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Undesirable Prize

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Could I have the Whammy instead?

Sometimes on a Game Show, a prize is just so stinkingly bad that the contestants actively try not to get it. These aren't Zonks, or "prizes" that signify that you've lost — they're honest-to-goodness real prizes made by legitimate companies that the show's producers actually thought someone would want. You don't feel like you've won anything when you win these, and in some cases you'd think the Zonk was a better deal. Or the Whammy. Or the trapdoor, even.

In other cases, the prizes themselves aren't bad, but the circumstances can render them undesirable. For example, a lot of people might like to win a Jet-Ski or a boat, but if you don't live near a decent body of water (like a lake or ocean), it can be a little underwhelming. Similarly trips to places such as New York City aren't quite as exciting if you actually live there. Because of this kind of thing, most game shows will, behind the scenes, allow you to decline unwanted prizes (and the associated tax hit) without affecting your official win total, or request to receive the prize's cash value instead.note 

To clarify: in order to be an "undesirable prize", it has to a) have more than token value and b) be offered in good faith by the giver. Otherwise, you have a Zonk. For moments where the prize for the runners-up are better than the winner's, see Second Place Is for Winners.


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    Game Shows 
  • The former Trope Namer was the Flokati Rug on Press Your Luck, which is probably second to the Wheel Dalmatian below as the most recognizable example. It usually appeared only in Round 1, but managed to be won at least twice (it was also won once in the one-off revival for the Gameshow Marathon on CBS in 2006).
    • For those of you who don't know what the heck one of those are, a Flokati rug is an area rug usually used in bathrooms because they're soft, feel nice on your feet, and are sound dampeners...and they are in no way comparable to hitting the Big Bucks square.
    • The Flokati rug became a Running Gag on the show, which led host Peter Tomarken to wear one on his head in an episode. Amusingly, it resembled a Colonial wig. During one episode, Peter announced before the game that the show was about to surpass $4,000,000 in total amount of prizes given away, and that he had a special prize ready for whoever broke that mark. At the end of the episode, that prize turned out to be a Flokati rug!
    • Its Sequel Series, Whammy!, had tons of these, especially in Round 1. Who wanted $300 worth of M&M's when $300 was also the lowest cash amount on the board? Just look at all the prizes on this list worth $300 or less — all 100+ of them.
    • To a lesser extent was the infamous "Jog & Tramp" that consisted of a pair of mini trampolines used as an exercise device.
  • Wheel of Fortune has filled this trope several times:
    • During the time when winners spent their winnings on prizes, one of the lower-value items was a nearly 3-foot-tall ceramic Dalmatian statue priced at $154...although strangely, no brand was ever named in relation to it. Its earliest known appearance is March 15, 1978, where original host Chuck Woolery notes that three or four had been purchased up to that point before asking the staff if one of them had puppies.
      • Arguably, almost all the shopping-era prizes that weren't big-ticket electronics, trips, cars or maybe furs qualify; what was left were a bunch of knickknacks at Beverly Hills prices that the winner then owed sales tax on.
      • Most contestants were very careful not to be stuck with one, but by March 1987, it had become the show's de facto Mascot, so many contestants actually chose it deliberately. Not a bad idea, since they eventually became valuable collector's items worth well into four figures. (Vanna owns one as well, and it's made appearances on the show.)
      • By 2009, it was given the name "Sheldon" by the people at Wheel, and at one point it was made into a bobblehead. Also, for each week of Season 30 it appeared somewhere on the set.
      • This is referenced in an episode of Rugrats where Didi wins on a game show, and to her husband and father-in-law's dismay chooses the dog statue as her prize (although here the dalmatian isn't ceramic but gold-plated, and since it's three feet high, the amount of precious metal in it probably makes it worth quite a pretty penny).
      • There's also a Family Guy gag in which a ceramic dalmatian is the first prize Peter buys. Though in this case it's not even the cheapest item in the showcase, plus at the end Peter asks for his unused $50 on a gift certificate.
    • Wheel also has the $1,000 Gift Tag, which fit this trope through Season 29 because only cash amounts were multiplied by the number of times the letter called occurs in the puzzle. Thus, if you called a letter that showed up even just twice, most of the time you would've been better off landing on a cash space. In addition, Gift Tags couldn't be used to buy vowels. Beginning in Season 30, though, landing on it also awards $500 per letter.
    • Sometimes in the 1990s, the Prize wedges and Bonus Round offered some very weird things. How does an engraving of Florence Nightingale, with an authentic signature of hers, grab you? What about a historic document signed by Abraham Lincoln? A build-your-own log cabin kit?
    • An unintentional one came up in one episode where a contestant won the dream prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. No points for guessing where the guy lives. (In fairness, though, he had a sense of humor and was a good sport about it. Besides, even without the "free round trip" part, there's still the "free stay in a nice hotel" part.)
