Whenever someone is handing out gifts to a group of people, one of them is going to be massively disappointed.
Typically, almost everyone gets a really spectacular gift that is exactly what they wanted. Except for this one guy who gets, say, a nickel.
The jilted character will feign delight, but as he watches the others enjoy their gifts, his annoyance will grow until he finally explodes at the gift-giver.
Typically, it will turn out that the gift has some great hidden value, and that their gift has really been the best gift of all, just not in any obvious way. Like the nickel is a rare coin worth millions.
Sometimes, the lame gift is just something of great sentimental value to the giver, in which case it reflects deep affection and is a very touching gift, though it's still a bit lame.
Sometimes, the universe just hates him.
For the superhero version of this, see Blessed with Suck. Kids Prefer Boxes is a juvenile variation of this trope. I Got a Rock is the trick-or-treating version. May result from Convenience Store Gift Shopping or a Homemade Sweater from Hell. The subtrope that drives the engine of an Unwanted Gift Plot.
- A bank commercial involves a man offering a pony to two girls. The first girl accepts and smiles as she gets her toy pony... until the second girl gets a live pony.
- Another one in the same series features a little boy being allowed to play with a toy truck... for about five minutes. Then the truck gets taken away and replaced with a piece of cardboard cut roughly in the shape of a truck, which, had he read the fine print he had no reason to believe was on the bottom of the first truck, he would recognize as the deal he agreed to when he started playing with the first truck.
- Subverted in one advert which had every member of the family left some vast, beautiful piece of real estate, except for one son who gets 10 acres of swamp. We think he's the Black Sheep, until he whoops in delight — cut to him driving his SUV at top speed through the mud and branches.
- A series of Christmas ads from West 49 show a bunch of clips of kids throwing tantrums because they didn't get the right thing for Christmas. One clip shows a young boy that got so upset, he knocked down the Christmas tree.
- In The World of Narue Narue reminds Kazuto that it's not what's given but who gives it that's important. They then exchange ... rocks.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, when the little boy Sam revealed himself to be Jack Atlas' biggest fan, Jack decided to give him the card Tuning Magician as a gift. The card is Level 1, has 0 ATK and DEF, and has a seemingly negative effect (when you summon it, your opponent gains 400 LP and you take 400 damage). As a result, Sam got really insulted and started hating Jack's guts. It is later revealed that Tuning Magician was the first card that Jack owned, and it inspired him to escape the ghetto and become the duelist he is today. He was likely trying to inspire Sam to follow a similar path. Too bad Jack didn't bother trying to explain the card's significance. Later, Yuya Sakaki borrows the card from Sam and manages to use it in a winning strategy.
- Gunslinger Girl. Triela's handler Victor Hilshire keeps giving her teddy bears as gifts, being Maternally Challenged and figuring that all Girls Love Stuffed Animals. Eventually their relationship develops enough for him to ask what she wants, but she just asks for another bear so she'll have seven. To her annoyance, she gets another bear from someone else, leaving her with eight bears. "I knew I should have asked for something else."
- Averted and then subverted in Safe Havens. When Samantha's grandma died, she got seemingly the worst inheritance: a ring. Relatives expected her to be disappointed, but she wasn't. That was before she found out it was actually the most awesome inheritance, magically allowing her to see and talk with her heaven-bound grandma in reflective surfaces.
- Garfield: Garfield gets a cat sweater from Jon's mother every Christmas that he doesn't like; some of them are lamer than others.
- Kenai from Disney's Brother Bear wasn't too happy about receiving The Bear of Love.
- Power Rangers:
- In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, the Rangers gains new ninja powers. Where the others' animal totems were things like the falcon, the bear, or the wolf, Adam got the frog. He was disappointed until the alien Jungle Princess guiding them explained it by relating it to The Frog Prince. (Don't ask how an alien even knew about The Frog Prince...)
- In Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, Adam's actor Johnny Yong Bosch wanted to have him complain again, this time about why he got a minivan for a Zord when the new kid got a monster truck, but that idea was shot down.
