Dimitri: No, that makes too much sense. Actually, I gave her a dagger! You should have seen the look on her face!
A gift giving occasion has arisen. A birthday, the annual Tropenalia festival, that winter holiday that may or may not be Christmas. Or maybe somebody just feels generous because things are going well and they love their friends.
When the gift is given it is one of the following:
- Something the giver likes and would love to have themselves, but the recipient will not really appreciate.
- In particularly malicious cases, it may be that the gift-giver effectively bought the present for themselves and expects the recipient to "share."
- Something that is probably practical and useful, but likely insulting to the recipient.
- The practical gift could also be a subtle dig if the giver is a bit of a Jerkass.
- The practical gift could also be a cry for help from one partner or team member to another.
- Something the giver attaches great sentimental value to, but is just about worthless to anyone else.
This trope is mainly used to illustrate clueless or thoughtless gift-giving, especially in the case of one who gives the gift that is more a gift to themselves than a gift to the recipient. Problematic elements of this trope include sexism which affects men and women both:
- The idea that men have no idea what to get for the women in their lives even when they love them dearly, so get them gifts they know deep down aren't what the woman really wants.
- The idea that women only want shiny, expensive things, and resent being given "practical" gifts because they reinforce "a woman's place is in the kitchen/home"
Compare with Convenience Store Gift Shopping, where the giver barely cares at all, and "Gift of the Magi" Plot where the giver cares a great deal. See also the Homemade Sweater from Hell, a gift almost guaranteed to cause a gaffe.
Sister Trope to Unwanted Gift Plot, wherein the giver is sincerely and with care aforethought trying to get a nice gift they believe the recipient will love, but they're unfortunately very mistaken; and with My New Gift Is Lame which is also a sincere gift given that the recipient does not love.
- Played with by the company Husqvarna. They make macho, manly, outdoor power tools like chainsaws and riding mowers; but they also make feminine, ladylike devices like sewing machines and kitchen appliances. A series of holiday ads has the wife getting her husband the sewing machine, and the husband getting the wife the chainsaw as a gift.
- Sears 2011 after Christmas sale had a guy calling a woman and saying that he heard her husband got her a snowblower. She replies with a game attempt at sincerity that "it's cute." He tells her she can get what she really wanted at the sale. Then the caller tells the woman to get her husband on the phone because he heard she got him a vacuum.
- In 2015, Atlanta jewelry chain Shane Co. did a series of fake "radio call in interviews":
- Christmas had husbands and boyfriends proudly announcing they bought their wives/girlfriends washers or printers, then going Oh, Crap! when Shane advised their SO was listening on the other line. Cue irritated women retorting, "A washer? A practical gift?" or "I don't want a new printer. 'You' want a new printer," or lamenting that Shane should help the feckless man get them what they really want.
- They stepped up the gaffe for Valentine's day. The boyfriend in this case was all excited about the hockey tickets he got his girlfriend. Because the team was going all the way! And the seats were center ice! And he just kept trying to defend a gift that the girlfriend was obviously not at all enthused about, and was clearly more for him.
- One TV commercial had a husband and wife attending a basketball game, and the husband had arranged for the stadium staff to announce the gift on the big screens. He hypes her up for the reveal, and the gift is—liposuction! Insulted, the woman walks out of the game completely, leaving the man by himself and confused.
- Canadian McDonald's commercials for the McDouble featured people being delighted by the delicious McDonald's meal that their friend or significant other had so graciously given to them, while the giver basks in their praise. The recipient then notices a conveniently-placed ad advertising the McDouble as the latest value menu item, only $1.39 or whatever, at which point they suddenly become angry at the giver. So... the message here is that the only thing that matters when giving a gift is how much money you paid for it, and if it's below a certain amount, you're an asshole?
- The Marvel Comics version of Hercules often bestows "the Gift" of personal combat with him (a great honor among the Greeks) to people who are less than thrilled with the present.
- A rather unusual example comes from W.I.T.C.H.; no matter what the other Guardians plan to gift Hay Lin for her birthday, somehow she manages to buy it for herself shortly before her birthday, resulting in this. On one occasion they had found a gift they knew she didn't have, namely the tickets for a concert the day of her birthday, and called the ticket office to buy the last five only for someone to buy them in person. So they resort to other gifts, wondering how many gaffes they will have that year... and discover that for once Hay Lin didn't already have their gifts, but was instead the one who bought the tickets.
