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That Was the Reward

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Man: "God, why didn't you protect me?"
God: "I sent you the news, the police, and a boat. What fucking more do you want?!"
— Source can be found here.

A character refuses something that is offered to him or may even destroy said thing. Afterwards, he learns that the item was his reward for a recent task he successfully or exceptionally completed. In some cases, the spurned/destroyed item was meant as a gift (e.g. birthday, wedding, Valentine's Day).

Usually meant as An Aesop or could also be Laser-Guided Karma if the character in question is a Jerkass or arrogant. Also may be Played for Laughs.

May overlap with My New Gift Is Lame and Vandalism Backfire. Compare Undesirable Prize, which the character knows is meant for them but may actually be tempted to refuse or destroy, and Off the Table, when there's an attempt to claim the gift but it will not be given after the initial refusal.


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  • A car commercial has the guy sneak into his garage at night at destroy the car with a sledgehammer so his wife will be forced to agree to buy a new one, then slips into bed. The next morning, his wife tells him that he was right after all, and that she'd traded in the car the previous day, the new one is in the garage...


  • In Burn Up! Excess, a rich young man, whom the Amazon Brigade assisted, offered one of the ladies 500 acres of desert land. She refused it, because it's just a pile of sand. Then she found out about the oil, but he had already left.


  • The 1932 Laurel and Hardy short The Music Box plays this trope to a tee. While trying to get a player piano delivered, the duo angers Professor Theodor Von Schwarzenhoffen. He turns up at the end of the short and destroys the player piano in a fit of rage - only to learn from his wife that it was intended as his present.
  • The Day The Earth Stood Still. At the beginning of the movie, after Klaatu gets out of his saucer he approaches the U.S. Army soldiers surrounding it. He offers a device that suddenly juts out spines and a soldier panics and shoots the device. Klaatu later explains its true nature.
    Klaatu: It was a gift for your President. With this, he could have studied life on the other planets.
  • Zig-Zagged with The Three Stooges short "Goof on the Roof". Moe, Larry, and Shemp learn their housemate is getting married AND a new television set. They decide to give him a wedding gift in the form of installing his TV and its antenna. In true Stooges fashion, the trio wrecks their friend's TV and his new marriage. This trope is zig-zagged because they destroy someone else's gift (which they know is for him) by accident with the recipient learning afterwards what happened.


  • A story by H. G. Wells called "The Lost Inheritance" invokes this trope. An eccentric and wealthy uncle writes dull literature and his nephew, Ted, covets his uncle's wealth. As his uncle is dying, he gives Ted a book to read. Ted lies to his uncle about having read it (he never does) and the uncle dies. The uncle's will is never found however, but an early will is located. It gives the uncle's fortune to a distant relative who squanders it quickly. Years later, Ted stumbles across that book his uncle gave him and opens it up...only to find the true will that would have given him everything!
  • A 1953 book titled "Laughter Is Legal" mentions an anecdote about a lawyer expecting payment for his services but being offered a hand-crafted leather wallet instead. The lawyer is insulted about receiving a gift rather than cash. He says his fee is five hundred dollars. His client opens the hand-crafted wallet to reveal at least a thousand dollars in bills and then gets paid his exact fee of five hundred dollars!
  • One of Rudyard Kipling's stories concerns a British Army scout exploring the wilds of India, where he discovers a long-lost sultanate. The sultan welcomed the scout, and gave him an expensive gift each evening. On his last evening, the scout received a novelty store box decorated with seashells; the landlocked sultanate had never seen seashells before. Before departing, the scout gave the seashell box to a young girl who'd kept him company. When the scout returned one year later, he learned from a servant that the girl had been caught with the box, and presumed a thief. She was executed by drowning for this crime. This news devastated the scout.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Igor Karkakoff dismisses the conspiracy theory of the paranoid "Mad-Eye" Moody, citing an incident where Moody smashed a birthday present because he believed it was a disguised basilisk egg, only to find that it was actually just a clock.
  • One Miss Marple short story has her helping a young couple find a treasure that they believe their recently deceased uncle hid in the house that he left to them. During the search of the house, they find a number of old love letters to the uncle from a female missionary. The couple wants to burn the letters out of respect for their uncle's privacy, but Miss Marple persuades them that the letters may be related to the treasure. The letters are the treasure, or rather, the envelopes that contained the letters. The stamps on the envelopes were all rare collectibles and worth a small fortune. (Ultimately an aversion.)

