Created By: MaxWest on January 21, 2013 Last Edited By: MaxWest on March 21, 2013
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That Was The Reward

A character refuses or even outright destroys something - then learns it was a gift or reward

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A character refuses something that is offered to him or may even destroys said thing. Afterwards, he learns that the item was his reward for a recent task he successfully or exceptionally completed. In some cases, the spurned/destroyed item was meant as a gift (i.e. birthday, wedding, Valentine's Day).

Usually meant as An Aesop or could also be Laser-Guided Karma if the character in question is a Jerk Ass or arrogant. Also may be Played for Laughs.

May overlap with My New Gift Is Lame and Vandalism Backfire. Compare Undesirable Prize, which the character knows is meant for them but may actually be tempted to refuse or destroy, and Off the Table, when there's an attempt to claim the gift but it will not be given after the initial refusal.
Examples

Advertising
  • A car commercial has the guy sneak into his garage at night at destroy the car with a sledgehammer so his wife will be forced to agree to buy a new one, then slips into bed. The next morning, his wife tells him that he was right after all, and that she'd traded in the car the previous day, the new one is in the garage...

Anime
  • In Burn Up! Excess, a rich young man, whom the Amazon Brigade assisted, offered one of the ladies 500 acres of desert land. She refused it, because it's just a pile of sand. Then she found out about the oil, but he had already left.

Film
  • The 1932 Laurel and Hardy short The Music Box plays this trope to a tee. While trying to get a player piano delivered, the duo angers Professor Theodor Von Schwarzenhoffen. He turns up at the end of the short and destroys the player piano in a fit of rage - only to learn from his wife that it was intended as his present.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). At the beginning of the movie, after Klaatu gets out of his saucer he approaches the U.S. Army soldiers surrounding it. He offers a device that suddenly juts out spines and a soldier panics and shoots the device. Klaatu later explains its true nature.
    Klaatu: It was a gift for your President. With this, he could have studied life on the other planets.
  • Zig-Zagged with The Three Stooges short "Goof on the Roof". Moe, Larry, and Shemp learn their housemate is getting married AND a new television set. They decide to give him a wedding gift in the form of installing his TV and its antenna. In true Stooges fashion, the trio wrecks their friend's TV and his new marriage. This trope is zig-zagged because they destroy someone else's gift (which they know is for him) by accident with the recipient learning afterwards what happened.

Literature
  • A story by H. G. Wells called "The Lost Inheritance" invokes this trope. An eccentric and wealthy uncle writes dull literature and his nephew, Ted, covets his uncle's wealth. As his uncle is dying, he gives Ted a book to read. Ted lies to his uncle about having read it (he never does) and the uncle dies. The uncle's will is never found however, but an early will is located. It gives the uncle's fortune to a distant relative who squanders it quickly. Years later, Ted stumbles across that book his uncle gave him and opens it up...only to find the true will that would have given him everything!
  • A 1953 book titled "Laughter Is Legal" mentions an anecdote about a lawyer expecting payment for his services but being offered a hand-crafted leather wallet instead. The lawyer is insulted about receiving a gift rather than cash. He says his fee is five hundred dollars. His client opens the hand-crafted wallet to reveal at least a thousand dollars in bills and then gets paid his exact fee of five hundred dollars!
  • One of Rudyard Kipling's stories concerns a British Army scout exploring the wilds of India, where he discovers a long-lost sultanate. The sultan welcomed the scout, and gave him an expensive gift each evening. On his last evening, the scout received a novelty store box decorated with seashells; the landlocked sultanate had never seen seashells before. Before departing, the scout gave the seashell box to a young girl who'd kept him company. When the scout returned one year later, he learned from a servant that the girl had been caught with the box, and presumed a thief. She was executed by drowning for this crime. This news devastated the scout.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Igor Karkakoff dismisses the conspiracy theory of the paranoid "Mad-Eye" Moody, citing an incident where Moody smashed a birthday present because he believed it was a disguised basilisk egg, only to find that it was actually just a clock.

