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Even Beggars Won't Choose It

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"I wandered all around the town until I chanced to meet
A hobo who was lookin' for a handout on the street
He said he'd take most any old thing, he was a desperate man
But when I showed him the [BOOM BA-BOOM], he turned around and ran!"
Phil Harris, "The Thing"

It's easy to be picky and choosy about the brand, make, prettiness, country of origin and such of something you want if you already have access to a million of it. If you don't, on the other hand, you're more likely to be desperate for it - especially if "it" is an essential need in your situation - and be willing to take whatever you can get. To paraphrase the old saying, beggars can't be choosers.

Unless they're given this option. In which case, the beggars scream in terror, run the other way, and make it absolutely clear that the quality of this object is so absolutely horrible that even people who desperately need it would reject it. Can be played for either laughs or drama, depending on the context.

Sub-Trope of Everyone Has Standards. Sister Trope to Even Evil Has Standards, Even Nerds Have Standards, and Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth. Compare Even The Rats Won't Touch It, which is specifically about substandard food.

Inverse of Too Desperate to Be Picky. Compare Choosy Beggar, where the issue is the receiver and not the object being given.


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  • A commercial features a woman in a post-apocalyptic scenario stumbling onto a bunker where the people welcome her and assure her they have everything they need to survive for years. She's thrilled, until she realizes that the only peanut butter they have is off-brand, prompting her to take her chances on the surface world in hopes of finding better peanut butter.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Chungking Express: When Agent 223, who has been collecting pineapple cans with a May 1 peremption date in memory of his girlfriend dumping him, tries to give one to a beggar on the night of April 30, the beggar lobs it back at him. "It's past its sell-by date! you keep it!"
  • Lampshaded in In Her Shoes, where Maggie informs Rose that she tossed out some unfashionable clothing of hers into the garbage. Rose questions why Maggie doesn't donate them to a secondhand store, the latter answers "Just because someone's poor, doesn't mean they have to be unfashionable."
  • Played for Drama in Invictus. The last boy to arrive at a clothing giveaway is offered a Springbok jersey, causing him to flee in terror because wearing it will get him beaten up. The white volunteer is put off and assumes it's because the team is playing so badly. The black volunteer explains that the Springboks are seen as a symbol of Apartheid.
  • Inverted in Material Girls. The beggars would choose the beautiful Dolce and Gabbana clothes Hilary Duff's character donates to charity, but not many homeless people are a size 0.
  • Lampshaded by MacNamara in One, Two, Three when he is talking to the Soviet Trade Commission. The Soviets are desperate to get Coca-Cola behind the Iron Curtain but their repeated acts of espionage all failed. MacNamara then points out that in desperation they tried to create their own off-brand named "Kremlin Cola". It was such a monumental disaster that they ended up giving all of the soda they made to Albania, who then subsequently used it as a flea bath for their sheep.
  • In The Sound of Music, Captain Von Trapp tells Maria she must put on a better dress than the one she has on before meeting his children as their new governess. Maria states she doesn't have one, as she is a nun and when nuns enter the convent, their worldly clothes are given to the poor. The Captain then asks why she still has the one she's wearing now. Maria replies: "The poor didn't want this one."
  • Lampshaded in Zorro, the Gay Blade when Bunny Wigglesworth tells a crowd of peasants, "Remember my friends, there is no shame in being poor, only in dressing poorly!"

