So, you ordered a product on Amazon, got the order canceled and refunded, but the package still arrived at your doorstop.
What are you supposed to do now? What are your options? Did you even do anything wrong?
If you’ve gotten a refund but an Amazon package still arrived, wait for Amazon to contact you. For low value products, Amazon will usually swallow the loss and not bother you. For expensive products, either return it but demand Amazon pay the shipping, or negotiate a smaller inconvenience price.
0. Is it stealing if you keep an Amazon package after it was refunded?
If you’re like most people, probably the first question you had when the refunded Amazon package arrived at your doorstep was: “Am I in legal trouble? Did I accidentally steal a product from Amazon?”.
The answer to this question is a strong no. The legal situation you are currently in is called unjust enrichment and exists in most legal systems (US, UK, Europe, etc.).
Unjust enrichment happens when Person A (in this case, Amazon) gives a benefit to Person B (in this case, you as the customer) without Person A receiving the proper restitution required by law or contract.
In this case, you have become unjustly enriched because you received a product without fulfilling your side of the bargain, which is to pay the product’s price.
Unjust enrichment happens very frequently in the real world, but it’s a civil or contract law dispute, not a criminal one.
This is a primarily technology site, not a legal one, so we’re not qualified to go more in-depth into the legal nitty gritty.
However, just knowing about this basic concept will help you understand the legal rights you have as a customer of Amazon.
With that out of the way, here’s what you can do next with the refunded Amazon package:
1. Wait for Amazon or the Amazon Merchant to contact you
The most straightforward solution to your current problem is to simply do nothing and wait to be contacted.
After all, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s Amazon’s fault for mismanaging the delivery of the product.
If the products you ordered were of low value (usually below $80-100), then chances are nobody will bother contacting you.
This is because it’s cheaper for Amazon to swallow the losses than it is for them to actually collect the item, restock it, repackage it, etc.
However, you are much more likely to be contacted if the product you bought is more expensive (such as a $500 phone).
This is even more true if you bought a product from a merchant rather than Amazon itself (Amazon sells its own products through the Amazon Basics tag).
Merchants run their own stock and inventory, so they are much more sensitive to losses than Amazon. This means they will be much more proactive and try to resolve the situation.
If you do get contacted, you have two options:
- Pay for the product again, but try negotiating a lower price to account for the hassle.
- Return the product, but ask the merchant or Amazon customer rep to pay for shipping.
Whatever you do, don’t try to keep both the product and the money.
If they really want to, Amazon and/or the merchant absolutely have legal grounds to take you to court over this.
Will they do this? Probably not, but it’s neither ethical nor legal to try to keep a product you haven’t paid for.
2. If the product is broken, immediately try to return it
If the product(s) in the Amazon package are broken or doesn’t work as intended, then the best course of action is to return it as soon as possible.
This is because Amazon and the merchant can ask you for restitution months, or even years, after a situation of unjust enrichment.
In practical terms, this means you can end up losing both the product, and the money.
Here is how this can play out:
On day 1, you order a $500 smartphone. Delivery is running late, so you cancel the order and get a refund on day 7. On day 10, the smartphone arrives at your home despite the refund.
However, the smartphone arrives with a broken screen. Despite this, it’s still a free smartphone, so you decide to keep it and replace the screen with $200 of your own money. Overall, you’ve still come out ahead.
On day 150, Amazon and/or the merchant wake up from their slumber and say, “Hey, we just noticed we actually delivered the smartphone you ordered months ago; please pay the owed price.”
In this sort of situation, you have absolutely no wiggle room.
You can’t return the product anymore since it’s well outside Amazon’s 30-day return window.
You also can’t claim the product arrived broken and you fixed it, since this sort of thing isn’t covered by warranties.
The only thing you can do is pay the money you owe. In this situation, you end up paying $700 for a $500 smartphone, and on top of this, your warranty is void since you fixed the smartphone yourself.
3. Contact Amazon or the merchant yourself
As mentioned previously, both Amazon and the merchant can legally ask you for restitution months or even years after the fact. The exact time frame for this can vary on a state-by-state or country-by-country basis.
If you don’t want this situation to hang over your head for such a long time, then contact Amazon yourself and ask how you can resolve it.
For smaller priced items, Amazon will almost always tell you to just keep the product and not worry about it.
This is partly because Amazon will try to keep you happy as a customer.
More importantly, however, it’s not worth it for Amazon to pay the shipping costs to collect the package, restock it, and then ship it again to another customer.
4. Useful negotiation tips
If it comes to the point where you have to negotiate with the Amazon customer rep or merchant, here are a few things to consider:
- Always demand they pay for shipping
Whatever the situation, always ask Amazon to cover the shipping costs of the product.
This is based on the simple, common-sense principle that whoever makes a mistake must pay for the consequences.
In this case, it was Amazon’s mistake to deliver a product when the order was refunded.
As an added bonus, insisting on Amazon paying the shipping costs will increase the chances of them gifting you the products altogether since it’s not economically feasible for them to recover them.
- Amazon insures merchants for the products price
If you bought from a small merchant, it’s possible you might feel guilty that you ripped them off of both product and money.
Fortunately, Amazon has an insurance policy for merchants on its platform called Safe-T. This policy is specifically designed to ensure that costs for refunds and shipping failures are paid for by Amazon, and not the merchant.
Amazon can afford this policy simply because they impose huge fees on merchants in exchange for the right to sell on Amazon.
- Amazon even has a “returnless refund policy”
This policy does exactly what you think it does: a customer can get a refund and keep the product at the same time.
This policy is mostly designed for sellers on Amazon rather than actual customers, but the policy does exist and is a real feature.
As mentioned previously, sometimes its just not worth it for Amazon to pay for a product to be returned. As a result, they’ve even created a policy of sorts to cover such situations.
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