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of Lois and Clark had Lois being harassed by a guy known as the Prankster. At the end she receives a large bouquet of roses which she assumes is another prank and throws it in the trash and pours coffee all over them, then...
    Clark: Those roses cost me fifty dollars.
    Lois: Oh! (sheepishly) I'm sorry.
  • In the Twilight Zone episode "The Gift" an alien brings a gift to the people of Earth. The people it interacts with kill it and burn the gift, which it turns out was the Cure for Cancer.
  • An episode of Mama's Family ("Pomp and Circumstance") had an incident similar to the urban legend mentioned below. Mama recounts how her cousin Claude wanted a hunting rifle as a graduation gift. His father gave him a Bible instead, leading him to angrily reject the gift. Years later, after his father's death, Claude comes across the Bible and opens it to find money to have paid for that hunting rifle he wanted.
  • An episode of Victorious had Tori stumped on what gift to get her sister Trina for her "birthweek." (Trina is such a narcissist that she demands a whole week's celebration for her birthday.) After many ideas, Tori decides to write a song thanking her for all that she's done for Tori and explaining that, despite Trina's flaws, she still loves her sister. After Tori surprises her sister with it, performing it to her with a live band, back-up dancers, and a fog machine, Trina's first question is: "So, where's my present?"

    Tori: The song was your present!
    Trina: How much did it cost?
    Tori: The song didn't cost money!
    Trina (Mockingly): Then it's not a present!
  • The exact same plot mentioned above happened in an episode of Cheers where Woody couldn't afford to get his Spoiled Sweet girlfriend Kelly a present so he writes a song for her and plays it at her birthday party (no backup dancers or fog machine though).
    Kelly: Woody that was beautiful.
    Woody: You really liked it?
    Kelly: Oh, I liked it more than anything.
    Woody: Thanks.
    Kelly: So, where's my gift?

Urban Legends
  • One famous legend involves a boyfriend/husband thinking his lover is cheating on him and seeing a brand new car parked outside. Thinking the car belongs to the adulterer, he has cement poured into the car to ruin it. His shocked wife/girlfriend comes out from the house and reveals that car was a gift for him.
  • Another example is the Spurned Graduation Gift. A son is about to graduate from high school or college and has a rich father. He makes it clear that he wants this expensive sports car or convertible as a graduation gift. When the graduation arrives, the son instead gets a Bible from his dad. The angry son doesn't bother to open the Bible but storms out and never speaks to his father again. Years later, when his father passes away, the son returns and finds the Bible given to him. Opening it up, he usually will find inside a car key and a receipt paid in full for the car he wanted.

Western Animation
  • The Raccoons episode "Games People Play" has Cyril Sneer running from a tax agent, thinking he's in some kind of financial trouble. Cyril ends up on a game show during his escape and not only ends up losing on the game show but also refusing the envelope that the tax agent had...which turned out to be a considerable tax refund!
  • The 1963 Looney Tunes short "Million Hare" has Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck racing against each to get to a TV station to win what they thought was a "million bucks". Daffy cheats extensively and ends up getting to the station first. However, he learns that the prize was a "million box" instead. Daffy gives to Bugs, thinking it's worthless. Then the TV show host reveals that each little box (a million of them) inside the million box had one dollar inside!
  • Donald Duck has done this to gifts his nephews got for him, partly due to some of the underhanded trickery they pulled off in order to get the gift in question.
    • In Donald's Happy Birthday, the nephews gets him cigars as a birthday present. However earlier, the nephews had to break into the piggy bank Donald insisted they use because he didn't want them to immediately spend the chore money they earned. As a result, Donald catches them in the act of buying the cigars, and decides to pull the Radish Cure act on them.
    • In the Lucky Number short, the nephews bring home a sport car Donald won in a lottery. However, they had to scam Donald into giving them free gas (Donald's a owner of a gas station/garage in this short) in order to pick up that car. Due to this, Donald wrecks the car without learning it was the prize until after he does it. All this happened because the nephews wanted to surprise Donald with the car instead of telling him he was the real winner. (Donald listened to the radio for the winning numbers and thought he lost. The nephews were the only ones who heard the announcer correct himself and give the real numbers.)
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • January 21, 2013
    SKJAM
    I've also seen the Bible one with money stuck between the pages. (Savvy kids will shake gift books and such to see if anything will fall out.)

