Can you keep a better tv if that's what they deliver?
August 4, 2009 1:57 PM   Subscribe

We just bought a television from a reputable online retailer. It was delivered today via a freight carrier, but it was the wrong one and had another customer's name on it. However, it is MUCH nicer. Ours was $1000, this is $3500. We called and now they will come back and give us our crappy one and take this beautiful one back, and now we are overcome with remorse. The kicker is the swap won't happen for a week so we need to stare at this big ass box for 7 days. Should we have just kept the nicer one? Ethical issues aside, would we have had a legal right (we are in the US) to keep it? Do we now?
posted by jules1651 to Law & Government (44 answers total)
 
No, you wouldn't have had a legal right to keep it. It would be theft. Like bank errors.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2009


Of course you don't have the legal right to keep it. To obtain a good, you must first purchase it. Otherwise, you're stealing.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2009


If they had sent you a TV without you asking for it, then sent you a bill, you would not have to pay. But in this case, not only did you order a TV, you told them they sent you the wrong one and agreed to give it back.

Not just illegal, but keeping would make you a pretty lousy person too.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2009


You prolly don't have a legal right to keep it now that you've spilled the beans but I might have treated this as a BANK ERROR IN YOUR FAVOR card. Plausible deniability about which TV you ordered &c. Chances are pretty good that the other customer would set into motion a chain of events to get their telly back, tho, so don't feel too bad about this.
posted by @troy at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2009


So, for the next week, remind yourself that it's just a material object, and that your integrity is worth more than 2,500.
posted by theora55 at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


I seem to recall hearing that you cannot be billed for unrequested goods sent via post. I would not think that applies here.
posted by anti social order at 2:10 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ethical issues aside <-- it just doesn't work that way. It's understood that you are asking "only" about the legality, but in reality, ethical issues simply cannot be put aside, ever (unless you're a member of some species other than homo sapiens).
posted by bricoleur at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2009


It's a felony to open mail thats not addressed to you, even it if is delivered to you. I'm not sure if that applies to freight carriers, but no, you can't keep it.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:13 PM on August 4, 2009


Thanks all -- to be clear, we're not keeping it, nor did we seriously entertain keeping it. "Overcome with remorse" was tongue-in-cheek. We were curious about the legal aspect of it -- thanks for the quick replies. We've been looking forward to this day for about a year, and I took the day off work to receive the shipment, so it was pretty dramatic up in here once we realized it was the wrong tv.
posted by jules1651 at 2:22 PM on August 4, 2009


You don't get to keep the nicer rocker, but you do get metafilter kudos for doing the right thing (as in, accepting grudgingly that you did something not because you *had* to, but because it felt like the right thing to do, as compared to the more immediately rewarding/enjoyable thing).

The thing about little lies, is that you often have to keep making them. You keep it, there's a chance that the other people call the company about receiving the wrong rocker, they trace the rocker to you, you then have to directly lie to the company, and hope they don't care about the different $2500. You end up possibly getting to keep the rocker but then might feel a little icky seeing your innocent child in your ill gotten gains - okay, not really :) But I do mean the part about directly lying to a company that hasn't directly lied to you.

If someone charged your credit card for $3500 for a $1000 item and you failed to notice, they probably wouldn't legally get to keep it. And you wouldn't want them to.

Throw a blanket over that rocker. Your kid is probably going to love the rocker you ordered.

Kudos!
posted by anitanita at 2:24 PM on August 4, 2009


jules1651,

I actually received an envelope addressed to you the other day with $20 in cash from your grandma as a birthday gift. You and I are neighbours and the letter carrier accidentally dropped her envelope addressed to you through our mail slot. I'm going to walk over and give you the envelope (I hope you won't mind that I peeked inside) because if I took the money and spent it would be mail fraud.

