Legal Q: Can I keep it?

If I do not order an item but someone ships it to me anyway, can they bill me for it? I know that with USPS mail it is (or was) the law that if you sent something to me I had not agreed to buy, I could keep it with no obligation to pay for it (My dad once used this when a record club kept sending him stuff after he cancelled his membership). I don’t, however, know if the law still works that way or if it applies to UPS or Fedex shipments.

Also, the background context for this would be some idiot shipping me an expensive item and trying to bill me for it without me agreeing to anything. I haven’t agreed to anything like a record club, and it’s not a simple error (like I ordered two and they sent three by mistake). This was prompted by a threat from some TM scum in one of the telemarketing threads in the pit.

Kevin Allegood,

“At least one could get something through Trotsky’s skull.”

  • Joseph Michael Bay

Short answer: if something is sent to you without your request, you’re not obligated to pay for it. That being said, you can’t get away with just kicking back and raking in the free CDs. With BMG and the like, you’ve agreed, in joining their club, to pay for their shipments unless you tell them you don’t want whatever they’re sending that month. You’ve contracted to pay before they shipped.

Here’s my favorite story about unsolicited stuff in the mail, from The Buffalo Creek Disaster by Gerald M. Stern. I’m paraphrasing, but here’s the gist:

A man went to a lawyer for advice. A company had, without his request, sent him three ties in the mail, along with a bill for $5. He didn’t want to pay for them, but he did want to keep the ties.

The lawyer sent back a pill, along with a letter stating, “Thank you for the ties. Enclosed find a pill that comes highly recommended by our local doctor for curing a wide variety of maladies. He charges $7 for this pill. Please send us $2, the cost of the pill minus the cost of the ties.”

The company sent the pill back, along with a stern letter demanding $5 for the ties. The lawyer then sent another letter saying, “We’re sorry you didn’t want to try the pill. The doctor had to go to the post office to pick up the returned pill. This constitutes a house call, for which the doctor charges $10. Please send $5, the value of the house call minus the cost of the ties.”

Apparently, they got the hint; they never heard from that company again.

You can prob keep the stuff, but I advise you send a certified letter informing them you did not order or want the items, and offering to return them, IF they pay return postage, plus “handling”* plus storage fees*. Unless the items are real expensive, they will have to pay more to get them back, then letting you keep them.

*$10 is good *depends on size, but you could ask for $10/day w/o being unreasonable.

According to what I’ve heard and read, if someone/some corporation sends you something by mail or UPS or FedEx that you did not request, it’s a gift. Years ago something like that happened to me. When I was in college, I received a Playboy Club card in the mail (am I dating myself here?) and my letter back to them said they could send me a pre-addressed return envelope and I’d send it back, but the closest I’d ever come to paying for it was to buy Hef a beer next time he was in town. Never heard from them again.
I found an article on the website about unsolicited things shipped to you that I’m basically parroting here…

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!