Should You Keep An Unsolicited Merchandise Mailed To You?

Ever received a merchandise in your mailbox that you did not order?

What have you done with it?

Assuming that you kept it, did you ever wonder if you’re going to receive a billing asking for payment later on?

This has not happened to me yet but what would I do if it did? I usually get unsolicited offers such as credit cards and even personal line of credit loans wherein banks or lending companies sent me a check with my name on it and if I cashed it, it is the same as accepting the offer. However, an unsolicited merchandise is a different story. I’ve always wonder if I would get billed at something that I’ve never ordered.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers do not have an obligation to either return or pay for the unsolicited merchandise and vendors do not have a legal right to demand payment. This means that consumers can treat this unordered merchandise as gifts. The FTC also suggested that consumers should write a letter stating that it was their intention to keep the merchandise.

However, if the merchandise was mailed to the consumer as a result of an apparent honest mistake by the company and the consumers do not wish to pay for it, the FTC suggested the following actions:

  • Write  a letter to the company and offer to return the item on a condition that the seller pays for postage and handling. To protect yourself, send a the letter via certified mail with “proof of receipt” and keep a copy of it. It should be noted that the drawback is it would cost $5.21 to send a letter this way.
  • Provide the vendor a specific and reasonable amount of time (e.g., 30 days) in which to pick up the item or arrange to have it returned at no expense to the you.
  • Let the seller know that after the specified time period has passed, you reserve the right to keep the product or to get rid of it as you wish.
  • “By giving the sender an opportunity to recover the merchandise, no claim can be made that you accepted an offer of sale by merely keeping the shipment.”

5 thoughts on “Should You Keep An Unsolicited Merchandise Mailed To You?”

  1. I lucked out on this law earlier in the year. I ordered a $5 dvd and a $20 doll outfit from AMerican Girl (both on sale) to put up for Christmas for my daughter.

    I had the package deliver to my mom’s house, so little ones would not see a box coming in.

    My mom called me and told me that my big package had arrived- which should have been a smallish package.

    When I opened the box, nearly $150 of merchandise- including a doll my daughter has on her wish list- was in there that had not been ordered. I called customer service expecting to get a label sent for me to ship it all back. However, once they noted the error was on their fault, the service rep informed me we had the option to keep it.

    My dear eldest daughter is going to have a VERY merry Christmas this year!

  2. I wouldn’t try to take advantage of this law just to keep free stuff sent by accident (i.e., as part of an order actually placed). In the case of actual scams, the unordered merchandise is usually worthless anyway, even if it has a big price tag, so if something valuable shows up it is likely an honest mistake.

    However, I am currently trying to return an unordered expensive product which was sent instead of a cheap item I paid for, and the seller’s customer service is so horrible that 1 week later they have not responded to THREE phone calls (each time they say someone will call back with return instructions, and they don’t) offering to return their expensive product. They also claimed to have re-sent the correct product (with expedited shipping of some sort), and it still has not arrived.

    Fortunately, the seller’s incompetence means I got a $160 product instead of the $8 product I paid for (although I don’t really have much use for the thing they sent, valuable as it may be), but I wouldn’t want to have to deal with this seller if the error were inverted and I was screwed out of a lot of money. These schmucks are going to lose inventory AND get negative feedback for having *****y service.

  3. Yesterday I received a big box full of 25 cashmere sweaters that were supposed to be transferred from a major department store to its outlet (I deduced this after some investigating, there were no packing slips) but were labeled and sent to me instead. The color and style isn’t that desirable, so although they are marked sale $170 each they are likely only reasonably sold at $50-$70 each. However they still have the security tags attached. I am
    not a thief and have no desire to be one but I want to know what the law says about this. The post seemed to indicate it is different when the merchandise is sent as an obvious mistake by the shipper?

  4. Henry Gutierrez

    In response the J’s question you have an obligation to contact the shipper and tell them they have made a mistake. 9 times out of 10 they’ll pick it up for free and provide you with the shipping instructions on how to return it. This falls under the U.C.C. (Uniform Commercial Code) and deals with the sales of goods and services. Unlike myself who is here looking for ammunition on something Sears sent my wife she didn’t ask for you may be obligated to contact the shipper. She is being billed on her Sears card. Who knows they just might not want to spend the costs to have it returned and you might get to keep 25 cashmere sweaters. =:-) Good luck. BTW I’m a Purchasing Specialist with a University so I know a little about procurement.

  5. SOME MONTHS BACK I CALLED “STAUER” COMPANY AND ASKED ABOUT A CERTAIN WATCH AND
    SOME WATCH BANDS—–I ASKED FOR THE TOTAL PRICE AND STATED THAT IF I WANTED THE MERCHANDISE I WOULD SEND THEM A MONEY ORDER FOR THE AMOUNT THAT WAS BEING ASKED FOR JUST LIKE I’VE DONE IN THE PAST WITH OTHER WATCHES I’VE PURCHASED SOMEONE
    AT STAUER SENT ME THE WATCH AND WATCH BANDS WITHOUT MY PERMISSION AND /OR AN
    ORDER FROM ME I’VE ALWALYS SENT IN MY PAYMENT TO THEM BEFORE THEY EVEN SEND
    THE MERCHANDISE TO ME WHICH IS HOW THEY WANTED TO DO BUSINESS FROM THE BEGINING

    NOW THIS STUPID ASS COMPANY SENT ME TO COLLECTIONS SAYING I OWE THEM FOR EVERYTHING THEY SENT I WAS GOING TO KEEP ALL ITEMS AND SAY SCREW THEM BUT I’VE
    SINCE SENT BACK THE WATCH BUT NOT THE WATCH BANDS I DID SAY THE I WAS GOING TO PAY FOR THEM BUT I HAVE’NT YET QUESTION WAS I ABLE UNDER THE LAW TO KEEP EVERYTHING THEY SENT BECAUSE OF THEM BEING STUPID ??

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