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Wise Men: O Baby Jesus, we bring you... a pack of cigarettes... a Diet Coke... and a sack of charcoal!
Eddie Izzard, Glorious

A gift which the giver has clearly put little time or thought into, and usually of little use/relevance to the recipient.

Alice is all ready for the office Christmas party and on the road when Bob calls to make sure she's on the way. "I sure had a hard time picking out a Secret Santa gift for Carol!" he mentions. Alice just then remembers that she drew Zachariah in the Secret Santa exchange, and never got around to buying anything. He just transferred into the department last month, Alice barely knows the guy. And it's 8 PM on December 24th, nothing's going to be open—what luck, there's a Gas-N-Go on the next exit! Now, present,'s nearly been picked clean! And Alice leaves the shop with a box of Cloud Cakes and a gift ribbon...

There are many gift-giving events throughout the year, some of which you can dodge, and others that you really shouldn't for reasons of family tranquility, office politics, or simple etiquette. But sometimes you just don't know a person you're giving a gift very well, or they're difficult to shop for, or you have no imagination, or you put it off until the very last minute. So you just grab the first thing that seems vaguely appropriate and give that. Some "white elephant" gifts have been making the rounds for years, being regiven over and over.


Gifts that fit this trope tend to fall into one of two categories:

  1. The usual gifts that "everyone" gives for certain events, such as ties for Fathers' Day, toasters for weddings, fruitcake for Christmas, etc. Often there's a scene with the recipient putting it with all the identical items from previous years/other givers.
  2. Gifts clearly chosen with little or no thought about what the recipient might like. This can range from quite nice but not suited to the personality (a pink frilly dress for the Tomboy) through decent but generic ("everyone's getting Enya CDs this year; they were on special") to What Were You Thinking? (dental floss). Special bonus points if it's obviously just been picked out of the garbage or the neighbor's yard. Even more bonus points if the present is completely useless, harmful, or even spiteful to the recipient (giving a music player to a deaf man, giving a roasted ham to a kosher-keeping Jewish woman, etc.)

Monetary gifts generally don't count for this as the recipient can easily use money, unless it's obviously a last-second resort (crumpled, sticky dollar bills, say.) Likewise, gift certificates or cards are usually not this unless it's restricted to a service or store the recipient isn't likely to use. ("A $20 gift certificate to the Bouncing Baby Boutique. How nice. Have I mentioned lately that I'm childfree?")

Often overlaps with My New Gift Is Lame. If the giver is especially confused they may give a Shoddy Knockoff Product as part of this trope. The recipient might say "You shouldn't have!" as a result. Contrast Crappy Homemade Gift. See also Gift-Giving Gaffe. Compare to Last Resort Takeout.


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  • In one commercial for Shoppers Drugmart, a man sees his wife coming home with a bunch of Shoppers bags. When he asks what's inside them, the wife says that they're Christmas gifts. The husband then imagines his family opening gifts on Christmas morning, with him getting toilet paper, his daughter getting mouthwash, and his son getting soap.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in Future War 198X. After the President of the USA makes quite the messy nuclear error, he sends a box of cigars with a note asking for renewed friendship to Russia's leader for Christmas the next day. While they were expensive cigars, Orloff scoffs and is insulted at the "thoughtless gift", assuming that they are cheap and can be bought conveniently. He brands the president a stupid American cowboy while smoking it anyways.
  • Gals!: Ran frequently forgets to buy gifts for her boyfriend for his birthday, anniversary, etc., and would usually try to cover her blunder by giving him prizes she won from a raffle or an UFO catcher. The first time she does this, he's unaware of the fact and is very happy with the gift (a monkey doll). When she does this again near the end of the series, however, he was actually in vicinity when she makes the "purchase" and gets very angry about her apparent disregard towards him and their relationship.
  • In Honey and Clover, everyone is sitting around chatting when all of a sudden, someone asks, "So, why did we gather today again?" Takemoto, the resident Butt-Monkey, informs them all, with a smile plastered on his face, that it's his birthday. Cue people running around trying to set up some kind of party for him, including Takumi running out and coming back with a bunch of assorted convenience store cakes that he pushes into a whole cake and decorates with altar candles.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has two cases:
  • In Episode 5 of Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God, Ra returns from his voyage and gives the other Egyptian gods some souvenirs in the form of tacky oversized graphic tees. No one likes the presents except from Medjed, who is thrilled with his new shirt.
  • Zan Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, when devoting one of its Three Shorts to discussing emergency measures, had the entire class partake in this kind of gift-giving for Nami's birthday.
  • In Soul Eater, Maka's father wants to give her a present for passing her exams with top marks. He's actually savvy enough to realize that she'd prefer a book, but he doesn't know which ones she already has, so asks Blair, who's been living with Maka, to use his money to make the purchase. Blair gets distracted and spends the money on something she wants, naughty underwear. Remembering her actual mission too late to go back to the store, Blair simply uses her magic to shrink the undies to Maka's size. This naturally gives Maka the wrong idea about her father's intentions.

  • Harry Potter and Future's Past:
    Hermione: I should have been more suspicious of that perfume, but growing up, giving cheap perfume was a joke in our house. It meant you waited until the last second and only some late-night store selling cheap stuff was open. It seemed so like Ron that I didn't think he wasn't out shopping the night before.

