As you may or may not know, I have spoken out a number of times about what it really means for a chair to be “Made in Japan” or “Made in Korea” or anywhere else in the world, other than China, since pretty much all the components of massage chairs come from China anyways. In summary, it doesn’t really mean much nowadays. I spoke about this topic in my May 31, 2019 edition of the Massage Chair Industry Update. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lengthy opinion written in the comments section by Dr. Kevin Le of Luraco in response to that very subject. It was so good that I thought I would post it here as well for more of you to read. It offers some great insights from one of the principals of a company that claims that their chairs are “Made in the USA”. It sheds some interesting light on the topic that is pertinent. Here are his remarks…
This is Dr. Kevin Le, Chief Technology Officer at Luraco Technologies. I noticed you have a new blog that discusses the topic of “Made in…” and that you also periodically mentioned Luraco. We appreciate you trying to clear up some of the confusion for your followers. I agree that other country’s do not define or authorize the use of “Made in…” but in the United States, it is VERY WELL DEFINED for product labeling. This link provides details about it that may be of use to your followers https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-made-usa-standard
As you know, false or intentionally mis-leading advertising is a HUGE ISSUE in the U.S. (something that the Federal Trade Commission oversees). Unfortunately, in the massage chair category, there is a lot of intentionally confusing marketing that is done by some companies to try to get customers to buy from them instead of their competitors. Twelve years ago, when Luraco released the iRobotics 1 (the First Made in USA Massage Chair), we had a Distributor that sells Chinese-made massage chairs, report us to the FTC claiming that Luraco chairs were not Made in the USA. Since they sold Chinese chairs, they spread lies that ours weren’t made in the US (a selling fact that they couldn’t compete with). We actually had government agents come and audit our company and our production lines. They inspected our operation, manufacturing processes, Bill of Materials and manufacturing costs and then deemed us qualified to use the Made in USA mark. It was a huge victory for Luraco since there was (and still is) no other massage chair that can be proud to make the “Made in USA” claim.
As you mentioned in your video, Luraco uses non-critical parts in our chairs that are made in Taiwan, but the critical parts are made here in the USA. We appreciate you for being honest with your reporting on our products. We too are now seeing many chairs advertised with “Made in Japan” which we feel is misleading to American consumers. As defined by U.S. laws, these are untrue claims. Most massage chairs are 100% made in China (ironically, they come from only a few factories in China and are labeled with different brand names). We agree with you that as the Chinese reputation for lower quality products grows, eventually most chairs will try to be marketed with a “Made in Japan” mark. Within the industry, we are already seeing Chinese chairs shipped to Japan, retested and repackaged and labeled “Made in Japan”. With newly imposed Chinese Tariffs there will probably be more of this in an attempt to avoid the new 25% import tax.
However you look at it, it is deceiving to the American consumer who thinks they are getting a Japanese product rather than a Chinese one. According to U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the rules are clearly defined: What is the U.S. Customs Service’s jurisdiction over country-of-origin claims? When an imported product incorporates materials and/or processing from more than one country, Customs considers the country of origin to be the last country in which a “substantial transformation” took place. Customs defines “substantial transformation” as a manufacturing process that results in a new and different product with a new name, character, and use that is different from that which existed before the change. Customs makes country-of-origin determinations using the “substantial transformation” test on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, Customs uses a “tariff shift” analysis, comparable to “substantial transformation,” to determine a product’s country of origin.” Luraco is trying hard to protect the massage chair industry’s image from false claims and misleading marketing. I felt the need to respond to you with my feedback (and the story of what we have had to deal with for defending “Made in the USA”).
At the end of the day, it will be the consumers who lose out and if we don’t clean things up people may lose faith in purchasing massage chairs altogether. You and I understand the need for truth in advertising of quality products and hopefully we will get there soon. We want customers to have confidence in purchasing massage chairs that benefit their bodies and from companies that are not deceptive in their advertising. Since Luraco is an American-based company, we take great pride in qualifying as the only “Made in USA” massage chair manufacturer and take exception to those that challenge our authenticity. Please know that you can continue to share our story as proudly being “Made in the U.S.A.” (from US and Global components).
Thank you, Dr. Le. I do feel, however, that the quality of the Chinese massage chairs coming to America is getting better and better. Companies like Infinity and Human Touch and Panasonic have “feet on the ground” in China overseeing the production of their chairs, including the quality control. Although China has had, and still generally does have, a reputation for lesser quality massage chair products, some of the top factories and distributors are changing that reputation with better quality chair builds.
Dr. Alan Weidner
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