      • On an episode of the original Concentration, one of the prizes was a trip to Florida—and the contestant who matched it was from Florida. When she won the game, the prize was announced as a trip to Puerto Rico, which seemed an appropriate substitute. Presumably either the show had a protocol in place for just such an occurrence or there was a hasty conference during a taping break.
  • Over the years, Bullseye (UK) offered such wonderful prizes as a standard touch-tone telephone, a teasmade, a Betamax video player, "his and hers" matching shell suits, and even a remote-control toy cat! Not to mention the "star prizes", which often included items that were unlikely to be used by the contestants (usually a speedboat won by a couple living in landlocked Wolverhampton) or difficult to share among friends, such as a fitted kitchen or a car.
    • In its heyday, a Betamax video player would have been a moderately expensive and desirable prize—and long after VHS became the standard, vintage Betamax players were in high demand in fields of science which needed them to read historic data tapes, so the winner may have had the last laugh.
    • Parodied in Monty Python's Flying Circus, where a contestant wins "Tonight's star prize — the entire Norwich City Council!". She complains that she's already got one.
      • In another parody game show sketch, the prize is a blow on the head!
    • Similarly, ITV's other game shows (Catchphrase, Sale of the Century, Strike It Lucky) were all hamstrung by the IBA (ITV's governing body in that era) having imposed a winnings cap after the American quiz show scandals- until 1994 game shows could only give away 6,000 pounds worth of cash and/or prizes a week. As a result, compared to those series' American versions, the stakes were significantly cheaper. One adaptation of The Price Is Right had gotten in trouble over that (trying to stay closer to the American version and offering more lavish prizes) and they had to modify it rather quickly. Benny Hill mocked Sale a few times, and a few of those skits seemed to eerily pre-sage the American Temptation (see below).
    • And due to the BBC not being allowed to waste licence-payer money on good prizes unless it's on Going for Gold (they've relaxed the rules a bit nowadays), Blankety Blank (the British Match Game) was also known for having loads of questionable items as bonus round prizes. It quickly became a Running Gag for second host Les Dawson to lampshade this with Self-Deprecation.
      "This is the only quiz show I know that gets fire-salvaged prizes."
      • Worse still, and tying in with the whole self-deprecating, snarky-pisstake-of-serious-gameshows theme, the Consolation Prize was a show-branded chequebook and ballpoint pen - and the "chequebook" was actually just a trophy shaped like that item. Though more than likely inverted in the modern age by these becoming collector's items.
  • On an early-1970s episode of Concentration, during a period when home viewers would win prizes based on the first letter of their surname (turning over that trilon on the board), a viewer in Oklahoma won a motorboat and Bob Clayton was less than impressed. Shortly afterwards, the show was flooded with brochures of Oklahoma lakes. note 
    • It's 1980s revival Classic Concentration had a bonus round where the winner of the preceding match could win one of 7 featured new cars if they could decipher a puzzle to match all of the cars' named within an allotted time - the last car name they match is the car they win. While the prize cars rotated on a regular basis, one car that was a constant presence on the show for at least its first three years was the Hyundai Excel, a cheap economy car that quickly became infamous for being incredibly chintzy, poorly made and unreliable. It developed such a poor reputation that Hyundai Motor America, after having spent more than 20 years repairing the damage the Excel did to their reputation, today disowns the Excel to the point of refusing to publicly commemorate all the milestone anniversaries of their arrival in America so as to not call any renewed attention to it. Well, Classic Concentration gave away a lot of them and multiple contestants can be seen feigning enthusiasm upon winning it. They stepped into the Winner's Circle thinking they could win a sports car or a Jeep, and instead they win a Hyundai.
  • The Price Is Right producers were rather fond of a large, wheeled, popcorn cart during Bob Barker's tenure as host. Contestants were usually less-than-convincingly enthused when it showed up.
    • Price used to be loaded with these, with antique gas pumps and carousel horses also favorite "prizes". The frequency of these has gone down significantly in the Drew Carey era, however, since replaced by outlandish and bizarre prizes (seriously, 365 pairs of shoes?!).
    • Many a contestant groaned when they passed a Showcase with a car and a trip and took a gamble, only to find the second Showcase was "Nothing But Furniture" set to the tune of "Splendido."
      • Or, even worse, the dreaded "Train Depot", "Port O'Price", or "Department Store" Showcases (well, back when those were in use). Cue visible This Is Gonna Suck looks from less-than-enthused contestants. Several other contestants could be seen scowling at any Showcase that didn't contain a car (and sometimes even one that did, if it wasn't a sports or luxury car), and at least one could be seen mouthing "I don't want it!"