    Film — Animated 
  • From Zootopia, Mayor Lionheart's gift to his assistant mayor Dawn Bellwether is a "World's Best Dad" mug, with "Dad" scribbled out and "Assistant Mayor" written in the tiny space above it. He may not even have bothered with the Convenience Store; he might've just pulled the mug out of a cupboard.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Ultimately subverted in Ant-Man When Scott shows up at his daughter's birthday party (that he wasn't invited to) he brings along an incredibly ugly and slightly terrifying rabbit toy that says "I love you". Later scenes show Cassie being honestly fond of the present.
    • Occurs again in Ant-Man and the Wasp, when Scott received a trophy from Cassie that reads "World's Best Grandma", because that was the only one available at the store. He loves it and uses it to hide Hank's spare costume.
  • In Dieu seul me voit (by Bruno Podalydès, 1998), the main character needs to buy a gift at the last moment and grabs a table lamp from the nearest store. That lamp ends up being repeatedly given around as a way for every recipient of the gift to get rid of it.
  • One Crazy Summer has the sister being given a tiny teddy bear as a present. This apparently isn't received well, for she promptly feeds it to her dog.
  • In Scrooged we see a typical Christmas present Frank got as a child from his father: A five-pound lump of meat. Courtesy of his Abusive Dad. Frank himself gives bath towels to employees and even his brother, with expensive gifts like VCRs being reserved for people he's trying to impress.
  • Early on in Wayne's World, Wayne receives an "anniversary" gift from his ex-girlfriend Stacy, despite the fact that they've been broken up for two months. The gift? A gun rack, something Wayne memorably points out he has absolutely no use for. If Mike Myers is to be believed, this actually once happened to him in Real Life.

  • Dave Barry writes that one time he saw his wife buy one of those ridiculously small decorative boxes (you know, the ones that could maybe hold a walnut, if you're lucky) without even knowing when or for whom it would be used as a present. Apparently this trope can even strike when you aren't actually shopping for a specific reason.
  • Discworld:
    • In Mort, when Death gives Mort and Ysabell a pearl of congealed reality as a wedding present, Mort says he thought his gift was the toast-rack. Death explains That was Albert. I'm afraid he doesn't have much imagination.
    • Part of the wizards' litany of complaints about Hogswatchnight in Hogfather:
      Chair of Indefinite Studies: And don't forget the presents. How ... how full of potential they seem in all that paper, how pregnant with possibilities ... and then you open them and basically the wrapping paper was more interesting and you have to say "How thoughtful, that will come in handy". It's not better to give than to receive, in my opinion, it's just less embarrassing.
      Senior Wrangler: I've worked out that over the years I have been a net exporter of Hogswatch presents...
      Chair of Indefinite Studies: Oh, everyone is. You spend a fortune on other people and what you get when all the paper is cleared away is one slipper that’s the wrong colour and a book about earwax.
  • In Doomsday Book, Mr. Dunworthy notices that all the presents his friend Mary has gotten her great-nephew Colin are sweaters and the like, so he tries to get better presents... unfortunately, between it being Christmas Eve and the quarantine, the only place open is a convenience store. He does manage to buy some interesting candy and between that and a well-picked book, he gives Colin a satisfactory bunch of Christmas presents.
  • Robert Fulghum writes about a White Elephant gift exchange at an office party. One grouchy guy gets the proverbial piece of junk and grumbles that too many people hide behind the "good thoughts" excuse.
  • The protagonist of Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend In A Coma does this. Justified because Christmas isn't currently his top priority, what with his girlfriend being in a coma.
  • The Tom Holt novel Grailblazers reveals that Santa Claus is really one of the Wise Men who gave gifts to the infant Jesus, doing community service as punishment for the fact that (unlike his colleagues, who planned ahead and brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh) he left it until the last minute and couldn't come up with anything better than a pair of socks.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Christmas gifts from the Dursleys over the years include a toothpick, a fifty-pence, and a single tissue.
    • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, after receiving an unexpected Christmas gift from Dobby, Harry scrambles to find something to give in return, in an effort to be polite and pretend he already had something as a gift. He ends up settling on an old pair of Uncle Vernon's socks, which were lying in the bottom of his trunk. In a subversion, Dobby loves them so much note  that Ron throws in his own Christmas socks and promises Dobby the next sweater his mother gifts to him.
  • Little House on the Prairie: It happens in By the Shores of Silver Lake when Mr. and Mrs. Boast show up unexpectedly on Christmas Eve. Ma gives Mr. Boast a pair of wristlets she had made for Pa and Mrs. Boast her Sunday handkerchief. The wristlets sound fine, but one hopes Ma considered the handkerchief too nice to actually use.
  • In My Sister's Keeper, oldest brother Jesse recounts a Christmas where all of the gifts were from the hospital gift shop. Somewhat justified in that they didn't leave things to the last minute intentionally, but rather were sidetracked by a medical crisis.
  • Swedish musician and comedian Povel Ramel mentions in his memoirs how he once did this kind of shopping on Christmas Eve in the only store he found that was still open — a pet store. Among other things, his then-girlfriend got a monkey for Christmas...
  • Averted in The Princess Diaries series; Mia encounters this situation with her Secret Snowflake Tina, but manages to get her a last-minute gift that's both heartfelt and appropriate.
  • A Seriesof Unfortunate Events: Book 3 (The Wide Window) features the second type, of the "trying, but clueless" variety. The well-meaning Aunt Josephine gives Violet a baby doll, Klaus a model train set, and Sunny a rattle, not realizing that Violet (at fourteen) is not interested in dolls, that Klaus has never liked model trains, and that Sunny finds rattles irritating. They wind up trading gifts after Josephine leaves the room, with Sunny getting the doll to chew on and Violet getting the train so she can examine its mechanical insides. Klaus is left with the rattle, which Violet points out still does him no good and so the swap isn't fair to him; he responds that given everything else that's happened to them, this isn't something worth complaining about, which the others admit is true.
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume has Peter being given a picture dictionary, more suitable for a preschooler than the preteen that he is. Ugh. At least he has enough tact to pretend to be enthused. Fudge, on the other hand, brings out their old copy of the same book.