- In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, each member in the Fellowship receives cool personal gifts from Galadriel, including a magical lantern for Frodo, some daggers for Pippin and Merry, and a coveted lock of golden hair for Gimli. Sam, however, gets some rope. Whoopee. Visibly underwhelmed, he even has the balls to ask if he might have a "shiny dagger" as well, but Galadriel just smirks at his impudence and doesn't bother to reply. Of course, the rope magically unties itself when necessary, and comes in very useful. In the book, Sam is given a rare seed and fertile soil from Lothlórien due to his trade as a gardener. The rope is just part of the general equipment. Also, in the book, Sam has been complaining about not having any rope for several chapters, and is actually quite pleased to finally have some (though he's a bit skeptical of its strength, since it's so thin).
- In Star Wars: Ewok Adventures, the boy is visibly unimpressed with the very plain rock he gets, while everyone else gets cool toys. After an unsuccessful attempt to trade it for something else, he throws it away. Unfortunately they kinda need it much later on... Fortunately one of the ewoks had more sense and took the rock with him when the kid ditched it.
- In Step Brothers, when they open Christmas gifts, Dale gets Hulk Hands. Brennan on the other hand, gets a wallet. He is not happy.
- Apparently, Jason in Mystery Team would much rather have a bike than a NEW CAR.
- A Christmas Story: Ralphie receives pink bunny pajamas from his aunt for Christmas. (He claims that his aunt believes that he is "perpetually four years old and a girl." Fortunately, his mom tells him he only has to wear it when she visits.) Ralphie and Randy also don't care for socks.
- Used often in the Harry Potter series.
- Christmas gift-giving happens once a book. The Dursleys always give Harry some present, but intentionally something extremely lame, like old socks, a single toothpick or a coin. (Ron thinks that the 50p is totally interesting, though, having never seen money with that shape). On the other hand, the Weasley kids frequently make fun of the sweaters they always get from their mother, but they wear them nonetheless; and when Harry gets one, it is very significant for him as it means acceptance as a family member.
- In the third book, Harry endures a visit from Uncle Vernon's sister Marge, who comes to visit while he's home for the summer. She gives Dudley expensive gifts like toy robots and video games, but gives Harry...a box of dog biscuits. Just to really rub in how much she hates Harry, she then glares at Harry, daring him to ask why he had gotten dog biscuits instead of an actual present. He's too smart to take the bait.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore leaves items to the trio in his will. Hermione gets a book, Ron gets a magical item that can manipulate light, and Harry gets... in Ron's words: "An old snitch". Harry knows there's a secret involved and eventually figures it out months later. Turned out there was a legendarily powerful magic stone inside it. Dumbledore actually did will a second, obviously-not-lame, item to Harry as well (the sword of Gryffindor) but Scrimgeour refuses to hand it over, saying that it wasn't Dumbledore's to give. Though the Trio ends up getting a hold of this item for a time anyway and its being left in the will clues them in to the fact that it's important to their quest.
- Inverted by Dumbledore in the first book; socks are usually a stock lame gift, but Dumbledore says everyone always gives him books and he'd like to get a pair of new socks sometime.
- Also inverted by Dobby in Goblet of Fire, who loves getting socks from Harry, claiming those are his favorite type of clothing, but doesn't understand that socks are supposed to match. (Ron quickly avoids having to explain this by giving him a pair of socks he got and telling him to simply swap pairs.)
- It's established in the Jedi Apprentice series that Padawans turning thirteen are always given gifts from their Masters, gifts with some symbolic meaning that take a lot of work to get, like healing crystals or specially made cloaks. Little Obi-Wan Kenobi is shocked, therefore, when Qui-Gon gives him a river rock. He conquers his own disappointment enough to look closely at it and see that it's a beautiful rock and hangs on to it. Later it turns out to react to his own Force abilities, which helps keep a mind wipe from affecting him; but when he tells Qui-Gon about this, Qui-Gon blandly says he thought it was a normal stone. Obi-Wan's not sure if he's being trolled or not.