      • Every time a trip is offered to somewhere that just so happens to be the contestant's hometown or close to it. While they usually throw in a luxury hotel and a few touristy things, winning a trip to something you live an hour away from would be kind of dull, all things considered. Still, it was on the show's dime. Not to mention a lot of the outdoorsy prizes such as barbeque grills, lawnmowers, and patio furniture are gonna be disappointing if the contestant happens to live in an apartment building. Same with boats or jetskis if they don't live near water.
      • Trips to locations in Southern California where the show is taped. (Worth noting that Price doesn't fly in contestants; it calls them down from an audience that got there on their own.)
      • Trips in general, since unlike almost every other game show currently on the air, Price's trips are strictly round trip to/from Los Angeles, so if you live a long distance away and can't make it back to LA, you're out of luck. Ironically, this actually makes the aforementioned trips close to home slightly more desirable, since the contestant doesn't have to worry about footing the bill to get to/from LA in order to take their trip.
    • Doug Davidson's 1994 syndicated Price offered a Watara Supervision as a prize on the first aired episode. Just like this version of the show, it was long forgotten.
    • People who know better would realize that Price actually subverts this trope with many of these same prizes — decent popcorn carts actually produce high-quality popcorn, for example (though storage space is another matter), and gas pumps have a large collector's market. Consequently, these prizes can be worth thousands of dollars, a particularly important fact on Price; however, only the show can offer the item's estimated cash value as a prize instead, and it's definitely in your best interest to take said offers.
    • The Switcheroo game has a car as the top prize to win and four lesser prizes the contestant could also win; the object of the game is to fill in a missing number in the price of each using a set of five numbered blocks, so the theoretical goal is to perform a process of elimination by filling in the small prizes first, so that the last number left is the one for the car. More often than not, the contestant would miss out on the car and win something disappointing like a blender or a tape dispenser (basically anything under $99 more or less).
      • Any Number has three prizes: a car, a somewhat expensive item (such as a kitchen appliance), and the piggy bank (a cash prize below $10 formed by the remaining numbers, 0 through 9, that are not in the prices of the first two prizes). The car is sought after for the big win while the other two prizes are met with disappointment since they are worth far less. The second prize fits this trope the best, since the piggy bank is basically lampshaded to be a Zonk by the host.note 
      • Money Game, while very easy to play, is also difficult to win. There are a pair of numbers that are the price of the car and getting those wins you the car. All the other numbers just gets you money based on their value. Contestants who don't win the car usually wind up with something like $100+ as a consolation prize. Obviously, you want to win the car.
    • For the male contestants, winning prizes that are made for a woman, such as a designer purse or a collection of high heels. Granted, those type of prizes are pretty valuable and the contestant can still get a nice chunk of change if they choose to sell them, but a grown man wouldn't be caught owning them. That said, if the man has a wife or girlfriend, they do have some value to them; he could conceivably give them to another female relative, as well (if Mom likes shoes...well that's her Christmas gift this year taken care of!).
    • The brief 2012 revival of the Australian version of Price often gave away shopping sprees from its sponsor Big W (which is that country's equivalent of Wal-Mart) worth $3,000, and other prizes given away during the normal games almost never exceeded $2,000. Previous versions gave away a lot more in prizes.
  • Downfall (2010) allowed contestants to sacrifice these prizes for more time by letting them fall over the edge of a building.
  • Among the numerous problems with the American Temptation: The New $ale of the Century was its fondness for offering designer women's clothing, perfume, women's jewelry, etc. as prizes (in place of the "unisex" vacations, household appliances, furniture, etc. which its predecessors offered), which few male contestants would be interested in. One particularly bad offender was a prize package which included backstage passes to a Chippendales show, although the contestant who won it was female.
  • Nickelodeon:
    • One of the grand prizes of Nick Arcade, Get the Picture and the final season of Family Double Dare was a trip to Universal Studios, where the shows were recorded. If you enjoyed the place, you got a couple of extra days to stay or a return trip on Nick's dime. Otherwise, you might have been let down.
      • Double Dare 2000 offered annual passes to Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Sea World which would be useless if the family happened to be from outside the Orlando area.
    • Some of the other prizes offered on Nickelodeon game shows included a year supply of canned ravioli and moon boots.
      • Though to be fair those gameshows are geared towards kids and Ravioli and Moon Boots would appeal... just not to the parents who would then have to suffer through them as well.
    • Of all the video game systems available in the early-to-mid 1990s, Legends of the Hidden Temple offered a Philips CD-i. Yes, the same CD-i that is home to such titles as The Legend Of Zelda C Di Games and Hotel Mario. They also offered a Supervision as a final prize.
    • Figure It Out:
      • Subverted in Season 1, where the prizes awarded for clearing were old props and set pieces from shows like All That and Legends of the Hidden Temple.
      • Played straight with the Secret Slime Action prize from Season 2 onward. What would you rather win for seeing your favorite panelist get slimed: a mountain bike or a fisherman's hat?
    • Scaredy Camp had two teams competing in challenges to find clues and solve a mystery, and the team that found the most clues and solved the mystery at the end of each season would win...a party.
