New York State to Sears: You Can’t Sell Those Legal Knives

Milo Nickels
Five Cent Revolution 

The Christmas season has come and gone, and I hope everyone had a joyous holiday.  My children sure did.  Much to their joy and wonderment, they received more toys than I’ve ever seen in my life.  Much to my dismay and frustration, I had to open all of the toys for them.  I can’t believe how intricately toys are packaged nowadays.  I think I’d have an easier time breaking into Fort Knox, than unpackaging a new Transformer toy or Barbie doll.  About half way through this agonizing ordeal I realized that I could use a good jackknife.

That memory, me wrestling with a mountain of new toy boxes, has haunted me ever since.  I was determined to be prepared for the next time my child gets a present.  So, when I found myself in the mall today, I decided to stop in Sears and get myself a good jackknife.  I went straight to the tools…then to the gardening/outdoors area…then back to tools.  Nothing.  I couldn’t find jackknives, or any knives for that matter, anywhere.  Finally, I asked one of the associates where the jackknives were.  To my astonishment, she gave me the following response:

Well, we used to have knives–a lot of them.  But a few days before Christmas, we received a letter from management that we had to remove all of our knives from the sale floor.  Apparently, New York State told us that we couldn’t sell knives or utility knives anymore.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  The state of New York was now telling a hardware store that they couldn’t sell a legal-to-sell, legal-to-own piece of hardware.  The sales associate could see the bewilderment in my face and nodded back at me with with a look that could only mean, “it’s crazy isn’t it?”  The only response I could give was, “man, our government is out of control” to which the sales associate quickly responded, “DO YOU THINK?!”

I left the store empty handed and reunited with my family.  A while later I went back to the store to speak again with the nice lady who had helped me earlier and to see if I could get the corporate letter from her in which New York State told Sears what they were allowed to sell to their customers.  Unfortunately, the associate advised me that the letter was long gone as they had received it two weeks before Christmas.  I did learn, however, that the letter they received is called an “Inventory Recall Request”.  While I was speaking another salesman was nearby and overheard our conversation.  He chimed in, “are you talking about the knife thing?” and continued “that was weird wasn’t it?”  Weird indeed!  This second associate told me that Sears has never actually carried “jackknives”, but that the letter forced them to remove many utility knives and Leatherman tools from the shelves.  In particular, one of the knives was going to be offered as a bonus item, to be given away with certain purchases.  This second associate confirmed the story that the State of New York ordered the items to be removed and that this information was relayed to the store through an Inventory Recall Request.

I found the phone number, 1-800-349-4358, when I returned home on the Sears website, and gave them a call to see if this was common knowledge or standard practice.  I explained the situation to the male associate that answered my call, and he placed me on hold to look into it.  When he returned to the line, he initially said “we never carried those”.  I quickly called him on that and reminded him that I’ve been able to buy utility knives at Sears in the past.  Then he said, “well, you can still get them online, but removing them from stores is something a state might do”.  I asked him if States can actually control Sears’ products and he responded with a blunt “yes”.  I politely thanked this representative and ended the phone call.

Now, I know that on the surface this might not be a big deal.  The state regulates virtually every aspect of our lives through legislation and/or taxes.  This was a strange case, though, because it circumvented the legal process that usually steals our freedoms.  By ordering a privately owned store not to carry a legal product, New York State has basically made that product illegal without even passing a law.

Does this sound like a free market to you?

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