    Live Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine, "Yippie Kayak": Jake forgets to get a Christmas gift for Charles. Gina suggests he go to Goodwin's. He begs her to go shopping with him to help him choose, and Charles tags along too because he overhears them, but is told that Jake forgot a gift for his girlfriend. He gets him cologne (his brand), but the store is being robbed and they get into real life Die Hard situation.
    Gina: Jake, just go to Goodwin's. They're open late, and they have everything.
  • The Scooby Gang on Buffy the Vampire Slayer managed to avert the "thoughtless and/or impersonal" part of this trope despite the exigency of circumstances, when rushing to the airport to see Giles off. Justified in this case — he purposefully didn't tell them he was leaving to prevent a painful goodbye.
    Anya: Um, we, uh, brought you some lovely parting gifts. [offering prepackaged snack pie] It's American. Get it? Apple pie? To remind you of all the good food you won't be eating.
    Tara: A-and a monster. [offering little rubber finger puppet] Sort of a Sunnydale souvenir, we thought. Grr! Argh!
    Giles (smiling): Thank you.
    Xander: And I wanted to buy you a can of Old English 800, 'cause, you know, England, and you, and because at the time it sounded really funny. But the guy who lives in the box in front of the store, he, uh, wouldn't buy it for us.
    Dawn: We got your presents at the gas station. We were kind of in a hurry.
    • Played with in another episode, where Willow gives Joyce one of those beers hats while she was in the hospital. It seems like this trope, but Willow actually did put thought into picking it out...but when she actually gives it, admits that in hindsight she doesn't understand why it seemed like a good idea.
  • Corner Gas:
    • In "Road Worthy," Oscar tells Wanda that he can't decide on a gift for Emma, to which she says, "Well, coming to the gas station was a great start. There's motor oil, antifreeze, two-liter bottles of pop ..." Oscar says that Emma likes pop, but Wanda tells him, "Don't get her pop."
    • In another episode, it's revealed that the bracelet Wanda bought Emma is from the dollar store... when they go shopping together at that same dollar store and the clerk accuses Emma of stealing it. Emma is not pleased.
  • In the first episode of Series 2 of Derry Girls, the girls are supposed to bring a welcome gift for their Protestant buddies, but they all forgot until the day of. They try to buy something at a convenience store but are thwarted by a belligerently sectarian clerk and their lack of funds, and end up gifting their partners random stuff they had on them: a key chain and a package of Rollos. Jenny Joyce further shows them up by offering her partner an electric piano.
  • In Family Ties, Alex did the Christmas shopping at a gas station and his family ended up getting presents like motor oil and a car air freshener.
  • Frasier uses this a couple times, of the 'grab whatever's nearby' variety. Roz gives Frasier a book that had been hers (complete with the usual incriminating inscription), and in a later episode, Niles gives Roz a broken old cheese crock with a dead bee in it.
  • Friends loves this trope.
    • In season two, Joey and Chandler get caught up before buying their gifts and end up shopping at a gas station on Christmas Eve. Rachel gets wiper blades, even though she doesn't have a car (but they give an odorizer so she can feel like she's inside one), Phoebe gets a package of toilet seat covers, Monica gets a box of condoms, and Ross gets two cans of pop (he trades one of his drinks for the condoms).
    • Monica and Rachel are throwing a baby shower for Phoebe. None of the usual (cliched) gift ideas will work, since Phoebe is being a surrogate for her brother, so everybody shows up with things that Phoebe can't use until after the birth, such as leather pants and tequila. What with pregnancy mood swings, this doesn't end well.
    • In one episode, Chandler and Monica agreed to make each other presents for Valentine's Day. Monica ended up giving Chandler a sock puppet Phoebe had made. Chandler gave Monica a mixtape he had lying around in his closet (and it transpired that the mixtape had been made for him by Janice for an earlier Valentine's Day).
    • On one occasion, Chandler gave the group letters saying, "A donation has been made in your name to the New York City ballet." Bad enough on their own, at least for someone who doesn't care to support the ballet, but the act earns double trope points due to the fact that he took the letters from the Christmas bonus pile at work (and yes, it's a pretty crappy Christmas bonus as well, especially if you live in Tulsa). In his defence, he hadn't expected to be back from Tulsa for Christmas, and had just quit in order to do so.
      Chandler: This gift still says I love you guys.
      Joey: Mine says to Lillian Myers.
      Chandler: I don't have a job!
    • At Emma's first birthday party, Joey didn't realize they needed to bring presents. He improvises and does a 'dramatic' reading of one of Emma's favorite books. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but her parents and grandparents actually love it and he earns points for moving everyone to tears.
    • Joey's birthday present for Cathy: it's a pen AND a clock.
  • One episode of Full House had D.J. forgetting best friend Kimmy's birthday because it happens to coincide with D.J.'s anniversary with boyfriend Steve. She appeals to her family for help, and they throw Kimmy a spontaneous surprise birthday party, doing things like using toilet paper for streamers and making the only cake they have on hand — a large pan of hashed brown potatoes. Kimmy is obliviously delighted until she realizes what actually happened.
  • Game On (2015): When Toby forgets his mother's birthday, he sneaks out of the house and down the block to the only business in the neighbourhood open early on a Sunday morning: the gas station. He winds up buying her an umbrella hat, and wrapping it in a free road map. He manages to salvage the situation by linking the hat a childhood memory of spending time with his mom.
  • The Golden Girls:
    • Sophia's son Phil gives her dental floss.
    • The girls decide to avoid shopping and give each other gifts they made themselves. Rose takes back a set of earrings Dorothy fell in love with and instead gave her a hand-whittled maple syrup spigot (Dorothy first thinks it's a "wooden brooch in the shape of a turkey's head.")
    • Dorothy mentions how she always tries to buy her grandchildren better gifts than she got from her grandparents, mentioning a set of soap in the shape of the Seven Dwarves (Dorothy: "What kid wants to play with soap? Besides, after a couple of baths, they looked like Seven Suppositories.")
    • Sophia says later Phil's traditional Christmas gift is a Nativity Scene made out of cheddar cheese (Sophia: "I'm Catholic, I can't spread a wise man on a Ritz cracker.")
  • In the first episode of Hold The Back Page, Ken Wordsworth forgets his son's birthday and so hands him the dictionary his co-workers gave him as a joke present at his farewell party earlier that day (he was a journalist leaving an upmarket paper to work at a tabloid). He did this mostly so his ex-wife wouldn't realise he had forgotten, but it turns out the son quite appreciates the dictionary.
  • On one episode of I Love Lucy, Ricky, thinking he's forgotten Lucy's birthday, gets a box of candy from the bedroom and gives it to her. Lucy says that it isn't her birthday (they were really talking about Ethel's), which means Ricky has to explain why he has a gift for her. Ricky confesses that the candy is an "emergency present" that he's had for three years. He even has tags for it for every occasion.
  • Subverted in one episode of The King of Queens, where Doug and Carrie think another couple has given them this kind of gift (a gravy boat) for their wedding. Turns out it had a check for a few thousand dollars inside, but by the time they finally discover this, the check has long since expired and they can't cash it.