I realize that you didn't want to discuss the ethical issues, but there are deeper than legal ramifications here. Read 'Affliction' by Russell Banks for more information.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:26 PM on August 4, 2009


Okay, clearly I need to go eat. I read Rocker, not TV. I'm going in search of cookies now.....
posted by anitanita at 2:26 PM on August 4, 2009


The OP did not say the package was addressed to the other person, just that it had their name on it (somewhere...on the invoice but not the box?). I don't think the legal side is so clear-cut, since the other people would definitely be coming after the company for the correct delivery if there was indeed a swap. So, worst case scenario is that the other people still get their TV and the company comes to OP for the one that was delivered (if they ever figured it out). I'm not sure whether the company would really be able to come after them, though.
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on August 4, 2009


People who return the nicer TV when they don't have to are the same kind of people who return the shopping cart to the shopping cart corral when they don't have to.

Nobody notices, but the world is a little nicer because of it.
posted by notyou at 2:32 PM on August 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


IANAL but Under UK Law there is a concept of unsolicited goods. Basically if you receive something you haven't ordered, inform the company that you have got them but they don't do anything for 6 months they become yours.
posted by rus at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2009


http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cos51.htm

Scroll down to "unordered goods". No difference is made between "incorrectly sent" vs. just plain never ordered.

It could have been yours if you wanted it.

And no..I don't think that would make you a lousy person...unlike most of these judy judgmentals.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:06 PM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


People who return the nicer TV when they don't have to are the same kind of people who return the shopping cart to the shopping cart corral when they don't have to.

I call people who don't return the shopping cart to the corral "lazy." I call people who don't return an item they were given in error a "thief."
posted by nitsuj at 3:18 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a true example of unordered goods and how the law protects you:

In the early 1990s, there used to be a company who would ship out light bulbs. You'd get this big box of light bulbs, with a shipping invoice inside. Then about a week later, you'd get an invoice, with payment due for the light bulbs. Of course, with a notice that if you were not happy with the light bulbs, you could return them (and you'd have to pay the return shipping cost).

The unordered goods law was to protect you from that type of scam. It was not to "protect" you from having to return things that were clearly a shipping-label mistake.

jules1651, it hurts but you gotta return it. On the plus side, they should be willing to ship the correct TV to you in a super-hurry to make up for what is now a late delivery, disappointment, and some missed time at your work to receive the delivery.
posted by Houstonian at 3:24 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why are you all lecturing her like she's a child? Thus far it seems that hal_c_on has provided the only thing resembling real legal backup for his comment.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:34 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why someone who ordered a TV and got sent the wrong one would fall under unordered goods.

Unordered goods means goods offered for sale by voluntary delivery (Ohio law linked because it's the first I found); this is not that, for a few reasons. First, there's already a contract here; jules1651 has paid for a TV and expects the delivery of one. Second, there's mistake; unordered goods aren't sent by mistake.

I'm not sure how this particular situation would turn out, though -- even Wikipedia's article on mistake in contract law suggests it'd be up to the court to decide the outcome (like in Speckel v. Perkins there, which is similar -- a mistake that both parties in the contract recognize), but this is not unordered goods.
posted by mendel at 3:46 PM on August 4, 2009


It has been a little while since I had to know anything about UCC Article 2 (the article of the Uniform Commercial Code that governs the sales of goods; generally the law (as amended by each enacting state) that governs such transactions), but are there any commercial lawyers out here who can chime in on a less anecdotal basis than the ethical considerations above?

I would have thought that the Seller has made a non-conforming tender and is in breach of the agreement with Jules; she would then be free to accept or reject the shipment (though the Seller would likely have an opportunity to cure if she rejected).

If she is entitled to perfect tender, can't she accept the TV that was delivered? I am assuming, of course, that this was not an accomodation under 2-206.

This is clearly not about unordered goods.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:54 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's UCC Article 2. And, it goes without saying, neither this or my comment above are legal advice. IANYL, and I really don't know the UCC! I do like big shiny televisions, though.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:57 PM on August 4, 2009


I have nothing to add re: the legal status, or even the ethical issues involved.

