Goodbye, $307: Package Stolen Right Off My Doorstep

You never can be too careful when buying things online, especially when people are going around stealing packages off doorsteps.

Read about how we got our money back.

Update #2: The post office guys are supposedly trying to locate the package, looking for it along its route. No one has brought the package back to the post office, though, and it hasn’t turned up as returned. We’ve let the seller know that we still don’t have the package, contacting him through eBay. However, he has yet to respond. We are going to give it a couple more days and then try to decide what to do. If the package isn’t returned by whoever it was mis-delivered to, we will likely file a police report, and do what is required to go through eBay channels to try and get our money back.

Update #1: It appears that some of my faith in small town America might be restored — although any sort of faith in the USPS is slipping away. After being told it was probably stolen, but they’d check into it, the post office guys discovered that the package was probably mis-delivered. Apparently their scanners for delivery confirmation provide insight into which route it was on. The package was not scanned to our route; it was scanned to the wrong route. Unfortunately, the carrier does not remember delivering the package (they’re assuming, though, that he scanned it as “delivered” en masse with a bunch of other packages at the beginning of his route, rather than scanning when the package was actually delivered). So, now we have to hope that whoever did receive the package will return it. But, if the recipients tore open the package without paying attention, I doubt they’re going to quibble with now owning a sweet toy.

Normally, when we buy things online, through Amazon or eBay, they are relatively inexpensive. A box of pasta. Lord of the Rings action figures. We did spend $100 on my son’s Lego Hogwarts castle. And, of course, my Kindle came through the mail. However, in the instance of these higher-priced items, signature confirmation of delivery was required. So, while we were a little nervous about spending $307 on a Lego Death Star we expect to give our son for Christmas (we do the holiday spending throughout the year to spread it out), the deal was great, and we’ve had such good experiences that we went for it.

Unfortunately, it appears our package was stolen right off our doorstep.

The Grisly Details of Our (Presumably) Stolen Package

To be honest, I didn’t really think that it could happen to us. We live in a quiet subdivision in what is considered one of the safest metro areas in the country. However, we weren’t home on the day the package was delivered. The eBay seller that sent the package didn’t tell us when he was sending the package (often, sellers let you know when they send the package), nor did he provide a tracking number until after the package was marked as delivered by the post office. If we had know the package had been sent and was due to be delivered on Saturday, we would have made arrangements to be home.

Unfortunately, we had no idea. The seller didn’t even give us the tracking number until my husband sent a message asking whether or not the package had been sent — because we hadn’t seen it. The next step was to call the post office. “It looks like it was delivered,” was the response. “We didn’t get it. Could you talk to the carrier?” Technically, I guess we don’t know that the package was stolen. The Saturday carrier (who is different from our regular carrier every other day of the week and happened to be different in this case) has not responded to the message the guy at the post office said he left. So we’re basically helplessly twiddling our thumbs until the post office can contact the carrier and confirm that she really did leave the package on our doorstep, rather than just scanning all the packages in the truck on Saturday as “delivered” to save time (something I’m told happens by a former post office employee).

Do We Have Recourse to Get Back Our $307?

The real question, though, is this: Can we get our money back? Or at least some of it back? We’re looking into our options, just in case the package can’t be located. The post office employee said that once we receive confirmation that the carrier did, in fact, drop off the package, we can file a claim. We can contact the police, and then file paperwork with the USPS.

Another possible avenue is to go through eBay. I hate to go this route, since I feel bad about the seller losing out. However, the seller didn’t buy insurance on this item, and didn’t request signature confirmation. According to eBay’s Buyer Protection, it looks like we have a case since the seller didn’t request signature confirmation, as required on items valued at more than $250. (This one more reason that you really should read all of the terms and conditions and fine print before you sign up to buy and/or sell anything online.) We’d really like to resolve this with the post office, though, and not get into with the seller.

Who’s Responsible?

One of the issues, of course, is responsibility. Should the seller bear some responsibility for not taking steps to ensure that we received the package? Are we responsible since we didn’t have a “safe” place for the package, and we weren’t at home to receive it? Should the post office accept some responsibility for not having a policy in place that requires ensuring delivery, rather than just dropping the package off on a doorstep?

What do you think?


Written by Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger, specializing in personal finance, small business, and investing topics. She writes for a number of financial web sites and blogs, and has been featured in numerous media. Read about life as a freelancer at MirandaMarquit.com and in her book Confessions of a Professional Blogger.

