Follow TV Tropes


Bulk Buy Only

Go To

Ironic situation where characters spend an entire episode trying to get some minor product or object, but succeed only if they are willing to take excessive or ultimately useless amounts of the object with them. They typically become sick of the booty but are unable or unwilling to part with it.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

  • Cowboy Bebop's infamous "Mushroom Samba" episode had the crew unintentionally end up with a large stash of shiitake mushrooms. The crew ends up having to eat the mushrooms in a variety of dishes because they have no other food available. Possibly inspired by the Monty Python's Flying Circus skit below.
  • In one installment of the Ranma ½ manga, Cologne is sold a veritable mountain of horrible-tasting noodles. Rather than throw them away or demand a refund, she holds an all-you-can-eat contest, and hidden in one special order is a "Noodle of Strength," said to confer the strength of 100 men. Eat up! Just as expected, not only do the male members of the Nerima Wrecking Crew eat and fight over the horrible noodles, but several Muggles, too! Hilarity Ensues. In the end, the MacGuffin noodle was an even worse kind: it provided the digestive strength of 100 men, and Ranma, the winner, is so hungry he's given more of the original, horrible noodles.


  • A variant appears in Batman Begins when Alfred comments that the components for Bruce's Batman mask (the ears and hood) will have to be ordered in large lots - ten thousand of each component - in order to avoid suspicion ("At least we'll have spares"). The first shipment of the mask proper turns out to be flawed and unusable, obliging them to order another ten thousand, albeit at a discount offered in apology for the flaw.

  • The avoiding suspicion variant appears in The Dogs of War when Cat Shannon has to buy 400,000 rounds of 9mm ammunition and 300 mortar bombs for a small commando raid so he can make the order as part of a legitimate arms deal, and even that's regarded as unusually small. Ironically Cat does find a use for this arsenal—supplying the soldiers of the ruler he actually puts in charge instead of the Puppet King his employers wanted.
  • Put to hilarious use in Haruki Murakami's short story The Second Bakery Attack. The narrator and his wife wake up starving in the middle of the night and set out to rob a bakery, but have to settle for a McDonald's because it's the only place open. At the same time, the narrator flashes back to a previous bakery robbery he and a friend had committed in college, in which the baker had allowed them to take as much as they wanted as long as they agreed to listen to a full Wagner record.
  • In Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe, a university student's attempt to procure a single condom becomes a Trojan Gauntlet that ends with him acquiring two gross of them. He is then stuck with the problem of how to dispose of them.
  • In a variant, Rincewind of Discworld has accumulated a number of do-nothing titles at Unseen University, for each of which the University porter provides him with a bucket of coal to heat his office each day... even though for all his positions, he only has the one office. If Rincewind asks for less than that, or he fails to burn every last piece, the university won't provide him with any coal at all. Thus, Discworld's most put-upon "wizzard" must strip to his underpants and sweat atop a mountain of coal every summer if he wants to avoid freezing to death in winter.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted: A military troop ship is forced to spend several months eating nothing but heat-and-expand sausages. Don't feel too bad, most of the troops are willingly invading an Actual Pacifist planet.

    Live Action TV 

  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the bandit Dennis Moore steals lupins from the rich and gives those lupins to the poor. Eventually, the poor get fed up with having to live on such dishes as "braised lupin in lupin sauce." This isn't because Dennis can only get lupins in large quantities; he just doesn't know what else to steal. Given that the rich nobles also value the lupins highly (one keeps a lupin stashed in her garter for safe-keeping), it may simply be that lupins are considered a valuable commodity for no comprehensible reason (think the Dutch "tulip bubble"), while the poor are the only ones sensible enough to question their worth. Then again, this is Monty Python, so try not to overthink it.
  • The Thunderbirds episode "Ricochet" has one of the staff of a pirate satellite complaining that there's nothing to eat on board except Honey Crunch Crispies. His partner replies that as a major advertiser the company gave them a year's free supply.
  • The characters of Seinfeld once attempted to start a bakery which sells only the tops of muffins, but spent most of the episode trying and failing to dispose of the bottoms. They even try giving them to the homeless shelter, which turns them down because, apparently, it would be insulting to the homeless people to be fed muffin stumps. (You might think they could have saved themselves the trouble by just baking the tops, but this is handwaved in the episode: the tops don't taste right unless they are baked with the bottoms attached.)
  • In an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, Aunt Bee goes on a cost-cutting kick and discovers a way to save 10 cents a pound on meat—by buying an entire side of beef, 150 pounds. To make matters worse, her freezer proceeds to break down.
  • Played for laughs in Farscape when the crew go to a planet to get food and come back with "a thousand units" of "dried food rectangles" (basically, crackers.)
  • An episode of The Golden Girls, Sophia gets a membership to a Price-Club like store called "Shopper's Warehouse," where this was the hook, you got bargains, but had to buy things in large quantities. During the episode, she bought 20 cases of sardines, four gross of toothbrushes (which is over 500.)