I'd like to point out another aspect of all this: the unwelcome and unsolicited hassle factor. You didn't make the mistake. Yet you are now suffering ill consequences of their mistake. You have to wait an extra week or whatever to have the thing resolved, instead of watching the TV you ordered. Your ability to enjoy the goods you purchased has been impaired, due to their fault.

Why is it that everyone (rightly) jumps to defend the company from being defrauded, with some ladling in a heap of remonstration regarding the ethics of the OP, but nobody seems bothered by the fact that the company here is liable for something, other than merely a mistake? If this mistake had no consequence to the OP, that's one thing. But it does - and a lot of it: now the OP has to deal with the goods being returned (maybe has to stay home or take off work); has to make arrangements for the right stuff to be delivered; has to store the mislabeled goods in his home in the meanwhile (this is not a fucking warehouse); is deprived of a week+ of using the rightful TV. WHAT ABOUT THAT?

In my opinion, it shouldn't merely be: return the goods. Give him some compensation for the mistake that is impacting him negatively through no fault of his own. Now, you may talk about justice and fairness and ethics. Without taking this into account, there is no fairness IMHO.
posted by VikingSword at 4:02 PM on August 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


Just to make clear, by "entitled to compensation" I don't mean he should get to keep the TV (though if I were running that company, that's what I'd do - which explains why I can't run a lemonade stand), but some small gesture would be fair.

I'm just sick of the attitude that companies can do whatever it is they like, even if it has negative impact on the consumer, but the consumer has to bend over backwards to accommodate the companies over their own mistakes.

Sorry, but the company owes something to the OP, if not legally, then certainly ethically, or at the very least PR-wise.
posted by VikingSword at 4:09 PM on August 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


Since the TV in question had been ordered and paid for by somebody else, it presumably belonged to them, not the company in question. Therefore by keeping it you would presumably be intending to permanently deprive them of it, which is the very definition of theft.
posted by unSane at 4:18 PM on August 4, 2009


Just seconding what VikingSword said. Simply having the TVs exchanged does not put the world back in balance. You have been inconvenienced on multiple fronts, and on top of that you still don't have what you paid for.

Did you pay for shipping? If so, you should have that taken off the bill. If they balk, simply wait them out. You don't have to be home when their delivery people come to pick it up, just as you don't have to let their delivery people into your house. They fucked up, they inconvenienced you, they should offer some form of compensation for that inconvenience.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:18 PM on August 4, 2009


Why are you all lecturing her like she's a child?

My thoughts also while reading earlier responses scolding the OP (who had already arranged to return the TV) for asking for a legal, rather than ethical, diagnosis of a scenerio of this type. Part of what makes AskMe so fascinating is that it is a rare place where generally thoughtful and interesting people can find, share, and celebrate facts—any facts, even ugly facts--for facts's sake. Further, the finger-wagging, absolutist responses in this thread are uninstructive when everyone knows that it is wrong to keep something that's not yours. Who needs AskMe to learn that?
posted by applemeat at 4:24 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why is it that everyone (rightly) jumps to defend the company from being defrauded, with some ladling in a heap of remonstration regarding the ethics of the OP, but nobody seems bothered by the fact that the company here is liable for something, other than merely a mistake?

Because the OP was asking if they could keep the TV, and not what kind of compensation they could get from the seller.

It's not a case of unordered goods, the correct customer's name was on the TV - why was it signed for?
posted by wongcorgi at 4:29 PM on August 4, 2009


Because the OP was asking if they could keep the TV, and not what kind of compensation they could get from the seller.

Yes, but the OP also stated:

The kicker is the swap won't happen for a week so we need to stare at this big ass box for 7 days.