  • Little Lunch: In "The Nightmare Before Graduation", Rory is too involved in other events to put any thought into his Secret Santa gift (although he is not too busy to spend a lot of time trying to find out who his Secret Santa is). At the last minute, he wraps up the soap he was given last year and gives that as his present. Unfortunately, he is Secret Santa to Debra Jo, who was the one who gave him the soap originally.
  • One MA Dtv sketch has a couple forgetting to get Christmas presents for their children, forcing them to scrounge through their closet and bathroom. The kids received toothbrushes, used aftershave, high-heeled shoes, and a tie.
  • An episode of Malcolm in the Middle takes this literally; Lois gives the boys thirty dollars to buy her a nice birthday present from the convenience store where she works. She drops a not-so-subtle hint that she might like a foot massager, currently on sale for thirty dollars. The boys end up buying her earplugs, generic cough medicine, and a dirt bike magazine (that Reese said he wanted to "borrow" when Lois was done reading it) so that they could spend twenty dollars on candy for themselves.
  • On one of the Monk Christmas specials, Monk's truck driver father is ordered to drive around the country by his boss and give "presents" fitting this trope (such as dreidels and other misc objects) to orphanage children. The boss wanted to overwrite the memory of the truck's GPS by maxing out the miles it could store so it would overwrite evidence of him killing someone by shoving them into the engine. For some reason he forgot to clean the engine itself...
    • It was also implied that this trope was at least one of the reasons why Monk hated all the Christmases in his life barring those during his years with Trudy. In 1964, his father gave him only one walkie talkie — not a pair of walkie talkies, but literally just one walkie talkie out of a set. The stinger? He knew it was a useless gift, but gave it to him because Monk doesn't have any friends anyway.
  • On Murphy Brown, the characters had agreed not to exchange gifts at Christmas, but of course someone broke this promise, and so everyone rushed out late on Christmas Eve to get something at the last minute.
  • In the My Name Is Earl episode "White Lie Christmas," Earl is remembering how he never gave Joy any good gifts. His past presents included keys (they were Joy's already) and condoms (they were flavored!)
  • Psych: Shawn and Gus have brought baby gifts for Da Chief (Gus' is a stuffed toy, Shawn's is a pineapple), but Lassie and Juliet haven't, and they have to find gifts at a minute's notice. Juliet gives Da Chief a box of Tic-Tacs, and Lassie brings The Club from his car.
  • The title character of The Red Green Show tends to do this for his wife, Bernice, around Christmastime. He then tried to justify it by saying that the Sunoco logo on the free gas station mugs matched their kitchen.
  • Roswell: Michael tries to buy his on-off girlfriend Maria a Ladyshave for Christmas, and actually does buy her a car bumper. Luckily, Isabel knows how terrible he is at presents, and got Maria a lovely set of earrings in his name.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • A sketch from The '90s has one of the Three Wise Men (guest host David Alan Grier) resort to this on the way to Bethlehem when he realizes his partners are bringing gold and frankincense to the Christ Child. Of the gifts that result from this, Baby Jesus likes the bubbles best.
    • A parody of sparkly '90s Christmas ballads begins with a woman rummaging her closet for a present for a co-worker she barely knows, deciding upon a cheap unused candle. The second verse reveals that the recipient of the candle gave it away to her son's girlfriend, then she chucked it onto one of her own acquaintances. According to the last verse, the candle was "...passed to every single woman, and most gays", providing them all with "the gift of having a gift to give away."
    • A Valentine's Day commercial parody encouraged guys to "give their special someone — some dumb little thing from CVS"
  • Schitt's Creek: Well-meaning bad gift-giver Johnny stops at the church rummage sale to get gifts for his family, including a tin for Moira's wig pins, a thousand yen for Japanophile David, and "stickers of old men" for Alexis (which are stamps).
  • On Scrubs Carla tells Turk NOT to do this as a relationship test. He comes up with a nice pen since she likes to write letters by hand. Admittedly, he grabbed it out of a box of items extracted from patients' rectums as he had zero prep time, but his heart was in the right place. (When he confesses this, she decides his desire to be honest with her even if he fails the test gets him points anyway.)
  • Seinfeld (birthday variant): One hundred eighty-two dollars exactly (plus a terribly worded card). Elaine says: "What are you, my uncle?" Earlier in the episode, Jerry told George to only spend half as much on his gift since Jerry and Elaine are back in a relationship, so George gives her ninety-one dollars. (Kramer, miraculously, gives her not only the unusual gift she wanted but a poetic and thoughtful card.)
  • In "A Very Supernatural Christmas" Sam doesn't want to celebrate Christmas because Dean's due to die within the year thanks to a Deal with the Devil, and he thinks it will just be depressing. At the last minute they decide to celebrate anyway, and both turn out to have shopped for gifts at the local 7-11. Neither makes any fuss, though, considering they've been a little busy defeating the Monster of the Week and the gifts, while cheap, are at least somewhat practical (Dean got candy bars and motor oil; Sam got shaving cream and skin mags.) Flashbacks in the same episode show another example of this trope: one Christmas when Sam and Dean were kids, their dad didn't make it back for the holidays, so Dean breaks into someone's house, steals some presents, and tells Sam their dad brought them. Sam starts to get suspicious when he opens one and it turns out to be a Barbie.
  • That '70s Show: In "Kitty's Birthday (That's Today?!)", Red and Eric forget Kitty's birthday and tried to pretend it was a case of Not-So-Forgotten Birthday, buying her a few balloons and a funnel from the gas station at 11:40 P.M. She sees through it, and they have to take her square dancing to make up for it.
  • One holiday episode of thirtysomething had Michael, who is Jewish, acting really grumpy throughout the holiday season, mostly over differences with his gentile wife over how to celebrate their baby's first Christmas/Chanukah/whatever. In the end, when he finally caves and asks Gary to help him bring home a Christmas tree, he thanks Gary for his help and offers him a Santa Claus Pez dispenser as a Christmas present. Gary is touched but bemused; Michael then confesses that he stole the Pez dispenser off his business partner's desk at the last minute.
  • On Three's Company, Stanley gives Helen some flowers.
    Helen: Oh, they're beautiful! You even enclosed a card.
    Stanley: I did?
    Helen: (reads) 'To Granny, Rest in Peace'? You stole them from the cemetery!
  • Two types used on Top Gear, since the presenters buy each other useless "presents" all the time. One of the best was a tacky golden rooster which has since become the trophy for the coveted "Golden Cock Award." They also give each other fairly good, but inappropriate presents as well.
  • On one episode of Wings, the gang throws an office party for Casey. Not wanting to go to any effort, Brian just takes a book off his bookshelf and gives it to her. Which he might have gotten away with, except the book turns out to be called 101 Ways to Pleasure a Woman. Roy, on the other hand, simply grabs a jar of charity money off of his counter and hands it to her as-is. (He then admits that it isn't a real charity anyway; he made it up.)