- In the last book of Galaxy of Fear, the Arranda kids meet Yoda on Dagobah, and he says he has something for both of them. Yoda invites Tash to walk with him. She's delighted, since she knows he's a Jedi and she desperately longs to know more and develop her fledgling Force skills. Yoda then tells Zak to pocket a flower, roots and all, and take it back to the camp. Zak takes it as another sign that he's the Un Favorite. He's later able to throw it into an attacker's face. Yoda didn't actually tell Tash much; the real 'gift' was letting Zak sort things out himself, so he could shed this feeling of being useless.
- In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Peter and Fudge receive gifts from friends of their parents. Fudge gets a toy train set. Peter gets a book aimed at children closer to Fudge's age, if not younger, and is in fact a book Fudge already ownsnote . Peter is not impressed, but at least has the tact to thank its givers.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire Stannis Baratheon considers being named Lord of Dragonstone this. While being granted the ancestral seat of the Targaryens would normally be a great honor, with Robert taking the Iron Throne, Stannis would have been Lord of Storm's End, which is bigger, richer, his ancestral home, and not located on a godforsaken rock in the middle of the ocean. It's not exactly that Dragonstone itself is lame, just in comparison to what he would have had had he not been so "honored". Making it even worse is that during the rebellion, Stannis defended Storm's End through a terrible siege, eating rats rather than surrender, only to have it taken away and given to his little brother afterward.
- Played with in The Duckling Gets a Cookie? When the Duckling gets a nuts-and-chocolate cookie from the reader, the Pigeon becomes jealously enraged, only to be genuinely surprised when the Duckling gives it to him. After the Pigeon leaves, the Duckling asks for a cookie without nuts.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Poor Greg has several of these moments every once in a while, ranging from a picture of his uncle, to Wonder Woman underoos.
- NewsRadio: Jimmy James gives everyone but Matthew a brand new Miata for Christmas. Instead, Matthew gets a set of Fibber McGee and Molly tapes. When he finally confronts Mr. James, he finds that the gift wasn't the tapes; Mr. James was actually giving him all rights to the entire Fibber McGee and Molly series.
- In an episode of That Mitchell and Webb Look, Robert Webb plays a heroin addict that gets his favorite thing in the whole world for Christmas from everyone except his grandmother, who got him cocaine. His mother quietly offers to take it back and exchange it for more heroin.
- Just Shoot Me! had a very similar episode, only while Finch pretended to like his gift outwardly, he secretly ruined all the other presents before finding out how much his was actually worth.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: Joel gives Gypsy an expensive doll, Tom a racecar, and Crow... pants. Turns out that this was a Very Special acknowledgment of his greater maturity, qualifying him for an "adult" gift. (In a Continuity Nod, whenever Crow has cause to pack up his possessions, one crate is clearly marked "pants".)
- In the first Christmas Special, the Mads invent "The Wish Squisher," a machine designed to turn cool gifts into this trope. A box of NES games becomes a pair of Underoos, money becomes your sister's raisin collection, and slot cars become an ugly pair of socks. The socks are run through the machine a second time and become a gift certificate for a stationery store.
- Variation: Cheers: Rebecca's wealthy boyfriend promises her a wonderful gift and references a "ring". She gets a desk. Convinced that there's an engagement ring hidden inside, she literally tears the desk apart to find it. Then Sam finds the packing slip, explaining that it's the very valuable and historic desk at which Richard Wagner composed Der Ring des Nibelungen.
- In The Facts of Life episode "Graduation," Mrs. Garrett gives Blair a nice sweater and Jo... a rock. She proceeds to show Jo that it's a geode and spins an elaborate metaphor in which the ordinary-looking stone with potential treasure hidden inside represents Jo. Blair then becomes annoyed that her gift doesn't come with a metaphor!
- One of Psych's early Christmas episodes showed this with Lassie. However, it was intentional as Shawn had been listening in on their psychiatric evaluations and told everyone to get Lassie snowglobes, just to torture him.