This is not relevant to his being able to keep the TV or not. It is an expression of the annoyance factor. This mix-up - which was not his fault - has had negative consequences to the OP, through no fault of his/her. Merely returning the goods should not be the end of the story seems to me. And since people have addressed issues outside of the immediate question of legal rights, it seemed not out of place to look at the broader situation more fairly, if we are already looking at the broader situation.
posted by VikingSword at 4:35 PM on August 4, 2009


People who return the nicer TV when they don't have to are the same kind of people who return the shopping cart to the shopping cart corral when they don't have to.

I only return shopping carts when they would inconvenience other shoppers. Otherwise I deliberately leave them in a safe place within the parking lot. If everyone returned their own carts then the shopping centre wouldn't employ anyone to return them. There aren't enough minimum-wage jobs, and I don't mind the small added cost to my groceries. Also, it makes things more convenient for the shoppers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:40 PM on August 4, 2009


http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cos51.htm

Scroll down to "unordered goods". No difference is made between "incorrectly sent" vs. just plain never ordered.


'Lectric law seems to be plagiarizing the Federal Trade Commission and the topic appears to be marketing scams and small ticket items. Not a lawyer, but I'm guessing we're in a different pond here.

Sorry, but the company owes something to the OP, if not legally, then certainly ethically, or at the very least PR-wise.

True enough. As a practical matter, it might be worth OP's while to ask for some kind of lagniappe. Be careful what you wish for....

It's not a case of unordered goods, the correct customer's name was on the TV - why was it signed for?

Oh, please. OP ordered Item B. OP got, in error, Item A. It happens. Both OP and the company itself agreed it was not the ordered good. It was signed for because when the UPS guy shoves that pad at you, you sign.

Certainly the company cannot tell the customers of Item A who mistakenly got Iem B, sorry, you signed you take what we gave you. Hey, it had your name one it!

NB also that the cost differential, if the item were not returned or if OP had cut up nasty, might not come out of Big TVs R Us' pocket - depending on the operation, it might come out of the pay of the poor schlub who made the error. Or cost him his job.

Just a thought.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:47 PM on August 4, 2009


Since the TV in question had been ordered and paid for by somebody else, it presumably belonged to them, not the company in question. Therefore by keeping it you would presumably be intending to permanently deprive them of it, which is the very definition of theft.

Unsane, I believe you are mistaken from a legal perspective. Yes, someone else may have ordered TV #2, but title to that TV should not pass until it is "tendered" (i.e., delivered)--until then, it is the property of the merchant. The other purchaser has a claim in contract against the merchant if that TV is not delivered (including a claim for consequential damages and the cost of cover, possibly).

The OP ordered a TV. She got the wrong TV. She has a contractual right to the correct TV. The Seller is in breach by sending TV #2. OP is likely entitled to damages, though the measure of damages might not be great--the time off from work, the cost of buying the right TV on short notice, the cost of reprinting invitations for her the party she was hosting to watch a movie on TV #1, etc.

Keep in mind, too, that TV #1 might be better suited to OP's needs--it may be less expensive, but it happens to have an extra HDMI input or something, and so keeping the more expensive, but less suitable TV #2 would be a sacrifice on her part.

All of this is just prime Contracts/UCC fodder for a law school exam. Making a big stink about morality is misplaced--remember "ethical issues aside...". This is a question of contract law (as modified by the agreement between the parties--so check the bill of sale, which will likely have additional terms governing this sort of thing. (And again, not unordered goods--this is a "non-conforming tender," ok? )

Not legal advice, IANYL, and my television is only 32 inches.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:04 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


obiwanwasabi - can you elaborate? If you think my view of "negatively impacted" is wrong, then tell me why the following are not instances of being negatively impacted:

1)Having to again be available for UPS or whoever to pick up the wrong TV. For many people this entails perhaps having to take off work - you can't just set it in front of the house for the UPS to pick up. It has to be scheduled. Is this not a hassle for busy people? So this is not a negative impact?

2)If having the right TV delivered does not happen at the same time as the wrong one is picked up, that again demands time arrangements. Is that not a "negative impact"?

