Can I keep unsolicited goods?

So the week before Easter, Michaela comes home from school with a note saying the children are going to be sitting for Spring photographs the following day. HUH? We already bought her fall school photos in October; since when do they do school pictures Twice per year? I asked about this at the school office, and was told that these are not “official” school photos (even though the uniform mandate is suspended for the day), but are rather being taken as a supplemental fund-raiser for the PTA. The school secretary gave me to understand that a sample of the photograph would be sent home later, and we could order what we wished.

I told them specifically not to send home the samples of Michaela‘s picture, because I already knew that I didn’t want to spend the money on it, and I’d prefer not to have her get attached to the picture and whine about not getting it. Unfortunately, the secretary said, that level of special handling could not be arranged, but I wasn’t to worry, because there was absolutely no obligation to buy anything.

So Michaela wears a nice red dress to school on the day in question, and sits for the picture. As advertised, there is no group shot of the class.

Well, this afternoon, Michaela brought home an envelope with the following items:
1 8X10 portrait
2 5X7 desk-sized portraits
a sheet of eight 2X3 wallets
a sheet of eighteen 1X1½ stickers
a “fun pack” consisting of Michaela’s face on four bookmarks, three property tags, and an ruler.

An invoice saying I owe them $41.00 if I want to keep the stuff.

This whole setup looks to me like they are sending the merchandise “on approval”, and I can either accept it and pay, or reject it and return the merchandise (at least in the vendor’s mind).

I’ve got another take on the situation, and it arises from my understanding of my legal rights when I have been sent unsolicited merchandise. That is, if a merchant sends goods to me without my asking him to, I am free to keep the goods without paying for them. So my questions are as follows:

  1. Did I ever have this particular legal right in California?
  2. Did it ever apply to hand-delivered items (as opposed to items received through the mails)?
  3. Does it still apply?

See, I’m inclined to view this as an unsolicited delivery of goods, rather than a contract to provide merchandise on approval, because I can’t see any action I took that could reasonably be construed as entering into a contract with this photography firm. All I did was put a red dress on my daughter. Her sitting for the photograph (absent any signed permission slip from her parents) can’t constitute an action that binds me contractually (she’s only five years old).

Any answers? I’m going to have to take my action by the end of the week.

[sub]And let’s make no mistake, here. The check or money order must be made out to the photography firm, not the PTA. In fact, no mention is made of the PTA on any of the accompanying materials. Maybe I’ll visit the pit later, about the whole PTA thing.[/sub]

If it says take it and pay or send oit back and don’t pay.

Send it back.

Lawyers cost more than photographs.

I had this happen to me, and before I got real cranked up about it, I would make very, very sure that Michaela hadn’t filled out a form, or signed up for something, that would have ordered these. Yes, I know she’s only five, but you’d be surprised how liberally a school official who’s interested in funding the PTA can interpret a five-year-old’s vague “I guess so” response to the question, “Does your daddy want to order these pictures?”

What I would do is, I would very calmly go down to the school and talk to either the school secretary or the principal and find out exactly how these pix came to be ordered. If all you get from them is the big brushoff, then I’d talk to the photographer, very calmly.

No, I would not try to simply keep the pictures, because I’ll betcha a nickel that they’ve got this procedure nailed, as they’ve been doing this for a long time, and sure as shootin’ they’ll have some kind of loophole, and they’ll stick you for the 41 bucks anyway.

This happened at our school, although it wasn’t presented as a “fundraising thing”, it was presented as a straight-out “more pictures” thing.

What I did, when my kid came home with pix I hadn’t ordered, was send them right back to school with the kid, with a note to the school “To Whom It May Concern, I did not order these, I do not want these”. To the great chagrin of my daughter, who thought she was going to have more pix to hand out to her friends.

Thanks, I guess I’ll start up a stink in the office tomorrow and see what that buys me.

Closer inspection of the re-order form reveals a phone number. Perhaps I’ll have a chat with a CRS tomorrow as well.

Of course, I meant a CSR.


Of course, you could always scan it onto your computer before you send them back.

In a just world, he’d get to keep the pictures and tell them to piss off. Sure, he can send the pictures back and tell them he doesn’t want them, but he shouldn’t be obligated to do that. What do they do if the 5-year-old kid loses the pictures on the way home? Send the collection agency after you, even though you don’t know what they’re talking about? Are the parents supposed to be liable for these morons handing 41 bucks worth of photos to a 5-year-old without an agreement?

I just thought of a great new scam called “would your daddy like a new car? It’s red and comes with ice cream!”

The law may be different over there from what we have in the UK, but over here, you are not obliged to buy or return unsolicited goods; you can either store them safely for a period of (I think) six months and keep them if the sender says nothing, or you can contact the sender and advise them that the goods will available for collection if he gives reasonable notice, or that you will return them if he pays P&P - in this case, you can set a reasonable deadline after which you assume he wants you to keep them.

Sorry if that isn’t too relevant.

I’d have thought that a hand delivery, that could reasonably be returned in the same manner, would need to be returned. If the photos are “lost” in transit (in either direction), well, you can’t be held responsible for their choice of agent :slight_smile: .

I certainly wouldn’t risk any legal action over $40 worth of photos that I didn’t want.

Perhaps the fact that you allowed your child to participate in the photography could be construed as consent to purchase or at least examine the pictures?

There’s a good chance that if your child doesn’t return either the money or the pictures, that the school will hold her final report card until the debt is paid.

I intended for “debt” to be in quotes.

IMHO, it sounds to me like you’re just trying to rip off the school/photographer. Why else did you dress your kid up in a “nice red dress” on photo day if you didn’t want any photos of her taken in it?

Keep them.

The USPS says unsolicited products are feebies.

(warning PDF)

Call the photographer and the school, tell them why you are going to keep them, and quote the above site.

They don’t have a leg to stand on.

(on preview) gingersnap why would she NOT dress her up. Would you want you kid to be the only child in a school photo dressed in jeans and a t-shirt?

That should be “freebies”.

And here I previewed and everthing!

The OP clearly stated “As advertised, there is no group shot of the class.” From that, it is logical to conclude that the kid was dressed up for her individual portrait.

In Ireland, like UK, if unsolicited goods arrive on your doorstep, they are yours if they are not called for after six months. You can’t do inertia sales here.

IANAL (and where are they anyway?), but I’d say no agreement equals no contract in this case. I suppose that an argument could be made that your handing out the prints after seeing the invoice will imply agreement, but if you just hold on to the prints or throw them away then you have done nothing to show you agreed to the terms as offered. IMHO, IANAL, YMMV, ETC…

In any case, no one will go to court for forty-one bucks though they may put it on your credit record. If that happens, then you should be able to send a letter to the credit reporting agency saying that you were charged for unwanted items.

That loophole may just be the law of averages. Few enough people keep the prints that they consider it an acceptable cost of doing business. The prints are made. What does it cost them if you throw them in your trash instead of returning them to the photographer’s trash can?

>> Keep them.
>> The USPS says unsolicited products are feebies.

Huh? Since when does the USPS hire five year olds to deliver mail? But you are right: in the event that the USPS hires five year olds to deliver the mail, unsolicited products are “feebies”

On the OP: it sounds to me like someone is trying to keep something she “doesn’t want”.