Unwanted Gift Plot
aka: White Elephant

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/necklace0.jpg
Oh, Rob! You shouldn't have!
No, really, you shouldn't have.

Stock sitcom plot in which a character receives a present. The present is absolutely hideous. He is forced to pretend that he just loves it, so as not to hurt the presenter's feelings. Unfortunately, he is just so good an actor that the presenter insists that he wear it all the time, put it on display, paint the house to coordinate, etc. The receiver becomes increasingly miserable, and thus is comedically committed.

Very much Truth in Television, as every person with a very generous but senile/half-blind/out-of-touch grandmother can attest. Further, gift cards exist primarily to avert the trope.

Homemade Sweater from Hell is a Sub-Trope.

Compare My New Gift Is Lame and Convenience Store Gift Shopping. Also see Kids Prefer Boxes.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Seitokai Yakuindomo: Tsuda receives, in quick succession, three implied and unwanted vibrating (sex) toys during the Christmas Episode. The first time as a part of a present exchange roulette and he knew about the possibility of getting that one (and tried to avoid it); the second time was from Shino directly and seems awkward even by the show's standard; the third time is from Santa himself and manages to achieve Rule of Three funny. He utters not a complaint.

    Films 
  • A Christmas Story: Ralphie's ultra-embarrassing pink bunny pajama suit that he receives from Aunt Clara.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The current page image is from an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show which revolves around Rob giving Laura a replica of "Empress Carlotta's Necklace." Laura hates it, but Can Not Spit It Out because his intentions were so sweet.
  • Friends:
    • In "The One with the Prom Video," Joey buys Chandler a gaudy bracelet, and hilarity ensues.
    • Rachel does this with nearly every gift she gets apparently, swapping it the day after and pretending a big dog ran off with it, or something similar.
    • There's also the episode where Rachel and Monica pretend to both want to keep a hideous work of art made by Phoebe, while they both try to get rid of it when she's away.
  • Finch tries to get rid of a handmade vase Jack gave him in an episode of Just Shoot Me!.
  • An episode of Leave It to Beaver was about Beaver giving his mother a sweater that she really didn't like, but was too nice to tell him about it. And then he suggested that she should wear it to a parent/teacher meeting.
  • On the The King of Queens, Doug and Carrie receive a hideous painting of themselves for their anniversary from their friends Deacon and Kelly. They pretend to love it, but secretly try to get rid of it. It turns out Deacon and Kelly had intentionally given them a horrible present so they would be allowed to get rid of an unwanted gift that Doug and Carrie had previously given them.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show Donna gave Eric a "man ring." Said ring was hideous and gaudy and was promptly given to Fez.
  • In Home Improvement the boys gave Jill a very large bottle of very cheap perfume.
  • Jake Donovan in Stark Raving Mad had this with a heavy beaded necklace his then girlfriend gave him.
  • In one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Marie gives Ray and Debra a sculpture that she made in a class. The sculpture is unintentionally very suggestive, leading the family to try various means of getting rid of it without telling her why.
  • The Frasier episode "Our Father Whose Art Ain't Heaven" had Martin buying him a horrible painting after he overheard Frasier praising it to the restaranteur exhibiting it. Frasier spent the rest of the episode angsting about how to break the news.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Amy gives Penny a big, tacky painting of the two of them. Bernadette points out that Penny in the painting looks like a man. Amy does not take it well when she discovers Penny taking it down.
  • In "Justified" we see a shelf in Ava's house that's lined with ceramic figurines. She mentions to Raylan that she'd once seen one in a friend's house and commented in passing that she liked them. Her deceased husband, Bowman, took her on her word and bought them for her every time he saw one. She told Raylan she didn't have the heart to tell Bowman that she'd only made the comment to be polite and that she really thought the figurines were hideous.
  • Both Christmas Episodes of The Golden Girls' show that Rose tends to give rather subpar gifts to her three roommates. She gives Dorothy a maple syrup spigot in the first one, while the second has Blanche offhandedly admitting she buries hers out in the backyard.

