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Rummage Fail

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"Where is that pass? It must be somewhere. Freedom to the city of Skaro, no? Pilot's licence for the Mars-Venus rocket run. Galactic passport? Do you travel much? Honorary member of the Alpha-Centauri Table Tennis Club."
The Doctor, Doctor Who, "Robot"

The standard comedy bit for any character with a magic hat, Bag of Holding, or other large collection of stuff in an impossibly small space is that they can never find the thing they need when they need it.

They'll reach in, rummage about a bit, and triumphantly pull out... an old boot. Or a pink beach umbrella. Or a rubber chicken. Or something else equally useless or even embarrassing.

If they persevere, they may find the thing they're after on the third attempt. Or it may take much longer. Or time may run out before they find it, leaving them to improvise with what they did find. May also be voiced over.

This can cross over with Extended Disarming, if the other items pulled out are increasingly-ridiculous weapons, or Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat. It can also be seen in more mundane contexts, such as when a character is trying to find something in a cupboard. The action may be accompanied by a Wacky Sound Effect.

Compare Exploding Closet. If your backpack, purse, or bookbag is sufficiently unorganized, this may well be Truth in Television.

Also see Grail in the Garbage, which is what happens when someone doesn't rummage in the junk pile for an extended period of time, and instead ultimately decides to throw the whole mess out without checking to see if there's anything important in it.


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  • In one GEICO commercial, a couple searching their couch for the remote control instead find a high-school retainer, a Discman, and 90s sitcom star Dave Coulier.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Ah! My Goddess OVA, Keiichi tries to find something in his things to warm Belldandy up so she doesn't get sick. He rummages through and pulls out various assortment of objects (including a traditional fan that earned an extra gag in the dub). He finally pulls out a hairdryer, which proves useless. Understandable in the fact that Keiichi had been thrown out of his dorm room and had his things packed by someone else, so he didn't know where to start. But then he simply pulls out a blanket which had been sitting at the top of a box all along! Aaagh!
  • Occasionally happens when Doraemon looks through his pocket, usually excused as a panic attack or a pocket malfunction. The Non-Serial Movie turned it into a Running Gag, where Doraemon would almost always inevitably fail to produce anything useful during a critical moment.
  • In Elfen Lied, both versions, a bedridden Kouta endures Nyu's heartfelt but badly informed efforts to get him a drink of water. By the time Yuka arrives to aid them, she thinks they must have been engaged in some kind of summoning ritual. The gag is nearly identical to one with Momo, Katara and Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • In Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA 3rei, Gilgamesh attempts to withdraw Vimana from the Gate of Babylon, but is unable to find it (his treasury having been split in two and divided between himself and Angelica). He casually tosses out a number of legendary treasures while rummaging around for something that might be useful in the situation.
  • Happens less often then you would think in Pokémon: The Series, given that trainers always carry multiple Pokéballs, don't even look at them when they pick them out, and they (nearly) all look exactly the same.
    • There is an episode late in the first season where Team Rocket had successfully stolen upwards of a hundred different Pokéballs, Ash's included, and in trying to break out of their van, Ash couldn't figure out which were his until Pikachu sniffed them out.
    • The trainers probably keep their Pokéballs in a specific order so they don't have to look. After all, they are in a straight line and there are only six of them. Also implied by the games.
    • Though rare, sometimes special Pokéballs pop in the anime. This trope wouldn't be invoked by the games (if you try to pretend to be the trainer) because of the sheer amount of different kinds of Pokéballs, plus the fact that you can put stickers on them.
    • There was a running gag for a while (more so in the newspaper comics) where, no matter what Pokémon Misty would try to pull out, it would end up being Psyduck. One comic even had her pulling out Psyduck just to eliminate him, then tossing another Pokéball...which was also Psyduck. Though in Misty's defense, half the time it wasn't Rummage Fail; she did have the correct Pokéball, but before she could throw it Psyduck's ball somehow opened up first.
    • This did come up in one episode, though. Ash came up against a trainer who specialized in Grass types, so he decided to use Charizard (who had just started obeying him). Out came...Squirtle. Trying again, he managed to get...Snorlax.
    • They manage to subvert it somehow, too. In the Breather Episode before the Sinnoh League, Ash calls up some of his old team members from Professor Oak's lab; after the five Pokémon turn up missing thanks to Team Rocket, Ash and friends set off to find them. After finding one of the Pokéballs, Ash somehow managed to figure out that one Pokémon sent to him was not what he asked for, even though that Pokéball was empty.
    • Done in the episode "Bad to the Bone!" with Team Rocket. While Meowth searches the basket of their Mewoth hot air balloon for some gym badges they stole earlier, Meowth throws a bunch of random junk out of the basket (which includes two instances of a can, a screw, a bucket and a mallet) only to find that the badges are gone.
  • Mousse from Ranma ½ has a Hyperspace Arsenal in his sleeves. He isn't very susceptible to Rummage Fail in the manga, but much more in the anime where his clothes can contain anything, including the kitchen sink. Not to mention the training potties and the hens that lay explosive eggs.
  • Happened to Mihoshi during her first appearance in Tenchi Universe. Then again... it's Mihoshi.
  • Crossed with Yuppie Couple in one episode of Trigun: Wolfwood, searching for a book in his satchel, reaches in, rummages... and pulls out Kuroneko-sama.

