Consumer Protection

How to Protect Yourself: Unordered Merchandise

Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

You may occasionally receive a product or sample through the mail, despite having never ordered that merchandise. Should you receive something you did not order, consider the following:

What are your rights and obligations?

You have a legal right to consider it a free gift if a seller sends you any merchandise you did not order. You are not required to return it and may keep it if you wish.

You have no obligation to notify the seller that you will keep the merchandise, but sending a letter stating your intention to keep the shipment as a free gift is an advisable precaution, which will help you establish later, if necessary, that you did not order the merchandise. You may wish to send the letter by certified mail and keep the return receipt and a copy of the letter. If you ever receive a bill or a letter saying you owe money for unordered merchandise, you can use the same approach, stating in your letter to the company that you never ordered the merchandise and therefore have a legal right to keep it for free.

If you believe that the unordered merchandise is the result of an honest shipping error, contact the seller and offer to return the merchandise provided the seller pays for postage and handling. Give the seller a specific and reasonable amount of time, perhaps 30 days, in which to pick up the merchandise or arrange to have it returned at no expense to you. Inform the seller that after the specified period of time, you reserve the right to keep the merchandise or to dispose of it as you wish.

Companies may send merchandise to you that you have not ordered if the merchandise is a free sample and marked as such.

Address labels, decorative stamps and other merchandise mailed by charitable organizations asking for contributions may also legally be sent to you without your prior order. In either case, you may keep such shipments as free gifts.

Be wary of signing up to receive “free” merchandise.

Be especially cautious when you are participating in sweepstakes or ordering goods advertised as "free," or "trial" or at an unusually low price.

Read the fine print to determine if you will be required to make purchases in the future, or to notify the shipper that you do not wish to purchase the merchandise or continue with the "trial" arrangement. Keep a record of each product you agree to receive on a "free" or "trial" basis, and what your obligations are by doing so.

If you are having difficulty dealing with unordered merchandise problems, attempt to resolve the problem with the company. Document the interactions you have with the company, as you may find these records helpful later. If you are unsuccessful, you may contact your local U.S. Postal Inspector by using their locator service online at You may be able to adjust the unsolicited mail you receive by registering with Direct Marketing Association Choice program at

File a complaint.

If you are unable to resolve a complaint with the company, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at or by phone toll-free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Additionally, you may wish to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau online at as well as the U.S. Postal Inspector online at