Online store makes error in my favor - my responsibility

Suppose I order something from an online store, and when it arrives, rather than one item, I receive a case of 6 of the same item. Do I have a legal obligation to return the extras?

Let’s leave the ethical question out for now. For the record, let’s assume the store is not a small mom ‘n’ pop operation, but a large chain with brick and mortar locations across the country.


Unless it is a case of Fabergé eggs, if you call the retailer, they will probably tell you to keep them. I have recieved broken items, and they sent me a new one, and told me to keep the broken one. It’s just not worth it to process returns.

IANAL, but my understanding is that if someone sends you something you did not request, you have no obligation to return it or pay for it.
The fact that you requested that they send you something similar should not change that.
I would expect that it’s their mistake, and you are free to do what you will with the extra 5.


I’d say, legally, you’re in the clear for keeping them. But, then, I ain’t no legal type dude…

Well, Fabergé eggs not withstanding… I ordered a case of “Walnut shell” scouring pads from a restaurant supply store. (This pad is safe for non-stick surfaces, but I just use it for every day cleaning.) and they sent me Walnut shell scouring sponges.

I contacted them and told them that I did not want the sponges, just the scouring pads. They fold me that they shipped the wrong item, and they did not want to pay for the return shipping. They instructed me to destroy the item shipped in error and they would ship me the item I ordered.

I sent 1/2 of the sponges and 1/2 of the pads sent to me that I had actually ordered to my Mother-in-Law.

Guess who got a bunch of bonus points that year.

Almost makes up for “turning” her son Gay… Even though I’m far and away from the 1st man he’s been with…

Every bit with the M-I-L helps… Right?

You don’t need to return them. I don’t remember the name of the statute but I definitely learned it in Contracts a few weeks ago.

If true, there must be some sort of $ limit for this, as there have many cases of things like “bank errors in your favor” where the recipient had to pay back everything.

Being asked to destroy something seems rather “Dog in a manger”-ish, not to mention nigh on impossible to enforce.

“Unordered goods” on the Federal Trade Commission web site.

Isn’t the distinction between goods and money here? If someone accidentally sends you money, you have to give it back; if they send you goods, you don’t?

Everyone before you was just affectation.

Interestingly, the example that is closest to what’s asked about in the OP (unordered merchandise sent through a shipping error) advises you to contact the company and offer to return the goods if they pay for shipping and handling costs (and they’re supposed to be given 30 days to do so). The FTC doesn’t explicitly set out your legal responsiblity.

I recently ordered a relatively expensive multi-CD classical album. When it did not arrive from abroad after more than a month, I contacted the seller and they re-sent the item. Months later the original shipment turned up at my door (it apparently had been in some sort of weird postal limbo all that time). I told the seller I’d received it and offered to send it back if I was provided postage (they told me to mark the package “return to sender” and drop it back in the mail). No idea if U.S. mail was OK with this, but it’s out of my hands now.

May I ask why you’re only interested in the legality of not returning it, and not the ethics?

I ask, out of curiosity, as, were it me, I’d be more interested in the ethical thing rather than the legal thing.

For two reasons. 1) All ethical questions are fairly subjective and I don’t expect to learn anything I don’t already know from such a discussion, and 2) That would be Great Debate, or at least and IMHO and not a General Question.

or in IM(dis)HO.

tee hee