  • In his original act, Jerry Seinfeld had a bit where he says that women can never find anything in their purses except for their checkbooks. "That thing comes out of a holster."

    Comic Books 
  • The cartoonish Marvel superhero Slapstick does this with his "infinite pockets" in Avengers: The Initiative #10.
  • Harley Quinn does this in an issue of Harley & Ivy.Among the items she tosses out of the purse are a tampon and a condom.
  • Mickey Mouse Comic Universe: Eega Beeva, Mickey Mouse's futuristic buddy, has hyperspace pockets, and is obviously very prone to this. Interestingly, as created by Floyd Gottfredson (1947), Eega was generally able to find whatever he wanted in his "magic pocket". It's more the modern Italian stories with Eega that show him failing in the search.
  • Robin: While Tim is good about keeping most of his costume in the hidden space in his closet his gloves and boots sometimes end up mixed up with the rest of the mess in his disastrously messy room. On one occasion he spent about a page digging through everything looking for one of his gloves only to be surprised by Batman holding the missing glove when he turned away from digging through the closet.
  • The character Drywall in Scud the Disposable Assassin is essentially an animated bag of holding, with all the stuff he collects organized into labelled cubicles of drywall inside himself. This has no effect on his inability to pull out an item he needs, though. His brother Mess is similar, basically a giant stack of cabinets stuck together, while his other brother System becomes obsessed with organizing all of creation and becomes lord of Hell in the process. Drywall gets much better at it after the ten-year Time Skip.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Big Nate, whenever he actually does it, Nate has trouble finding his homework in the landfill of assorted garbage that piles out whenever he opens his locker. Also averted in that Nate can reach into the pile and pull out any other obscure object you care to name, as he has proven to Francis upon occasion.
  • The Fourth Doctor often did this in the Doctor Who Magazine comics. Sometimes it worked out all right for him: once, he was able to get his captors onto his side by producing a medal for defeating The Cybermen.
  • There's a Sunday strip in Garfield where the titular cat reaches through the couch cushions for the TV remote, and fills the living room knee-deep (relative to a human) with assorted junk before he finds it.
  • The "Bag Wars" story arc in Knights of the Dinner Table begins with the characters trying to retrieve supplies from their Bag of Hefty Capacity... and then belatedly remembering the army of henchmen they'd stuffed into the bag to save on the cost of providing horses for them. They discover that the henchmen have built themselves a fortress and are keeping the stuff until they get paid to release it.

