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A couple of weeks ago, a reader from northern New Jersey
ordered a large bookcase from a major discount retailer. "I still love my
books and have not given in to a Kindle or Nook!" she writes. The bookcase
was on sale for "an excellent price" and the reader also received a
discount by using her store credit card for the purchase.
A couple of days after she placed her order, a huge,
heavy box arrived on her doorstep. "I was delighted to begin filling up
the bookcase," she writes.
Then, two days later, another huge, heavy box arrived.
She and her son dragged the box inside.
"It was another bookcase!" she writes. "I
immediately checked my account online to see if I had been charged twice, but a
charge for only one bookcase appeared."
Her dilemma, my reader figures, is: "Do I keep the
extra bookcase without reporting the store's error or should I return it?"
The reasons for not keeping it without reporting the
store's error include not feeling guilty every time she looks at the bookcase.
On the other hand, she feels this bookcase is a "drop in the bucket"
for a store as large as the one from which she purchased it. What's more, she
would need help to return it since it is so heavy. Even if the store offered to
pick it up, "that would require the inconvenience of someone being here
for the pickup."
"As you can see," she writes, "I am trying
to justify just keeping the 'free' bookcase, but I have that nagging feeling
that it would not be the right thing to do."
She says she has "this thing about karma," and
she doesn't want "to get a knot in my stomach every time I take a book off
one of the shelves," so she wants to do the right thing.
My reader faces a common conundrum. It wasn't her mistake
that led to the extra bookcase being sent, so why she wonders should she have
to return it. Still, she knows it doesn't feel right to just keep it and not
acknowledge the error.
She's right to want to acknowledge the error. Most
readers know it would be wrong not to notify a bank if its ATM gave out too
much money when you went for a withdrawal. But it doesn't always feel as clear
cut when a retail store makes an error. The error may be the store's, but the
right thing is still to notify the store that the extra bookcase has been sent
It's perfectly reasonable to make the case to the
customer service department that she's been a longtime customer of the store,
hopes to remain one, and that the hassle of having to return the bookcase is
significant. If the store personnel wants to let her keep it, that's up to
Ultimately, the right thing is to call attention to the
error and find the best solution about which both sides can agree.