     Live Action TV  

  • One episode of Lois & Clark has Lois being harassed by a guy known as the Prankster. At the end she receives a large bouquet of roses which she assumes is another prank, throws them in the trash and pours coffee all over them, then...
    Clark: Those roses cost me fifty dollars.
    Lois: Oh! (sheepishly) I'm sorry.
  • In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Gift" an alien brings a gift to the people of Earth. The people it interacts with kill it and burn the gift, which turns out to have been the Cure for Cancer.
  • Mama's Family: "Pomp and Circumstance" has Mama recount how her cousin Claude wanted a hunting rifle as a graduation gift. His father gave him a Bible instead, leading him to angrily reject the gift. After his father's death years later, Claude comes across the Bible and opens it to find enough money to have paid for that hunting rifle he wanted.
  • An episode of Victorious has Tori stumped on what gift to get her sister Trina for her "birthweek." (Trina is such a narcissist that she demands a whole week's celebration for her birthday.) After many ideas, Tori decides to write a song thanking her for all that she's done for Tori and explaining that, despite Trina's flaws, she still loves her sister. After Tori surprises her sister with it, performing it to her with a live band, back-up dancers, and a fog machine, Trina's first question is: "So, where's my present?"
    Tori: The song was your present!
    Trina: How much did it cost?
    Tori: The song didn't cost money!
    Trina (Mockingly): Then it's not a present!
  • Happens in an episode of Cheers where Woody can't afford to get his girlfriend Kelly a present so he writes a song for her and plays it at her birthday party.
    Kelly: Woody that was beautiful.
    Woody: You really liked it?
    Kelly: Oh, I liked it more than anything.
    Woody: Thanks.
    Kelly: So, where's my gift?
  • The 1961 episode of Dennis the Menace titled "Dennis and the Fishing Rod" has Dennis trying to buy a fishing rod for his father. He tries to pay for it with a bill of Confederate money, but the merchant won't take the bill since he thinks it's worthless. Later on, the merchant learns from Mr. Wilson that the Confederate bill was rather valuable.

     Urban Legends  

  • One famous legend involves a boyfriend/husband thinking his lover is cheating on him and seeing a brand new car parked outside. Thinking the car belongs to the adulterer, he has cement poured into the car to ruin it. His shocked wife/girlfriend comes out from the house and reveals that car was a gift for him.
  • Another example is the Spurned Graduation Gift. A son is about to graduate from high school or college and has a rich father. He makes it clear that he wants this expensive sports car or convertible as a graduation gift. When the graduation arrives, the son instead gets a Bible from his dad. The angry son doesn't bother to open the Bible but storms out and never speaks to his father again. Years later, when his father passes away, the son returns and finds the Bible given to him. Opening it up, he usually will find inside a car key and a receipt paid in full for the car he wanted.

     Web Original  

  • In the season 3 of Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk, after killing the Big Bad, the Dwarf is looting his place for treasure and rips some useless paper in his search... Which turn out to be bearer bonds.

     Western Animation  

  • The Raccoons episode "Games People Play" has Cyril Sneer running from a tax agent, thinking he's in some kind of financial trouble. Cyril ends up on a game show during his escape and not only ends up losing on the game show but also refusing the envelope that the tax agent had...which turned out to be a considerable tax refund!
  • The 1963 Looney Tunes short "Million Hare" has Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck racing against each to get to a TV station to win what they thought was a "million bucks". Daffy cheats extensively and ends up getting to the station first. However, he learns that the prize was a "million box" instead. Daffy gives to Bugs, thinking it's worthless. Then the TV show host reveals that each little box (a million of them) inside the million box had one dollar inside!
  • Donald Duck has done this to gifts his nephews got for him, partly due to some of the underhanded trickery they pulled off in order to get the gift in question.
    • In Donald's Happy Birthday, the nephews gets him cigars as a birthday present. However earlier, the nephews had to break into the piggy bank Donald insisted they use because he didn't want them to immediately spend the chore money they earned. As a result, Donald catches them in the act of buying the cigars, and decides to pull the Radish Cure act on them.
    • In the Lucky Number short, the nephews bring home a sport car Donald won in a lottery. However, they had to scam Donald into giving them free gas (Donald's a owner of a gas station/garage in this short) in order to pick up that car. Due to this, Donald wrecks the car without learning it was the prize until after he does it. All this happened because the nephews wanted to surprise Donald with the car instead of telling him he was the real winner. (Donald listened to the radio for the winning numbers and thought he lost. The nephews were the only ones who heard the announcer correct himself and give the real numbers.)