    Fan Works 
  • An unnamed Animal Crossing fancomic has K.K. Slider try to hand out his usual post-performance aircheck only to realize that "that's a fucking orange". The artist's comment indicates that this was inspired by a Discord conversation in which a musician accidentally uploaded a picture of an orange instead of the music they were trying to share.
  • In another Doctor Who crossover, Children of Time, the Tenth Doctor checks his coat pockets for paper and digs up all kinds of interesting things... including Sherlock Holmes for Dummies in front of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Death 1, Destiny 0:
    "Hmm. I'm afraid your parents are out of reach, and I can't create new bodies for them. But your godfather was a different case..." She reached for her cloak and started rummaging about through a surprising number of pockets, dropping various things on the floor next to Harry — coins; various books, scrolls and pages sewn together; lint; several peculiarly coloured socks (which made at least one house elf in the crowd against the wall make a noise sounding something like "Squee!"); a simple earthenware cup ("So that's where I put it!" she murmured); handfuls of keys; a large chunk of green cheese with a tag that read 'Lunar sample #23'; a grey kitten that yowled for a moment before running under a table. Finally, she opened one small pocket and said, "Aha!"
  • Averted in the pre-Internet Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover fanfic "The Doctor and the Enterprise", in which Spock scans the Fourth Doctor, detects how many, many things he's got in his coat pockets, and concludes that it'd be easier to simply confiscate the entire coat than unload them.
  • In Flight of the Raven Hermione has to dig through her beaded bag in search of Harry's Postal Service Vanishing Cabinet, while Fred and George watch in bemusement.
    Both men were more than slightly alarmed at the sheer quantity of stuff that fell from the small bag. Book after book, after book. One, two, three, four Muggle first aid kits. One, two healer's bags. So many bottles that neither of them tried to count. Blankets. Towels. A chair. Some glass jars. Two wands. A Muggle radio. A tin of biscuits. Boxes of chocolate. Quills. Parchment. Three bottles of ink. Two belts. And a whole wardrobe's worth of clothes and shoes, for Harry and for Hermione.
  • Springaling: Springtrap's hammerspace is poorly organized, so he often struggles to pull out what he needs. In "Hammerspace and Time", he pulls out a banana-cream pie and a rubber chicken while trying to find a pen.
  • With Strings Attached:
    • Stoffer Briggs frantically goes through one of these while the others fight a giant poodle. Luckily, they manage to drive it off without his input.
    • In a bit of a variation, George has forgotten exactly what's in his closet. He starts keeping a list, but he knows there are some items that are basically lost because he can't recall what they are and thus cannot summon them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin When Aladdin asks if Genie can make him a prince, the big blue guy pulls out a "Royal Recipes" book, and pages through it. At one point, he pulls out Sebastian from The Little Mermaid (he was on "Alaskan King crab" at the moment).
  • In Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, when Professor P. is searching his briefcase for his resume, he casually tosses out tons of weapons ranging from lit sticks of dynamite to bear traps and active chainsaws.
  • A dramatic example in Penguins of Madagascar as Skipper desperately heimlichs Rico, looking for the paper clip to pick the lock to their cage in order to save Private, but is unable to find it because Rico left it in the lock he picked earlier in the movie and Private has it.
  • Toy Story 2: "Prepare to meet... MR. ANGRY EYES!!" Mr. Potato Head proceeds to pull out an extra pair of feet, attaches them to his face, and begins to viciously attack a wall.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The main character keeps doing this with her purse in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 "classic" Angels Revenge.
  • Harpo Marx practically started this gag with his magical trenchcoat. While he could often as not pull anything out of it from a swordfish to a lit candle (burning at both ends), there's still the classic moment in Animal Crackers when Chico requests "The flash" (light), and gets a flask, flush, fish, and flute. Since it's too dark to properly find anything, Harpo eventually pulls out a flashlight to try and find his flashlight.
  • In Beverly Hills Cop III, Axel hurriedly obtains a gigantic "urban survival weapon" before heading into the film's showdown. His attempts to use the overdesigned contraption result in everything from popcorn to rockets randomly firing out of it at the bad guys.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Not only is Baby Groot unable to bring back Yondu's replacement fin after many repeated tries, he doesn't even understand what it is he's supposed to be retrieving. Taken even further in that by the time he finally gets into the correct drawer in Yondu's stateroom, we see the fin and him absolutely beaming has he reaches for it, only oops! He picks up some random tin that was lying next to the fin. Had Kraglin not intervened to deliver the fin, this would have gone on a lot longer.
    Rocket: [when Groot drags an entire desk through the ship] We told you it was this big.
  • Mary Poppins has a moment of this when she hunts through her magical carpetbag for her tape measure.
  • The main character in The Mask accidentally pulls a condom out of his pocket. This was decided it was funny enough to Throw It In!. In a different scene a pair of cops are searching the Mask's pockets, and pull out such items as a bike horn, a bowling pin, a rubber chicken and a bazooka. Justified in that his whole demeanor is based on cartoons.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island Jim Hawkins, Gonzo, and Rizzo are digging through Billy Bones's sea chest looking for the treasure map. They pull out, among other things, a full-sized kayak paddle, a pair of Groucho glasses, and a copy of Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy.
  • Trading Places: Louis Winthorpe sneaks into the Duke & Duke Christmas Eve party disguised as a Santa Claus, where he stuffs his pockets with some of the fine food, including an entire filet of smoked salmon. Later, when he faces Billy Ray Valentine, Louis accidentally pulls out a slice of roast beef before pulling out the pistol he'd bought earlier in the movie.

