Amazon Marketplace Seller Bombards Me With Free Textbooks

Earlier this month, Tom ordered a microbiology textbook from the Amazon Marketplace. It arrived in the mail later that week, and everything was fine. Then he received another copy of the book the next day. Then a third, and a fourth. All of the books were identical, and his credit card was only charged for the first one. What was going on here? More importantly, what was he supposed to do with the extra textbooks?

Maybe more will keep coming, and he can build a fort. Tom writes:

Short version: I ordered one textbook from, and have thus far received 3 extra copies of the book, all from different sellers. I don’t know what to do with these extra books.

Long version: On November 6 I ordered a Microbiology textbook from the Amazon Marketplace for $58. It arrived as expected on (I believe) November 11, transaction completed.

The next day, though, the mailman delivered a second copy of the same book, from a different address. The invoice was from and contained an order number and the sellers e-mail address. My credit card was only charged once, for the original Amazon purchase.

I e-mailed the seller, wanting to work out a way to send them back their book and be sure that I wasn’t going to be charged.


Within a day they had responded with an e-mail that said: “It appears that the buyer you bought the book from on is most likely a drop shipper. Basically they do not carry any physical inventory they just sell an item at a slightly higher margin and then find a store, such as ours, that sells the book for less to fill the order.”

They go on to explain that the double order was the drop shippers fault, that they’ve been paid for the transaction and that I can keep the book.

So, OK, through some human error I got two books for the price of one. They said I could keep it, so I guess I’ll sell it.

But more books keep arriving! Since the second book, two more have arrived. And these ones don’t have invoices with contact information, there are just hand written return addresses. I’d like to be able to contact these people and return their stuff, but I’m certainly not going to pay the return shipping for someone else’s mistake.

I spoke with Amazon on the phone, they confirm that I only ordered one book and was only charged one time. So my concern is what to do with these books. Like I said, I’d be willing to return them. But I’m not going to pay, and since I can’t get in touch with the people who sent the book, I can’t get them to either.

So is it OK to go ahead and sell the books?

Yes. Finders keepers is the law of the land. No, really, if you don’t believe us, listen to the US Postal Inspection Service. The law is intended for charity schemes where you receive trinkets in the mail and are asked do donate, but fits situations like this, too. Someone on Amazon is clearly running the least profitable drop-shipping enterprise ever.

This happened to me a few years ago–I ordered a used textbook from an Amazon sellers, and also received a book about dogs that I hadn’t ordered. It’s the kind of book I would have purchased, which made the whole thing confusing at first. I thought maybe I had ordered it in some kind of book-crazed daze, or it was a gift. It wasn’t.

If you feel guilty, sell them to classmates you don’t hate at a reduced rate, then donate some of the money to charity.

Receipt of Unsolicited Merchandise [United States Postal Inspection Service]