  • High Rollers: On the 1978-80 NBC version, the producers were known to offer off-beat or otherwise unusual prizes such as African musical dolls, an antique Chinese fishbowl (with a stated value of $10,000), gift certificates to Kentucky Fried Chicken (dubbed "Sunday Chicken for a Year", effectively 52 $10 gift certificates), and a trip to the Kentucky Derby with $100 bets on each horse. And those were just a few of the examples.
  • Mexican show En Familia Con Chabelo has the final stage known as La Catafixia, in which they gave away the best prices of the show (and the ocassional Zonk). But due to the show having no age limit, there is still chance for someone to get a prize that may be cool for their family, but lame for themselves. Like an adult winning a bunch of toys, or a kid winning furniture.
  • In the dreadful children's game show Thousand-Dollar Bee, the prize for the entire season was a $1000 savings bond for college; in this decade, probably enough for a handful of credit hours or one semester of required textbooks. No wonder so many of the kids weren't even trying. In the heyday of quiz shows, a thousand dollars would have been a pretty substantial start on a college fund... but Thousand-Dollar Bee premiered in 2004. Even a quarter at a community college was over triple $1,000 before fees and books by then.
  • The kids' game show Treasure Mall offered a sewing machine. Granted, the grand prize haul, if won, more than made up for it.
  • Take It All is a mixed bag: some of its prizes have included arcade cabinets, maid service plus a new washer and dryer, a Smart Car, a Vespa scooter, and the like. But then you have somewhat outlandish things like a Brew Cave (basically a giant walk-in fridge designed for beer, which some men would dream of having), a giant mechanical bull ride, and 5 years worth of Omaha Steaks. Softened considerably because anyone who ended up actually winning their prizes (and possibly their opponent's as well) would also take home at least $25,000 cash.
  • The Pontiac Aztek was a prize on the very first run of Survivor, it's useful yes, but generally considered one of the ugliest cars ever made.
  • Jep! and Wheel 2000, the short-lived kids' versions of their respective adult shows, both gave away a week's worth of free limo rides to and from school as one of their grand prizes. As the provider was confined to the Los Angeles area, though, you hoped that an Oklahoma winner got cash instead.
  • In the parody game show Shooting Stars the grand prize is often laughably small (and more than likely an entirely surreal DIY creation, as opposed to the more commercial, sponsor-donated prizes of other shows), but its value is hugely overexaggerated by the presenters.
    • For example, a pair of "Eye Spoons" for each member of the winning team - not quite as squicky as you might first assume, as these were a "very useful" pair of unglazed spectacles, with the bowl of a dessert spoon glued on the front under each eyehole, ostensibly for the purpose of safely catching your eyes when some amazing sight caused them to pop out...
  • Quicksilver was an Irish gameshow that ran from the mid sixties up until 1981 had contestants compete for hilariously small monetary sums, as in pocket change amounts. It did add the phrase "Stop the lights" to the Hiberno-English lexicon though.
  • On The Nostalgia Channel's game show Let's Go Back, the Time Capsule bonus space awarded "nostalgic" trinkets such as a Happy Days model car, an Eight is Enough jigsaw puzzle, a John Travolta doll, and a pet rock. Of course, this is coming from a game show whose top prize was $500.
  • On Pawnography, the game show spin off of Pawn Stars, the "Zombie Survival Van" that Chumley bought in a bit of anger popped up as a prize. Rather than negotiate with the player who only had $300 and lost to the Pawn Stars in each of the first two rounds, Rick simply concedes. He wants it gone. (Rough value: $13,000)
  • A couple of the queens on RuPaul's Drag Race have won these. Pearl, who lives in New York City, won a trip to New York City. Sasha Velour, a bald queen, won a supply of hair care products. Averted by Ru Paul, who clarified the hair being cared for didn't have to be on one's head.
  • There are several daily prizes on Richard Osman's House of Games which nobody has ever gone for; generally, these will stick around in the prize pool for a series or two, then get retired when the producers take the hint. The undesirability of the House of Games-branded shampoo actually developed into a Running Gag to the point that it seemed like it was only being kept on the list of current prizes for the sake of the joke; as of the fifth series, it appears to have finally been retired, and the House of Games-branded passport holder appears to have taken up its mantle.
    • Notably, on the one and only time that somebody chose the jigsaw, Richard considered it such a bad prize he allowed them to choose a second one. (He also has a tendency to try and warn contestants away from the sparkling wine, on the grounds that it's an extremely cheap bottle of plonk with the show's logo placed on it.)
  • Winning Lines, a game show based around the British National Lottery, had a round where the contestant got a holiday in a certain place, with the top prize being an around-the-world holiday. The prize for getting just one answer right was a bed-and-breakfast near Junction 6 of the M6, commonly referred to as Spaghetti Junction.