  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator: Although Willy Wonka cannot stand clutter in his factory, his pockets are always incredibly full. When he wants to find his very important recipe for Wonka-Vite, he digs for it in his pockets, bringing out objects including a trick fried egg made of rubber, a yo-yo, a tooth with a filling in it, a stink bomb, a slice of salami, and a packet of itching powder, before eventually finding the recipe on a very crumpled sheet.
  • The Luggage from Discworld is an animated Bag of Holding, which seems able to invoke this trope at will. At least, anyone looking inside it will only find what they're looking for if its owner approves; non-owners will find nothing but clean underwear if they're lucky, or a mouthful of huge wooden teeth if they aren't.
  • Doctor Who
    • One of the Expanded Universe novels runs with it:
      The Doctor: [...] for you it would be the first time, but I'm not going through the endless emptying-the-pockets routine with its plethora of whimsical surprises again. I'm just not. The first several dozen times are fine, but after that it gets old. I mean, finally, in the long run, I don't care how many yo-yos I have.
    • Another one, in a short story collection, had a character switched into the Doctor's body actually depend on the aforementioned plethora — she goes rummaging through the Doctor's multifarious pockets and attempts to devise an escape plan from what she finds, ranging from library cards to a firework. She fails and has to ad-lib something else involving plants in the area, although the firework does come in handy later.
    • Another short story, this one in Doctor Who Magazine, has the Doctor attempt to do something about this by taking a quiet moment to sort through his pockets and put everything into two piles: useful and useless. Inevitably, everything ends up in the useful pile, and he puts it all back into his pockets.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid searching his overcoat pockets for Harry's birthday cake (and later in Gringotts searching the same coat pockets for Harry's vault key) turns up moldy dog biscuits and live mice among other things before finding what he's looking for.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione enchants a purse into a Bag of Holding. After off-handedly shaking the bag:
      It echoed like a cargo hold as a number of heavy objects rolled around inside it. "Oh, damn, that'll be the books," she said, peering into it, "and I had them all stacked by subject..."
    • There's a variation a bit later; Harry really needs to get something out of the bag, so when rummaging is too slow, he just uses a summoning charm.
  • In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus, when facing off against Lycaon, a nervous Leo reaches into his tool belt for a weapon and initially grabs breath mints before hastily swapping them for a hammer. He hopes no one noticed. This is turned into a Brick Joke seconds later when the perspective switches to Jason, and while evaluating his assets, he thinks about "Leo, who apparently thought he could defeat the armies of darkness with breath mints."
  • Happens in Keys to the Kingdom series of books with Doctor Scamandros. The first time is in Sir Thursday when he "started rummaging around inside his yellow greatcoat and pulled out a peacock feather fan, several enamelled snuff boxes, a scrimshaw letter opener and a brass piccolo" before finding the item he was searching for, a ring. Then in Superior Saturday, a small smoking grenade falls out of a pocket in mid bow (which he shoves up his sleeve), and when confronted by an enemy soldier later on he "reached into his sleeve and came out with a tiny cocktail fork with a pickled onion on it, which he didn't expect and hurriedly replaced."
  • In "The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train", Harry Cutley has a waking nightmare in which he empties out his pockets to find his train ticket, pulling out more stuff than his pockets should easily be able to hold, including a book he knows he lost months ago and, at one point, a long string of colored handkerchiefs.
  • In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, Mrs. Hubbard empties her purse of two handkerchiefs, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, a bottle of aspirin, a packet of laxative salts, a tube of peppermints, a bunch of keys, scissors, a checkbook, a photograph, some letters, and five strings of beads, all before finding the clue (a button) she's looking for.
  • The Night Mayor: Tunney, playing the role of a private eye in a virtual reality realm that runs on movie logic, reaches into his coat for a notebook and pulls out "several guns, a half-empty bottle, a blackjack tagged Police Evidence — Do Not Remove, a deck of marked cards, several hundred dollars in small bills, a wallet full of ID in a variety of false names, a priceless necklace of grey fei tsui jade, a fistful of loose bullets, a switchblade with a snake on the handle, a bloodstained ice pick, several special editions of the Inquirer" and finally the notebook he's looking for.
  • The Takers by Jerry Ahern. Mary Frances Mulrooney is trying to convince Josh Culhane to let her come on a dangerous adventure, saying she can look after herself. Cue this trope as she rummages around in her overly-large handbag for the revolver he gave her. Josh responds sarcastically: "Yeah, I liked that Quick Draw too."

    Live-Action TV 
  • All That had the recurring character Bagg'n Sagg'n Barry, who could pull anything from his pants. He also had a short-lived rival, Bagg'n Sagg'n Mary, who pulled out the items from her pants as Barry, but one better. They had a pants off, with students saying something to pull out; he'd pull a pencil, she'd pull a pen; a marker set, she'd pull out the same one with bonus colors; someone was hungry, he pulled a pineapple, she pulled a six-foot sub. After a short Heroic BSoD, he challenged her again, winning when he managed to pull Abraham Lincoln from his pants after Mary said it was impossiblenote 
  • Loonette in The Big Comfy Couch usually looks for something in the couch at least twice an episode... which leads to the big mess and the Ten-Second Tidy.
  • In an episode of Clarissa Explains It All, Clarissa's mother is frantically tearing up the house to find Ferguson's birth certificate. She does however manage to find, while going through the couch, $36.52 in loose change, all the missing socks the family thought had gotten lost in the laundry, and the Winky-Blinky doll Clarissa lost when she was two.
  • Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson does this on The Closer when rummaging through her enormous purse. The twist is that she does it purposefully during interrogations to lure suspects into thinking she is naive and harmless.
  • One of the standard ways Columbo would exasperate his perps: by making them wait an interminably long time for him to fish out the evidence or notes he wanted them to look at, all the while apologizing for wasting their time.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fourth and Tenth Doctors have done this from time to time. One memorable scene from the Fourth Doctor's first appearance ("Robot") has the Doctor searched by a security guard. We are then shown the foot-high pile of items taken from the Doctor's pockets, which completely covers the poor security guard's desk. The new series explains this by revealing that his pockets are bigger on the inside than the outside. It implies that Time Lord technology uses these pocket dimensions everywhere.
    • "The Sontaran Experiment": The Doctor digs through his pockets for something he's been holding on to. "Never throw anything away, Harry." He can't find it. "It's a mistake to clutter one's pockets, Harry."
    • Lampshaded in "Genesis of the Daleks", in which the Doctor is ordered to turn out his pockets. He begins to do so, noting that "This might take some time..."
    • The Ninth Doctor does this in "Dalek", rummaging through Adam's collection of weapons. The third item he pulls out he dismisses as "hairdryer". This was an in-joke, we are told on the DVD extras, referring to a hairdryer that was used as a gun on Doctor Who's sister programme Blake's Seven.
    • It happens briefly to the Tenth Doctor at the end of the episode, "The Unicorn and the Wasp" where in his search for an Agatha Christie book, he finds a Cyberman's breastplate and the orb that the Carrionites were sealed in before managing to find the book.
    • This also happens to the Eleventh Doctor in "The Lodger", when he's reaching for his sonic screwdriver to protect someone from a perceived threat, and instead manages to grab an electric toothbrush.
  • In Fawlty Towers, Basil frantically rummages in a large cardboard box, flinging vegetables across the kitchen.
    Basil: Easier to find a packed of sliced hippopotamus in suitcase sauce than a walnut in this bloody kitchen.
  • In one episode of Friends, Ross asks if anyone has any gum. Phoebe claims that she does and reaches into her bag, pulling out a purse, a scarf, some sweets, silly string, a single shoe, a goldfish in a bag — at which point Ross says that he's actually fine.
  • In one episode of General Hospital, Lucky Spencer ran away with his girlfriend and Luke and Laura Spencer are preparing to chase after them. While giving the usual worried mother/worried father speeches, the two are "cleaning out" their "emergency expedition kits" (they live that sort of life), and during their discussion about how the running away might just be normal teenage rebellion, Laura removes a pistol, several packages of MREs, a flashlight, a handful of maps, a folding ladder, a pipe wrench, a box of randomly sized electrical fuses, a comb, and a copy of "Love Story" by Erich Segal. Luke likewise removes a hand grenade, a four-socket lug wrench (the "plus sign" wrenches found in many cars), a can of aerosol cheese, a solar-powered calculator, and a hairbrush from his kit. They then begin reassembling the kits.
  • One episode of The Golden Girls involves an attorney who changes career to that of a clown, who then has to temporarily go back to his old job to help the girls out of a lawsuit, being dragged to the courthouse by Sophia while still dressed in his clown suit. When the judge asks for his identification, he proceeds to pull out all sorts of clown or magic related items before the judge decides to let things slide and just proceed with the case.
  • Both subverted and exemplified in the "Purseona" episode of Mad About You, where Lisa and Jaime accidentally switch purses. The normally disorganized Lisa dips into Jaime's purse and finds exactly the right item at opportune times, while Jaime rummages through Lisa's purse only to find random strange things.
  • An episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has Pearl, Observer, and Bobo imprisoned in Ancient Rome (with Observer denied his usual omnipotence due to his brain being taken away). Bobo offers to regurgitate a key so they can escape, and Pearl is thrilled that he apparently swallowed one in a rare moment of competence. Turns out that no, he didn't. He's just swallowed so many things over the years that there's bound to be a key in there somewhere. Cue Bobo throwing up random items.
  • Radio Enfer: Maria tries to find her ATM card from her purse, but keeps pulling out items like a tissue box, a slinky, a lantern, and a brick, resulting in Carl making the following snarky comment:
    Carl: Do you have an entire hardware store inside of that? Because you could ask the little clerk in your purse if he hadn't seen your card.

