WWYD: A Delivery Meant for Someone Else

In this installment of “What Would You Do,” receiving a package meant for a previous tenant:

About a month after I moved into my last apartment, I received a large-ish, heavy package addressed to the previous tenant. I knew the apartment had been empty for at least a month before I moved in, because they had done significant renovations. The package came from JCPenny, not from a personal address. I had no way to contact the previous tenant (though looking back, I suppose I could have asked the property management company), so I just held on to the package, assuming the tenant would contact me when they didn’t get their package.

After about two months with no word, my boyfriend convinced me to just open it already. The box inside was gift wrapped! With a pre-printed card congratulating them on their marriage! We felt terrible, but having gone that far, we figured there was nothing left to do but unwrap it. It was a slow cooker. We have yet to use it. — Jessica

Boy, there are certainly a lot of shipping mishaps happening to us!

I can tell you exactly what I would do in this situation because I’ve also received a package meant for a previous tenant. This happened a few years ago when I was living with a roommate in Queens.

The package left on my doorstep was pretty large and heavy—it was rectangular, and the size of an arm span. My landlord dropped by the apartment pretty often to do maintenance work, and when I asked about the previous tenant, he shrugged and said he didn’t know what happened to him. The previous tenant’s name looked unique enough that I might be able to do some Google investigating, but when the results were displayed, it became clear to me that the tenant’s name wasn’t as unique as I thought it was. So I wrote “return to sender” on the package and left it for USPS to pick up. A month later, the package was returned to us with a note on it in big black sharpie letters:

Sender no longer exists, it read.

The package sat in our living room for a full year. It was big, so we tried to put it behind our couch. We figured that the previous tenant would eventually get in touch with us about the package, but we never heard from him. We opened it, and inside was a keyboard. When my roommate and I moved our separate ways, neither of us wanted to take the keyboard with us. We asked the new tenant if he wanted it, and he said he did. We imagined the keyboard would be in that apartment forever, passed on to each new tenant until it met it’s true owner one day who’d appreciate the heck out of it.

Or the tenant we gave it to sold it, which is more probable.


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.



22 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

Use the slow cooker or give it to me!! It’s not doing anyone good sitting there unused, it might as well be put to use.

littleoaks (#1,801)

Maybe this an absurdly rosy view of department store customer service, but what about contacting Penney’s? You’d hope they could they could have you return the package, then they could refund the gift-givers so they could re-order and re-send to the right address.

Spinach Party (#253)

@littleoaks This seems like it could be possible since it most likely came from a wedding registry and the gift-givers’ and gift-givees’ names may all attached to the package?

In my head I imagine some unspoken-resentful rift growing between the newly married couple and the gift givers. They are both respectively miffed because they never received a gift and/or thank you note. But I am also a weirdo.

KatNotCat (#766)

@littleoaks I don’t think that’s overly rosy, it’s really realistic. Honestly to me it’s a little weird not to contact the shipping company or store immediately and send it back. It just seems extremely obvious.

Chel (#2,960)

I received a package about a month after moving into my apartment. I opened it without looking at the label since I was expecting something myself. It was a pair of men’s pants. Not new, no note. I asked the landlord about the name on the package, it wasn’t anyone he knew, so maybe a roommate of the previous tenant. I called UPS and they came to pick it up at my office and send it back.

Baumer (#2,961)

This happened to me! About 6 months after I moved in, I got a package addressed to a former tenant from a CANDY COMPANY. The conversation about what to do went like this:

Me: I should send this back, right?
Friend A: Well, if it’s perishable or something, they probably won’t want it back. You should just contact their customer service.
Me: Right, let me just google this company to find their info…

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Baumer Because it’s not yours? How would Friend B feel if someone ate his candy?

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@Baumer Yeah, your Friend B is kind of a shitty person.

I’ve accidentally had two things sent to a previous address (this is why you should make sure you change your Paypal address, because it overrides the shipping address you give online retailers, apparently). I’d return it to the retailer, if there was one. They should be able to get the owner’s phone number from the order number.

The first package of mine that went to my old address was small, so the new tenant got and kept it. The second was big enough the post office held on to it, and since the tenant didn’t have ID with my name on it, they weren’t able to get it and I could have a friend in that city pick it up for me.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

Why didn’t you send it back to JC Penneys? Or take it to the post office, hand it to someone who works there and say “Here. This isn’t ours. Thanks”?

sunflowernut (#1,638)

You give it to your postal person or take it to the UPS store, explain the situation, and let them handle it (aka send it back with the correct return to sender stamps/stickers on the box). I’m sure it’s against policy (maybe even illegal) for your landlord/property management company to give out your information to whoever used to live there, so I don’t know what the letter write was expecting: the old tenant to write them a letter? I know I’m being kind of harsh about this, but I just don’t understand. Not at least attempting to send the package back seems the equivalent of stealing. Lazy, thoughtless stealing, but still stealing.