  • Letters to Laugh-In, from 1969, was a daytime spinoff of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In where a panel of celebrities read jokes sent in by viewers. The jokes were rated by an off-screen enclave of judges on a scale of +100 to -100. The best rated joke of the week won its writer a trip to Hawaii. The worst won its writer a trip to Burbank.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Super: Sending Goku and Krillin to get a herb, Roshi makes it a race and says the winner gets his treasured magazine collection. Neither Goku nor Krillin are interested in that, much to Roshi's surprise and annoyance. The chance to learn a special technique is a far more desirable prize to them, of course.
  • In one Lupin III: Part II episode, for the team's hard work and effort to retrieve the gold, what do the trio get at the end? Fujiko. Lupin might be pleased with it, but not Jigen and Goemon.
    Goemon: So, Zenigata gets the gold and we get the girl.
    Jigen: Ugh! Don't rub it in!

    Comic Books 
  • The Wacky Races story "The Scavenger Scramble" (Gold Key #7) tells that the prize is a large purse (a term usually indicating a monetary largesse). Dick Dastardly wins the race and received a large flowery ladies' purse.
  • Donald Duck's Born Lucky cousin Gladstone got one of these after going up against Donald in a contest and losing. Donald gets a cruise, Gladstone gets a a year's supply of "oolated squiggs", an untasty fish. But then subverted when Donald's ship ends up icebound, and Gladstone finds a diamond ring in one of the squiggs.

  • Battle Royale: The winner will get nothing besides a small life-long pension and the dictator's autograph in the novel.
  • Murder on the Leviathan: Erast Fandorin, who was Born Lucky, is appalled when he wins an ugly, tasteless grandfather clock in a raffle aboard the ship. It saves his life when the rocking of the ship in the waves causes the clock to fall over onto the Big Bad at the climax.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of the teams on The Amazing Race don't take the usual prize for leg wins, a vacation from their sponsor (Travelocity), because they have to pay half the cash value in the form of a gift tax.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Peanuts the Great Dane", Miss Brooks wins the titular dog after spending the episode trying to get rid of him.
  • The ladies of The Golden Girls appear on a fictional game show called Grab That Dough. Blanche and Dorothy win, and after seeing the prizes they refused in Window 1 (living room furniture) and Window 2 (a sports car,) they pull back the curtain on Window 3 to reveal they won... an electric skillet. But that's not all, they also won a lifetime supply of soup!
  • Late Night With Jimmy Fallon parodies this with "Wheel Of Carpet Samples", whose prize winners get carpet samples while the losers' consolation prizes are $300 Apple Store gift cards. Though after the ruse is revealed, the "winner" won one too. Another joke prize, Led Zeppelin t-shirts with missing L's, would be better classified as Zonks.
  • In a The Kids in the Hall, the winner of the apparently Dutch game show Feelyat! happily goes home with a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.
  • Winners of Conan's "Basic Cable Name That Tune" are awarded such dubious prizes as a sack of barber hair, a cake that nobody ever picked up from the bakery (with the frosting reading "Hope your operation was a success!"), or a jar full of an unidentified white ooze with a handwritten label reading "NUZZ".
  • Square One TV had game show bits that were either genuine unscripted games or fictional games that were obviously skits. The genuine games usually had the prizes of Square One sweaters and sweatshirts, which the contestants often responded to with less than enthusiasm. In one of the fictional ones, a contestant was awarded a trip to Cleveland, Ohio...but she lived in Cleveland, Ohio. To be fair, this has actually happened on game shows.
  • This type of occurrence was also parodied by National Lampoon's Funny Money (a real game show filmed in Las Vegas) where one Zonk was a trip to Las Vegas — down the street from the studio.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest winner gets to host the next year's contest. While this entitles the winner to show huge amounts of tourism ads, getting them made and hosting a contest is basically a huge, expensive hassle and financially impossible for most smaller countries. Often, countries that can't afford to host Eurovision will send in limp squib songs or odd novelty acts in order to avoid winning (resulting in occasional Springtime for Hitler moments when the novelty ends up being more interesting than anything else in the contest); Scandinavia and the World commented on this in 2012 (when Greece and Iceland were in the tank economically). Alternatively, they can turn it down. Granted, there would be a certain loss of face associated with this, but there's no obligation on them to host, as long as they announce their intention not to host it within a certain time; unsurprisingly, Ukraine took this option when they won in 2022. Father Ted parodied this during Ireland's string of victories in The '90s with the Song For Ireland committee intentionally sending Ted and Dougal's godawful song through with Ireland getting nil points at the actual Eurovision.