  • Teen singer Paul Petersen's 1962 hit "She Can't Find Her Keys" features this with the narrator's date's purse, although it's suggested it's all a ruse to put off kissing him goodnight.
    She pulls out
    Frozen custard, piano bench, pretzels and a monkey wrench
    Tennis racket, army cots, pumpkin seeds and coffee pots
    Watermelons, goal post, a rabbits foot and French toast
    Fire hydrant, ash can, tv set, electric fan
    But she can't find her keys!

  • The old time radio series Fibber McGee and Molly had a character named Horatio K. Boomer, a con man and suspicious character, but still a friend to Fibber and Molly. At each of his appearances, he would claim to have the very thing that Fibber (or someone else) needed and rummage through his pockets, producing various items, but never the one required. After that, he'd state, "What do ya know, no <item>", and be on his way.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • A joke article published in Dragon Magazine, titled "Flaws for Commoners", had the flaw "Chicken Infested"; the effect is that whenever the character attempts to withdraw something from a bag, they have a 50% chance of getting a live chicken instead.
    • Heward's Handy Haversack avoids this problem. It has a smaller carrying capacity than the Bags of Holding, but it has an additional enchantment causing the exact item the character is looking for to be right on top.
    • D&D players themselves are prone to Rummage Fail, especially at higher levels when everyone has a laundry list of class features and magical equipment. Many an epic showdown has come to a grinding halt as every player scours his splatbooks for an ability that might counter whatever threat the Big Bad just chucked at the party.
    • Also happens with their gear. Players can have things like "Bag of Holding containing two of every mundane item in the PHB", "Quiver containing at least three arrows of every special material and DR-overcoming property" and, just to add to the confusion, a collection of "One potion from every first and second level spell in the PHB".
    • The original Dragonlance setting required this of Kender characters, where they had to actually list the 100+ mostly useless items in their respective pockets, occasionally subjecting it to a roll in times of stress.
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition adventure WG6 Isle of the Ape. E. Gary Gygax altered the rules of AD&D by requiring any character searching a Bag of Holding or other magical storage device to take time to go through the entire contents if they wanted to retrieve an item stored in it.
    • Disorganized from the D&D Wiki is a homebrewed flaw that makes a character slower at retrieving her items and with a risk of picking the wrong one if failing an Intelligence check.
  • Ninja Burgers you have to roll on a spread sheet (one die column the other for row) to see what item you take from your pockets. Along with this you have to declare all of your actions before doing something. This can create situations where a player tries to pull out a delicious ninja burgers meal and eat it, but then roll to pick up caltrops and then have to eat them.
  • Shadowrun has huge lists of electronic and breaking-and-entering equipment which can lead to this situation as easily as D&D. Luckily, the Reactive Myomer Pack now exists - a backpack made of smart materials that can shift the desired item to the top quickly on receipt of a wireless command.
  • Toon, a game based on western comedy animation tropes, features a character option that's essentially a bag of holding with this as a flaw. When reaching in the character declares what they want to pull out, if they succeed the roll they get it. If not, the DM rolls a random table to find what they pull out instead. Options include foodstuffs, wild animals, doodads, whatsits, and one of your fellow characters.