KatNotCat (#766)

@sunflowernut I felt a little harsh in my response to, but this is the second or third WWYD where I’m amazed that there is even a question of what to do.

julnyes (#2,807)

WWID? I’d call JCP and return the package. I don’t understand why that wasn’t your first, second or even third reaction.

RosemaryF (#345)

At my old place we had a giant delivery of steaks from the Omaha Steak company. We called them and explained that the previous tenants moved and Omaha Steak realized they had shipped it to an old address and told us to keep the GIANT BOX OF STEAKS because food can’t be returned.

All that to say, call the damn company that shipped it. Don’t worry about the receiver, contact the shipper. It was their mistake.

noralo (#581)

I would never go through the trouble of contacting a department store or other big box to trace a package. Presumably when someone didn’t receive their package they called the store themselves and had it resent, or if it was a gift, the sender would have realized eventually the gift was never received and THEY would have called the store to complain. Those stores have big customer service departments designed to placate people in just such a situation.

I received a package to the wrong address last summer, and tracked down the workplace of the person it was addressed to, and left a message asking her to call me back to get her package. After the weekend when I still hadn’t heard from her, I looked at the box again and realized it was from a flower company and her package was probably already dead. I opened it to water it for her in case she came to claim it and it turned out to be a neatly groomed rosemary “tree”, but yeah, it was pretty much already dead. And she never called me back.

littleoaks (#1,801)

@noralo A gift-giver or gift-recipient might realize a gift in transit never got there, but with a wedding present like this? I can’t imagine either party–unless they’re BFFs–checking up on each other to find out “Where’s my present?” or “Didn’t you get my present?”

I ALSO received a slow cooker from JC Penney’s by mistake about a year and a half ago. I also figured it was ordered for or by the previous tenant, who I had no contact information for, so I called Penney’s and asked what I should do. They said just mail it back or return it to a store. I picked option B (after the gigantic box sat in my apartment for about three weeks).

blueblazes (#1,798)

Please call JCP.

There was a fairly large/expensive gift on our Target registry that was marked as claimed/purchased. We never received the gift, so about a month after the wedding, I got in touch with Target customer service. Not because I really needed the gift, but because I knew that some friend of the family had shelled out a couple hundred bucks and was probably quietly resenting the lack of a thank you note.

But here’s the thing, Target would not divulge either who bought the item or where it had been shipped. (Even though I’m the one who created the registry. REALLY ODD.)

So after about a week back and forth with customer service, I just gave up on ever knowing. Hopefully whoever bought us that gift has long-since forgiven us. And whoever received a super-nice gift at one of my former residences: You’re Welcome.

kate@twitter (#2,935)

Amazon accidentally defaulted to my old address in Brooklyn and sent my mom’s Christmas present there. I googled the address (a multi-family building with an attached natural grocery when I lived there) and found that it is now the Spanish American Association of Brooklyn. I’ve called the number a few times trying to figure out if they can return the package, but not only is there no answer, but also no voicemail. Weird. I ended up re-purchasing the present from a physical store.

kellyography (#250)

This happened to me a couple times with a former roommate of mine. I guess she hadn’t changed her shipping address online anywhere, and the email address I had for her was out of commission. I just contacted the shipping company, told them the issue, and they contacted her about it. She then contacted me and came to pick up her packages. Even if it were a stranger, I would always try to contact the shipping company or the recipient. Unless all other avenues have been explored, I would never even think to open and keep a package that wasn’t mine.

Xandra (#2,970)

I have two stories!

1.We once received a Fedex package from Direct TV, addressed to a previous occupant of our apartment. I went out of my way to track this dude down – found his phone number, left messages, tried to get both Direct TV and Fedex to do something about it, no dice. The box sat unclaimed in our living room for three months, when I finally decided to crack it open and discovered that I had been housing an empty box that contained styrofoam chips and instructions for using said box to ship your receiver back to Direct TV.

2. My landlord’s elderly parents lived in our apartment before we did, and they apparently used to donate to a lot of Jewish, faith-based charities because we got mail from these organizations ALL THE TIME. One day, sometime around Purim, we got a package addressed to our landlord’s parents from one of these groups. We repeatedly asked the landlord to pick it up, and he never responded (typical behavior for this guy), so weeks later, we opened the box and discovered it was full of kosher candy and snacks that we assume were supposed to be for Purim, and so we had a feast!

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