkansas Attorney General's office and got this response from Heather Richardson in the A.G.'s Consumer Protection Division:

After careful review, we find that the US Department of Homeland Security investigates counterfeit items.  Their web site is and their main operator number is (202)282-8000.  We are hopeful the will be able to assist you.
Heather Richardson

Consumer Protection Division
Arkansas Attorney General's Office

This struck me as a bit of a runaround. I find it hard to believe Homeland Security is charged with protecting U.S. manufacturers.

So I forwarded the information directly to The North Face Customer Service Team.

Let’s see what happens next.

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