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.
- 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 Jerk Ass.
- 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 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.
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.
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".
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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"...
- To be fair, "The Monster Book of Monsters" was a text book that year. Had Hagrid not gifted him with one, Harry would have still been stuck with it, and he would have had to pay for it.
- Yes, but it was Hagrid teaching the class that year and his bright idea to assign the book in the first place, instead of a more usual 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 toystore 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...
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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."
- 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":
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]
- 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 blantant is 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.
- 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.
- In Steven Universe episode "Barn Mates", in an attempt to be friends with Lapis, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In The Wrong Trousers, Wallace also gives Gromit the Techno Trousers as a present, but it's obviously for the purpose of saving him the burden of taking his dog out for walks.
- 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 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.