I recently bought an item during Black Friday from Best Buy and I just received an email stating that the item I bought was returned and they’re going to give me a full refund. This must be a mistake though since I didn't return the item. Can I get in trouble for this if I don't return it and they refund what I paid? I’m not sure what to do because realistically it’d be crazy to think I was able to buy something, get it and then also get my money back. Any advice?

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    Are you averse to simply asking why you are getting a refund for an item you didn't return, or do you want someone to say it's OK to take advantage of a possible mistake by the store? – chepner Dec 19 '19 at 21:03
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    Does the email explicitly identify the item you actually bought, or does it say something generic like "We have issued a refund for the item you bought on [date of Black Friday]. Open the attached document to see the details". If the latter, it could be a random spam/phishing email, that relies on the fact that many Americans will have bought something from Best Buy on Black Friday... – TripeHound Dec 20 '19 at 8:49
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    @TripeHound I feel like that comment deserves to be an answer so it doesn't potentially get lost in the comment black hole. – dwizum Dec 20 '19 at 19:57
  • Is the email definitively from Best Buy, and this is not a scam? – shoover Dec 21 '19 at 20:09

Perhaps the mistake will be caught before they actually refund the money. But if it isn't, and they refund it (presumably to a credit or debit card), I don't think you would "get in trouble" since this was Best Buy's mistake and not yours.

The morally correct thing to do would be to contact them and explain that you didn't return the item and that they would be refunding the money to the wrong person.

One downside of doing nothing, is theoretically if they discover the mistake sometime in the future they may have the legal right to charge you again, and that could be an inconvenience if you aren't prepared for it. That being said, just because they could do that, I don't know that they would. If they did I hope they'd at least contact you first.


Let's reverse this. Imagine that they had charged you for a product they hadn't sent, and that you didn't notice. What would you like the company to do when they notice?

I think we would all agree that you would want them to refund the money without being asked.

Do the decent thing.


Any advice?

First check that the email definitely is from Best Buy and is not a generic scam/phishing email.

For instance, does the email actually mention by name the product you bought (and that was supposedly returned)? Or does it say something generic like:

As requested, we have issued a refund for the item you bought on [date of Black Friday] and have since returned. The attached document contains details of the refund.


... Click [this link] to see details of the refund.

I'm not from the US, but I suspect a significant percentage of Americans will have bought something from Best Buy on Black Friday, so the "hit rate" for such emails would be quite high. Needles to say, the attached document, or the included link, will either attempt to infect your machine or phish you for personal details.


How much do you figure your time and energy are worth? How much of your time and energy would it take to correct Best Buy's mistake?

If the item is more expensive than the worth of your time and energy to correct, then notify Best Buy. If the opposite, don't spend your time and energy correcting Best Buy's mistake. You won't get in trouble. They may discover their mistake and charge you for the item, but that is, of course, OK.

My rule of thumb would be: If I have to telephone them and get put on hold for more than five minutes listening to Christmas carols, it is their problem, not mine. If I can notify them easily via e-mail or their web-site, I'll do it.

My rationale is that the onus of so many tasks has been transferred from the vendor to the consumer that I am not going to take on the additional task of being the vendor's auditor.


A local bank accidentally placed a significant amount of money into a young woman's account. The mistake was a simple typo. But before the bank tracked the error the woman had withdrawn and spent the money. The long story made short is that the bank used the courts to win a judgement against the woman. Her wages were garnished, but she left the area. That's the last I've heard about it.

The Best Buy error sounds like a similar issue, but probably involved less money.

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