    May overlap with My New Gift Is Lame.
  • January 21, 2013
    Chabal2
    A car commercial has the guy sneak into his garage at night at destroy the car with a sledgehammer so his wife will be forced to agree to buy a new one, then slips into bed. The next morning, his wife tells him that he was right after all, and that she'd traded in the car the previous day, the new one is in the garage...
  • January 21, 2013
    Tallens
    • One episode of Lois And Clark had Lois being harassed by a guy known as the Prankster. At the end she receives a large bouquet of roses which she assumes is another prank and throws it in the trash and pours coffee all over them, then...
      Clark: Those roses cost me fifty dollars.
      Lois: Oh! (sheepishly) I'm sorry.
  • January 21, 2013
    BlackbirdMizu
    Hm, I kind of think there should be a different title. "Rejection of Reward" sounds like the person knows it's a gift/reward for himself but rejects/destroys it anyway.
  • January 22, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
    • Donald Duck has done this to gifts his nephews got for him, partly due to some of the underhanded trickery they pulled off in order to get the gift in question.
      • In Donald's Happy Birthday, the nephews gets him cigars as a birthday present. However earlier, the nephews had to break into the piggy bank Donald insisted they use because he didn't want them to immediately spend the chore money they earned. As a result, Donald catches them in the act of buying the cigars, and decides to pull the Radish Cure act on them.
      • In the Lucky Number short, the nephews bring home a sport car Donald won in a lottery. However, they had to scam Donald into giving them free gas (Donald's a owner of a gas station/garage in this short) in order to pick up that car. Due to this, Donald wrecks the car without learning it was the prize until after he does it. All this happened because the nephews wanted to surprise Donald with the car instead of telling him he was the real winner. (Donald listened to the radio for the winning numbers and thought he lost. The nephews were the only ones who heard the announcer correct himself and give the real numbers.)
  • January 22, 2013
    Desertopa
    Could use a better name, since it sounds like it would apply to a deliberate, knowing rejection of a reward (I could name at least a couple examples of this.)
  • January 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Day The Earth Stood Still 1951. At the beginning of the movie, after Klaatu gets out of his saucer he approaches the U.S. Army soldiers surrounding it. He offers a device that suddenly juts out spines and a soldier panics and shoots the device. Klaatu later explains.
    It was a gift for your President. With this, he could have studied life on the other planets.
  • January 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Twilight Zone episode "The Gift" an alien brings a gift to the people of Earth. The people it interacts with kill it and burn the gift, which it turns out was the Cure For Cancer.
  • January 25, 2013
    MaxWest
    Thanks for the examples so far. I gave the trope a better name (for now), but if anyone can recommend any other titles, I'd use one of those.
  • January 27, 2013
    IuraCivium
    Change "Your" to "The", maybe. This title wouldn't go down well with the people running the wiki.
  • January 29, 2013
    Tiiba
    In Burn Up Excess, a rich young man whom her team assisted offered her 500 acres of desert land. She refused it, because it's just a pile of sand. Then she found out about the oil, but he had already left.
  • February 4, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Isn't this trope a bit too close to Vandalism Backfire?
  • February 4, 2013
    Tallens
    ^Not exactly but I'd say they are related.
  • March 20, 2013
    MaxWest
    If we can get another hat here, we should be able to launch.
  • March 20, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    I distinctly remember a short story by Rudyard Kipling, but I can't find it online. Its name was "Chali" or something like that. Wonderful story but heartbreaking. I hope Wiki Magic works for this.

    Literature
    • One of Rudyard Kipling's stories concerns a British Army scout exploring the wilds of India, where he discovers a long-lost sultanate. The sultan welcomed the scout, and gave him an expensive gift each evening. On his last evening, the scout received a novelty store box decorated with seashells; the landlocked sultanate had never seen seashells before. Before departing, the scout gave the seashell box to a young girl who'd kept him company. When the scout returned one year later, he learned from a servant that the girl had been caught with the box, and presumed a thief. She was executed by drowning for this crime. This news devastated the scout.
  • March 20, 2013
    thewriter
    • An episode of Victorious had Tori stumped on what gift to get her sister Trina for her "birthweek." (Trina is such a narcissist that she demands a whole week's celebration for her birthday.) After many ideas, Tori decides to write a song thanking her for all that she's done for Tori and explaining that, despite Trina's flaws, she still loves her sister. After Tori surprises her sister with it, performing it to her with a live band, back-up dancers, and a fog machine, Trina's first question is: "So, where's my present?"

      Tori: The song was your present!
      Trina: How much did it cost?
      Tori: The song didn't cost money!
      Trina (Mockingly): Then it's not a present!
  • March 20, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^That exact same plot happened in an episode of Cheers where Woody couldn't afford to get his Spoiled Sweet girlfriend Kelly a present so he writes a song for her and plays it at her birthday party (no backup dancers or fog machine though).
    Kelly: Woody that was beautiful.
    Woody: You really liked it?
    Kelly: Oh, I liked it more than anything.
    Woody: Thanks.
    Kelly: So, where's my gift?
  • March 21, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • In Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Igor Karkakoff dismisses the conspiracy theory of the paranoid "Mad-Eye" Moody, citing an incident where Moody smashed a birthday present because he believed it was a disguised basilisk egg, only to find that it was actually just a clock.
  • March 21, 2013
    MaxWest
    We have enough hats and plenty of examples. Can we get a launch now?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=m0zs6s361g17y0ujg4tvp3b1&trope=ThatWasTheReward