  • In The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul, it's mentioned that Kate never locks The Alleged Car. It was stolen twice, but on both occasions the thieves abandoned it in disgust.
  • Mort:
    • On seeing the suit Mort is wearing in hopes of getting a job (from a shop famed for budget clothing), Death has this to say:
    It certainly adds a new terror to poverty.
    • And the trope happens literally when Mort and another boy with a squint, a runny nose and a stoop are the only ones left at the job fair, and the town beggar chooses the other boy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory mentioned this in an episode where Leonard is going to give a scientific talk at a conference and his non-nerdy friend Penny helps him pick out clothes. When looking through Leonard's wardrobe, Penny picks out several shirts and tells Leonard to throw them away and "don't even give them to charity. Seriously, you won't be helping anyone."
    • Another episode featured this exchange:
      Penny: Today I drove to Van Nuys for an audition I thought was going to be for a cat food commercial. Turned out to be porn.
      Sheldon: Did you get the part?
      Penny: I didn't do the audition!
      Sheldon: Given the state of your career, can you really afford to be picky?
  • Desperate Housewives. When Martha Huber is collecting clothing for Edie (after her house burned down), Lynette apologizes for the unstylish quality of her own donated items. The older woman states "Beggars can't be choosers", then sees some items of Lynette's and reiterates "Of course we don't need to rub salt on the wound."
  • Dorothy says something like this about one of Rose's cooking attempts on The Golden Girls.
    Dorothy: If this would have been offered to the Donner party, they still would have eaten each other.
    • Subverted when they actually eat it and it tastes delicious despite its terrible smell.
  • In One Foot in the Grave, Victor buys a lurid sweater that he eventually decides to throw away — in a litter-bin next to a park bench he's sitting on. While he's still there, a tramp comes along and goes through the bin's contents. The tramp swaps a pair of freshly-discarded shoes for his own, peels open an old sandwich to eat the filling, and then unfolds the sweater (showing off its hideous pattern to the viewer for the first time); after a beat, the tramp screws up the sweater, stuffs it back into the bin, and walks off.
  • Seinfeld:
    • In an episode, Elaine sells muffin tops, and needs to dispose of the stumps (making them without stumps just isn't the same, you see). Both a homeless shelter and a garbage dump reject them. However, Newman gleefully accepts the opportunity to dispose of them all by eating them.
    • In "The Smelly Car", Jerry's car becomes infected by a valet's terrible BO, which proves to be a borderline eldritch presence that spreads to everyone and everything that has been inside the car and simply cannot be gotten rid of, even with extreme deep cleaning. At the end, Jerry parks the car next to a homeless guy, gets out, makes a big show of leaving the keys on the seat, and walks away. The homeless guy gets in, takes a whiff, and the episode ends on a freeze-frame of his disgusted face which all but says even he isn't going to take it.
    • In one episode, Jerry discovers that his Girl of the Week used to date Newman. Not only that, but Newman was the one who ended the relationship because he didn't think she was pretty enough for him. Since Jerry thinks Newman is one of the most loathsome and repulsive human beings on the planet, and that it would and should take a miracle for any woman at all to want to go out with him, the idea of dating someone that even he rejected is too much for Jerry to bear.
      Jerry: All I could think of when I was looking at her face... was that Newman found this unacceptable!
    • In the Festivus episode, Kramer brings home some leftover stock from the bagel shop. It's only after Jerry and George have tied in that he mentions that the homeless got first pick and these were the ones they wouldn't take, after running their hands all over them.
    • In one of his comedy bits, Jerry speculates that the reason so many people are unemployed is because they're too easily disgusted:
      Jerry: Yes, my family is starving and my electricity's been cut off and I can't pay my rent, but there is no way I am cleaning THAT up!
  • Top Gear: In the "U.S. Special", upon nearing their final destination of New Orleans, the presenters planned to sell their cars to see how much of the money they spent on them they could get back, but upon witnessing the damage that had been caused to the city by Hurricane Katrina the previous year, they abandoned the challenge and instead decided to give away their cars to a Christian mission. While Clarkson and Hammond managed to do so, May failed to find someone to take his.
  • You Can't Do That on Television: Mrs. Prevert tries to invoke Appeal to Worse Problems when one of her kids doesn't like her cooking, saying "starving children in Africa would eat this food!". Only for the kid to say "send it to them!" Cue the next sketch showing said African kids opening up care packages with Mrs. Prevert's dinner and sending it back, preferring to starve.

  • Phil Harris' "The Thing" (the song that provides the current page quote) follows the life-long Humiliation Conga of a man that finds a thing (which is never described) on the beach and everybody who sees it gets outraged that he has it (even Saint Peter himself gets angry, sending the poor man to Hell just for owning it). Sure enough, he tries to give it away to a poor man (after trying to pawn it off ended with the shop keeper kicking him out and threatening to call the cops) and the poor man decides to run away when he sees it.
  • The Steve Miller Band song "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash" is all about this trope, as even a mugger won't take the protagonist's money.
  • The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Drives Like Crazy" is about a woman whose driving is so bad, "even hitchhikers just say no".

    Print Media 
  • Dave Barry describes the rapid obsolescence of consumer electronics:
    So as your consumer electronics adviser, I am advising you to donate your current VCR to a grate resident, who will laugh sardonically and hurl it into a dumpster.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech: Despite not being manufactured for over five hundred years, by the early 31st Cenutry there were still extant original-model Banshee 'mechs that were in pristine condition because no commander in his or her right mind would have ever actively deployed them.note  Eventually, however, engineers at Defiance Industries in the Lyran Commonwealth had the idea to downgrade the engines and use the extra tonnage saved to massively improve the firepower, at which point it received an in-universe popularity boost and became one of the flagship assault mechs for the Commonwealth.

  • In the play Money Talks, one of the characters tries to get rid of a disgusting haggis by giving to a groups of starving Street Urchins, who desperately pass it off between each other. The urchins dispose of it by putting it into a Salvation Army donation plate. The Salvation Army don't know what to do with it either.

    Web Original 
  • In The Guild a homeless person tries Vork's "found object stew" and rejects it in disgust.
  • In OverSimplified's French Revolution video, Marie Antoinette makes her infamous "Let them eat cake" quote, leading to the messenger tearing her down. She revises her statement.
    Marie Antoinette: Then let them eat Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme.
    Messenger: ...WOW. They're not THAT desperate!