- In Superman: Secret Identity, everyone in Clark Kent's family shares the same sense of humour as the parents who named him Clark Kent, and every birthday and Christmas he gets a ton of Superman merch that he doesn't want, and doesn't even find funny. He mellows a bit on this as he grows up, and has grown to accept it by the time his daughters start doing it.
- Tangled: The Series: In the story "Guardian's Day" from the issue "Hair It Is", Cassandra is shown to be a bad gift-giver (see above).
- In Footrot Flats, Wal once gave his girlfriend Cheeky Hobson a frypan wrapped up with a yellow bow for her birthday. It wound up wrapped around his head.
- In FoxTrot, Roger's history of gift buying for his wife Andy is less than stellar. Gifts include: an extension cord, a heart-shaped spatula (for Valentine's Day), a box set of The Three Stooges DVDs...the list goes on.
- Bumblebee: Charlie has asked for a car for her 18th birthday. She gets the gaffe from both barrels.
- Her mom nixes the idea due to money shortage (though she can pay for her younger child's karate). Charlie is a gearhead tomboy. Her mother instead gives her a girly, flowered helmet to wear on her moped.
- Charlie's new stepfather does one worse. He gives Charlie, who is not done grieving her biological father's death, a self help book telling her to smile more.
- Iron Man: A running gag in the films is that Tony Stark is terrible at buying gifts for Pepper.
- In Iron Man, he outright forgot her birthday and she bought herself an expensive dress on his dime.
- In Iron Man 2, he buys her strawberries has an apology present, forgetting that she's deathly allergic to them.
- In Iron Man 3, he buys her an enormous stuffed bunny for Christmas that barely fits in the house and that she does not like.
- In Avengers: Endgame, Tony is building the Rescue Suit as an anniversary present (an odd choice since Pepper's a Wet Blanket Wife that disapproves of Tony being Iron Man). Tony lampshades this trope as Pepper "never wears what I buy her anyway", though in a subversion Pepper does end up donning the suit in the climax of the movie.
- In The Namesake, Gogol's girlfriend buys a large and overly elaborate present for his parents, despite him telling her that it isn't necessary. Although they don't openly hate it, they're clearly indifferent rather than impressed.
- The poem "Christmas Thank Yous" by Mike Gower has the author writing tactful thank you letters to all the relatives who sent him unwanted gifts, concluding with a sincere letter to his Grandad saying that he's absolutely fine with just being sent cash.
- Normally Hermione gives her friends birthday/Christmas presents that they like, but in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she gives Harry and Ron homework planners for Christmas. They don't like the gift, and at one point, Harry privately makes a note to drop the planner in the fireplace after Hermione reminds him to write down a homework assignment he planned to do later in it.
- Of course, it's not so much the planner itself they don't like. It's more the fact that the things had been enchanted to spout sickeningly-cutesy rhymes, chiding them for slacking off and not doing their homework.
- Lavender giving Ron a "My Sweetheart" necklace is another example.
- Hagrid usually gives Harry good presents, but sometimes his view on what's appropriate (or safe) can be skewed. One year, he gave Harry a wallet with fangs. While the fangs would have been useful in foiling robberies, it also kept Harry from putting money inside without losing fingers. And let's not forget the memorable year he sent a copy of "The Monster Book of Monsters"... While that book was one of his textbooks and would work as a gift since Harry would require the book anyways, it was Hagrid teaching the class that year and his bright idea to assign the book in the first place, instead of a less overtly dangerous textbook.
- In The House of Night, Zoey's birthday date is close to Christmas so her friends and boyfriend all give her Christmas-themed gifts like a scarf with a snowman stitched on it and a pearl necklace shaped like a snowman, not knowing that she hates these kind of gifts due to having received so many of them over the years.
- In "Many Happy Returns", a short story by Kathryn Cave, a girl's brother gives her a football as one of those 'really for myself' presents. Then she meets another girl with the same birthday, whose brother gave her a 'really for myself' Lego set. They end up trading presents, to their mutual satisfaction and the considerable annoyance of their respective brothers.
- Better Call Saul has Jimmy set up a burglary at an office building that goes badly awry when it turns out the owner is staying there all night. Why? Apparently he thought a vacuum cleaner would be a romantic gift, and his wife was not pleased.
- Gina and Boyle try to invoke this on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, after their parents start dating. They peek at the gift Boyle's dad is giving her mom, an electric scale. Averted in that Gina's mom actually loves it.
- There was an episode of Family Matters where Carl bought his wife a trampoline because she had complained that she needed a way to exercise more, but then she got upset that he must think she's fat. It blew over once Carl apologized, mentioned that he sometimes struggles with his weight too (throughout the entire show he's clearly much more overweight than she is), and suggested they both use it and just have fun with it instead of worrying about whether it produces weight loss or not.