  • Oprah's legendary "EVERYBODY GETS A CAR!!!" episode of her "Favorite Things" ended up being this for some of the lucky recipients. While they clearly were overjoyed by the cars, they didn't realize that the cars were officially considered a "prize," instead of a "gift," the big difference being that prizes are taxed, and unlike a cash prize, they had to find a way to come up with the taxes on them (some being thousands of dollars) out of their own pocket. Some of the people in the audience had to sell the car to pay for the car. Ever since this incident, Oprah's giveaways have included, under the table, a check to cover the prize tax.
  • Red Dwarf: At the end of the episode "Time Wave", the Enconium's captain notes that the ship's leaders considered both upgrading Kryten and upgrading Red Dwarf's engines to make it FTL capable. Instead, they decide to give the Dwarfers... one of the captain's rubbish paintings.
  • The Possum Lodge Word Game segment of The Red Green Show always gives out undesirable prizes, most of which are coupons for local businesses from Possum Lake or the neighboring town of Port Asbestos.
  • Double Subverted in an early Sesame Street game show sketch. In The Remembering Game, Cookie Monster wins an airplane instead of a cookie despite having no practical use for the former. He offers to trade prizes with his businessman opponent who gladly accepts.
    • The sketch that introduced the Cookie Monster also played with the trope. He wins a game show and is offered a choice: a house, a new car... or a cookie. Guess which one he picks.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, the title pair participated in a game show. They lost their main prize (which included a trip to Paris their mother always wanted) and received a consolation prize of a stay at the Hotel they already live in. Subverted later because they realize they can use their prize to stay in another room away from their mother for the night (who was crying over the fact she wasn't going to Paris).
  • Double subverted on an episode of Impractical Jokers. In one punishment, Murr played against a boy named Jake on the mock game show Is Murr Smarter than a Young Child Student Between 4th and 6th Grade?. If Jake got a question that Murr missed, he got to take anything he wanted from Murr's apartment. Instead of his flat screen televisions or video gaming equipment, Jake took the following items from Murr: his shower head, his front door handle, his bedding and his Georgetown University diploma. It was later revealed that the other jokers influenced Jake on these decisions because they knew each one would hit Murr pretty hard, particularly the Georgetown diploma. At the end of the punishment, Jake got an Xbox 360 signed by all four of the jokers.

    Radio Contests 
  • One Canadian radio station offered an entire house to the lucky winner, but the prize was actually a run-down, badly-in-need of-repair house in the Saskatchewan prairie. The new owners felt decidedly cheated.
  • Fresh 102.7, a New York-area radio station, plays good music but is often mocked for offering scratch-off lottery tickets as prizes on their morning show.
  • The Kiss FM station in Milwaukee once offered a 3rd Rock from the Sun gift pack a few times over the weekend, which only included generic gimmie items like Frisbees and coffee mugs festooned with the Third Rock logo, not even any DVD's of the series. There were times that weekend when the winner wasn't even mentioned, suggesting nobody called to "win" the prize.
  • The Ricky Gervais Show: Karl Pilkington's Rockbusters music quiz usually offered shoddy prizes that were clearly things he found lying around the XFM office, which Ricky and Steve would often mock as they presented them. Most common among the prizes were DVDs that wouldn't get anyone excited, such as Ladder 49, Executive Decision, Children of the Corn and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure.

    Video Games 
  • One of your rewards for killing a boss (by yourself or while helping another player) or invading and killing a player in Demon's Souls and Dark Souls is the restoring of your body. This means that your HP pool is increased in Demon's Souls and you can summon other players to help in Dark Souls, but also means that you become susceptible to invasions. In Demon's Souls, dying in human form also influences World Tendency, which makes things harder, potentially losing access to certain items or events altogether. Most people just return to the hub world and die upon achieving those objectives to be in soul form again without affecting World Tendency.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has an in-universe example that ends up being subverted. Two hundred years after a nuclear apocalypse, legends persist of the rare star-studded caps to certain bottles of Sunset Sarsaparilla, and how gathering enough of them will unlock a great treasure in the ruins of the drink's factory in the Mojave wasteland. Aspiring treasure hunters are even willing to murder each other to steal Star Caps from a rival. If the Courier collects fifty of the things and takes them to the Sunset Sarsaparilla factory, an animatronic cowboy will congratulate them for taking part in the drink company's promotional event, and reveal its prize: being told the "true story" of how the drink is made. If the Courier complains that this prize sucks, Festus the animatronic admits that due to similar complaints, an additional prize is available elsewhere in the factory... which turns out to be a crate full of worthless plastic Sunset Sarsaparilla deputy badges. The subversion comes from the fact that there's also crates of Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle caps in the room, which are the Fallout universe's Weird Currency, as well as the corpse of another treasure hunter who had a unique laser pistol.
  • Very common in gacha games like Fate/Grand Order and Granblue Fantasy, where the gacha (which you can pay real money for if you're too impatient or don't have enough in-game currency) has a large number of undesirable characters in the highest rarity. These range from useful if you don't have anything better to outclassed by characters far more common than them. Unsurprisingly, the time-limited characters that only very rarely appear in the gacha tend to avoid this.
