'Strange gifts': Winnipeg groups among Canadian student unions getting anonymous parcels
Staff took some items home, U of M student union donated sex toy to drag-queen bingo give-away
Phone chargers, headphones, a sex toy and a variety of mirrors are among the gallery of bizarre items that have been anonymously posted to Winnipeg student associations — and several others across Canada — through Amazon over the past several months.
"It's really strange. If it's like a prank, then it would be a very elaborate and expensive prank," said Megan Linton, vice-president of external affairs for the University of Winnipeg Students' Association.
"But if it wasn't a prank, then I don't know — they're strange gifts to send to people without a return address."
More than 10 student associations at universities across the country have been receiving anonymous Amazon packages containing apparently random goods for months. The packages have no return addresses, and some schools have tried unsuccessfully to figure out through Amazon who sent them and how.
The online retail giant said in a statement the behaviour violates its policies.
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The UWSA received at least five packages starting in July or August before the association told its mailroom to start refusing them in November, Linton said. The items have included headphones, phone chargers and different types of mirrors, she said, including a lit vanity mirror.
The packages were simply addressed to "Students' Union," followed by the school's address, she said. No return information was provided.
"I think we thought that maybe one of our staff members ordered it and then had it addressed to work instead of their house, but then nobody claimed it, and we were like, 'This is really weird,'" she said. "And then we got a few more."
Since November, the parcels have kept arriving, but Linton didn't know how many — or the fate of the first five packages.
"We just tried to return [the packages], which I don't think happened. I don't know," she said.
"We send them to the mailroom and then just like ship them back to Amazon, or they're floating somewhere in the abyss."
The University of Manitoba Student Union has also received a pair of packages, starting with an unexplained sex toy in October.
"I was thinking it was kind of strange that we got this package. To be honest, at first I thought, perhaps, maybe it was a staff member [who ordered it] and someone was embarrassed and didn't claim it," said Tanjit Nagra, president of the union.
"But then once we saw there are students' unions across Canada are getting the same thing then we were like okay, there is something going on, right?"
The union donated the sex toy to an LGBT student group, the Rainbow Pride Mosaic, to be given out as a free prize during a drag-queen bingo event.
But then another anonymous package arrived last month, containing phone accessories including a dashboard mount and a handheld phone receiver that can be attached to a cell.
Staff took those ones home, Nagra said.
Winnipeg police, Manitoba RCMP not investigating
CBC News contacted other Manitoba schools, including Brandon University, Red River College and the University College of the North, but none of them had received anonymous packages.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said she wasn't aware of any reports of the packages.
A spokesperson for Manitoba RCMP told CBC News in an email the service isn't investigating anything locally, although most provincial schools are in municipal police forces's jurisdictions.
She added that if there are no prohibited or restricted items, payment isn't an issue and no threats are uttered, there may not be a criminal offence anyway.
Linton said her union was confused and then amused by the packages, once they learned other schools were getting them through an article in Ryerson University's paper The Eyeopener, which broke the story.
But some student unions in other provinces have been concerned by the parcels. Certain schools have received more than a dozen, including the University of Regina Students' Union, which got about 15 according to its president, and the student union at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., which got 16.
The items have included record players, first aid kits, a digital kitchen scale, dildos and a "fleshlight" — a male sex toy in the shape of a flashlight.
CBC News reported on Thursday Amazon has opened an investigation into the packages, and that an RCMP officer in Thunder Bay, Ont., Const. Darryl Waruk, has conducted his own investigation.
Waruk said Amazon law enforcement told him companies in China were sending the goods as a marketing tactic and assured him there was no criminality involved.
With files from Austin Grabish and Sophia Harris