MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) – A Memphis woman who ordered a box of cigars couldn’t believe what she got instead. She agreed to tell her story about the cigars as long as her identity was kept hidden. She said what happened is just too bizarre.
The woman’s story starts online. She said she ordered cigars from Thompson Cigar Company, which were shipped from their fulfillment center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A box arrived July 27.
“When I lifted it, my first sign was, ‘Wow these are heavy,'” she said. “When I open it, to my surprise it was filled with new blue license plates.”
That’s right: There were no cigars in the box. Instead, she saw 100 Tennessee license plates—an item that many in Shelby County are desperate to get.
This year, the state rolled out its new plates, which caused a giant backlog at the county clerk’s office. Some residents have said that they had waited months to get theirs in the mail. The wait for license plates in Shelby County is so long that there are even calls to bring in the state to take over.
“My own license plate expired in July, but because I have two vehicles, I was in no hurry because I didn’t want to stand in line to get them,” the woman said. “It’s just perplexing to me. Of course, maybe I’m overthinking it.”
Or maybe not. The return address on the box lists the cigar company. And a packaging slip sealed inside the box and underneath the plates was from the cigar company.
“I immediately call the cigar company,” she said. “Of course, they tell me, ‘That’s not possible. You could not have gotten license plates from our warehouse.'”
Thompson Cigar said the same thing to NEWS10’s sister station in Memphis. In an emailed statement, the company said it does not have “any affiliation with license plates.”
The woman said she was then told that UPS, the company that delivered the package, would come to get the plates. That didn’t happen.
“I thought, ‘Let me call the police.’ Because again, I’m seeing on the news that license plates have been ordered and not showing up,” she said.
A Memphis police spokesperson had yet to find any evidence that a crime was committed, so they told the woman to try UPS again. She ended up driving them over to an outlet. “When I told them what happened, they looked at me like I had a box of rattlesnakes,” she said.
UPS told her they can’t help, because “the box has been opened.” She said, “By then I’m just frustrated. I don’t know what to do.”
The Shelby County Clerk told local affiliate WREG that the license plates do not belong in the Shelby County inventory. WREG also reached out to the Tennessee Department of Revenue. And hours later, state agents contacted WREG for the woman’s information.
The agents showed up at her house shortly therafter and eagerly took the plates. However, the state would not disclose the identity of the intended recipient of the plates, or whether they believed this incident was related to a crime, or simply an accident.
“We are still investigating this issue,” a spokesperson for the state said. “We are now working with our common carrier to help us determine what happened.” The state added that this incident is “extremely unusual,” and it “will not cause issues or delays.”
UPS wouldn’t answer any other questions, and the woman at the center of this story said that they were ignoring her questions, too. But she did receive a new package in the mail—and this time, it was a box of cigars.