I recently ordered a large (80-pound, big box) and expensive ($300-400) piece of equipment via Amazon from a third party. After a week I was told the item was out of stock and they were canceling the order. I placed an order for the same item again via Amazon from a different third party (at a higher price and much later shipping date).

Today, I received shipping notification that a package from the manufacturer and with the expected weight will arrive at a time that matches the first order. I also received notification from my bank that a refund has been issued for an amount that matches the first order.

While I can't yet rule out the idea that the second order has shipped 6 weeks ahead of schedule, the assumption I am making is that the first order has actually both shipped and been refunded. Thus, I expect to have an item that I haven't actually paid for show up at my house in less than a week.

Returning the item would be quite expensive. I wouldn't mind paying the first merchant their original price as long as I can cancel my second order...but that's not a given yet. It's also not something I'm willing to do until the first one actually arrives. I have no interest in having two of these items, or in paying to ship one of them back.

Am I obligated to either pay to ship the item back or to pay the first merchant for the item?

This question is similar with these notable differences. I never asked for a refund; the seller issued one entirely on their own. This item is both expensive to purchase and expensive to ship. I'm in the US.

  • Ended up being a non-issue. The second seller had actually shipped far earlier than anticipated, causing my confusion. – Elros Jun 22 at 22:23

From a legal POV, we can mostly remove the fact that you re-orderd the item from someone else and now don't know whether the expected shipment is in fulfillment of contract 1 or contract 2. Assume that there was only one order, the seller or manufacturer (it could be either) believed they were out of stock, then cancelled the order and issued a refund (which you did not refuse to accept). That is the end of the contract -- it has been cancelled. They cannot unilaterally create a new contract that you are bound to. That does not mean you get a free grape crusher (or similar item) - that would be "unjust enrichment". There are a number of steps you could taks, apart from just paying them again, or making them sue you to get their money. One is that you can allow them to pick it up and return it, after it is delivered. You can also contact "them" (perhaps the manufacturer, perhaps the intermediary company) and tell them so that they can stop the shipment. They may advise you to refuse the package so that the shipper sends it back (not totally unproblematic).

Given that it is possible that the item being shipped is in fulfillment of contract 2, it is important to not leap to a uncertain conclusion. To complicate the matter further, Amazon is a party to this deal, so this may be Amazon's error. They will cancel orders and refund payments for various reasons, for example a vendor failing to provide certification documentation in a particular format. What matters in this case is that you are not obligated to pay twice or to incur expenses for returning the item.

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  • Thanks! That pretty much answers my questions. Sounds like a reasonable plan is to wait until it arrives. Once it does arrive, verify that it actually came from seller 1 and not seller 2. Assuming it did, find out what seller 1 wants to do about it. – Elros Jun 18 at 22:30

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