    Video Games 
  • Yes, Your Grace: The two resources that can be doled out to help petitioners are gold and food supplies. The player can only use gold to buy supplies or sell supplies for gold when certain merchants show up. Those merchants will only be selling a fixed, and fairly large, quantity of food supplies as a package deal, and will only buy supplies for gold in the same manner, with no option to buy less.

    Web Animation 
  • A piece of animation making the YouTube rounds features Popeye (in his Brodax design), Olive (Fleischer design) and Bluto (Hanna-Barbera design). Bluto is making off with Olive, so Popeye eats his spinach but is overcome by what sounds like irritable bowel syndrome. He's doubled over on the ground which is attributed to possibly tainted spinach. "I buys in bulk!" Popeye explains.
  • Minilife TV: In "Abel's Story", Chris has some trouble with a merchant in the Oni Region who sells boxes of apples and carrots and refuses to let him buy only a few individual ones. However, he gets the upper hand on the merchant by paying for a single apple and carrot and running off with them in hand.
    Merchant: Stop that kid! He's trying to get reasonable amounts of food for a fair price!

  • It's Walky!!: Once Joyce and Walky finally push the metaphorical beds together, they go out to buy some condoms, and do it in such an awkward and clueless manner that the cashier eventually pushes them into buying a whole box so that none of them will have to go through this again for a long time.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • To quote Marge Simpson: "That's a good price for twelve pounds of Nutmeg!"
    • Bart once bought Marge a gallon of cheap perfume for her birthday.
  • On Daria, Jake accidentally orders a bulk load of hot dogs, and the family has to eat several hot dog recipes over the course of the episode. Eventually Jake uses them for an Eating Contest.
  • Rugrats: In the episode The Stork, Stu ends up ordering 144 eggs just to make sure they have enough.
  • King of the Hill: In one episode, Hank Hill needs a new spark plug, but the Mega Lo Mart only has them in packs of twelve. Hank insists he only needs one, then rips one out of the pack and tries to buy it alone. He gets really annoyed when he's told that's not allowed and is forced to buy the whole pack.
  • In the first episode of Dogstar, Mark Clark unwittingly agrees to move an entire Pacific island to New Earth. This includes a huge amount of bananas. After he damages their sacred statuary in transit, the Islanders pay him with him the bananas. This results in the Clark eating nothing but bananas, prepared in increasing unusual (and disgusting) ways, throughout the episode.

    Real Life 
  • Howard Hughes is said to have had insisted on Banana Ripple ice cream for dessert every night, and his staff panicked when the flavor was discontinued. The ice cream company agreed to make a special batch, just for him, but it had to be a few hundred gallons. Allegedly, he ate two scoops of the new batch and then decided it was time for a change. The remainder had to be given away for free to customers at Hughes' casinos. One worker for Hughes joked there's probably still some Banana Ripple in a freezer somewhere to this day.
  • Shopping at places like Costco and other small-business suppliers will invariably end this way. You're one person, who needs one tube of toothpaste, which is why your only recourse is to buy five and give thanks that toothpaste doesn't spoil very fast.
    • The reason Costco and Sam's Club work this way, especially with food, drink, and other consumable products is thanks to the Square-Cube Law. A standard box of cereal C might hold a volume of X cereal but a box of size of 2C will hold 8X cereal. Typically, the price of packaging of food will cost way more than the price of the food itself, so while the the total price for a double sized box is more expensive than the standard box, the per unit price (or the cost of making a fixed amount of cereal) drops. If you're going to buy 8 boxes worth of cereal, it's cheaper to double the box size and buy one of those than to buy 8 individual boxes.
  • Many bagel stores will sell day-old bagels for cheap, but only if you buy a few dozen. Most of the time it's worth it, especially if you have freezer space for storage.
  • Clifford Stoll wanted to share physical Klein bottles with the rest of the mathematical community, but the only way glassmakers would produce Klein bottles was if Cliff purchased them in bulk. So he did, storing the excess of bottles in nook in his basement only accessible by his specially-built robots and selling them online to other mathematicians.
  • Some foodstuffs are only sold online in large quantities, which means that if you can't find a local store that sells one unit, they only way you can get it is by ordering half a dozen from the manufacturer's webpage.
  • A state university had enough things happening on campus that they could justify printing a daily newspaper five days a week, supported by advertising. They needed about 30,000 copies every day. Because of labor cost minimums and the recovery from selling the extras to a recycler, it was cheaper to print 100,000 copies and sell for pulp 70,000 of them.
  • A variation can show up when ordering from a seller who gives free shipping for a certain minimum purchase — it can actually be cheaper to buy more than you really wanted just to hit the threshold, particularly for items heavy/bulky enough to incur high shipping costs otherwise.
  • One of Interplay's founder is known as Burger because of a tendency to purchase huge amounts of cheap hamburgers ("Since I spent most of my time at the office, I didn't want to walk over, buy a burger, and walk back. So I'd buy a bag of twenty of them. Blow six bucks, get twenty burgers, go to my office, and put them in a drawer. I was too cheap to buy a refrigerator — well, really too broke. Every so often I'd open the drawer and eat a burger."). Following a Transgender transition, it even allowed for the Alliterative Nickname Burger Becky.

Alternative Title(s): Midnight Bakery Trip