Did a Retailer Send You Something You Didn’t Order? You Can Keep It

amazon sent wrong item
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Have you ever ordered something from an online retailer, only to open the box to find something completely different? Or maybe you ordered one item, but the company sent you two or three?

Because you’re a good person (we’re assuming), your first instinct would be to return the item, right?

But in this case, you can actually keep whatever you were sent — it’s your right.

Consumerist posted this reminder after a reader submitted a question about how to deal with getting two iPads in the mail from Target. But since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) forbids a company billing a customer for something they didn’t order, the rule is pretty simple: If it’s the retailer’s mistake, you get to keep the item in question.

What If You Don’t Want the Thing You Received by Mistake?

If you hate clutter or the item the company sent you by mistake does not bring you joy, you can return it. The FTC says that’s legal as long as the merchant pays for the return shipping.

Otherwise, it’s all yours — to donate to charity (get a tax receipt!), give to a friend or even sell on eBay.

How Much Does This Really Happen?

I wondered if any of our 50 staffers had encountered this scenario before. And apparently, it happens more than you’d think!

I was surprised to see several confessions of the weird stuff people originally ordered — and what they really received. Below are six shining examples of finders, keepers.

More Lights!

“I ordered a light kit from B&H camera supply; they sent me two of the same kit a week apart. I offered to return it if they supplied the shipping but considering the size, they just told me to keep it. ”

-Michael House, video manager

An Extra Lazy Susan

“Crate & Barrel sent me two of the same Lazy Susan once in two separate shipments. I gave one to a friend.”

-Lizabeth Cole, director of media relations


“I once ordered rings online from Forever 21, and they also sent me men’s socks? Kept them, super comfy, just a little weird.”

-Kristy Gaunt, graphic design intern

More Shirts

“I received a pair of shirts when I ordered just one. I called the Amazon seller, and they said to keep it.”

-Justin Cupler, assistant editor (Author’s note: Office gossip revealed the shirt said “World’s Best Farter… I mean, Father,” therefore limiting the regifting options for this mistake.)

“I had a T-shirt subscription through Wired Magazine and they sent me two of the same shirt in separate packages. Apparently they did it to everyone, cause they sent out an email about it that was something like ‘Bet you were surprised when you got another shirt. We were too.’”

-Kelsey Buxton, Facebook advertising copywriter and creative designer

Dr. Who Gear

“I got a Dr. Who thing — a sonic screwdriver? — when I ordered a Christmas gift last year. They’d sent the wrong package. They ended up overnighting the correct item and letting me keep/regift the mistake.”

-Colleen Rice, email marketing specialist

Your Turn: Have you ever received an incorrect purchase by mail? What did you do with it?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder. She orders a lot of stuff online, but this has never happened to her.