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The recipient moved and didn't notify us. He moved 1 mile away. Our tracking number showed delivery to his former address. The person said he went back and the new tenants said they didn't have it. We shipped another unit to the person. He received it. The person said he then "convinced and persuaded" the new tenants to give him the package. He now wants a "reward" for getting the package back. We asked him to ship the "found" package back and he did. He persists in getting a "reward" for getting the package back from the tenants. Legally, what should we do?

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    "What should we do?" or "What are we legally obliged to do?" The former is off-topic and may be illegal to answer. – Tim Lymington Apr 26 '18 at 12:49
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This post is tagged "fraud", but it doesn't appear to me that there is any fair indication of fraud in this situation. There is no indication that the customer tried to have the first package delivered to the wrong address. There is also no indication that it was the customer, rather than the new resident of the former address, who was not straight forward in their first communications with each other regarding the first package. And, the customer didn't try to keep the first package for himself.

So, this is not even remotely a case of fraud.

The issue seems to be that the customer feels entitled to compensation for benefiting you (a benefit you accepted) by taking efforts that he had no obligation to engage in, in order to cause the first package to be returned to you, on basically a theory of unjust enrichment.

There is a colorable argument that the customer is entitled to whatever he spent to mail the first package back to you and some nominal amount for his effort in doing so.

In the law of unjust enrichment, if someone does work with a reasonable expectation of getting paid, in the absence of a contractual agreement, and you allow that person to proceed with working and accept the benefit of his work, he is entitled to the fair market value of his efforts.

The classic case is that of a house painter who paints your house, rather than the house of a neighbor with whom he actually had a contract, by mistake. In that situation, if you know he is mistaken but allow him to paint your house anyway without objection, you have to pay him for doing so, even in the absence of an agreement to do so.

The reason that the customer's claim is only colorable, rather than clear, in this case, is that it isn't obvious that the customer had a reasonable expectation that he would be paid or rewarded for his efforts to get the first package returned to you. He clearly did have that expectation, but it isn't obvious that his expectation was reasonable under the circumstances.

Most likely, he would not prevail in a lawsuit against you for a reward and would not even try to bring one unless the first package was extremely valuable (if he managed to cause a $10,000 item to be returned to you the case "feels" different than if he managed to cause a $100 item to be returned to you).

But, while he is unlikely to sue you, so you could just say "no", he did do you a good turn and clearly would be quite upset if you said "no", which could lead to be reviews and/or publicity about your business. So, to preserve your reputation, you might want to pay him a reward equal to any cost he incurred to ship the first package back to you and some nominal amount of money relative to his efforts and your benefit from his actions.

This would maintain goodwill, the amount of money involved would be tiny in the larger scheme of things, it isn't likely to bind you to major expenses in the future, and to the extent anyone learns about it, it would encourage future customers to take action that leaves you better off than it they did nothing as the customer could have done.

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    Alternatively, a store credit reward would cost the vendor less than a cash reward. – Dale M Apr 26 '18 at 21:01
  • @DaleM A great idea as a practical matter and one that would often be utilized in this situation and serves the twin goals of building a positive relationship with the customer and minimizing the cost of the interaction. – ohwilleke Apr 26 '18 at 21:37

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