  • The Lancashire Hotpots song The Trafford Centre takes this from another angle: The main character did order presents for his family from Amazon, but they haven't been delivered on time so he has to participate in this at the last minute.
  • Tom Lehrer isn't really a fan of this trope. From "A Christmas Carol", on the album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer:
    Relations, sparing no expense'll
    Send some useless old utensil,
    Or a matching pen and pencil.
    "Just the thing I need! How nice!"
  • In Owl City's "Peppermint Winter":
    I rip off the wrapping and tear through the box
    'Til I end up with forty-five new pairs of socks!
    • However, he sounds overjoyed about it.
  • Swedish musician Povel Ramel wrote the song "Don't Buy a Zebra", wherein the viewpoint character asks his acquaintances for advice on a proper gift for someone, but everyone gives him the unhelpful instruction in the title. Naturally he eventually runs out of time, all the good gifts get bought up... leaving only the zebra as an option.
  • The Adam and Joe Show BBC 6 show gave us the "All Night Garage" song:
    Hello there mate, how are you doing? I've got to buy some stuff or my Christmas will be ruined.
    I've got dirty mags, logs and coal, After Eights, and unleaded pet-rol.
    Is that a DVD of Fists Of Fury?
    No it's a double-disc set with Runaway Jury, or Silent Rage and Delta Force 2 in an action pack.
    That'll have to do... I'm not quite sure my Auntie Doris appreciates the ouvre of Chuck Norris. But I've left it late and it's starting to rain, and on Christmas day she can't complain.
    (Chorus) All-night garage, all-night garage, Christmas shopping at the all-night garage.
  • Bob Rivers dedicates a couple of his Twisted Christmas Anti Christmas Songs to these, such as a verse of "The Buttcracker Suite" talking about why you don't get someone a g-string for the holidays and the whole of "Didn't I Get This Last Year" where the child gets socks and underwear a size too small, the uncle gets a ridiculous tie, the neighbors give a random plant dug up from the yard and shoved in a repurposed mayo jar, and the father of the family gets a coupon for free fries.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played with in one Baby Blues, where Darryl bought deadbolt locks to Wanda specifically because he knew she would love it (it's for their bathroom door, thus giving Wanda some privacy from the kids whenever she takes a shower).
  • Boomerangs has Jane (a single mother forced to move back in with her parents) apply this to cooking as she's already late making supper. "Why is this fettuccini crunchy?" "Those are the Skittles."
  • Dilbert:
    • The book Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless shows how to torment friends by giving them home-made gifts and how to treat people who give bad gifts.
    • When Ted is holding a baby shower at the company, Wally suggests gifts such as a salt shaker. In the end, the gifts include a stapler and a "hand-crafted baby dress" (actually a paper bag with three holes). And the stapler wasn't even bought, it was originally stolen from Ted's cubicle.
  • FoxTrot has a running joke relating to this trope, although it is not strictly limited to Christmas as much as really any gift-giving holiday such as Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. ("Ever wonder why none of our kids have birthdays in November?")
  • Played with in Safe Havens: the recipient in question was one-year-old Maria Hamper, so she wouldn't remember anyway, and thanks to the 3-D printer on board the ship, there would be no 'unwanted' gift. Still, everyone else forgot until the day of the party to actually print baby Maria's gifts, much to her mother Samantha's ire. Most embarrassing was Maria Novello forgetting to do so because she's Maria Hamper's future self.
    Samantha: Guys! You had a year to prepare!
  • A Zits strip has Jeremy and Sarah exchanging gifts for Christmas, but Sarah forgot. She quickly grabs the first thing she sees, wraps it, and gives it to Jeremy. Cut to Jeremy and Hector examining the very loud, wide necktie:
    Jeremy: What do you think she's trying to say?
    Hector: I heart geeks?
    • A second strip has Jeremy's dad invoking the trope by walking up to Connie one early morning, kissing her, and wishing her a happy Mother's Day. Cue Jeremy panicking and dashing out to grab a gift. Turns out Dad was just messing with him.