- Frasier has multiple examples:
- On a Christmas Episode, Frasier spends the whole time trying to find awesome, intellectual gifts for his son, only to find out at the end that what his son wants is the trendy robot Frasier had derided for not being "stimulating" enough. Martin gives him An Aesop about how Frasier is always doing things like that - like giving Martin nice a smoking jacket that he's never going to use, because Frasier likes them.
- Another episode later involves Martin trying to do something nice for Frasier and Niles by buying them artworks and wine-racks that Martin likes but that Frasier and Niles find hideous. (In the case of the artwork, Martin thought Frasier liked it because he claimed he did while buttering up the maitre d' at a restaurant where it was on display).
- Evidently, Frasier didn't listen, as a later episode has him and Roz discussing how Roz's unwanted collection of ceramic animals got destroyed in an "earthquake". After a moment, Frasier recalls how his last Christmas gift to her was also destroyed in said earthquake. They agree to just send one another booze next time... but another episode shows he forgot this. Learning from his mistakes is not one of Fras's defining attributes.
- In one episode Daphne gives Martin a sweater just because. Martin gets irritated as now he feels he has to get her something in return, even though she insists otherwise. He eventually buys her a massive basket of bath items which is worth far more than the sweater. After a brief argument they agree to keep their gifts because they were both just trying to be nice.
- Played with in a season 7 episode. Donny returns from a tractor pull and shows Niles the John Deere cap he's going to give to Daphne. Niles, being Niles, is horrified until Donny admits it's just a joke gift.
Niles: A John Deere cap. How... could you?
Donny: Oh no, I'm just giving it to her to see her pretend to like it. Then I'm going to give her a bracelet.
- On Friends Joey brought matching heavy gold bracelets for himself and Chandler. Chandler found his completely distasteful and finally vented about it when Joey wasn't around. Or so he thought.
- A particularly absurd example: on one episode of The Noddy Shop, a woman comes into a toy store where she's been told are many good things to buy her young nephew who she is not at all close to. The shopkeeper suggests a variety of fun, adorable and entertaining looking toys, but she doesn't think any of them look right. Then she sees the Antique Cuckoo Clock hanging on the wall...
- On Peep Show, when Mark and Jeremy exchange Christmas stockings, it awkwardly turns out that Jez has put a lot of money and effort into Mark's, whereas Mark has gotten Jez kitchen tongs ("we need them") and firelighters ("in case we get a barbecue").
Mark: You know, in my family, we do sort of jokey stockings.
Jez: Right. In mine we sort of... try quite hard?
- Alex's dad Monroe on Reed Between The Lines: "I brought her flowers on our anniversary, and I added to her Tupperware collection every birthday!" as he's protesting he's been a good husband after his wife has left him.
- In an episode of Schitt's Creek Johnny gives Stevie a set of garish make-up, which she interprets as him suggesting she change her looks. Alexis assures her Johnny is just really bad at gift-giving, having once given David an entire (unwanted) basketball court, causing David to break his own nose.
- In A Little Night Music, Madame Armfeldt tells her granddaughter about something of this sort that happened to her when she was a young Gold Digger, and her First Love, a Croatian count, gave her a wooden ring:
"It had been in his family for centuries, it seemed, but I said to myself: a wooden ring? What sort of man would give you a wooden ring, so I tossed him out right there and then. And now—who knows? He might have been the love of my life."
- In games that include gift-giving as a way to influence Relationship Values, poorly-chosen ones may have a negative effect as a reflection of this trope.
- Syera of Springhole notes that when predators give gifts, they usually mean them as a personal jab to the recipient, giving a deodorant bar to imply the recipient smells bad, as an example.
- When Totalbiscuit began playing Faeria on twitch, his followers began sending him recruitment chests in the game. At first he thanked his followers, but he soon began receiving so many chests that the game's frame-rate began severely dropping.
Totalbiscuit: [clicking the "continue" button over and over as more rewards appear] ...It never ends! It never ends! It never ends! Why-what has happened? Lots of people have added — oh, God, th—the frame-rate is steadily dropping. There are too many — oh, my, Jesus, God, why...
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- "The Secret of My Excess":
- Rainbow Dash flies over Spike's head and drops her gift for him on top of the pile: a dumbbell tied with a bow — there has been some fandom speculation that as an athlete, Rainbow just picked something out of her gym she doesn't use much and stuck a bow on it. Although then again, Spike has admitted in the past that he likes flexing in front of a mirror... (then again, it is his first birthday in Ponyville so they really didn't know what to give him, with gems probably not being special enough).