3)Having to store a huge box in your house - a fact the OP complained about - is this not a negative impact? I live in a small apartment, and when I had similar hassles with an exercise machine I ordered online, having to store the box waiting for the UPS to pick it up (to exchange, as it was faulty) was a huge hassle, having to walk around it was inconvenient etc. Is this not a negative impact? Can I store a bunch of junk at your house?

4)Being deprived of the TV you paid for, for a week or more is not a negative impact? What if you ordered it to watch a specific game on TV or show, or organized a party which now obliges you to look for a new TV or to cancel the event. Is that not a negative impact?

Can you please explain to me where my use of the term "negatively impacted" is funny. And then explain to me how it has to do with my use of the "the word 'entitled' a lot" - and if you can't, explain why you are being a snarky twat, without having the goods to back up your snark. Thank you!
posted by VikingSword at 6:48 PM on August 4, 2009


Obiwan, how so? VikingSword is describing, from a lay perspective, the concept of breach of contract, which gives the OP a right to damages. This is the way of the world in common law jurisdictions (including your own Australia).

Take this alternate example: you are planting a garden and order (and pay for) 5 tons of grade B soil. You schedule a plant delivery to coincide with the soil delivery. On the appointed day, the Seller delivers 5 tons of grade A soil, which is $5,000 more expensive than what you ordered. If you don't put the plants in soil today, they will die, and you will be out $10,000. The plants were delivered on time, just right, a-OK--a "perfect tender." The plant delivery truck is gone and cannot come back to fetch the plants.

Clearly you are inconvenienced, and you will be out of money due to the "non-conforming tender" (i.e., misdelivery) of the soil if you don't just plant your plants in the grade A soil. If you plant the plants in the soil you did not buy, are you a thief? Should you have to pay another $5,000 for soil that you did not order if waiting for delivery of the proper soil would have caused the plants to die, at a cost of $10,000?

What if the plants had not been delivered, but instead of grade B soil, you ended up with 5 tons of manure on your front lawn? Surely you would be "negatively impacted," no? And maybe entitled to be compensated for it? What if it's gravel--and so doesn't smell--but you have to look at it every day while you wait for the delivery men to come back? Is that a negative impact? What if it's a gigantic box in your living room? Is that really different?

Contract law does not discriminate between breaches in legal contracts, it's just your damages that might not be very high. OP bought a TV and was entitled to receive the RIGHT TV at the RIGHT TIME. She is entitled as a matter of law to damages if she does not get what she wanted. Maybe she gets free shipping. Maybe she gets to keep the TV. Who knows? It's all about what she works out with the Seller (and whatever terms their contract modifies from the UCC default).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:48 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


§ 2-601. Buyer's Rights on Improper Delivery.

Subject to the provisions of this Article on breach in installment contracts (Section 2-612) and unless otherwise agreed under the sections on contractual limitations of remedy (Sections 2-718 and 2-719), if the goods or the tender of delivery fail in any respect to conform to the contract, the buyer may

(a) reject the whole; or
(b) accept the whole; or
(c) accept any commercial unit or units and reject the rest.


(From Admiral Haddock's link) So does that mean that the poster has the right to keep the TV that was incorrectly delivered to her? And, if she keeps the TV does she have to pay the difference in cost to the seller?
posted by Houstonian at 6:58 PM on August 4, 2009


It's not that simple--"acceptance" is a legal concept related to the delivery of goods. When a buyer "accepts" goods, it has the effect of stating that the goods were as ordered and that the seller made a conforming tender--i.e., right time, right place, right goods. See here.

Basically, if you ordered 100 green widgets and received 90 red widgets and 10 green widgets, you can either: (1) reject all of the widgets (and the seller is in breach of contract and you have a right to sue (though the seller may have the right to "cure"--deliver the right goods if the time for delivery is not yet passed, or maybe with the next delivery, if you have a standing order of widgets each week)); (2) accept all the widgets (meaning that the seller is not, in fact, in breach, and you cannot sue); or (3) keep the 10 green widgets (you can't sue over these, they're perfect!) and return the remaining 90 red widgets (call your lawyer, let's sue!).

