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    Former MSE Debs
    Real-life MMD: Whose lens is it anyway?
    • #1
    • 16th Nov 12, 10:53 AM
    Real-life MMD: Whose lens is it anyway? 16th Nov 12 at 10:53 AM
    Money Moral Dilemma: Whose lens is it anyway?

    Six months ago our flat received a parcel with no addressee's name. It turned out to be a camera lens worth £180 (according to eBay), so we thought the previous occupiers would collect it. We emailed the letting agent, but never got a reply. After so long, we're tempted to claim it, sell it, and give some of the money to charity, or would getting rid of it in any manner be morally wrong?

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    Last edited by Former MSE Debs; 20-11-2012 at 4:08 PM.
Page 3
    • ronangel
    • By ronangel 21st Nov 12, 7:40 PM
    • 124 Posts
    • 141 Thanks
    The important point here is did you sign for it?
    if not......
    The richard montgomery matter

    • golddustmedia
    • By golddustmedia 21st Nov 12, 7:47 PM
    • 788 Posts
    • 370 Thanks
    If you had handed this into a police station and it went unclaimed for this long you would have already had it returned to you with the providence that it was yours to dispose of as you saw fit.

    Had this happen when I found some jewellery on pavement outside my house, 12 weeks later it was given back to me to keep (or sell).
    • TBagpuss
    • By TBagpuss 21st Nov 12, 8:40 PM
    • 6,487 Posts
    • 8,413 Thanks
    Just to clarify, there is no question of illegality here, as (i) the package was addressed to the OPs home with no name, so it was addressed to the person who opened it.
    (ii)It is not illegal to open post addressed to someone else. it is illegal to" intentionally delay or open a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post" Once the package has been put through you door, it is no longer in the course of it's transmission by post.
    (iii) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a personís detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.So opening a letter or package which has been wrongly delivered, in order to try to identify the sender is perfectly legal. Opening a letter or package by mistake is perfectly legal. Opening a letter or package to try to identify the correct owner is perfectly legal.Opening a package to check it isn''t anything illegal or dangerous, before deciding whether to keep it around to see whether anyone picks it up is fine.

    In terms of the actual dilemma, I think the OP ought to check with neighbours as it's as least as likely that parcel was sent to the wrong numbered flat, as that it was intended for the previous occupant. However, once that is done, given the amount of time which has passed, and given that there was no seller or senders details, I do not think that it would be immoral to keep or sell the lens. However, if you are dtill worried, then as others have sugested, hand it in to the police as lost property and wait 6 weeks.
  • markja55
    sell it
    sell it and spend the money on beer (or your fav tipple)
    if they had wanted it they would have contacted you. post or visited.
  • florere
    "Go to the estate agent in person and ask for the last tenants details"

    Can't do that, the estate agent would be in deep trouble if he gave out that sort of confidential information
    • ronangel
    • By ronangel 22nd Nov 12, 2:02 AM
    • 124 Posts
    • 141 Thanks
    "Go to the estate agent in person and ask for the last tenants details"

    Can't do that, the estate agent would be in deep trouble if he gave out that sort of confidential information
    Originally posted by florere
    you could go to estate agent tell them about package from 6 months? ago and ask them to pass YOUR details to previous tenant to contact you if lens is theirs. All the the tenant would have to do is tell you make type and which camera it fitted and you would let them have it.
    The richard montgomery matter

  • therealdessie
    What concerns me about this question is not the option of whether the OP did "enough" to find the rightful owner - and many valid points either way have been made here - but the reasoning that selling it is okay if some of the money is given to charity.

    The OP did nothing to 'earn' this 'windfall'. A company somewhere has made a loss in having to send out a replacement lens no doubt, and that may be their fault for not properly addressing/tracking their parcels when they send them - but that doesn't infer the OP has won a lottery of some kind as a result.

    Either sell the thing and give all the money to charity or make an attempt to determine where it should go. Keeping the proceeds is ethically poor form.
    • TrickyDicky
    • By TrickyDicky 22nd Nov 12, 9:38 AM
    • 654 Posts
    • 228 Thanks
    I dont think theres any problems. I was under the impression that anything addressed to you (ie the home address) that you didnt order was yours after a specific amount of time if you have tried to return it to the rightful owner. If there is no return address, and no one claims it within a month (or some other period of time), then it's legally yours (hence no moral problems)

    This was to stop companies sending out stuff (without an order) that would be charged for at a later date if it wasnt returned.
    • joehoover
    • By joehoover 22nd Nov 12, 9:52 AM
    • 137 Posts
    • 229 Thanks
    Seems to be a split between people who are happy to keep it and others who are not.