    Radio & Audio Drama 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story "Return of the Rocket Men", Dodo (who the Doctor picked up in 1966) finds out it's Steven's birthday and the Doctor gives her free reign to find something in his collection to give him. She chooses a 1967 diary, because "it's next year's", without ever considering that Steven is from somewhere between the years 2200-3000 and both of them are now living in a time machine. Steven feels cheated and that the gift was insensitive and reacts with sarcasm, but the Doctor tells him to shut up and appreciate that Dodo thought of him.
  • Subverted in the Cabin Pressure episode "Fitton". Douglas is giving his wife Helena a bottle of brown sauce for their anniversary. Helena greatly enjoys a certain formulation of brown sauce which is unavailable in the UK and which Douglas has tracked down and imported.

    Stand Up Comedy 

  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, Rose makes her entrance carrying a basket of gifts, which she lists:
    "Lo, here is some peppermint rock for old gaffer Gadderby, a set of false teeth for pretty little Ruth Rowbottom, and a pound of snuff for the poor orphan girl on the hill."

    Video Games 
  • In the Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, according to Manna, Duke constantly forgets her birthday, then rushes to the supermarket the following day to get a last-minute gift thrown together.
  • Subverted in Persona 4, despite the Hiimdaisy comic in the example: while Dojima does indeed purchase a shirt for his daughter Nanako at the local supermarket Junes, she loves the local supermarket, to the point that when he asks her where she wants to go for a vacation, she states that she wants to go to Junes. Dojima's gift is actually exactly what she wants.
  • Zniw Adventure: The plot kicks off when Zniw realizes she doesn't have a gift for her mother's hatchday. Zniw goes to a shop across the street and tries to buy a bouquet of flowers, but another dinosaur buys it first.

    Web Comics 
  • Nelson 're-gifts' presents from his office Christmas party (such as a hot cocoa sampler pack) to his fellow gamers in Full Frontal Nerdity.
  • Parodied in Hiimdaisy's Persona 4 comic. Dojima gives Nanako a gift for Children's Day, which turns out to be a T-shirt clearly labeled "baby boy". Nanako tries to not sound disappointed, all while Dojima says it was on sale. On the other hand, the protagonist is given a speedo with "cutie pie" written on it, creeping him out.
  • PvP's Christmas Special involves Francis getting a last-minute Secret Santa gift at the gas station across the street.
  • Sluggy Freelance Torg and Riff tend to give each other a beer for Christmas. At this point, it's become a tradition they both look forward to.

