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Misleading Package Size

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Yep, that's all the money that will fit.
Normally, due to people not wanting to waste too much material, packages tend to be about the same size as what's in them. Not when this trope comes up. In that case, an entire wooden box used for major transport could be used to carry a single pen, a steel suitcase the size of a rifle is used to transport a single ammo clip, etc. Tends to be parodied in cartoons, when they somehow pull a giant 30+ inch TV out of a package the size of a shoebox, in which case it can overlap with Hammerspace.

Contrast Bigger on the Inside and Clown Car. Often paired with Obvious Object Could Be Anything. Has nothing to do with Bigger Is Better in Bed. Or Gag Penis.


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  • A commercial once had a woman unwrap a package the shape of a tennis racket to reveal an armchair inside.
  • Where's the Beef?'s first ad has the old ladies marvel at how big the "big, fluffy bun" is, and are dismayed to open it and find a burger patty no bigger than a silver dollar.
  • One advertisement has a girl having her 16th birthday party with a blatantly car-shaped present behind her. She pulls off the wrapping paper to reveal a cereal box... and then screams like she just got the best gift in the world.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Anything from the Capsule Corporation (vehicles, appliances, houses, etc.) collapses down for storage in a capsule no bigger than a person's finger.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 3 episode 24, the spherical bomb Big M. receives in the mail is around the size of the palm of his hand if not smaller, but it's contained in so much packaging wrap that it looks a lot bigger.

    Comic Books 
  • Iznogoud: In Iznogoud's Birthday, Iznogoud is given a box that contains a chain of boxes, the key point being that each box is bigger than the one containing it.

    Fan Works 
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Parodied several times. From clothes to books to Death Notes to flowers, the characters' backs can store them all.
    "It's alright Italia-kun. I always bring spare cosplays with me." He reached into some sort of secret compartment behind his back, pulling out an identical outfit to the one the brunet was currently wearing. Seriously, how do anime characters have such an ability?
    Japan disappeared into a bathroom for a short amount of time before reappearing, now clad in a sharp black suit and tie with a white dress shirt and black pants, taking hexagonal glasses from his pocket—or wherever anime characters store all their stuff—before putting them on.
    "Humph." The larger scoffed back. He then reached into the magical space all anime characters have, whipping out a book conveniently titled 'How to Catch a Runaway Italian'.
    Both reached into the magical space all anime characters have, extracting black notebooks—Japan's having unidentifiable symbols on its cover as Italy's had 'Death Note' clearly printed on it in gothic letters—before taking out pens and colored pencils as well, opening the pages before scrawling in them.
    Giggling, the auburn reached into the magical space all anime characters have, an exquisite bouquet of utmost grandeur popping out from behind his back. "Tada!"

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, the Briefcase Full of Money is opened to reveal a single, lonely stack of bills. Even funnier is the fact that the man offering says that it's $100,000, which is more money than is shown. $100,000 would require ten 100-deep stacks of $100 bills.

  • Greg Heffley of Diary of a Wimpy Kid recalls opening a video-game sized gift-box only to find a memory card.
  • In Cops: Their Lives in Their Own Words a policeman whose wife wanted him to leave the force receives a huge box wrapped up as a present...containing just his notice of resignation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show Laura tries to open a box that Rob gets in the mail. When she finally manages to open it an inflatable dinghy pops out and inflates, leaving it about 5x the size of the original box. It had also just happened in a sketch Rob had written for "The Alan Brady Show", making it a case of In-Universe Truth in Television.
  • Shining Time Station: In "Stacy Cleans Up", Schemer gives away some sample lollipops he got from a candy manufacturer. With the wrapper on, they look like old-fashioned, giant lollipops. After multiple layers of wrapping are removed, the actual pop is about the size of a marble.

    Video Games 
  • In countless shooters, ammo crates big enough to keep a whole Company in suppressing fire for a week will hold a couple magazines.

    Web Original 
  • The topic of one of James Rolfe's You Know Whats Bullshit videos. He ordered a USB flash drive, but it came in a giant piece of cardboard that's 13 inches by 9 inches (that's roughly the size of a sheet of A4 paper, for reference). James thought he'd gotten drunk and ordered a big coffee table book at first, since the box it came in was so deceptively large.