For the 90 non-conforming widgets, you may get damages. What damages? First, the cost of cover. This is the cost of getting the right widgets from another source. Say the only other place to buy widgets sells them for $10 more than the original seller. In this case, you could get $900--i.e., because you were expecting to pay $X and ended up paying $X+900 to get what you wanted.

You would also probably get "consequential damages"--the damages that flow naturally from the breach--for instance, the cost of storing the non-conforming widgets.

You might also get special damages, though generally only if the seller knew of the possibility of special damages--so if you told the seller that you needed exactly 100 green widgets on that date because you needed to put them on the once-monthly flight to Antarctica, and failure to do so would put YOU in breach of another contract with $1,000,000 in liquidated damages, maybe you could get compensated for that $1,000,000.

I still think that looking just at the cost of TV #2 is too narrow. What if your handyman took delivery and installed it on your wall before you got home? It's out of the box and maybe can't be returned (at no fault of yours). You have a legal right to TV #1, and might be inconvenienced by TV #2--it's too big on the wall, or is ugly or has the wrong connectors. Between you and the seller, the seller is in the wrong. All you need to do is pay for TV #1, and you performed admirably. All they needed to do is send you the right TV, which they bungled.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:20 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, there are some pretty crazy assertions being thrown around by non-lawyers in this thread. I think the idea that this is a clear-cut case of theft is a little absurd. Ethically, maybe but legally? It seems like the lawyers in the thread have a different take, at least as to whether or not it's clear-cut theft.

Anyway, I don't think the inconvenience is really that big of a deal, possibly made up for the fact that the OP gets 1 week of awesome TV for free, followed by less awesome TV.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 PM on August 4, 2009


Do not take what is not freely given. This is an "error"---not freely given. If you were to keep it = bad karma.
posted by naplesyellow at 7:53 PM on August 4, 2009


OK, I am NOT ADVOCATING THIS, and I understand that ANYONE WHO DID THIS WOULD BE A HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THIEVING BASTARD, but just to pose a hypothetical situation:

Say the OP doesn't return the TV. Just keeps it, hooks it up, hooray, awesome deep discount TV. Too bad for (for the sake of argument, let's say) Best Buy.

But then Hapless Joe, who was supposed to get the awesome TV (and presumably, in the mix-up, got the lesser one that OP ordered), calls up Best Buy. Says, hey, I paid for a $3500 TV and only got a $1000 TV. Please deliver my proper television. He sends the TV back, Best Buy sends him a new TV, everyone's happy.

But then some loss prevention functionary at Best Buy does some sleuthing and figures out what probably happened: Someone else got the TV that Hapless Joe ordered. So Best Buy calls up OP. Says, hey, you have a TV you're not supposed to have. We'd like it back, please.

What if OP says, "Nope, no mix up here, we have the ElectroLux Model #329D, the exact TV we ordered. I don't know what you're talking about." What would Best Buy's next step be here? Would they lawyer up? It's not like they can search the premises.

My thinking is that Best Buy would just leave it at that. It's not worth the employee hours and possible legal fees it would take to recoup the $2500, and that's assuming they even figure out that OP got a TV she didn't pay for. But I don't know, of course -- the seller could be small enough (unlike Best Buy) that they'd notice a $2500 loss, or vigilant enough that they'd notice the discrepancy. I do think that someone as big as Best Buy or Sears would probably just write the whole thing off as a loss.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:25 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ethically, maybe but legally? It seems like the lawyers in the thread have a different take, at least as to whether or not it's clear-cut theft.

The funny part of that comment is the unnecessary "in the thread" part.

Making theft less clear cut is a pretty big part of lawyerin' in general, methinks.

In the OP's case, the question was clearly about legal rights in the USA, and those few here who have responded with legal insights based on USA-specific knowledge should be commended.

