Costco Saves Christmas… In July

Thanks to Costco, Jen Sanderford’s family was joyfully reunited with a box full of presents that had been stolen from their porch last Christmas.

Here’s what happened: Sue Schriener shipped a Novaform mattress topper box full of gifts to her friend Jen via FedEx. FedEx left the gifts on Jen’s porch, where they were snatched by the Grinch’s little helpers, who returned the box to Costco for $170. Costco recently sold the box to a customer who was startled to find Christmas gifts instead of a Novaform mattress cover. The customer returned the box, and Costco was able to piece together what happened.

“We were able to track down through our system where it was purchased,” Lokken said of the box.

Schriener, the Sanderfords’ longtime friend and giver of the purloined presents, effusively praised Costco and the Gig Harbor store manager for their diligence in the escapade.

The store and its employees “did such a nice thing,” she said. “They could’ve just thrown it (the gifts) in the garbage.” The manager, she said, offered to expedite shipping the gifts back to her at Costco’s cost.

“Six months goes by and then our family friend called from Vancouver,” Jen Sanderford said. “She said, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’”

The Sanderfords – 32-year-old Jen, 35-year-old Corey, toddler Evan and 2-month-old Emily – were on vacation in Texas when they got the news.

This time, Costco’s legendary return policy had a reverse twist. The huge corporation headquartered in Issaquah was the party making the return.

“We went over there (to the Gig Harbor store) as soon as we got off the airplane,” Jen Sanderford said.

“I’m not sure how it happened, but Costco did an amazing job in tracking it down.”

Great work, Costco!

Summertime Santa: Family’s stolen gifts returned [The News Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. PsychoKoala says:

    I myself love Costco, and this is a heartwarming story, but does it strike anyone else as odd that they would just blindly re-sell a customer return without even checking the contents first?

  2. humphrmi says:

    That’s great. It could only be better if they could track down who returned the mattress topper and give them a little “grinch” in July.

  3. cotr says:

    the took back a mattress we bought from them over a year ago without any questions.

  4. morganlh85 says:

    You think they would at least look in the box to make sure SOMETHING was in there to return.

  5. feralparakeet says:

    This is why I love Costco. Not as swift as you’d hope, but it happened. Bravo.

  6. pmcpa2 says:

    They might be able to do a little tracking… Normally all costco returns are linked to your member number, so they might know who it is.

  7. Meathamper says:

    Costco doing well? Just kidding. I like Costco too, they go above and beyond in the store where I live. I don’t want to milk the phrase anymore, but it’s the bad apples that give them their reputation.

  8. afrix says:

    Clearly this is the OP’s fault.

    1) Stuff random gifts into a large box that has nothing to do with the gifts.

    2) Leave it on your porch.

    3) ?????

    4) Profit!

  9. Triterion says:

    I wish all stores could track things down in “their system”… (I’m looking at you Target!)

  10. itsgene says:

    While this is a great story of Costco’s fantastic employees going above and beyond, I still have to wonder: does Costco simply accept a return without checking to see what is in the box? Isn’t this the sort of thing that leads to people buying rocks in iPod boxes?

  11. @itsgene: Let’s also add that the box had been resealed, had a FedEx label slapped on it, shipped across the country, returned to Costco with no questions ask (with nobody, not even the thief, looking inside the box), and resold.

    Remind me to start buying hard drives and iPods at Costco.

  12. The_IT_Crone says:

    @itsgene: Agreed.

    I think this looks unfavorably on Costco. This is just a happier-ending version of the “rocks in an electronics box” that we occasionally hear of someone purchasing.

  13. ChootinDaChit says:

    Okay, Consumerist is obviously slipping. When I come here, I expect to be able to place BLAME on somebody!

    Seriously, though, that was outstanding customer service by Costco. Makes me glad that that I am such a huge customer of theirs. They probably end up getting most of my disposable income, between food, clothing, and entertainment purchases.

  14. Lesson #2: don’t ship in boxes that look like they contain valuable contents. I’m not blaming them—I don’t think I would have thought twice about using the mattress topper box—but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. That Dell box may be a convenient size, but do not give in to temptation…

  15. scerwup says:

    Good job Costco

  16. fjordtjie says:

    @Michael Belisle: what if you wrap the box in shipping paper? I don’t think I’ve ever sent anything with a brand label on it.

    What kind of return policy does costco have if they’ll accept a return of an item that’s very likely damaged (I don’t think the box looked exactly like new, having been shipped somewhere already) and doesn’t check the contents. and the thief must be an even bigger moron! how funny would it have been if costco had opened the box!

  17. coren says:

    I think this is a doubly good reason to shop at Costco, to be honest. There’s the obvious above and beyond service these folks received (and sure it’s slow – who other than the jerk who stole the presents knew Costco had the box?), but also their incredibly generous returns policy.

  18. huadpe says:

    Even if the CSR who took the return fouled it up, Costco as an institution has a generally favourable policy and people working to execute it, so that one error was able to be remedied by the system as a whole.

  19. The_IT_Crone says:

    @Michael Belisle: When I absolutely have to ship something in a branded box, I take a marker and scribble out all of the words/labels. Even if it still is readable, it shows that the box is being reused and not a reflection of the original contents.

  20. Tmoney02 says:

    Great story though my first thought, and it seems others have thought this as well, is did they send the police after the crooks? I assume that you can only return things with your member number. I guess the problem is that if multiple people returned that same product, you cant be sure which person returned the stolen box. Still would be an awesome story if the thieves got caught!