- In a Christmas episode of The Office (US), Michael was very disappointed to receive a hand-knitted oven mitt from his Secret Santa (Phyllis) when he himself had gotten his person (Ryan) an iPod. Of course, this was stupid because he himself had imposed a $20 limit to the gifts to make the iPod look even better in comparison to everyone else's gifts.
- Happens just about any time anyone gives gifts, ever, in Friends. Usually followed by someone exchanging the sucky gifts. Or, more often than not, exchanging a decent gift they didn't like.
Joey: Mine says "To Erin Lane".Chandler: I don't have a job!
- Slightly subverted in one episode where Chandler unexpectedly arrives home at Christmas and gives everyone crap gifts - donations to the Royal Ballet Society.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: an elderly relative leaves Dick an old desk and a wacky piece of film. The film has hints that lead Dick to realize that the old, old picture of an ancestor is a really valuable piece of history: it's a picture that includes Abraham Lincoln.
- In one episode of Home Improvement, Jill's mom is distributing presents to her daughters; Jill wants an old antique clock that was always special to her, but that goes to her sister while she gets an old tea set. It turns out that her mother actually thought this would be meaningful to her, though - apparently, she and Jill used to play tea party with the old set when Jill was a child, though as an adult Jill sheepishly admits she can't remember that at all.
- In the children's series The Queens Nose, when the wise old uncle comes to visit, he gives the annoying and snobby older sister Melody some fancy clothes and a bundle of money. To the younger sister Harmony (who is his favourite niece) he gives... an old 50 pence piece, of the same year as her birth. She soon discovers that this particular 50p is magical and grants her ten wishes.
- In Glue, farm boy James is given a set of keys for his 18th birthday, which he happily assumes are for a car. Cue disappointment when it turns out they're for a tractor. (No hidden meaning here - a tractor is simply of more use at a farm).
- In Modern Family, Alex is disappointed to discover that her grandmother only left her a lighter and a card reading "this is a lighter". She spends most of the episode confused before realizing that the card got stuck closed, and written on the inside is the explanation of the gift. By the end of the episode she understands what the lighter means and sincerely appreciates it.
- Invoked in one episode by Penny in The Big Bang Theory, she gives Sheldon a toy of the Star Trek's Transporter Pod and a tagging gun to Leonard, but it turns out to be a prank and gives him another transporter.
- In the Christmas episode "A Creature was Stirring," from The Haunting Hour, Timmy's two older siblings, Mark and Becky, spend Christmas morning complaining about their gifts. Mark gets an iPod, when he really wanted an iPad, and complains that it doesn't have enough gigs on it. Becky gets a dress that her mother thought she could wear to school, but Becky says she can't wear it because "it looks like my mother bought it." She then asks if she can exchange it for something she likes.
- in the Corner Gas episode "No Time Like the Presents", Emma declares that she's done with all of her Christmas shopping. Oscar protests that it's only July, and asks why she bothered to do it so early when "last year, all you got people were crappy socks". Emma claims it's because she left it too late (a.k.a. she waited until September) and thus ran out of time to find good gifts. Then the episode plot starts where Oscar tells people what they're getting for Christmas in exchange for gifts and favours. When Emma finally catches onto him, she brings all the gifts back and purposely gets everyone more crappy socks out of spite.
- Bully: Jimmy gets a lame sweater from his parents for Christmas and everyone laughs at him.
- It bears mentioning that this particular sequence is mandatory.
- In the ten year old birthday phase of the Player Character in Fallout 3, the vault's resident Cloud Cuckoolander gives the present of a poem. And it's a creepy, depressing poem that can be summed up as "You're going to live like a cog in a machine, and then you're going to die." This is rather blatant Foreshadowing about what sort of place The Vault really is.
- Homestar Runner
- In the holiday cartoon "The Best Decemberween Ever", Homestar gets Strong Bad a DVD copy of Deep Impact for the third year in a row because Strong Bad liked getting it so much the first time.