  • In Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins, Sarah Jane Moore attempts to show off her gun while singing these memorable lyrics: "I got this really great gun — shit, where is it?" She pulls out many objects, including a shoe, before finding it.
  • The Stage Magician in The Consul pulls out many things, but, alas, not the papers the Secretary wants.
  • In The Solid Gold Cadillac, Mrs. Partridge cleans out her office after getting fired, withdrawing some very unlikely objects from a bookcase and from the filing cabinet.

    Video Games 
  • The ending of the BIONICLE Mata Nui Online Game has the main character pulling the various items he has acquired out of his Bag of Holding and tossing them aside during the final level, including flutes, letters, and magical light-giving rocks. Granted, though, his attitude is less "Now where did I put that thing?" and more "Oh, Crap! GIANT BUG THINGS COMING FOR ME PLEASE SPIRITS LET THERE BE SOMETHING USEFUL IN HERE."
  • Weaponized in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice by the Panic Laser magichange attack, with the user pulling out a flower vase, washtub, fish, and a Mystic Beast puppy and throwing them on top of the target's head before finding their raygun and blowing it all up with a laser.
  • Quiffy of the old Bullfrog platform game Flood would sometimes get an awesomely destructive flame-thrower. Every few times you switch to it, he pulls out a squawking rubber chicken instead (much to his wide-eyed surprise).
  • Very likely to happen in Garry's Mod if you have a lot of additional weapons installed, which due to the nature of the game is very likely.
  • This was played with in the first Icewind Dale. In Shattered Hand, you could find a dirty old sack in the hands of one of the goblins, which turns out to be a completely malfunctioning Bag of Holding. Instead of using it to store things, you could open it up, once a day, and try to shake something out. Results range from mildly magical weapons and arrows to jewelry of varying value and dead cats.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter 2, Hermione has the Bag of Holding, and whenever she uses it she pulls out two wrong items first, usually funny ones like an anchor.
  • One "enemy" in Maldita Castilla's first stage is a beheaded human whose "attack" pattern consists of looking through the pile of severed heads, picking up one and throwing it away before repeating the cycle.
  • Ni no Kuni:
    • Throughout the fight with him, the genie boss Al-Khemi will rummage through his cauldron to pull out a Flaming Sword. Sometimes, however, he'll pull out a parasol instead, reducing his attack power and leaving him relatively vulnerable. Better yet, the attack is named "Alakaz... um..." with punctuation exactly as written.
    • In the DS version, this happens in the battle before him instead, and ends with him charging into battle with a pair of striped boxers over his head.
  • Pizza Tower: Pizzahead fights you in his second phase by grabbing various hazards from other parts of the tower to use against you. Occasionally, he'll instead pull up a body pillow of himself, prompting him to put it back in embarrassment before grabbing something more useful to him.
  • In the Pokémon games, Delibird and Iron Bundle's signature move Present, where they reach into their grab bag and hand out a mysterious gift to the target, has random chances of inflicting some damage or restoring some health instead. Rummage Fail can happen when your attempt to use the move to finish off something/heal an ally backfires.
  • One of the Hilarious Outtakes for Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones has the Prince accidentally pull out a rubber chicken instead of his dagger when he goes to Stealth Kill a guard. The guard laughs his ass off at him before being smacked in the face by the chicken and sent flying.
  • Near the end of the first world of Secret of Evermore, an alchemist plays this one straight by producing a key, a crystal, a still-beating heart, and finally the Mud Pepper you'd sought him out for.
  • Shovel Knight:
    • The Mini-Boss of the Explodatorium is a bearded alchemist who tosses around explosive potions as he searches the shelves for one that will turn him into a hulking beast.
    • Whenever your character opens a treasure chest, they will reach into the chest and throw out a bunch of low-value gems before pulling out a rare item, such as a music sheet or a large gem. You can still pick up the smaller gems afterwards, if you want.
  • Used in the backstory of the game Wild9 with the character of Pokkit who is supposed to be able to pull anything from the bottomless pockets on his jacket. However, that never happens and it is said produced from his pockets "over 37 different items before grabbing a weapon, and that was a slingshot". The manual further says that if the team were in a tight situation he would produce a doughnut, but if they were starving in a desert he would produce a bazooka. In game he manages to actually produce a machine gun when it is useful.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 features one in its third case, by witness Delicia Scones. Of course, given the nature of the series, one of the "wrong" objects she pulls out turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun.