  21. LordofthePing says:

    1. How was Costco able to track down the Sanderfords, wouldn’t its bar code be the same as all other identical mattresses?
    2. As everyone pointed out, why didn’t they look in the box?

    3. Well done Costco!

  22. illtron says:

    @morganlh85: If you’ve ever seen those mattress toppers, they basically come jammed into a really small box. The box was probably packed tight full of these presents. I’m surprised they managed to pack it so tight that it wouldn’t rattle at all, because it’s basically supposed to be a box full of dense compressed foam.

    Either way, it was probably pretty obvious that *something* was in the box.


    Who knows. It was probably returned around Christmas, and they were probably swamped with a million other things to do.

    @Tmoney02: Well with Costco, it’s probably pretty easy to narrow it down. First, you’re looking for Costco customers, so you’re limiting yourself right there. It’s an unusual item to try to return. It’s not like it’s something they deal in super high volumes of.

    Now, it’s also possible that the thief was smart and they sat on it for a few months before returning it, which might explain why the box was resold recently. Then again, all they need to do is look up who returned these at this store and you’ve narrowed the list considerably. Since it’s one of those things they probably don’t sell a ton of, and it’s pretty unlikely to be returned, it’s possible they’ve had only a few returns. Maybe even just this one.

    I’m willing to bet they could get the guy who did this, if they choose to pursue it. I hope to hear more about this. I’m confident they could get the thief.

  23. masterthundar says:

    I must say, I am impressed that Costco was even able to track down the family…however, I do agree that the return policy must be atrocious; I wonder if the store’s policy is “don’t ask, don’t tell (us if there’s anything in the box”

  24. waitaminute says:

    It should be easy for Costco to find the thief in this case… every item you purchase is kept on record, as a part of your membership profile. Every return you make is also kept on your member profile record. When you return an item that was not purchased with your membership number, it is recorded as a “negative return”.

    It is very easy for Costco to query their system for all the “Memory Foam Mattresses” that were “negative returns” at a given store on a given date. Book ’em, Dan-o!

  25. GC says:

    This is a pretty awesome story. Costco really is the Anti-Walmart in so many ways.

  26. papahoth says:

    And their CEO is a Democrat. But who will replace him when he retires in the not too distant future?

  27. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Way to go, Costco!

    It’d be funny if the FedEx employee made the bogus return.

  28. crankymediaguy says:

    I blame the OP for having a porch for FedEx to leave the package on in the first place.

  29. Snarkysnake says:

    I’m a bail bondsman. Whenever I have some low life asshole in jail for breaking in and stealing presents around that time of year, I leave their sorry ass in jail and use every means at my disposal to make sure that the theiving bastards spend Christmas day in the stir.This is why. Mostly,it is drug addicts that do this stuff. They ruin a family’s holiday so that they can get high for like,24 hours or so.

    It does my heart good to hear one of these stories have a happy ending for a change…

  30. jchabotte says:

    Welcome to Costco, I love you.

  31. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    I really wish there was a Costco around me. My only choice is Sam’s Club.

  32. Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

    @fjordtjie: I agree. When I sold my iBook, part of the deal was that the new owner would receive it in its original box (I keep EVERYTHING like that). So I packed it up just how I received it from Apple – back into the obvious white box with a laptop on it, but also wrapped in nondescript brown shipping paper.

    When I got in touch with the buyer once I saw it was successfully delivered, she said she was glad I thought to wrap the box, since it sat on her doorstep for a good 3hrs before she realized it was sitting there. Why the FedEx guy didn’t get her signature when he was supposed to is beyond me…

  33. GearheadGeek says:

    Costco does lots of little “above and beyond” stuff. A couple of years ago I bought a nice set of stainless mixing bowls with black rubber bases so they don’t slide around on the counter while you’re using them and don’t clang every time you put them down.

    I must have left them in the basket when I was loading my car… I got home with everything but the bowls. It was right at Costco’s closing time on Saturday when I called to ask if I’d perhaps left the bowls at the register or if they’d been found in the cart. I spoke to a guy who looked in the “dumb customer left their merchandise” area and didn’t find a box of these bowls, but he gave me his name and asked me to bring the receipt in on Sunday. I spoke with him on Sunday, he looked at the receipt, asked me to get another package of the bowls and come back to the service desk, walked me out the door with my original receipt and the new bowls and thanked me for my business. Needless to say, they still HAVE my business and will have for as long as I live near one and they maintain an exemplary level of service and value.

  34. Shaftoe says:

    Yet another reason why I am so proud to be an employee of Costco

  35. RockStarr says:

    @Shaftoe: Myself as well. And I am sure Costco has found the “culprit” already.

  36. Arkley says:

    @itsgene: Actually, for the most part they do.

    I work at a Costco in Canada and some of the stuff returned is ridiculous. Like the XBOX 360 box that was returned with two 1970 physics textbooks inside, the member said that “it came like that”, so the store accepted the return.

    And most likely, those people who return their ipods with rocks inside, are usually the ones taking advantage of the return policy. Everything returned goes to the RTV area where employess have to open it, and check the serial number, then see if they have to return it to the Vendor or put it out for sale.

  37. Uh, does Costco not require receipts?

  38. ZukeZuke says:

    Costco rules in customer service. I’m always confident buying something new from them, especially electronics, because of their excellent return policy.

    I just wish people would stop abusing it, which eventually forced them to institute the 90-day return policy on TVs/computers.

  39. Emerald_City_Resident says:

    Has anyone considered the possibility the thieves had an “in” at the Costco which processed the returned item? While the idea may be far fetched it’s certainly something that Costco could have asked to be “selectively” left out of the story.