    The irony is by just sending one email, some people consider that going out of your way, but surely photographing the lens, making out an ebay advert, waiting for your auction to end, going to the post office to send it is actually more time consuming for you then making more effort to trace the actual owner. Funny how the pound signs in some people's eyes overlook that....
    ...maybe then when you post the lens it is delivered to the wrong address and you have to refund the buyer or start a lengthy claims process with the post out for karma biting your bum here.

    My point is really, so what if it takes a bit of effort to trace the owner, there is gratification to be had from doing that and making someone else's day. Once I found a crap phone on the bus, old, scratched, of no value at all. But the phone would ring from abroad and I couldn't understand the language not they spoke English. The next day I tried the numbers in the phone and had the same problem (using my phone and leaving messages) Eventually someone replied, I met them at the train station and gave her the phone, she was absolutely made up, she was a Bulgarian girl, not been here long and she was amazed someone had gone to such lengths, but it held all her numbers for her friends back home, it was far more important to her. In return, I was amazed I got given a pack of biscuits. Everyone left with a sense of faith in basic human kindness.

    Without knowing more information though, like was there a return address, a courier reference maybe, or was it just delivered by royal mail with a house number and no return address and no paperwork? You'd be surprised with even one nugget of information how you can trace something, if it was a courier, even without their reference you can start the ball rolling trying to trace it.

    Think of the bigger picture, if it's a couriers member of staff, they may be in trouble for losing a parcel, someone else has had to probably make a great deal of effort to trace the item, the sender may have lost out too having to replace the item.
  • mouseboy007
    Cost of Effort
    I've read through all the posts so far and there seems to be a number of posts which say about the amount of effort that should be made to reunite the parcel with the owner.

    In my opinion, there's a cost to that effort - in terms of time (sending e-mails, making calls) and money (cost of phone calls etc) and inconvenience (holding the package for a period of time, making a specific effort to contact couriers/landlords etc). Therefore, I would take the value of the goods when sold as my compensation, unless of course the person is found through this process.

    If it turns out to be an organisation, such as parcel delivery company, who is found to be the 'owner' of the item (by virtue of having compensated the original recipient for a lost item claim) then I would again be inclined to keep it or ask for fair compensation for returning the item (including all the effort made above to track down the company). If you find the person, hopefully they will compensate you for the effort made in holding their parcel and tracking them down.
    • fatal1955
    • By fatal1955 22nd Nov 12, 11:40 AM
    • 57 Posts
    • 27 Thanks
    (comment deleted by poster)
    Last edited by fatal1955; 22-11-2012 at 11:42 AM. Reason: better replies above
    • Augustus the Strong
    • By Augustus the Strong 22nd Nov 12, 5:44 PM
    • 297 Posts
    • 308 Thanks
    Augustus the Strong
    It is absolutely NOT yours to sell!

    You should NOT have opened it and should have, straight away, taken it back to the post office with 'not known at this address' or 'return to sender' written on it.

    You are a thief by the mere act of opening someone else's mail and think how you would feel if this were your parcel.

    Originally posted by cwc1899
    This is ridiculous. It's not unreasonable to open the parcel to try and find out who it's come from.

    Send it back to the Post Office with 'not known at this address' written on it. I assume you mean there was no sender's name, not no addressee. It's not your problem, anyway - just let the Post Office sort it out, and forget about it.
  • milvusvestal
    Camera Lens
    Go ahead and do as you suggest.

    Either the former occupier just can't be bothered to collect it, or it wasn't ordered by him/her anyway. You've done all that's expected of you and, if it came to somebody knocking on your door to claim it, you can rightfully explain that the package was unaddressed.

    I imagine that's what really happened was someone ordered the lens, it wasn't delivered and they claimed on their insurance or the supplier sent them another one.
    • djb77
    • By djb77 23rd Nov 12, 2:39 PM
    • 17 Posts
    • 18 Thanks
    I had a similar experience to this but my parcel contained a CD. The parcel had no return address on it so we opened it (I know technically you are not supposed to open mail not address to you but did not have any alternative - to find out where to send it back to).