    Western Animation 
  • In King of the Hill, Luanne gives Hank a shoebox gift, but turns to contain only a tiny gift box containing a pass to swim with the resort's dolphin.
  • Mickey Mouse (2013): In "Ghoul Friend", Mickey pulls out a huge toolbox, inside of which is only a teeny, tiny wrench.
  • In the animated adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, a large serving dish for Cindy Lou Who holds a series of increasingly small waiters with smaller serving dishes, the smallest of whom serves her a strawberry.
  • Classic Disney Shorts;
    • There's a Donald Duck cartoon in which he's a gift wrapper in a department store. He puts a small ring inside a large box, then tries to put a football in the box meant for the ring. He has to deflate the ball in order to fit it in.
    • In "Pluto's Party", Pluto gets a present shaped like a huge bone, but when he bites into it, it turns out to be a wagon.
  • In the Disney short "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater", Goofy is having trouble opening a small package of cables. After failing to open it, a single drop of sweat causes the package to burst open, covering Goofy in about half a metric ton of cables.
  • In the Spongebob Squarepants episode "The Idiot Box", SpongeBob buys a television set just to play with the box it came in. The TV was about three times the size of the box.
  • Family Guy: Brian once received a Christmas present shaped like a wine bottle.
    Brian: I wonder what this is.
    [pulls ribbon, revealing book]
    Brian: (Genuinely surprised) Oh.
  • Taz-Mania: In "Sub Commander Taz", he ordered a nuclear submarine from a comic-book ad. It was delivered in a crate that filled most of the room, but it turned out to be a toy so small it could be dropped into a water glass.
  • In Betty Boop's Birthday Party, Betty is given a piano as a birthday gift. The large box the guest had to push contained the stool, while the smaller box contained the piano itself.
  • In the Kaeloo episode "Let's Play Magicians", Kaeloo orders a magic kit with 2000 pieces. When the package is delivered, it's enormous, but all it has inside is a hat and a wand (users are apparently supposed to magic up the remaining 1998 pieces).
  • In the Christmas Episode of Wild Kratts, the package Chris receives from Aviva is bigger than he is. When it's finally opened, it contains only a gift certificate promising that Aviva will start work on a new Time Trampoline.

    Real Life 
  • Tends to be used by children when they need to make a surprise, in order to make the other child think they got a huge gift. Alternatively, they just got lazy/bored and put a small box in a shoebox.
  • A lot of companies do this out of either false advertising (make the buyer think there is more in the package than there actually is) or just plain standard package sizes.
  • Things packaged for shipping often have much bigger boxes then the item itself. Justified, because they fill the space in with bubble wrap and shipping peanuts to prevent damage.
  • Small electronic components frequently arrive from distributors in hilariously oversized boxes. Presumably justified because the supplier didn't have a smaller box.
    • Silicon chips are often shipped in long thin tubes. In some cases a single chip will be shipped in a 15" tube long enough to hold a hundred chips. The long tube then requires a box 2 foot long to hold it, which results in a box big enough to hold a 24-pack of beer, just for one chip the size of a pea. If the tube had been cut to size, a jiffy bag would have been adequate.
  • Sometimes Truth in Television. These days security precautions package seemingly rudimentary things with too much tape, foam, bubble wrap, MORE tape, a box inside of a box, and more tape, to make it look comically unnecessary.
    • An anti-shoplifting measure is to package a single thumb drive or memory card note  with a 8 x 11 sheet of cardboard. The merchandise might fit easily in a shoplifter's pocket, but the packaging won't.
    • Nintendo Switch games also fall into this category: the game cartridges are the size of a small memory card, but the boxes they come in are only slightly smaller than the packaging of Wii games, which are full-size discs.
    • Another reason for oversized packaging is that it gives the product extra space on store shelves, making it more likely to catch a shopper's eye.
  • Consumer Reports magazine has a regular feature on its back page showing off various advertising bloopers submitted by readers. Items where the package size is (misleadingly) larger than its actual contents get labelled with the "Black Hole Award".
  • When CDs were first sold they came in boxes 3-4 times bigger than the disk. This was meant to help prevent shoplifting.
    • This one has been zigzagging, with "normal" CD cases (5mm thick with often a booklet), shrinking to thin CD cases (half the thickness, never a booklet), and growing back to DVD cases (width, height, and half the thickness of a VHS).
      • A number of box sets shrink this again, with an entire season's worth of episodes on between four and six discs, squeezed into a thinner-than-VHS-sized case.
  • Some parents will often package something small in a much larger box during a gift-giving holiday to tease them.
  • Bags of potato chips (AKA crisps) are about half filled with air, though there is a practical reason for this: Tightly-packed bags of potato-based snacks tend to crumble into dust during shipping as they press up against themselves. Corn-based snacks, like Fritos and tortilla chips, are less vulnerable and are often filled to the brim or at least three-quarters up.
  • Some game companies (notoriously Fantasy Flight Games) make boxes far bigger than the Tabletop Game they contain actually requires. This makes the boxes stack neatly on the shelves with other games, but it also means that a game consisting of two decks of cards, a handful of counters, and a rulebook takes up a 12" x 12" space on your shelf.
    • In some cases, the extra space is provided so that future expansions will fit into the original game box.
  • A slightly more adult version of this includes Bad Dragon's fantasy adult toy line. Everything usually arrives in a small unmarked 6"x6"x6" square box, no matter which one you purchase. With toys over two feet long, and an additional 8 ounce bottle of fun included, it can be like hammerspace has opened up to welcome you to a world of fantasy dragon dong as they unfold from the depths and horrify your roommate.
  • Plastic construction kits marketed by Airfix used to be sold in clear plastic bags or rigid clear plastic bubbles that were tailored to the size of the product, and gave an accurate idea of what you were buying. Today the same number of parts on their sprues are packed into over-large cardboard boxes which are anything up to eight times larger than is needed to enclose the sprues.


Video Example(s):


Hyper Magic 2000 Deluxe Kit

Kaeloo buys a magic kit that comes in a giant box but only contains a wand and a hat.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / MisleadingPackageSize

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