    • Notably subverted in Fire Emblem Heroes. Any run through the gacha system is likely to give you a number of low-rarity characters, and even high-rarity characters are subject to repeat pulls. The catch is that the game also has a system to raise a character's rarity, which resets their level to 1 but increases their stat caps and gives them access to more skills (and since they keep their skill points, there's a reason to build up their level before doing it), using items the game literally hands you at every possible opportunity. Duplicate characters can also be used to strengthen other copies of themselves with the Merge system.
  • Happens in speedruns in the GBA and PSP versions of Final Fantasy 1, due to the prizes being different in those versions. The top prizes are the Megalixir or an X-Potion, which are incredibly valuable to a casual player, but nothing that's needed in a speedrun and is just something to be sold for gil at best. Second place, on the other hand, has an Emergency Exit as a top prize, which cuts minutes off the run that you can't get anywhere else. Unfortunately, second place is also full of items that would be very valuable to a casual player and are near useless to a speedrunner, making it also this trope both ways.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: Oftentimes Mega Man will get a perfect busting rank in a battle and still ends up with mere Zennys instead. The only exception is all first fights with bosses since those will never yield Battle Chips.
  • Nintendo Power held two contests with this as the grand prize:
    • One was where the winner could have their name appear in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. What Nintendo Power did not mention was that the winner's name would only appear in a room that the player would get sent to if they encountered a critical error when moving to another area. Said room only has a cache of blue rupees and a message with the winner's name saying to keep the room a secret between them. Outside of intentionally glitching the game, almost no one even saw the room nor head of it until it became common knowledge on the internet years later. The prize was basically a brief name drop in an area that no one would ever see in a normal gaming session, and which would be either removed or renamed from later versions of the game anyway.
    • Another infamous case was where the winner could make a cameo in The Mask 2... which, many years later, would materialize as the critically-reviled Son of the Mask. The winner of this contest revealed that he accepted a Consolation Prize from Nintendo Power, when it became doubtful that the sequel would ever come to existence. In regards to appearing as a cameo in Son Of The Mask, he had this to say:
      "I would have likely been okay with doing a walk-on in Son of the Mask because, at the time, I didn't know how bad it was going to be. Knowing what I do now and even if that were an option, I'm glad I went with the money."
  • MegaRace exclusively offered these. In return for engaging in death defying races with dangerous criminals, you could win such things as cheap seat covers for your car, a copy of host Lance Boyle's autobiography (don't worry, it's a fake. You just get the cover), a night out with yourself (all expenses paid by you), or a genuine Scottish accent.
  • Referenced in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, where you can catch Curtis or Yancy on television, playing on a game show. They escape from the jaws of defeat and win the game. Their prize is a Dowsing Machine, which, while somewhat of a useful item, doesn't have them jumping for joy, to say the least.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The Toad Houses in Super Mario Bros. 3 offered the choice of three powerups; mixed in with the cool stuff like a Super Leaf, Hammer Suit, or Tanooki Suit was often something relatively useless and common like a Mushroom. The inclusion of a Frog Suit in the boxes after the water levels, where it would have been useful, may also qualify.
    • Super Mario World also has Mushrooms as an item that most players try to avoid. If you're already in super form (big Mario) and need an extra item to use later, a Mushroom would be fine. However, if you already have an item in reserve, picking up a new item replaces the old one, which means your stored Feather (spin attack + flight) or Fire Flower (fireballs) would be replaced by a Mushroom. One level actually uses this against you by sending a swarm of mushrooms in bubbles after you: not only will they eat your item in reserve, but hitting a bubble halts your in-air momentum and dumps you into the drink below.
    • Invoked in the first Mario Party and Mario Party Superstars. A Goomba on the Peach's Birthday Cake board offers (compulsory) entry into a lottery with a 1 in 4 chance to win... a visit to Bowser. While the Goomba speaks as if this is a great prize, any player will be very relieved to "lose".
    • Mario Kart 8 has the coin. Normally you can find these littering the road or snag them from other players but they become undesirable if you get them from an item box (especially if you're neck and neck for first place). If you have 10 it increases your max speed (which is good) but the drawback is that you drop 3 every time you get hit which also stops you in place (destroying the whole point of having ten). Coins serve no defensive purpose, unlike shells and the Super Horn, and you'll still get them in item boxes even if the tournament is designed for one type of items. Their only purpose coins have is to unlock more car parts each with hefty costs.
  • In Tomodachi Life, there are some minigame prizes that are actually worth less than the Consolation Prize that sells for a dollar at the pawn shop.
