Should You Keep Food That Was Delivered To You By Mistake?

Delivery mix-ups are confusing, and when food deliveries get lost it's a serious bummer, especially if you're hangry. Annoying as it is to be the person missing their food order, it's also a major ethical dilemma for the unintended recipient. It's not exactly morally sound to keep a food delivery that isn't yours, but there isn't a definitive answer as to whether it's illegal. Nevertheless, keeping misdelivered packages without trying to correct the mistake is considered theft and punishable by law. However, it's unclear if that rule applies to food deliveries since they are not managed by postal services that must follow mail handling laws. Not to mention, food is different from inedible goods. According to Reddit users' customer experiences, most delivery services and restaurants will not redeliver food — likely due to health and safety concerns.

It seems you can keep food delivered to you by mistake, but you should still try to help solve the issue before you dig in. The best thing to do is contact the restaurant or the third-party delivery service's customer service so they are notified of the situation and can rectify the issue with the intended recipient. According to a Reddit user employed by a restaurant, calls regarding accidentally delivered food orders are pretty common, and the workers will usually tell you to keep the meal or toss it. 

Refunds are usually the solution

If you don't feel right about keeping food delivered to you by mistake, you could always check the name on the receipt if you live in a close-knit neighborhood where you feel safe. Based on another Reddit user's story, you could potentially cause ill will with your neighbors if you knowingly keep their food deliveries, but it's hard to place blame if you simply don't know them. You could leave the food outside to see if someone comes looking for it, but we wouldn't recommend that due to food safety concerns. Food can spoil if left out at room temperature for over two hours, and if temperatures are higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you only have one hour until it's a goner.

The good news is that refunds are always an option. Most delivery services and restaurants have accessible policies in place. For DoorDash, the protocol for lost or stolen no-contact deliveries is typically a refund for a replacement delivery. So really, you could enjoy the free meal with the knowledge that the other person gets a second chance — but you should at least attempt to contact somebody to find a solution first. Who knows? Your good faith efforts could brighten someone's day and give a delivery address mix-up a happy ending.