    Literature 
  • There's a short story published in The New Yorker that plays with this. A man gets his wife a fur coat for Christmas but, as a practical joke, buys a little square of grubby rabbit fur at the same time and has it wrapped as if it's the real present. He drops hints in the weeks leading to Christmas about how he didn't get a bonus this year and he's afraid it's looking pretty lean. When she unwraps it, she puts on a brave face and pretends it's gorgeous and just what she wanted, going to such lengths (calling up a friend like she couldn't wait to tell her about it, and so on) that she almost convinces herself, and he gets annoyed and finally calls her attention to the huge package he's hidden in the hall. When she sees the coat, all the reaction he gets is, "It's nice."
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Westeros has... Harrenhal. For when King's Landing needs to reward somebody, yet get rid of them at the same time, nothing beats handing them the impossible task of taking care of the place by giving them what seems to be a peach of a title and access to the pick of lands in the Riverlands. It. Isn't. Really, it's not. It's almost a pity quite a few people, both in the main story and the history of the place, never realise that until a bit too late to do them any good (readers, other Genre Savvy characters and those writing the supplementary histories chronicling the various misfortunes are well aware, however). Worse, those winding up in possession of the stone pile can't exactly try giving the place back after either 1) accepting the title to it or 2) trying to take it by force or deception. Because reacting like "You know, after actually trying it, it doesn't really fit me; can I have a refund?" would be either treason to the Crown or an insult to the region, both of which would get you justifiably besieged within your awkward-to-fully-man walls... and squashed. Littlefinger has so far got around this by having others try taking over and holding the castle using their own treasons: he thereby gets all the peripheral rights to the titles, with none of the maintenance or other problems actually dealing with the white elephant directly would give him — or, those being ungrateful enough to turn the oportunity down flat in front of the Lannisters would give him, either. He is aiming to cut the knot by quarrying the thing to the ground and replacing it with a much saner keep down the line, hopefully at a profit — Harren used top-quality materials when he built it, after all.

    Radio 

    Web Original 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • In Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked Dave is given a macaroni necklace by Theodore, who wants him to wear it everywhere he goes, including a formal dinner with the captain. Alvin's comment was particularly biting:
    Alvin: Oh yeah . . . that's a real chick magnet.
  • The Smurfs episode "A Gift For Papa's Day" is all about Papa Smurf trying to get rid of a gift hat that he doesn't like wearing. It gets humorously mistaken for a Magic Hat by Gargamel when he uses it to capture the Smurfs, and Papa Smurf even fools Gargamel into believing that it is in order to distract him long enough for the Smurfs to escape.
  • In the Regular Show episode "Tants", Pops gets Mordecai and Rigby pairs of the titular table pants, who find them embarassing and in his absence give them to Muscle Man. When Pops later asks them to go to a "Tants Lunch" with him, Rigby forces himself into lying he took them to be cleaned after very nearly making the former cry. Fortunately for them, Muscle Man is willing to give them back; unfortunately, they're a mess, kicking off an escalating plot that leads to them fighting the president of Tantsco for making counterfeit replacements. After overhearing their heartfelt apology for the entire conflict, Pops forgives them, and the president gives them free replacement Tants.
  • A Spongebob Squarepants episode "Gift of Gum" has Patrick giving SpongeBob a giant ball of chewed gum for Best Friends Day. SpongeBob is both scared and disgusted by it and attempts to get rid of it without Patrick knowing.

    Real Life 
  • The term "white elephant" (meaning a troublesome or unwanted gift) comes from a legend that when the King of Siam didn't like someone, he would give them a white elephant as a present (or make it known he was to do so). In this culture white elephants were sacred, so the recipient couldn't put it to work but still had to feed it, creating a drain on his resources. Turning down the present would be a grave insult, so the only way to avoid it was to absent yourself from court—which was the intention.

Alternative Title(s): Stuck With The Unwanted Gift, The Zotz, White Elephant

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnwantedGiftPlot?from=Main.WhiteElephant