The boxes contain about 1,000 running and biking headlights, 800 glue guns and dozens of baby binoculars.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Imagine you get tons of Amazon boxes that you didn’t order, piled up so high that the delivery driver can’t even reach your door.
That’s what happened to Cindy Smith. And she’s not alone.
“They come from everyone,” says Smith. “FedEx, Amazon, they are all shipping.”
In total, more than 100 random Amazon boxes arrived at her home in Prince William County. The boxes contain about 1,000 running and cycling headlights, 800 glue guns, and dozens of baby binoculars.
All deliveries were sent to “Lixiao Zhang” at Smith’s address. When asked if “Lixiao Zhang” lived at that address, Smith replied simply “no”.
This is not the first time WUSA9 has heard a story like this.
“It’s two rows that almost completely cover the door,” said Liz Geltman of Northwest DC.
In May, Geltman said the same thing happened to her.
“Like these towering Lego blocks, you know, Lego blocks for kids right up to my door,” she said.
Geltman received boxes of baby linens and had no explanation from Amazon as to why.
“We thought it was a toothbrush scam at first,” Smith said.
A “swap” is when an online vendor creates a fake sale of their own product, sending packages to a random address, all so they can boost their ratings with reviews. 5 star price.
But when WUSA9 took a closer look at the Amazon packing slips Smith received, it appeared that this was an entirely different plan from the supplier. The packing slips show that all boxes are “supplier returns” for Lixiao Zhang sent to Smith’s address. WUSA9 traced the addresses on all of those packing slips to 15 Amazon Warehouse Fulfillment Centers in nine different states.
CJ Rosenbaum, New York Attorney representing companies selling on Amazon said: “It’s all about money. “You have a seller in China, they just pick a random address. And then, when they need to get their products out of Amazon’s warehouse, they just send them there, because it’s cheaper for them to do so.”
After WUSA9 began asking questions, Amazon opened an investigation and discovered the seller, Lixiao Zhang, had violated Amazon’s policies by creating removal orders with Cindy Smith’s address. = The same thing happened in the case of Liz Geltman though with a different supplier.
A spokesperson sent WUSA9 a statement:
“Amazon has systems in place to detect suspicious seller behavior, and teams are ready to investigate and prevent prohibited activity. The merchant account involved in this abusive activity has been closed. There is no room for fraud at Amazon and we will continue to pursue every measure to protect our store and hold the bad guys accountable.”
Rosenbaum said he saw good opportunity in all of this.
“One thing I haven’t seen, that I’d love to see, is these products being donated to charities,” says Rosenbaum.
Smith tried to do just that. As an environmental science professor and conservationist, Smith was determined not to let all the items sent to her end up in a landfill.
“A lot of people tell me I’m weird,” Smith said. “I drove around with headlights and a glue gun in my car. I give them to everyone I meet.”
And with dozens of Amazon boxes still stacked in her basement, Smith is relieved that no more shipments from Lixiao Zhang will show up at her doorstep.
WUSA9 contacted Amazon and asked how often overseas sellers use someone else’s address to avoid paying Amazon to liquidate old goods. The company did not give us an answer to that question.