  • In Adventurers!, Karashi spends two strips searching through the inventory for a party-healing item. No Megahealers, alas, but the inventory does contain such items as 27 Useless Things and 67 pieces of Pocket Lint.
  • A certain character in Charby the Vampirate has a magic hat that tends to randomly drop jackalopes on his head. Their was also a story arc in which the hat was mad at him, so he experienced many Rummage Fails in quick succession.
  • In MS Paint Adventures, the inventory works according to the Rule of Funny, so pretty much nothing goes right.
  • Roy's Bag of Tricks from The Order of the Stick, as described above in the D&D entry. It's been used during three battles and in each comes up with an inappropriate animal. Used against a random encounter, it produces a small critter one monster simply eats. Used in the bandit camp, it crushes Roy with a rhinoceros. And used to try and save Roy from falling to his death in Azure City, it fails to produce anything large enough to cushion him or winged enough to carry him. It is useful on two occasions, however. While sneaking into the bandit camp, he uses a cat to provide distractions for the guards, allowing him to sneak up on some of them. And he also summons two rats and a beaver to gnaw the ropes his friends are tied up with.

    Web Videos 
  • In The Legend of Neil, Neil initially doesn't even realize he has a magic inventory, and is simply carrying his ever-growing list of items awkwardly around with him and trying not to drop anything. Luckily, since he's in a video-game, someone eventually explains to him that he has a special inventory in which he can store everything he carries with him... unfortunately, the first time he tries to use it in battle, he realizes he doesn't know how to control what item comes out. He hasn't accessed his inventory since (it's only been a few episodes since he learned), so there's no way of telling if he's figured it out or will need further instruction.
  • SuperMarioLogan: In "Replacement Egg", Toad does this with a refrigerator in order to find, well, take a guess.
  • Played for drama in Emesis Blue. After torturing Jeremy with a power drill, Zed Conagher comes across Fritz pointing a shotgun at him. Zed briefly tries to talk him down, before attempting a Quick Draw. He accidentally grabs the drill instead of his pistol, which allows Fritz to shoot him.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series:
    • In the episode "Vocal Hero": Incompetent villain Amin Damoola turns the Sultan into a small golden statue. After Aladdin gets the statue back from him, Amin rummages in his pants for a magical trick to reclaim it. After getting the correct object, the object then (initially) fails on him!
      Amin Damoola: I have a few tricks under my belt yet, Aladdin. [reaches into pants] Behold! [pulls out his boxers] My shorts! No, wait. That's wrong. Sorry. [throws them away, reaches back into his pants and pulls out a monkey's paw] Behold! The Monkey's Paw of Mamoon-Ra! Now, how's that spell go? Gimme a minute? Oh, yes! Monkey paw, monkey paw, hear my rhyme, take to the sky and get what's mine! [throws the paw and laughs evilly... then it flies back to him holding the boxers] No, not those, the Sultan, you silly simian appendage!
    • Done again in the same episode with Genie searching his suitcase for a Griffin toenail needed to change the Sultan back and throws out objects such as a bicycle tire, a Groucho mask and a pizza which Abu starts eating. Genie then states that he already used up the last of his Griffin toenail on the previous night's pizza; Abu reacts accordingly.
  • Done a few times with Wakko Warner's "gaggy bag" on Animaniacs. On at least one occasion he manages to pull out Elvis. In the sketch where Yakko recites the famous speech from Hamlet, Wakko is seen behind him digging a hole and discovering several odd things including a giant squid, a United States nuclear missile, and Cher.
  • Arthur: One of the Episode Title Card animations from the 4:3 seasons has Arthur caught in the rain. He digs through something offscreen, throwing out various objects, before he takes out an umbrella and smiles.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Blue Spirit", Momo is asked for water by a very sick Sokka and Katara while Aang fetches the cure for what ails them. The well-meaning creature brings everything you can think of except for water, leaving Aang very confused at the episode's end.
  • Bounty Hamster: Commonly happens when Marion attempts to retrieve something from his cheek pouches.
  • Captain Caveman of Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels uses a similar gimmick.
  • Simon Belmont's backpack occasionally demonstrated this trope in Captain N: The Game Master, with Simon deploying a golf club and then a bazooka, among other things. Possibly a reference to and a parody of Simon's frequently extensive in-game inventory.
  • This stuff would always happen in Courage the Cowardly Dog. In many episodes, Courage would start looking for something in the pockets that he didn't even have, either as a weapon or an item to trade or something to solve a problem with. In fact, there were episodes where he would pull out boats, other animals such as ducks or WHALES, and even a full-size anchor (which was one of his favorite possessions).
  • On Dragon Tales, this happened with Ord when he reaches for items in his tummy pouch. Sometimes he will even scarf the things he accidentally pulls out of his pocket (if it's food anyway).
  • Drawn Together has Xandir pulling a group of strange objects out of Wooldor's ass (including a traumatized leprechaun!) before getting the Magic Lamp he was looking for.
  • Presto's wizard hat in the Dungeons & Dragons animated series. He almost never manages to pull out what he is after, but the thing he pulls out instead usually works just as well towards solving the problem, with a bit of creative thinking.
  • Family Guy:
    • Peter finds a number of things in Quagmire's anus, including a live fish. Also George Takei.
    • Another example is when Peter wins a month of maidservice from Wheel of Fortune. He tells her to clean out his belly button... and pulls out several objects, namely a carton of Parliament cigarettes and a Colecovision (with controllers!)
