Follow TV Tropes


Even Beggars Won't Choose It

Go To

"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.



    open/close all folders 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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."
  • 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!"
  • 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 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."
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
    • Again with Jerry's car and its "mutant funk BO". The inside is SO smelly no one else wants it. He ends up leaving it at a curb with the keys inside, next to a homeless guy. The homeless guy gets inside, and the credits roll on a freeze-frame of his face which makes it pretty obvious he's not going to take it either.
    • Jerry finds himself suddenly repulsed by his Girl of the Week and unable to kiss her after discovering that she not only went out with Newman, but that Newman was the one who ended the relationship. The thought of dating a woman who is below the standards of a man he doesn't think should even have standards in the first place is just too much for him 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!
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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."

  • 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".
  • 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.

  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • In The Guild a homeless person tries Vork's "found object stew" and rejects it in disgust.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd has been known to make insults like this for his reviews.

    Western Animation 
  • 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!
  • 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 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. They lost the sponsor because of that.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Replacements: Riley and her friends were once selling jerky. It was so bad hungry wolves refused to eat it.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Military rations are called MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat, often joked to be "three lies for the price of one": it's not a meal, it's not ready, and you definitely can't eat it). According to some the letters stand for Meals Rejected by Ethiopians and countless other variations. The seriousness varies immensely by era, country and 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.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: