Sex toys, light bulbs among anonymous Amazon packages sent to Canadian universities
At least 7 university student unions have received unsolicited items from Amazon
Several Canadian university student unions are stumped as they continue to receive anonymous packages containing random goods — everything from sex toys to light bulbs to record players to computer cables.
The items come in Amazon packaging, but there's no indication who's ordering the goods from the online retail giant.
"We're definitely confused by it," said Shawn Wiskar, University of Regina Students' Union vice-president of student affairs.
His student union has received about 15 anonymous packages from Amazon since late November, many of which contained multiple items. Products sent so far include iPad cases, a kitchen scale and a "fleshlight" — a male sex toy in the shape of a flashlight.
"This certainly is probably one of the funnier highlights of my career in student politics," Wiskar said. "I'm really curious to see what comes next."
Six other university student unions — Dalhousie in Halifax; St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, N.S.; Ryerson in Toronto; Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo, Ont.; Royal Roads in Victoria; and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg — have also confirmed that they've been receiving mysterious Amazon packages since the fall.
Some of those student unions say they've heard of other Canadian universities also receiving packages. Everyone, including Amazon apparently, is trying to figure out who's behind the orders.
"The kind of the question that we have is, is this going to stop and why are these packages coming?" said Wiskar.
When the first anonymous box arrived at the University of Regina Students' Union in late November, no one thought much of it.
It contained a couple of counter protectors for hot items.
"No one claimed that they had ordered it, so we put it in the kitchen and didn't ask too many questions," Wiskar said.
But the next mystery package which arrived a week later raised eyebrows. It contained a vibrator sex toy along with an odd pairing — a couple of cellphone chargers.
"We were definitely a little shocked," Wiskar said. "At first we very discreetly just went door to door in our office as well as some of our student centres and asked if they had ordered these items."
No one claimed the goods and more products continued to arrive. They included a first-aid kit and a couple of turntable record players that retail on Amazon's Canadian site for $89.99 each.
Wiskar estimates his student union has received up to 40 individual items, worth more than $1,000.
"Our first guess was perhaps this was an elaborate hoax from one of our partner universities, but it seems like an awful lot of money to be spending on this elaborate prank," he said.
Ryerson's Student Union has also been bombarded with anonymous Amazon packages — about 20 in all so far.
President Susanne Nyaga said the first package, which arrived in October, contained a few wireless headphones and a toy tank.
Since then, the student union has received piles of goods, including vibrators, dildos, odd electronics such as a device to improve your Wi-Fi connection, and several more wireless headphones which retail on Amazon for $62.38 each.
"They're just such random items," said Nyaga. "None of us are able to figure out a connection between them." Theories have ranged from a pricey prank to a marketing campaign.
"If it's marketing, it's not the best," said Nyaga, noting the student union has no idea who's sending the goods and doesn't plan to keep them.
Some of the items, such as the sex toys, have already been donated to other campus departments. Ryerson's student newspaper, The Eyeopener — which first broke this story — acquired one of the vibrators and loaned it to CBC News for photos.
CBC also rifled through remaining packages at Ryerson's student union office and found eyelash growth serum, a watch wristband, a six-pack of light bulbs, and a gliding soccer ball that lights up.
"[The packages] are really just taking up space at this point and we continue to get more," Nyaga said.
Her student union plans to donate the remaining items to charity following fruitless attempts to identify the sender, including contacting Amazon.
The company said it couldn't reveal who's sending the packages for privacy reasons, Nyaga said.
Purchased using gift cards
The University of Regina Students' Union has also started giving away items after contacting Amazon multiple times for answers.
Wiskar said in the latest query, the company determined the last couple of items the student union received were purchased using untraceable gift cards.
"Amazon said that they're unable to figure out who it is and we should just kind of accept the packages," he said.
CBC News also contacted Amazon. The company asked for photos of some shipping labels on the anonymous packages, which we sent. At this point, the company is still investigating.
Meanwhile, select student unions continue to receive unsolicited goods, which are at least providing some amusement.
"It certainly does get some laughs every time we get a mystery package and everyone gathers around our front desk," Wiskar said. "We're very curious to see what it might hold."