    Web Original 
  • One Bitstrips scene depicts the user's avatar doing their Christmas shopping at a convenience store.
  • In the commodoreHUSTLE episode "Santa Secrets", Morgan starts off by telling everyone that he doesn't plan to spend more than $5 on a gift. In the end, everyone ends up at a total loss for what to buy everyone else, so everyone, except Graham and James, gets Magic: The Gathering cards — even Paul, who doesn't play. Graham gets a man-sized stuffed Grim Reaper that terrifies him, and James gets a $2 bag of tokens from a convenience store (which he had expressed interest in earlier in the episode).
  • A Gag Dub of one Dirty Pair episode in which Yuri almost gets married had all the wedding guests reveal that they'd given the happy couple toasters. The Mad Scientist at least gave them a toaster that shoots laser beams.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In "Homestar Presents: Presents", Homestar accidentally forgets to do his Decemberween shopping until it's 10 PM on Decemberween, and ends up getting a bunch of Bubs' old "Aught-Four Crap" for everyone, including getting Pom Pom a roll of electrical tape and Coach Z a rusty steak knife. Lucky for him, Marzipan actually liked her gift. Wire clippers were perfect for freeing baby seals from the crab traps down by the wharf.
      Strong Bad: Foolish Homestar. Decemberween is not about getting people presents. It's about getting people good presents! Good presents!! Not this last-minute discount crap you're trying to foist on us!
    • In the Strong Bad Email "what I want", Strong Bad and (of all people) Marzipan sarcastically shill bad gift ideas on a mock home-shopping channel. These include ornaments ("There's no better way to say 'I have no idea what your interests are' than to give someone a present that ceases to be useful the moment it's opened."), singing-and-dancing toy "no-bots" ("These things just scream 'I stopped at the drugstore on the way over.'"), home-made gifts ("These seashells have office supplies hot-glued to them for absolutely no reason."), and worst of all, home-made ornaments ("This clothespin reindeer ornament is forgettably precious!").
  • A yearly occasion on Jacksfilms's channel is "The Worst Christmas Gifts", in which every year since 2016 he showcases submissions of horrible gifts that his audience have gotten for Christmas. Contenders include Christmas decorations (which are useless until next year), gamer quote T-shirts, unofficial video game novels, "make a meme" card games, calendars for the same year they were received in (eg. a 2020 calendar received on Christmas 2020), and a drawing book of pooping animals.
  • Scott The Woz:
    • "It's A Bargain Bin Christmas" has Scott giving his friends cheap bargain bin video games for Christmas because he ran out of money, complete with a song about how cheap they were. His friends, who are still recovering from being murdered, are understandably upset at him.
      Rex: WHAT THE F—K?!
    • "The Gifts Of Gaming" gets into full-on exaggeration, with the crew's round of Secret Santa turning into a mess of absolutely disastrous gifts. Jerry Attricks gets a present box full of water. Target Employee is gifted "something from Target", that turns out to be a receipt. Terry gets an empty box, because "what's more vegan than nothing?". Jeb gets a bunch of garbage (from his own dump, no less). Scott actually gets a game... but it's one he already owns several dozen copies of. Then it veers into Gift-Giving Gaffe when Target Employee's present for Rex, the notorious hater of all things sexual, was Viagra... as in, all of the Viagra, screwing up the entire supply chain for months.
      Rex: ... You stopped sex for me?
  • "Why Did You Buy Me That" revolves around this trope.

