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B.C. woman buried in Amazon packages she did not ask for and does not want

Almost every day, Anca Nitu comes home from work to find an Amazon package she did not order at her doorstep. 

For the past two months, Nitu says she’s received more than 50 parcels containing women’s shoes. They were sent by people across North America who intended to return them to the Amazon seller, with each box containing a return authorization slip to her address. 

She says couriers have also abandoned packages on her porch, denying her the opportunity to refuse them. It has also resulted in more than $300 worth of Connect-on-Delivery (COD) customs charges from the United Postal Service (UPS). The bills are mailed to her by the delivery company.   

“I start shaking when I see packages at my door,” said Nitu, who says the stress has cost her sleep and her appetite. “They keep coming, and it just doesn’t end.” 

While she has not determined an exact cause, Nitu suspects her residence is being used as a return address for sellers or third-party handlers to dump their unwanted products. The Better Business Bureau says it sounds like a vendor-return scheme, where sellers, usually from overseas countries like China or India, skirt shipping and warehouse fees by using a residence to ship their returned products. 

Third-party sellers who use Amazon fulfilment centres are required to pay for picking and packing orders, shipping, handling and product returns. 

If an Amazon customer wishes to return a product to a third-party seller, the BBB says a company might try to save money by choosing a private return address rather than having to pay the cost of shipping packages overseas or having them processed in fulfilment centres. 

When a seller’s returned products can’t be re-sold, the companies are charged with removal and disposal order fees. 

Neesha Hothi, the director of marketing and communications at B.C.’s Better Business Bureau, says she has not heard of the scam happening locally but is common in the U.S.

“It’s easier and cheaper for the sellers to have [returned products] sent to this random address than having it sent to China,” said Hothi. “It could be that the warehouse has asked the seller to remove their unsold products from fulfilment centres, or their contract is ending.”

WATCH | Fashion giants slap fees on returning online purchases: 

b c woman buried in amazon packages she did not ask for and does not want

Some retailers begin charging for online returns

9 months ago

Duration 1:56

Retailers are beginning to charge customers looking to return items bought online as a means of cutting down on the number of purchases sent back in the first place.

The Better Business Bureau also referenced the Amazon brushing scam, where companies would purchase products and have them sent to random customers so they can write verified reviews, but Nitu says what is happening to her is materially different. 

Most of the shoes have a return slip that bears her name and address but are intended for shoe sellers in the U.S. The return slip bears her name and information but is addressed to a company. 

Nitu says she is disputing the duty charges from UPS. 

“I refused to pay, and the dispute with UPS is still ongoing,” said Nitu. “They’re completely unreasonable. I tried to explain the situation, and they were not nice, let’s put it that way.”

UPS told CBC they intend to investigate the issue but do not wish to give an official comment until they’ve contacted Nitu.

The Better Business Bureau says it is facilitating correspondence between Nitu and UPS’s corporate office.

Amazon taking ‘corrective action’

After numerous email correspondences and spending hours on the phone talking to Amazon and UPS customer agents, Nitu says she has made no progress in stopping the deliveries.

Nitu also filed a police report with the Langley RCMP, who told her to open and dispose of the packages.

“The constable consulted with his superiors, and they don’t know where to begin to investigate this.

“I don’t have storage, and I can’t keep all these shoes indefinitely,” said Nitu, who started to give away the shoes at her workplace and to Goodwill, a charity that takes secondhand clothing. “They are absolutely no use to me.”

Nitu says Amazon and UPS are not handling her inquiries with urgency. She has been in contact with customer agents and members of Amazon’s executive customer relations team, but she says her issue has been passed around. 

A paper sign is taped to Anca Nitu's front door. It says, 'All deliveries for Anca Nitu are refused. UPS, please don't abandon packages at my door!'
Anca Nitu says she taped this notice to her door telling delivery workers not to drop off packages as UPS advised her. (Shawn Foss/CBC)

In a written statement to CBC, Amazon says people in her situation can report packages online through their Report Unwanted Package form, but they did not specify what processes are in place to resolve Nitu’s specific issue of unwanted volume deliveries.

“The case in question has been addressed, and corrective action is being taken to stop the packages,” it wrote. 

However, Nitu says the issue has yet to be resolved.

In an email correspondence shared by Nitu, UPS advised her to refuse delivery and, if no one in the household is onsite, a note may be left at her door indicating her refusal to accept the delivery.

‘Keep a record of correspondence’

Nitu says the deliveries were tied to her dormant Amazon account.

“I don’t know what Amazon is allowing them to do because they got a hold of my name, my address and my old phone number.”

Anca Nitu holds up one return slip that came with a package delivered to her home.
Anca Nitu says each package came with a return slip bearing her address but was meant to be sent to an American company. (Shawn Foss/CBC)

Hothi says customers’ information could be stolen in multiple ways, such as in phishing scams.

“It could be as simple as someone stealing your mail, taking a picture of your mail, or they could be selling other products and could have your information from a different place,” she said. 

Nitu says she is worried about eventually receiving heftier bills for seller service fees. “These seller accounts for Amazon are not free. Amazon is charging these sellers, and my name and address are linked to a seller account.”

She is refusing to pay the COD charges from UPS. She says other carriers like Canada Post and FedEx did not bill her and allowed her to refuse packages without charge by calling the post office. 

“UPS has been a complete nightmare,” said Nitu. “I have called and asked UPS to pick up their packages, and they said ‘sure,’ but nothing happened the next day.” 

Hothi advises customers battling with companies to keep a record of all correspondence and obtain incident reports.

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