- Subverted in "Homestar Presents: Presents". Homestar's very-last-minute Decemberween present for Marzipan is a pair of wire cutters, and she seems disappointed at first... then announces that wire cutters are just what she needs to help free baby seals from crab traps.
- In one Achewood strip, Téodor brings a present home to Philippe, who imagines that it must be something fantastic (a grappling hook! a homemade Coke machine!) However, it's revealed to be... a 99-cent wallet pen. Which was marked down by about 85%. Philippe, understandably, is not happy.
- Order of the Stick has Roy getting the Bag of Tricks. It does get more useful than he expected. Sometimes.
- "Painful shits."
Zibzob: And you, Sarah, the final member of the team, you get...
Sarah: I'm ready, Master.
Zibzob: Painful shits.
Sarah: WHAT?! What's super about painful shits?
Zibzob: They are super painful.
Sarah: Zibzob, for the last time, I didn't run over your cat!
- At the outset of Shadowbinders, Grandma comes to visit and brings an exciting new video game for little brother Michael, while protagonist Mia gets some items belonging to her late grandfather - a weird box and a journal she can't read (it's in French). Subverted in that, while Michael clearly thinks that Mia's gift is lame and his is awesome, Mia is delighted by what she receives; she loves antiques and unusual objects. The box turns out to contain a magic ring which launches her into her adventure.
- The Whiteboard: This is turning out to be the case in the Tessaract Black arc, where Robin's new Tessaract Black marker is taking forever to set up, while everyone else is having fun.
- In Survival of the Fittest, unlucky participants are given lame weapons such as a frisbee, plastic scissors... and a rock.
- In the video for Shoes, Kelly's twin brother gets a computer AND a car for their joint birthday. Kelly gets...a stuffed dragon.
- In "Metal Gear Meets Modern Warfare 2" (Episode 1 here) Snake teams up with Ghost and fight Liquid and Makarov. When preparing for a major assault, Naomi gets Snake a customized sniper rifle, and then Otacon gets Ghost.... gloves that match his skull mask. Ghost wonders why he doesn't get a gun. No one cares.
- The Simpsons:
- Subverted in one episode where Uncle Herb gives Lisa a set of great literature, Bart a membership in the NRA, Marge a new washer and dryer, and Homer... his forgiveness. When Homer's disappointment is obvious, he reveals that, yeah, he also got him the lounge chair he'd been eyeing.
- Parodied at the end of "You Only Move Twice" where Homer is disappointed when he gets the Denver Broncos as a going away present from Hank Scorpio. When Marge asks him why, he replies, "You just don't understand football, Marge."
- The Angry Beavers: In the episode "Gift Hoarse", Norbert gets a huge train set for Arbor Day (which, on the show, is like Christmas for beavers), while Dagget just gets a cardboard pine-tree air freshener. Dag proceeds to wreck Norb's train set in a fit of jealousy, but then feels guilty and lets Norb have his gift instead. As if on cue, the delivery man shows up with Dagget's "real" gift, a monster truck (with which the air freshener was supposed to go), which is now Norbert's.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In the Valentine's Day episode, Spongebob plans to give Patrick a very special gift of a giant heart-shaped chocolate bubble, but Sandy takes forever getting it there for him. Patrick, growing impatient waiting for his gift, becomes annoyed when he sees that Spongebob has gotten great gifts for everyone else—even total strangers. Spongebob finally decides to just give him a "friendly handshake" instead, which makes Patrick mad—until Sandy shows up with the real thing. (And at which point, Patrick says to Spongebob, "You didn't have to give me anything.")
- And there's also that episode in which Spongebob picks up what he thinks is a piece of chewed gum off the ground. (Yes, this is a good thing.) Then it gets wet and reveals its true identity, to Spongebob's dismay: "This isn't gum at all! It's a lousy hundred-dollar bill."
- In "Dying for Pie", Spongebob gives Squidward a sweater made of eyelashes. Then again, Squidward gave him a deadly pie, so he isn't really better.
