This post will deal with the humdrum and slightly annoying topic of uncollected, abandoned picture frames and akin picture framing goods. We will begin by saying that an unglamorous part of our online business retail of ready-made picture frames and the factory manufacturing of custom picture frames is the non-collection and ensuing abandonment by Customers of orders and custom picture framing jobs that they ordered. Each year this consists of anything between 10 to 15 assorted online orders and custom picture frames totalling in value between $1,000 to $2,000, some of these orders are shown below. Individually, nearly nearly every order is worth less than $200. This amount is important, as it will be seen a little later on as we continue reading.
We don't know why Customers fail to collect the orders that they either have paid a deposit on, or paid in full. In all cases we have either their email addresses or their telephone numbers. We use each or both of these to prompt them to pick up their orders once the completion or collection dates have passed. Regrettably, while nearly all customer do collect their goods, there are always a few who, for one reason or the other, cannot will not, and therefore, do not.
So where does a merchant (a seller or retailer like us) and the Customer stand when goods remain uncollected? So far as we understand, this issue is governed by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which, in part, states that different rules apply as to whether the goods are Low Value, Medium Value, or High Value. Thus Low Value, means between $1 to $200, Medium Value, between $201 and $5,000, and high Value, $5,001 or more.
Since rarely, if ever, our picture frames, and particularly ready-made frames, exceed the low-value threshold, we will confine ourselves to discuss the respective rights and obligations of both merchants and Customers pertinent only to this category, ie: low value goods under $200.
Before continuing, we should clarify, what is meant by uncollected, unclaimed or abandoned goods? It means goods (in our case almost invariably picture frames) that a Customer, or his or her Agent, ordered or left with us, but has not contacted us, replied to, or responded to our prompts or contact attempts, nor collected or picked up despite being aware of his of her responsibility and obligation to do so. It may well be that some Customers would not have been able to reply to our phone calls or emails in any case because, in the meantime, these devices were being disconnected, cancelled or closed, no one really knows.
All right, you could well be excused for thinking, if Customer can't or won't care about getting their uncollected and abandoned picture frames, then the goods aren't wanted any more and merchants can do what they like with them, right?
Not so fast!
The merchant can't just grab the stuff and say it's theirs! The ACL says that merchants first have to give Customers written notice notifying them that unless they arrange to have their goods collected, that's what will happen. Said notice must include pertinent information such as the purchase details, dates, and moneys owing if any. The written notice must include:
- The merchant's name and address,
- A description of the uncollected goods,
- An address at which the goods are available for collection,
- The amount and the charge owing or will be owed,
- A statement that the goods will be disposed of unless paid and collected.
The ACL rules state that the notice may be given personally to the Customer, or by delivering it to their last known address. However as we may not always have a physical address, we use the next available and practical means such as a phone calls, emails and/or text messages.
After Customers have been contacted, a further period of 4 weeks, or 28 days, have to pass before merchants can decide what they want to do with goods. If no replies or instructions are received within those 28 days, merchants can dispose of the goods or merchandise in any manner the see fit, including keeping it, selling it, giving it away of simply throwing it out. Importantly, and during the whole time merchant retain the goods, they must store these goods properly and safely.
To sum up, if merchant are unable to contact the Customers who left the goods, and/or despite making reasonable attempts to do so, they only need to wait 60 days before effectively becoming the new owner of the goods and doing whatever they like with them.
Incidentally, our business practice is to keep the relevant goods' Taxable Invoices for 12 months, meaning that we actually keep the paperwork for the statutory 60 days plus an extra 300 days. If by some small miracle, a Customer does show up ( this has actually happened once or twice) claiming the goods of a refund, we can do one of the other. After the year has passed, we usually donate the abandoned goods to the local St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army thrift store.
While most Customers heed our calls and prompts and eventually do come to collect their overdue goods, some never do, and others yet, proffer unusual and surprising responses to our staff reminders. Some of the more memorable ones are included below:
- What the f*** do you want?
- P*** off, you're a bloody scammer,
- Why didn't you ring me before?
- I thought you gave me "free shipping",
- What ? Didn't my husband/wife/relative pick it up yet?
- I changed my mind, I don't want it anymore,
- I don't have time for pick ups, post it to me,
- I don't need it any more, just refund me,
- I don't care about the framed wedding photo, I'm divorced now,
- I don't remember ordering it, it's not mine,
- I'm busy, I'll come when I can,
- I don't have a car any more,
- I can't come, I've got COVID.
- I can't come, I'm sick
- I can't come, I've got exams,
- I can't come, I'm going overseas.
The record for tardiness belongs to young fellow who, back in 2018, came to us wanting to know if we still had his holiday poster which he thought ( he wasn't sure ) he had left with us a "couple" of years earlier. He had no record, docket, receipt or sales slip of the alleged transaction. We did check through our abandoned goods section but found nothing and so we were unable to help him.
That being said, there are occasions when Customers do the right thing and come to us citing their personal difficulties, or financial hardships, as the reason of being unable to complete or to finalize a transaction. In several instances this involves popular ready-made frames such as our well-known A0 Raw Oak Poster Frame below. In these cases there is no difficulty in refunding e a Customer because the undsold or uncollected picture frame, being a current model, can be put back in stock and re-sold to other Customers.Thank you for reading our post " Uncollected and abandoned picture frames".