The rest of us are irrelevant.
posted by rokusan at 2:36 AM on August 5, 2009


Everyone has vultured over the ethical issue here as No Very Wrong and Horrible but these things are rarely so black and white.

Last month I ordered a plain white shirt from J. Crew (sale price $16.99). I received a cream cardigan (sale price $39.99) in a bag marked "plain white shirt."

I had a pressing need for a neutral top. I am in Canada and the hassles and wait of a return and new shipment loomed large. The plain white shirt was no longer available by the time I got the cardigan. I am sure J. Crew would have refunded my return shipping and sent out a new top without charging me for more shipping, but what top? No way was I going to be able to find something else I liked for $16.99. Also, who wants to risk explaining returning an unordered item, demanding credit for an unordered item I had no proof of not ordering, etc, to the slower sort of customer service representative? Finally, with the shipping, my returning it &c would've put them out more than my simply keeping it, so I kept it.

Anyway, my answer here is simply that sometimes you may keep these sorts of things, so long as your litany of rationales is long enough.
posted by kmennie at 2:38 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Legally, you are obligated to return it. For sure, I'd complain and seek free shipping since you have been inconvenienced as a result of their screwup, or at least seek a discount off future goods. But don't expect anything amazing (like a better TV).

And sure, hifiparasol's scenario could play out just like that, but then you'd have to think about it everytime you watched it.

> unlike most of these judy judgmentals

lolwut. You probably wouldn't be so callous about accepting "free screwup" goods if you were the one who got the short end of the stick and had to deal with it. Suppose a huge corporation with fistfuls of money wasn't involved--suppose it was a small business and a custom piece of artwork, and you got a $50 item instead of the (similar) $350 item you ordered. ("It was Millie's first day, she's my niece, just got out of college, her first real job, terribly sorry, she's very broken up about it...") And you wanted your $350 item, but the actual recipient of your item was so smitten with it that he decided to keep it, even after being earnestly contacted by the company that produced it. So the company eats the loss and ships you a new $350 item. (Also, you and the company end up hating the jackass who wouldn't return your item, even after realizing the mistake.)

Replace the small company with a huge faceless corporation, and what's changed? They suffer the loss better for sure, but doesn't that mean everyone suffers in the long run as a result of the theft? And it is theft, mail or no mail, because you can 'accidentally' steal something in person - once you realize it's stolen, your behavior immediately afterward determines whether you purposely broke the law. (You walk out of a grocery store with a pack of gum the clerk forgot to scan and bag. Did you steal it? Well, no, not yet, but if you keep walking...yes.)

I remember an economics teacher saying something along the lines of: when you spend money you have, the economy is stimulated. When you spend money you don't have (credit), the economy suffers. Writing stuff off as a loss is a blow to the economy, however small.

So do it for the economy. Or something.

The unsolicited mail law deals with books and things companies will send you demanding money (or demanding you go out of your way to ship it back). Those people you can cheerfully give the finger to and keep all the goodies. Screwups for stuff you actually ordered do not fall under those laws.
posted by ostranenie at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2009


What if OP says, "Nope, no mix up here, we have the ElectroLux Model #329D, the exact TV we ordered. I don't know what you're talking about." What would Best Buy's next step be here? Would they lawyer up? It's not like they can search the premises.

Except there is probably a shipping record which includes a packing list with model and serial #'s of the misbegotten item and the OP's signature indicating she received it.
posted by The Gooch at 10:22 PM on August 5, 2009


Legally, you are obligated to return it.

Your comment does a pretty good job of explaining the economics of why it is bad overall for OP to keep the TV. But it doesn't at all defend your assertion that OP is legally obligated to return the TV. If you really do know the legal reason why such an obligation exists, please offer it since upthread it appears that this is not yet resolved.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:21 PM on August 24, 2009


« Older Imitating the iPhone   |   Help me remember where I found this image Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.