- Kim Possible's nana gave the Tweebs some old discs that they were happy about, Kim got an ugly sweater.
- In the Fluppy Dogs pilot, a human boy is disappointed getting a small shaggy dog for a present instead of a more impressive breed. Of course, he instantly changes his mind when the dog reveals himself to be a sapient, talking humanoid alien who gets him involved in a wild adventure with his brethren.
- In It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, when the other kids get very good Halloween candies, Charlie Brown gets a rock.
- Hilariously re-done on Robot Chicken:
Linus: I love Geography Day! I got Italy!
Lucy: I got Russia!
Charlie: I got Iraq...
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Both Aang and Katara get cool gifts from Master Pakku upon leaving the North Pole. Sokka doesn't get anything. Of course, Aang and Katara had studied waterbending under him for the duration of their stay; Sokka didn't really have anything to do with him.
- Also, in the flashbacks, Iroh sends gifts to Zuko and Azula after he breaks through the wall of Ba Sing Se. Zuko gets a cool knife, and Azula gets a doll. Which she lights on fire. Of course, this arguably says more about how messed up Azula is than Iroh...
- In Visionaries Leoric's reaction to learning the ability of his magical staff (make incredibly cryptic comments that eventually turn out to be significant to their situation) in comparison with the abilities the bad guys get, such as summoning a giant monster to do his bidding. After seeing a particularly impressive display one of his companions, Ectar, even comments that the wizard gave him a bad staff.
- Time Squad: On his eighth birthday, Otto's first gift to open up is from Larry - a whisk. Which in deadpan fashion he accepts.
- In The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol , Grouchy's gift of a Smurf hat (which is what every other Smurf gets) is considered lame to him, because he was expecting a hang glider. Even worse is that it's the same gift that he gets every year, up until the time Jokey fooled him with one of his surprises, leading to his rant about the gift.
Grouchy Smurf: Isn't Christmas about getting what you want? Well, I want a hang glider! Why do I even bother to celebrate Christmas if all I ever get is THIS — the same old boring useless hat!? I mean, how many hats does a Smurf need?
- As it turns out, the hat he was given as a Christmas gift at the present time of the story does allow him to glide.
- In The Fairly OddParents! Wishmas, Timmy got dozens of good gifts but doesn't get a sled. His Dad wanted 2000 gallons of eggnog, but he got some golf clubs, an SUV, the hope diamond, a talking horse, and Timmy's sled (which he threw in the fire) and he considers them lame.
- Happens in an episode of Xiaolin Showdown where the monks — and their dragon companion Dojo — are opening presents on Chinese New Year.
- In several episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Twilight Sparkle gives books as presents (especially to Spike) and doesn't seem to get the hint that just because she loves books so much doesn't mean others do too.
- In the early episode of South Park, "Spookyfish", Stan's Aunt Flo comes to visit, and gives him and his sister, Shelly, gifts. Shelly receives an elaborate entertainment system, while Stan receives a goldfish. Things gets worse when the goldfish starts killing random people, including Aunt Flo herself.
- Subverted in Daria. Helen recalls her first anniversary with Jake to Daria, and how as a gift, he made a poorly constructed candle made to look like a Hobbit. He then accidentally drops it in the hot tub they were sitting in, causing it to melt into a shapeless lump. While being initially disappointed, she realized "a lot of time and love went into that silly lump of wax." She even saved it after all those years to remind herself why she married him.
- Sometimes truth in television. Every one will probably have gotten at least one present they didn't like at their birthday. And do you remember the vase from your great-grandaunt that passes through the entire family, because no one wants it? Or that lame gift on Christmas? And yes, Christmas isn't about the gifts...
- Any gift exchange/white elephant will have at least one of these, often something re-gifted from a similar event.
- Averted with the help of any online store that offers to let you set up a wishlist of items you really DO want...
- Why Did You Buy Me That is a compendium of these, sent in by readers.