30 Responses to Goodbye, $307: Package Stolen Right Off My Doorstep

  1. Gosh that is so hard to say. I think the ebay seller did go a bit lax on the transaction. As a former seller, I would never have shipped something that expensive out without having insurance and requiring a signature. I also don’t think the USPS should be leaving packages out in the open either.

    I hope that it’s found, but I’m going to guess it was stolen. Our local news just did a piece on mail theft, it seems to be picking up quite a bit in recent months.

    • Thanks for your insights and well-wishes, Jessica. I’ve never been a seller on eBay (although my husband buys a lot of stuff from there), so I appreciate your insight on it.

  2. I absolutely despise working the USPS. I’ve had checks stolen out of my box, mail intercepted (to and from me) and a host of other issues. I even had the postal service tell me “the letter was sent to us like this” – with the $150 check stolen out of it…Yeah right.

    My best suggestion is to try to get your money back through eBay if the Post Office won’t help. Otherwise, you can learn from this experience and do your best to only purchase items that are being shipped UPS or Fed Ex. Honestly, it’s an annoying situation and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with it.

    • Oh, ick, Carrie. That’s awful. Sounds like you’ve had lots of bad experiences. When we have to ship anything major, we use UPS. We prefer that to USPS when it comes sto stuff we want kept in good condition. Maybe when we buy online we’ll pay closer attention to the shipping method, and avoid sellers using USPS.

  3. I guess everyone bears some of the fault for this happening, but the responsibility is clearly the ebay sellers. He (or she) should have required a signature at the very least for a $307 package. You’re right that it sucks for him, but it is simply a cost of doing business that way.

    • Thanks for you comment :) When we finally figure out what’s happened for sure, at least I’ll have a few ideas of what to do next.

  4. Miranda – I am sorry that this happened to you. I hate it when this happened to us.

    As for buying from eBay, I guess it’s cheaper to buy from eBay. We always buy ours through LEGO. We use the membership to collect points and use credit card for cash back. As a member, LEGO will also send us special discount. For example, we have a 20% off coupons now.

    • I’m sorry that you’ve been through the loss of a package as well. It really feels like something personal :(

      Also, how did I not know about this LEGO program? Thanks for letting me know, Pinyo! I think this might be the way to go, since we are big fans of LEGO at our house.

  5. If you bought any item through eBay and paid for it via PayPal then you are completely covered in this situation. It is very clear on PayPal’s website that ANY payment for an eBay item which is 250$ or more HAS TO HAVE signature confirmation through any postal carrier (i.e. UPS, FedEx, USPS..etc.).

    You have 45 days to file a claim through PayPal if there is an issue with your order. If the seller CANNOT provide proof of signature confirmation through the postal carrier of choice then PayPal automatically files in your favor. Regardless of the fact the seller paid for normal Delivery Confirmation.

    This is not a situation for the Post Office. The post office is not responsible for your package. The seller is the one who needs to make sure you receive your item. And that is what signature confirmation is for. Side-note: Most Buyer’s assume that Insurance purchased for items bought off eBay is to protect them. This is not the case. PayPal and eBay are there to protect you in the case of broken packages and misconduct. Insurance is solely for the seller to protect their property during shipment and them self. If you received a damaged package you could file a claim through PayPal, get your money back near immediately; and it would be the seller’s responsibility to file with USPS in the case of insurance issues.

    File a claim through PayPal. USPS is not the responsible party in this situation…AT ALL. I’ve been a seller on eBay since 1996. It is always the seller’s responsibility. Thinking otherwise is where all those horror stories about eBay come from and the “shady” reputation.

    • Thanks for your insight! This is definite food for thought, and you make a very good point about having insurance to protect the seller/sender, and eBay working to protect the consumer. If the seller does the smart thing and gets insurance, then we are all covered. We get our money back, and the seller can be compensated through the insurance.

  6. Oh, how awful. Definitely look into the buyer protection programs which are in place – they are there for a reason. This includes things like PayPal’s buyer protection program, Ebay’s requirements, your credit card protections if you used a credit card, etc. At this pont you did everything correctly on your end, so you should not be at fault for not receiving the item you paid for. Best of luck getting it sorted out!