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Daria features the Fashion Club collecting clothes for the homeless. They invoke this trope, assuming that the homeless will have standards of clothing as high as their own, and reject nearly everything they are offered.
  • On Family Guy, Meg is desperate for male attention, but even she wouldn't go out with Neil Goldman. She even use her internship on the local new program to make a segment about it.
    Tom Tucker: Thank you Meg. I guess it goes to show you that beggars can be choosers.
  • Little Costume Buddy from Fat Dog Mendoza is initially such a bad salesman he couldn't sell water to a man dying of thirst in a desert, in contrast to Fat Dog selling ice to Eskimos.
  • The Garfield Show: In one episode, Garfield tried to get rid of an accordion of Jon's but his effort to give it away only result in it getting quickly returned. Heck, even trying to ditch it in the lake prompts a mer-man to swim up and throw it back.
  • The Replacements: Riley and her friends were once selling jerky. It was so bad hungry wolves refused to eat it.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode, this trope doubled as a Take That! to their old sponsor Butterfinger where Chief Wiggum tried to throw the candy into fire only for it to be thrown back, unharmed. "Even the fire doesn't want them" Wiggum comments. Contrary to popular belief, the show did not lose the sponsor for that joke, the contract was already over.
    • Another episode had Homer trying to tip a bellboy with a Grammy, only for the bellboy to reject it and drop it off a balcony, and it gets thrown back by a guy who calls it garbage.
    • In another, when Bart and Milhouse are looking after the Comic Guy's shop, Milhouse makes a terrible investment by buying a lot of comics starring a nerdy hero called "Biclops". Bart complains that they'll never sell it and not even birds will use them for their nests. On cue, an angry crow flies into the store with a copy in its talons, which he proceeds to angrily rip to shreds before leaving.
  • In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, a guy who hasn't eaten for days crawls into the Krusty Krab begging for food, but when he was offered some he rejects it because the Krusty Krab lacks "pizazz". He then crawls away still begging for food... service... atmosphere!
  • Thugaboo: In Sneaker Madness, D-Roc donates a pair of ugly sneakers to unfortunate Africans as a means to get rid of them. Turns out, they're so ugly, even they don't want them and send them right back to him.

    Real Life 
  • Chobani donated Greek yogurt to the American team for the 2014 Russian Olympics. However the Russians refused to let the refrigerated crates into the country and after a few days of reported talks, Chobani backed down and said that the yogurt would instead be donated to NJ/NY food banks. Problem solved. Well... not quite. On 2/14/14 a new news story made the rounds — Food Banks were refusing the yogurt on the grounds that the homeless are used to sweet yogurt, and were turning their noses up at the Greek variety.
  • The implied insult whenever somebody rejects another by saying "I wouldn't date you if you were the last man/woman on Earth".
  • Aziz Ansari pointed out that, when given a tip of over $1, the employees of Cold Stone Creamery must all do a short song and dance. "Five people are singing and dancing for a dollar! That's 20 cents a person! If you were to go outside and ask a homeless guy to sing and dance for 20 cents, he'd tell you to go fuck yourself, cause that's degrading!" Which is why there's a sign right next to the song list stating that if you just want to leave a tip and don't want to hear the employees sing, that's fine, too. Cold Stone Creamery fully understands this trope.
  • US Military rations are called MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, often joked to be "three lies for the price of one" — they're not meals, they're not ready, and you definitely can't eat them). According to some, the letters stand for Meals Rejected by Ethiopians (referring to various Ethiopian famines) and countless other variations. The seriousness varies immensely by era, country, and the specific item.
  • When the New Zealand-based dog food manufacturer Mighty Mix tried to donate Raw Dry Nourish (a ration pack that was not dog food) to Kenya, the Kenyans angrily refused. Even though she explained it wasn't dog food and it was created for exactly this situation (Kenya had declared the situation a national disaster) and that the CEO ate the mixture, they still refused.
  • When the left had been ground down to little more than a hooligan militia in the Spanish Civil War, the leadership still refused to issue the Chauchat machine gun and advised against choosing to use it at all. The barely-trained troops were unlikely to know the gun's idiosyncrasies and the weapon itself was one of the worst guns of its type ever made.
  • The Goodwill thrift store chain offloads the junk, broken items, and other crap they won't even sell in their thrift stores in "outlets" where the brave or crazy can buy it by the pound. One of these outlets (the one on 6th Street South in Seattle) was one of the shops Macklemore used in his "Thrift Store" video.
    • And in a nested example of this, even these will no longer accept bulky old-model televisions because they simply won't sell and it costs too much for them to recycle or dispose of them.
  • A photo of a supermarket shelf stripped bare of everything except vegan food went viral in the wake of the massive flooding in Houston caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.
    • Similarly, even when grocery stores were practically emptied of canned goods near the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Bostonians still wouldn't buy Manhattan clam chowder.
    • Another photo went viral showcasing all of the cases of water were picked over...except for Dasani.
  • Many organisations that accept donations of used clothes refuse to take clothes that are actively damaged as opposed to just worn. This is actually a justified version of this trope, since they know that if they don't draw an easily identifiable line they will get a certain amount of clothes that are too ruined to be any use at all, and sorting through donations for passable clothes will require manpower they don't have. Being choosy gets the beggars dressed more reliably.


Video Example(s):


Donation Backfire

D-Roc donates a pair of ugly sneakers to unfortunate Africans as a means to get rid of them. Turns out, they're so ugly, even they don't want them and send them right back to him.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / EvenBeggarsWontChooseIt

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