- Twilight Sparkle is the clueless gift giver turned Up to Eleven. She likes books, so why in Equestria wouldn't anypony else like books?! She only realizes her mistake at Spike's birthday party. This is more blatant because she has known Spike longer and having given Spike a book for his birthday despite surrounded by them growing up and living in a library, it makes it seem like she didn't try hard to find out what he wanted.
Spike: I usually only get one gift. From Twilight. A book.
[Twilight blushes and backs away with the present she had for Spike — obviously another book, gift wrapped]
- Twilight has repeatedly remarked on how seriously she takes being Princess of Friendship... but even after many occasions to observe Spike's likes and tastes, she still is giving him books as gifts. This could be justified by concern of his draconian greed getting out of hand, though.
- Although she is the spirit of generosity, Rarity still has occasional difficulty with this, tending towards type 1 version of this trope; when she's apologizing to Sweetie Belle for getting angry at her in "Sisterhooves Social", she suggests a trip to the spa, something Rarity herself would very much enjoy, but something that Sweetie Belle probably couldn't care less about. Naturally, all the other ponies start laughing their heads off at the suggestion.
- "Castle Sweet Castle" plays this trope straight and averts it. In an attempt to make Twilight's castle look more appealing to Twilight, the others decide to decorate it. The trope being played straight ends up with a room filled with everything more geared to the five and not to Twilight. However, it's averted when you find out they split up and decorated certain rooms separately, leading to more sensible design decisions.
- "The Secret of My Excess":
- The Simpsons:
- "Life on the Fast Lane": Homer was notorious for giving Marge gifts that she would never use and he would then 'borrow' for his own use. It was quite obvious that he was just buying these things for himself. Marge finally had enough when he bought her a customized bowling ball with the name "Homer" painted on it. To teach him a lesson, she decides to learn bowling and uses the ball herself.
- In "White Christmas Blues", Lisa buys thoughtless gifts for her family, like a pack of mushroom seeds for Homer and a copy of Treasure Island for Bart, that are more in tune with her likes. Bart even tells her that she really bought those gifts for herself.
- On SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick buys ice cream for himself and SpongeBob.
Patrick: I got your favorite. Dill pickle swirl with mustard and extra bacon bits.
SpongeBob: That's not my favorite, Patrick. That's your favorite. My favorite is plain vanilla.
Patrick: Oh well, more for me.
- Steven Universe:
- "Barn Mates": in an attempt to be friends with Lapis (and make up for imprisoning and interrogating her previously), Peridot gives her own personal swimming hole, but since she forgot that Lapis was trapped underwater for months, it failed. Peridot then tries to give Lapis her tape recorder, on Steven's suggestion that she should give her something personal. Lapis just crushes it in her hand and tells her to get lost.
- "Three Gems and a Baby": The Crystal Gems try to get Christmas presents for baby Steven, but since their race doesn't have a concept of childhood (all Gems are born as adults), they have no idea what gifts are appropriate to get for a baby. Garnet's gift is a shaving razor (that he'll need in the future, but not at his present age), Amethyst's is a box of adult sized diapers (which she figures he can shapeshift to fit into, like all Gems), and Pearl's is a dictionary ("Obviously, it's the best gift for a being that can't yet communicate.")
- On Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bitty Adventures: Blueberry gives Lemon a gift of a book that she'd like but Lemon would not. Blueberry liked this gift so much that she had to remind herself it was a gift for a friend rather than keeping it for herself. Lemon doesn't care for it and regifts the book which starts a pattern of regifting because nobody wants it, and Blueberry, realizing her mistake, goes back and gives Lemon a book she actually would like.
- In the The Venture Bros.. episode, "The Diving Bell Vs The Butter-Glider" super villain King Gorilla is paroled on medical grounds. He has lung cancer, uses an oxygen tank and is gaunt. At his welcome back party, The Monarch and Dr. Mrs. The Monarch give him a carton of smokes. Needless to say, it doesn't go over well with everyone looking at the couple angrily. The Monarch can only offer a weak "I didn't know."
- Household appliances and kitchenware can often be this if given by a man to his wife/girlfriend, due to the Stay in the Kitchen subtext. This naturally does not apply if the receiver explicitly asked for a new appliance. This generally occurs from seeing appliances as the feminine version of tools, and forgetting that ironing and such isn't as fun as building things with said tools.