    • Thanks, Ryan! We’re giving it a couple more days; the post office guys say that they’re checking a couple houses that they think might have been the recipients, and we’re hoping that whoever gets it returns it. We once received a mis-delivered package, and it took us about two days to get around to returning it to the post office. But, it’s been a few days, so I don’t know. Monday, I guess we start the process of getting our money back through eBay…

  7. This happened to us once. I had bought some plants on Ebay (somewhat rare baby orchids) and someone stole them right off our porch (or that’s the only explanation anyways and we do live in a bit of a nasty area). I contacted the seller and she sent me replacements.
    I am a shipping/receiving manager and as such require that everything we send out has a signature requirement for this very reason. Also it protects the seller from scammers who receive a package and then say they didn’t.

    • That’s too bad about your stolen package! But great that you got a replacement. The seller hasn’t responded to us yet, but he’s been really slooooow. Anyway, great point about protection with signature confirmation and insurance. If we even sell on eBay, we’ll definitely keep it in mind.

  8. Ouch! Hopefully it’s located.

    I’ve had a few packages left out in broad daylight on my front porch, but never had anything go missing. One delivery guy even attempted to “cover” a parcel… using my “Welcome” mat! It looked ridiculous.

    I really wish they wouldn’t deliver without getting a proper signature. If I’m not home to receive the package I’d rather go pick it up at the depot, than have it left on my porch.

    • I agree. I don’t mind making a trip to the post office for my package. I do appreciate it when delivery people try to hide the package. A lot of the UPS and FedEx delivery drivers put packages behind our milk box or the flower pots so they aren’t readily visible from the road.

  9. I was a sender of a package that was stolen off from a porch, but I was told my responsibility ends when I mail it, then USPS is responsible until it is delivered. If you live in a bad neighborhood, you should either have a secure place for mail, rent a box, a doorbell or be waiting for the mail if you are expecting a package. I was trying to help this person because they are not in touch with the real world. I was blamed for them not using common sense. Other things have happened to them, but they would rather fight with the neighborhood than move..hopeless

  10. The seller is not at fault at when you get something stolen from your doorstep. Even when there is insurance on the package it is not going to cover anything that happens to the package after it is delivered, including going missing from your doorstep.

    When a seller ships a package he ships to the address you specify to ship to. The seller is obligated to follow your instructions and ship to that address, but the reliability and safety of the delivery address is 100% buyer responsibility.

  11. I will never order anything over $50 off the internet again, my package was stolen off my porch last week, why do people go around taking people things?, lucky for me the shipper is replacing it thank god. Don’t order anything unless someone will be home to collect it or it has to be signed for.

  12. Hi, sorry to hear that happen to you.
    I can’t see a date so I don’t know who long ago this happened .
    Same think happened to me this weekend I order a winter coat from Moosejaw on sale for $322 it was delivered on Saturday, but it was left and the front porch and I never saw it.
    I was home all day but our mail guy did not even bother to knock at my door.
    How your case ended, did you got your money back? Who was responsible for it?

    • It was a couple years ago. We ended up getting our money back, since the PayPal TOS requires sellers to insure packages above a certain amount, and since they didn’t, we were able to get the money. Sorry to hear about your Moosejaw order. I hope it all works out.

  13. I find the comments very interesting especially those that say the seller is responsible for the crime situation on the buyer’s front porch. That is irrational.

    The seller’s responsibility ends at delivery of the shipment to the carrier approved by the buyer when they make a purchase. Sellers like Amazon and Ebay may beat up on their sellers to pay for lost and stolen shipments but that does not make it correct.

    Prices will simply go up and some sellers and products will simply go away. Shipping is very expensive especially via UPS and FedEx. USPS is less expensive but much less reliable. People do not want to pay anything for shipping (hangover from Amazon’s endless ability to lose money) and really do not want to pay anything for insurance.

    Who pays for the actual cost of doing business?

    A business I know received a complaint from a buyer 4 months after the items were delivered. There is detailed delivery confirmation including point-by-point tracking but the buyer says the package was stolen and the seller is responsible for replacement.

    The buyer is irate at the seller who is completely blameless. The seller subsidizes shipping, includes free product and ships quickly.

    Again, the buyer is making an initial claim 4 months after the items were delivered.

    Nuts.

  14. Once the item is delivered, it is no longer the sellers issue as they fulfilled their agreement upon you purchasing the item.

    Regardless of signature confirmation, the item was delivered to your address, which was left and stolen.

    You are mainly to blame, I hate to, why?
    1. You had a tracking number.
    2. eBay gives expected delivery dates.

    With both of these crucial pieces of information, you could have used common sense to know that you should be home with these days, but you were not and it got delivered, then stolen.

    It’s a shame that eBay and PayPal allow this type of activity to take place. The seller should not be out money due to negligence of the buyer. Once the item is delivered to your house, you are responsible for it. Period. What you did was use a technicality on signature confirmation to get your money back and screw the seller.

    Conclusion of fault:
    You,
    Possible Post Office, but then again, they got the package to your doorstep.

  15. Hello, I recently had a similar incident, where my package was stolen from my front porch, my package was delivered on Feb. 28th 2015 which also happened to be a very cold and snowy day and someone ”stole it” as USPS claims. Not only was I very aggravated I was upset that USPS couldn’t seem to know who delivered it. I lost not only a very precious gift but I also lost money because it was stolen.

  16. I find this discussion very interesting. I am the founder of a small, online retail company (founded 10 years ago). Unfortunately, the increase of package theft is a huge burdon. We will ship expensive items via the customer’s chosen carrier (who regularly handles the route), the tracking number will say “delivered.” Unexpectedlty, a customer doesn’t receive their package, we verify the address was entered correctly (with cell phones etc. it’s a distracted checkout process).The customer then sends an angry email, “WHERE IS MY PACKAGE!”

    Everyone needs to know the carriers will not cover a claim if their rep says, “Delivered.” The customer often comes at US (the company that paid for the merchandise, the labor and materials to pack it and the carrier to deliver it) with anger when in reality we HONESTLY and EARNESTLY shipped the package. In fact the BUYER chooses the method of shipping and we hand the merchandise off to the carrier of their choice and they attack us like we did something.

    I have to weigh in here, while extremely sympathetic to your loss, I do NOT think it’s fair to make small to medium size businesses take personal responsibility for neighborhood, apartment or condo theft.

    It’s really hard, as an earnest and hardworking company, to take full responsibility for theft, that even the carriers wash their hands of, outside our control (and I know it’s awful and do feel empathy) that isn’t our fault.

    Something needs to be done.

  17. I bought an area rug from Home Depot. I was sitting at my desk (directly inside the front door of my home), when my package was marked “delivered”. I saw the status change. No rug. It was FedEx. I called them immediately. The driver came out- told me he delivered it and remembered my house. I KNEW he was lying as I was right by the door. It was not a small item. Home Depot ended up sending another rug- but it certainly made me upset. Not sure who paid for the second rug.

    I also have to add, $307 for the Death Star?? The cheapest I could find it was $399! That was some savvy shopping! Hope you ended up with one =)

  18. Let me ask you this – if you SEE the package on your front porch while pulling out of your driveway to make a 5 minute trip to the convenience store, then when you get back, you notice your package is missing, whose responsibility is it?

    Unlike quantum mechanics, your observation doesn’t determine the outcome. If it is delivered to your house, it is YOUR responsibility. It is very simple.

    If it gets to your house, nobody will be responsible for the package other than the recipient. Whether the recipient was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks, or if they were sitting on the sofa watching Oprah and didn’t hear the doorbell makes no difference.

    The seller’s obligation ends with the delivery of the package. At that point, they have fulfilled their end of the agreement.

    Other possible situations and who is responsible:
    Seller ships and it never gets delivered – not your problem. Rectifying it is between the seller and the shipper. If they didn’t buy insurance, that’s a risk they took to save money. In this case, the packahe is insured for a small amount by default – $50-$100. They will get the standard insurance claim paid. If they did, then they will have a claim with the shipper for the insured amount.

    Seller never shipped – obvious, I think.

    Those are the only three possibilities. If you think it through, it will be clear why this works – why the only real question from the customer’s perspective is whether it was delivered to where you requested delivery. If it was, and your kid stole it for drug money, that cannot be someone else’s problem. If it was never delivered, then that can’t be your problem. If it was never shipped, that can’t be the shipper’s problem, since in this case, there isn’t one. That is why the pressure is on the seller IF they cannot provide proof of delivery. If they can, then Paypal will side with the seller. There is no gray area. And that’s how it should be.

    We often lose sight of the logic when we are emotionally invested in the situation. I’ve done it numerous times.

  19. I side with the seller on this as well. During the checkout process the buyer provides the ship-to address. The seller must follow the instructions from the buyer and ship to exactly the address given. The buyer is responsible for the safety of the package after it is delivered. If the package gets stolen from the front porch, then the buyer should consider specifying a safer delivery address.
    I think Amazon has re-written, in a bad way, many of the cultures and ethics of online buying. Amazon has ruined the online marketplace in my opinion.

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