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Best Buy sends five iPads in error, says 'keep them'

In an attack of holiday spirit, Best Buy admits it made a mistake in sending a customer five iPads instead of one. The company says the customer should give the extras to people in need.

These are very generous people, if occasionally inefficient.
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Our lecture today is entitled "Ethics and the Holiday Spirit."

The question at hand is this: if you order an iPad from Best Buy and the company sends you five, what do you do?

Do you phone Best Buy and say, "Hullo, you've sent me four too many"?

Do you phone Best Buy and say, "Gosh, just wanted to thank you for the holiday gifts" -- and not mention which gifts you're talking about?

Or do you say nothing, do nothing, and hope Best Buy doesn't notice?

Well, one oddly sincere person called Alexa contacted the Consumerist and wondered what she should do.

Alexa was concerned on behalf of her boyfriend's mom. She had ordered an iPad for her son and Best Buy had sent along five. Even the box was clearly marked as containing five iPads.

Why Alexa, rather than her boyfriend or his mother, was doing the work is not quite clear. Still, she had first e-mailed Best Buy, who were clearly too busy filling Santa's sacks to reply.

Alexa, like a dutiful citizen, even went on the Web to discover what the law might be. She found something on the FTC site that said if a company sends you something in error, you can consider it a gift.

The Consumerist, being of noble heart and mind, decided to see whether it could, on Alexa's behalf, get a response from Best Buy. It did.

And what a heart-warming, trust-building, spirit-lifting response it was:

Good afternoon, Alexa. Laura, from the Consumerist, contacted us here at Best Buy on your behalf. First and foremost, I wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your honesty. That is so rare in this day and age and I sincerely thank you! We here at Best Buy acknowledge that we obviously made a mistake, but in the spirit of the holidays, we encourage you to keep the additional iPads and give them to people in need -- friends, family, a local school or charity.

I am sure that many of you are teary-eyed at this very moment, ready to download "It's A Wonderful Life" and watch it yet again.

You might have only one concern: will someone in the Best Buy dispatching center receive a stiff talking-to from a burly supervisor?

Perhaps we'll never know. But, once it had published this story, the Consumerist received a message from another Best Buy customer who had experienced a similar bountiful event.

This customer said he had contacted the company only to be told that, according to its records, only one iPad had been sent.

I know many of you are still considering ordering an iPad as a holiday gift. These stories surely suggest you should order from Best Buy.

You might just get more than you bargained for.