  • Futurama. In order to make room in his compartment, Bender disposes of three goldfish bowls (complete with goldfish) and the jarred, floating head of Luciano Pavarotti.
  • Used semi-regularly in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy with Grim's chest. Though the chest is large enough that it could logically hold every item taken from it in each individual appearance, various episodes shows that it is linked to another dimension and thus infinitely spacious.
  • Orko in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe occasionally has trouble with this after storing something in his hat; usually flowers will be the first thing he pulls out.
  • In the House of Mouse episode "Ask Von Drake", Goofy loses his notepad and Von Drake tells him to check in his hat. Goofy pulls out things like a lightbulb ("There's an idea!"), a sandwich (which he eats), and a pair of Goofy Print Underwear (which he claims isn't even his) before finding the notepad, after which he asks "Now where's my hat?".
  • In the French animated franchise Il Était Une Fois... (Once Upon a Time...), the character Maestro sports a full-body beard of holding. Pulling out the wrong item (sometimes anachronistic in the historical series) out of it is a Running Gag for him.
  • Whenever Inspector Gadget calls out "Go go gadget [item]," there is only about a 50% chance that the gadget produced will be the one that he asked for. On most failures, the Gadget Mallet would come out, as if his equipment has a "when all else fails, hit things" directive. Occasionally he would make a remark like, "One of these days, I've got to get these gadgets fixed."
  • One episode of Johnny Bravo ends with Johnny pulling out various things (elephant, people) out of his toilet while looking for his dropped cereal prize. In the Christmas Special, Johnny pulls out various objects from underneath the couch cushions, including a dog ("Finally! You people oughta clean more!").
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Lola's purse. Daffy has occasionally managed less extreme versions, such as rummaging for something in his wallet and pulling out Porky's credit card instead.
  • Any time Hamilton needs to find something in his cardboard box in Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, he'll invariably pull out several unrelated items first.
  • This has also happened more than once to Mr. Bogus when reaching in the pockets of his pants for an item that's best suited for the situation that he's in.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Owl's Well that Ends Well", Pinkie Pie does a variant where she keeps producing from her house other items that begin with "qu-" when Spike is asking for a quill — a quince, a quail, a quilt, a quesadilla, and a quiche. Naturally, it turns out she's out of quills. Why exactly would a bakery be expected to have quills, anyway?
  • In the "Arabian Desert Danger" episode of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Ant Hill Mob needed to enter a pyramid, but Pockets produced everything except a battering ram.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror", Dr. Doofensmirtz tries to capture Perry the Platypus, explain his evil plot, and set it into motion, but keeps getting the various remotes mixed up (including accidentally using a garage door opener at one point).
  • In Rocky and Bullwinkle, a Running Gag has Bullwinkle try to pull a rabbit out of his hat and instead retrieve anything from a lion head to, after Rocky tells him, "But that trick never works!", Rocky himself.
  • In the episode of Shaun the Sheep where the sheep are playing football (association, not American) with a cabbage, the cabbage hits the Gentle Giant sheep on the side, and disappears into the sheep's thick wool. Shaun reaches in to retrieve it, and finds two other items before the cabbage.
  • A variant of this happens in SpongeBob SquarePants; in "The Smoking Peanut", when a Zoo Worker tries to pull an egg off of Mr. Krabs, he accidentally pulls off all of his clothes instead, much to the crowd's disgust. The Zoo Worker gets it right the second time.
  • Transformers: Animated:
    • Subverted in "Garbage In, Garbage Out": Wreck-Gar is a garbage truck Transformer whose garbage-carrying trailer becomes a sort of Backpack of Holding when he transforms into robot mode. During the course of the episode, he pulls out a great many items from this "backpack" that are not appropriate to the situation. However, he does gets the items he wanted to find; he simply misunderstood what he was asked for. He manages to produces an incredible array of items, including a burnt-out cash register, a set of income tax forms, an uprooted kitchen sink, and even the original Wreck-Gar's motorcycle form!
    • Bumblebee has this played straight when he starts digging out various electronic entertainment devices he brought for Sari's camping trip. When asked where exactly he was keeping them (being as he is a robot with no pockets) he awkwardly says "Don't ask".
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, pint-size monk Omi gets into a high-altitude sparring match with another capable fighter. Showdown rules let each of them bring one Shen Gong Wu into battle, and the other guy chooses shoes of super speed. Omi's pockets yield many items, including a basketball, a hockey stick, and a sandwich before he finds the Gills of Hamachi, which even for him, proves less than helpful.


Video Example(s):


My Rubber Ducky

In "The Fury is Out on This One" from "Dragon Tales," Max's anger has summoned a creature called a fury which keeps growing as Max expresses anger. Zak and Wheezie suggest a "quiet pillow" as a way to calm him down, and Emmy asks if Ord has one in his hoard of stuff that he keeps in his pouch. Ord pulls out a pair of polka-dotted shorts, and a hot dog, then declares that he found it. But what he found is not the quiet pillow, but rather a rubber ducky that he's been looking everywhere for.

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Example of:

Main / RummageFail

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