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in the 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode “A Christmas Cruella”. Cruella has a Christmas Carol Intervention and decides to get gifts for everyone. But, since nothing is open on Christmas except the ‘House Of Devil’ (her fashion house), she gives everyone office supplies.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Spoon" has Richard sending his sons Gumball and Darwin to the convenience store to buy a gift for Nicole for her birthday because he forgot to buy her one. He would have gone himself, but he had to watch the kids, which Gumball and Darwin didn't have to do.
  • In Bojack Horseman, back when they were still dating, Bojack once offered Princess Carolyn a ball of crumpled up paper in a box. For a split second the audience interprets this as an instance of this trope...but since PC is a cat, she immediately goes "How did you know?" and plays with it delightedly.
  • In the Christmas episode of Braceface Nina gives Sharon a large gift basket for her Secret Santa gift. Inside it is little bottles of shampoo that you find in a hotel room, a car calendar (her dad owns a dealership), and a little blue kitten toy which turns out to be the thing Maria gave to Nina for Secret Santa last year.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: B.R.I.E.F.S.", Numbuh One claims that his grandmother once gave him a hairdryer. (Numbuh One is bald.) Still, later in the episode, the hairdryer (which he kept, oddly enough) proves useful against Mr. White, a living pair of underwear sent as a hitman. (It's a weird cartoon.)
  • Clone High:
    • Taken to extremes when Cleo gives Abe his own knork — which he had created himself, AND which he had thrown out, so she literally gave him the first thing she found in the trash outside.
    • Principal Scudworth, meanwhile, is delighted when the shadowy organization funding the school gives him ... "A toy robotic dog? The perfect present! Clearly expensive, yet something I would never buy for myself. It shows you care but don't really know anything about me — I love it!"
  • An interesting subversion in an episode of Doug. Doug has been invited to Patty's birthday party, and he agonizes over what to get her, as he knows her (but not well.) He knows she likes sports, so he tries to get her a Beet-Ball (for a game similar to softball, except the ball is shaped like a beet root), but that doesn't work out. He finally builds her a towel rack, but she thinks it's a caddy to hold the Beet-Balls everyone else gave her, thus making it her favorite gift that she received.
  • In Family Guy, Peter Griffin once destroyed a rack of "terrible pharmacy toys" at Mort's pharmacy with a cannon (it was the episode where he decided to become a pirate) in order to prevent them being given as lame last-minute gifts.
    • On the ''Christmas Carol''-themed Christmas episode "Don't Be A Dickens At Christmas", Peter buys his family last-second Christmas gifts from 7-11 to make up for his selfish attitude, he buys Lois a yard chair; he buys a People magazine for Chris; a cooler for Stewie; an "I Heart Rhode Island" sweatshirt for Brian; and an iPod alarm clock for Meg.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "The Dog And Piggy Show", after acquiring the Dog talisman in the opening, Jackie calls Jade from an airport in Bavaria, Germany, where his flight has been laid over. When Jade tells him that Uncle's birthday is tomorrow, he hurriedly goes into the nearest gift shop and buys a basket of chocolate and cheese. When he returns home, he gives Uncle the basket, but Uncle merely remarks "Chocolate stains my teeth, and cheese makes my... none of your business". Subverted when they find that the chocolates he purchased are seemingly modeled after the pig talisman.
  • On a King of the Hill Christmas Episode, Luanne is slightly disappointed with her gift, thanks to Hank and Bobby panicking due to their fears of upcoming Y2K.
    Luanne: Bobby, I got you a Discman, and, Uncle Hank, I got you a pair of Timberland boots. ...And I got toilet paper and a laundry mangle.
  • In one episode of Max and Ruby, Ruby tries to prevent Max from doing this, as he wants to buy their grandmother candy vampire fangs. (Which, coincidentally, he really wants.) However, at the end of the episode, it turns out that their grandmother has a good sense of humor, and she loves the candy vampire fangs Max gives her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the sixth season episode A Hearth's Warming Tail, story-within-a-story character Snowfall Frost discovers the importance of Hearth's Warming and not only ends her plans to destroy the holiday, she rushes out to join the party her assistant is attending, bringing along gifts that she just grabbed off her shelves, and admits that she was in kind of a hurry. Snow Dash, however, is apparently thrilled by her gift of dragon toenail (one of the items Snowfall had kept on hoof as a spell ingredient).
  • The Patrick Star Show: Exaggerated in "Just in Time for Christmas" with the last-minute "gifts" Patrick gave his family for Christmas last year: chewed-up candles and petrified underwear pulled directly out of his trash can. He considers doing it again until his pet Sea Hurtchin reminds him.
    Patrick: You're right, Ouchie. I gave everyone the same garbage last year.
  • An entire episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series has her trying to find a better gift for Salem than a cheap picture frame. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Simpsons:
    • One Christmas special had Homer at a Secret Santa exchange at work where, after receiving a DVD player from Carl and being asked by Lenny where his present was, he says to Lenny, "Your present is right in the other room." He then goes offscreen to the other room and is clearly heard saying "C'mon, machine, take my dollar! ... Fine, we'll play it ''your way!''" He then tackles the machine (still offscreen) and returns with a tube of Certs breath mints. Lenny is understandably disgusted. (After watching Mr. McGrew's (a Mr. Magoo parody) Christmas Carol on late-night TV later, he experiences an Ebenezer Scrooge-style turnaround and gives Lenny a photo cube with pictures of both of them plus Carl.)
    • In the very first episode, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", Marge ends up spending her holiday savings getting a tattoo Bart got removed, hoping that Homer's Christmas bonus can make up for it. Unfortunately, Homer doesn't get his bonus (but can't admit it because he doesn't want to ruin things for his family) and is forced to buy cheaper gifts, including a dog chew toy for Maggie, pantyhose for Marge, and pads of paper for Bart.
    • Homer is virtually incapable of remembering holidays, and will invariably resort to this for almost every occasion;
    • "Mypods and Boomsticks" had the Simpsons each returning the identical kitty calendars Bart bought them at the last minute.
    • Another episode set on Valentines Day has Homer desperately looking for a gift for Marge, and Apu offers him a heart-shaped box of chocolates... for $100. With no other choice, Homer pays but angrily vows to never shop there again. Apu, realizing that if Homer finds the much cheaper store across the street his business is doomed, offers him a small discount on damaged canned food, and wins him back.
    • Another episode featured a store devoted entirely to last-minute gifts.
    • A Musical Episode had Homer frantically driving around town on Christmas Eve, singing "I need a present for my wife, or I'll have no sex for life." It turns out Marge knew he would forget, so her present for him was a present he could give to her. This time even the Kwik-E-Mart fails him as its inventory had been cleaned out during the Christmas rush and Apu only had jerky made from trout left in stock.
    • In the opening sequence of one post-movie episode, the billboard Couch Gag is one from the Kwik-E-Mart with a smiling Apu which says: Last-minute gifts for people you don't like.
  • The South Park episode "Cash For Gold" is dedicated to this trope, and also examines the moral and economic issues involved.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Dying For Pie", when told he needs to exchange gifts with SpongeBob, Squidward says he’ll just “buy the little twerp a gumball” before Mr. Krabs informs him that he has to make the gift himself.
  • Exaggerated in the Timon & Pumbaa episode "Kenya Be My Friend?". Pumbaa gets Timon a nice bug juicer to celebrate their "Bestest Best Friend Day", which Timon has forgotten about. First he tries giving Pumbaa a bunch of random things from the savanna like grass and a rotten log, but Pumbaa refuses to accept them because Timon has used all of them as emergency gifts before. Then Timon claims to have written a poem for Pumbaa and hastily makes up one. Pumbaa notices that the poem doesn't rhyme and finally realizes that Timon did forget the Bestest Best Friend Day. This leads to an argument that ends their friendship. After they reconcile, Timon still denies having forgotten Bestest Best Friend Day and manages to pass off the bug juicer he got as his gift to Pumbaa.
  • In the holiday special of The Weekenders Tish is talking about her worst holiday experience. Her favourite cousin gave her a Lady Macbeth knapsack, but she didn't have anything to give her. Desperate, Tish simply grabs a sweater from her own closet, which happens to still have the price tag on it, and gives it to her cousin. The cousin isn't too happy about it as it turns out the sweater was their present to Tish from last year.


Video Example(s):


It's a Bargain Bin Christmas

Wanting to spend as little money as possible on gifts for the gala he's hosting, Scott gets several of the cheapest games he can find to give out to the guests.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConvenienceStoreGiftShopping

Media sources: