What exactly is a title? And how are titles transfered for things other than real estate?

If I purchase a burger from McDonald's, is there a transfer of title in the burger from McDonald's -> me?

If I ask my friend to buy a $5 burger for me and he says "ok, give me the $5", and I give him $5, and he goes and buys a $5 burger and brings it to me and gives it to me, in what way is the title transferred?

Is it accurate to say that my friend is never the true owner of the burger, and that although possession of the burger transferred from McDonald's -> my friend -> me, title of the burger transferred from McDonald's -> me directly?

If, after buying the burger, he eats it, would I be correct in claiming that "he ate my burger"?

  • The common legal term for items of "personal, moveable property" is "chattels" (although it can sometimes refer to an interest in real estate other than freehold, but that is rare). Feb 19, 2019 at 15:33

1 Answer 1


Title is an abstraction. Although it is sometimes evidenced by a piece of paper, it is just a word for having custody, possession and control over something sufficient to indicate ownership. It exists for any property that changes hands, though it is usually not reduced to a written form.

Under UCC § 2-401, title for movable goods -- such as cheeseburgers -- transfers from the seller to the buyer automatically, at the time the seller completes his obligations for physical delivery of the goods. McDonald's obligations for delivery of the cheeseburger end when they slide the tray over to you or hand off the bag of food, so that is the point in time where title transfers.

Even though your friend handles the transaction, he does so as your agent. Because McDonald's does not know he's making the transaction on your behalf, the contract for sale of a cheeseburger is between him and McDonald's, but the title nonetheless passes directly to you.

If he eats the cheeseburger, he eats your cheeseburger. Incidentally, eating your cheeseburger is:

  1. A violation of his duty of loyalty as an agent;
  2. Probably theft; and
  3. Not cool.
  • 1
    But, possibly the cheeseburger is reasonable compensation for performing services of an agent, if he also does lots of other things on your behalf and you don't pay him separately for his assistance. It is still, however, "uncool" unless this is a friend whom you also sleep with or a close relative.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 11, 2018 at 0:13
  • Also worth noting is that you can only truly sell something if you have title to it. If your friend sells your cheeseburger to someone in the queue it is still your cheeseburger (i.e. you have title to it), and you can demand that the buyer hand it over to you without compensating them. The buyer then has a beef with your friend for the money he was swindled out of. Feb 19, 2019 at 15:37

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