    We have lived in the property for 35 years and we know the previous occupiers name and the name on the parcel did not belong to them either.

    All that was in the parcel was the CD no note or how to identify who sent it. We ended up giving it to a charity shop.

    I do not see any problem selling the lens and giving the money to charity especially as it has been over six months. Also, if you handed it back to Royal Mail and they could not find the sender (if it had no return address) what would happen to the lens then - Is it like handing something into the police after "x" months you can claim the item as your own?

    If I had ordered something, had not received it I would check with the sender to see what had happened to it. They would then inform me where it was sent - I could then go a collect it from that address.

    If you are still worried about selling the lens you could actually go to the letting agents if it is near and inform them that you may have a parcel for the previous tennants and an they pass on the message as it is unlikely that they would divulge any information concerning previous tennants as would be against Data Protection laws.
    • hellienellie
    • By hellienellie 23rd Nov 12, 4:24 PM
    • 24 Posts
    • 16 Thanks
    Ebay will have the senders address !
  • quinechinoise
    Ebay will have the senders address !
    Originally posted by hellienellie
    Why do people keep saying to contact Ebay? There were no details included in the parcel to suggest it came from an Ebay seller. The OP merely states they checked the value of the item using Ebay - presumably by verifying how much similar lens were selling/sold for.

    It turned out to be a camera lens worth £180 (according to eBay)
    Originally posted by MSE Debs
    Tbh, if the address was correct (number, post code, etc) then I'd suspect it was a competition win. I often forget what I've entered. Most companies do include a "with compliments" slip but it's conceivable that some might not.
    • The Infamous Grouse
    • By The Infamous Grouse 26th Nov 12, 7:32 AM
    • 17 Posts
    • 8 Thanks
    The Infamous Grouse
    I'm a few days behind on this one but nobody else seems to have mentioned this.

    It's not 100% clear from context whether the lens is a new item from a first-party seller to a customer (unlikely given the lack of invoice) or a second-hand item sent from the previous owner to a new owner.

    If the latter, has the OP considered contacting the manufacturer and quoting the serial number? All optical equipment should have a unique serial number, which the manufacturer may be able to trace back to the original owner if the lens was bought directly from them or registered for warranty.

    They probably won't be able to give out any information about the previous owner (Data Protection) but if they have an original name and address on file they may be able to take the lens and reunite it with, if not the current owner, then at least the person who sent it to them.

    Of course this opens up a couple more possibilities for less then ethical behaviour; someone at the manufacturer could swipe it for themselves, or the original owner might get it back and sell it again rather than passing it on to whomever it was destined for in the first place. But if you start going down this route you could drive yourself crazy.

    Given a lack of information about either the sender or the intended recipient I'd say the manufacturer is your best option for reuniting this with its legitimate owner.
    • MothballsWallet
    • By MothballsWallet 26th Nov 12, 12:13 PM
    • 12,299 Posts
    • 16,557 Thanks
    I don't really think that enough effort has been made to try and contact the previous occupiers. Emails don't always get to their destination. A phone call to the letting agent would probably be more effective.
    Originally posted by Tulip1
    From personal experience, some letting agents are about as much use as a chocolate wall against an ion cannon.

    Plus, the letting agent can also hide behind data protection instead of offering to pass on a message.
    Always ask yourself one question: What would Gibbs do?

    I live in the UK City of Culture 2021

    I had to put mothballs in my wallet - the moths had learned the PINs to my cards...
    • MothballsWallet
    • By MothballsWallet 26th Nov 12, 12:18 PM
    • 12,299 Posts
    • 16,557 Thanks
    You should NOT have opened it and should have, straight away, taken it back to the post office with 'not known at this address' or 'return to sender' written on it.
    Originally posted by cwc1899
    How many times do we have to explain this?

    The carrier's responsibility for an item ends once it's delivered to the address stated on the label/paperwork. It's not illegal to open an item delivered to your address as long as you don't intend to deprive the actual recipient of its contents or use them to commit a criminal offence.
    Always ask yourself one question: What would Gibbs do?

    I live in the UK City of Culture 2021

    I had to put mothballs in my wallet - the moths had learned the PINs to my cards...
    • JayD
    • By JayD 4th Dec 12, 3:55 PM
    • 502 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    I agree with all the others here who say perhaps you could make more effort to track the sender. After doing ALL that you could have done to re-unite the lens with that person and if you fail, then I would say, do whatever you want with it.
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