My Mom Ordered One iPad And Best Buy Sent Five

Image courtesy of The box of iPads.
The box of iPads.

The box of iPads.

Alexa’s boyfriend got an iPad for Christmas from his mother. Well, that’s not quite true. His mother ordered one iPad, and had it shipped to him. What arrived on their doorstep was a very large and heavy box that was big enough to hold five iPads. Because it did.

Update: It happened again, to another reader.

At the core of this story is an ethical dilemma. Best Buy wasn’t calling Alexa’s boyfriend or his mother to find out where the iPads had gone. The average customer service call-center rep probably doesn’t have instructions for this situation in their binder of scripts. Alexa sent off an e-mail, but received no response.

Let’s stop the story here for a moment, Choose Your Own Adventure-style, and ask: what would you have done?

Now, then: here’s the original message that Alexa sent to Consumerist. We wrote back and asked for the photos, because a story this wacky requires visual proof.

Got a fun story and ethical question for you. My boyfriend’s mom bought him an iPad from Best Buy for Christmas. It arrived at our apartment yesterday evening in a rather large, heavy box. We opened it and, to our surprise, there were five iPads in the box. We checked the Best Buy invoice on top of the package and it said “Quantity: 1,” but the box itself clearly states “Quantity: 5.”


There’s the invoice.


For a while we just sat there shocked, not knowing what to do. It’s not every day five iPads show up. We called his mom to make sure she wasn’t charged for five; she wasn’t. It looked to us as though whoever was fulfilling this package simply slapped our shipping label on the wrong box.


What do we do? What would most people do? We did some Internet research and came up with a lot of instances of people notifying companies and those companies thanking them, giving them gift cards, etc. But we couldn’t find an instance where the wrong product was such an expensive item and with such a large quantity.

Eventually we found a document from the FTC that said if an incorrect package was shipped to you, you can consider it a gift. Is this true? Can we keep these five iPads?

That’s true. Legally, anything that is shipped to your home is yours to keep. This is in order to prevent companies from shipping you merchandise that you never asked for, then hounding you for the money. So they’d be well within their rights to keep or sell the iPads, or even hit them with sledgehammers if that’s what they feel like doing.

Even if you think that taking from a big-box store and giving to a Consumerist reader is a net good, what if someone at the Best Buy warehouse is eventually held responsible for the four missing iPads? Could you use them or count your stacks of cash without feeling guilty?

We contacted Best Buy’s media hotline, without passing on any names or contact information, to see what they had to say about Alexa’s dilemma. They wanted to talk to her, so we connected them. That’s where things turn downright heartwarming. Alexa forwarded the email that someone from Best Buy’s social media team had sent her.

Good afternoon, Alexa –

Laura, from the Consumerist, contacted us here at Best Buy on your behalf. First and foremost, I wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your honesty. That is so rare in this day and age and I sincerely thank you!

We, here at Best Buy, acknowledge that we obviously made a mistake, but in the spirit of the holidays, we encourage you to keep the additional iPads and give them to people in need – friends, family, a local school or charity.

I have not shared this resolution with Laura, as you are the customer, but it is up to you if want to let her know the outcome of your discussion.

Thank you so very much for coming forward and I hope your boyfriend enjoys his new iPad. Merry Christmas!

Sure, it probably helps that the eyes of Consumerist’s readership were on Best Buy here, but this was a solution where everyone wins. Best Buy looks generous, nobody gets fired (we hope), Alexa’s conscience gets to rest, we get to post wacky photos of a huge retail screwup, and someone out there will get bonus iPads.

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