  • There are a number of titles on Steam whose revenue seems to come near exclusively from people who wait until the game goes on sale for less than a dollar and then gift it to their "friends" (it used to be even worse, because gifts would go straight into your game library instead of your inventory where you can theoretically re-gift them). The most notorious examples are likely Bad Rats: the Rats' Revenge and Secret Of The Magic Crystals. (Any budding game developers out there need not get any bright ideas; the advent of Steam Greenlight means that indie games must be vetted by the userbase before becoming available.)
    • Sadly, there is no approximate pricing range for the games, so "Would you buy it for an unknown sum?" doesn't help the Greenlight votes very much.
    • Also, Greenlight didn't help anything. Research from a group called Steam Spy in 2016 shows that 38 per cent of all games from the whole Steam catalogue were released in that year (which is 4207 games. Compare this to 2015's 2964 new games making 26% of all games on the catalogue). Steam getting overflowed with Shovelware not even worthy of school projects is a criticism Valve is receiving.
    • Another thing that later helped cheap games get revenue were the Steam Trading Cards, which are little bonuses for playing games you bought and they come in a limited quantity, you can choose to keep them, or you can sell them to other users for credit money that you can use to buy other games, however, some games can become so cheap that you can actually buy them and make a profit selling the cards, and since you can get more card packs at random, having a library full of games you don't play can help you get a load of credit money by waiting.
  • Defeating the shadowy game master in Inscryption has him present you with a pile of raw meat with a candle in it. He's disappointed you don't want it after making it specially for you.

    Web Original 
  • Welcome to Night Vale: The prize for writing the best Sorrow Song at Night Vale's annual Sorrow Song Festival is to get drowned in a vat of the audience's tears.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: In "Dickesode", the "prize" Carl wins from WongBurger is a binding contract that allows his dick to be forcibly removed by WongBurger employees.
  • Garfield and Friends: An early episode from 1988, named "The Binky Show", sees Garfield go on a game show to win a gift for Jon. Unfortunately for the cat, the game show is a ridiculous quizzer named "Name That Fish", the host is the obnoxious Binky the Clown, the audience is incredibly bored, and the prizes range from ostrich scrubbers to tomato squeezers and other junk.
  • Invader Zim: In "Door to Door", the prize for selling the bare minimum candies is Adhesive Medical Strips.
  • Pretty much par-for-the-course with the prizes on the "May I Have a Word?" Show Within a Show interstitials on WordGirl.
  • Played to maximum Black Comedy effect in the South Park episode "Cow Days", where a couple wins a free trip to the titular festival. They try to make the most of it, but unfortunately for them, things go From Bad to Worse when they are falsely convicted of stealing the festival's symbol and thrown in jail. By the end of the episode, when the clock is found along with the actual culprits, the cows, the couple is discovered to have starved to death in jail after being left without supervision.
  • You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown features a motocross race where the prize was originally two tickets to the Pro Bowl...but they couldn't get them, so they got a gift certificate good for five free haircuts at the last minute. Of course, this is the one thing that Charlie Brown actually wins...and gets a gift certificate that's worthless to him because his dad is a barber, and of course, his unique baldness.
  • In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns gifts the eponymous family with a very expensive giant Olmec head in thanks for a life-saving blood transfusion. While Bart enjoys it, the others regard it as this, and it is apparently not easily resold as it can be seen taking up space in their attic or basement in several subsequent episodes.
  • In an episode of Super Jail to inmates were trying to kill each other. Alice comes by, drops some weapons next to them, then states that the winner can "have her". The two immediately stop fighting.
  • Inverted on 2 Stupid Dogs during their appearance on a parody of The Price Is Right. They wanted the dog food, but kept winning the big prizes instead.
  • Used with a dash of karma in an episode of The Jetsons, where the Jetsons and the Spacelys compete in a Family Feud-style show. The Jetsons win, but Spacely pressures George into taking the door number two prize instead, which luckily turns out to be a new food-o-rack-a-cycle, which the Jetsons needed. The Spacelys then receive the grand prize of an unlimited supply of Cogswell's Cogs brand cogs... which horrifies Spacely as Cogswell is his direct competitornote .
  • Every prize on Yogi's Space Race is this due to some catch that doesn't get mentioned until the last minute.
  • In an episode of Doug, Doug and the gang compete in a downhill race for the chance of a mystery grand prize that the Mayor promised. Doug and Skeeter come very close to winning, but when they see that their friends, Chalky and Beebee, are in trouble, they stop to help along with everyone else, allowing Roger, who spent the whole episode sabotaging everyone, to win the mystery prize that everyone thought they wanted: a week as vice mayor of Bluffington. Basically, he spent the week having to take letters for the Mayor.
  • Punky Brewster: In "Growing Pain," Punky is competing with Margaux in creating a float for a local parade, but first she has to deal with Glomer's pepperoni pizza-fueled growth spurts. When Punky and Margaux are declared co-winners, they find out after their prize is a pizza. A cold pepperoni pizza at that.

  • Since the point is to have fun playing the games (and avoid falling afoul of gambling laws), the "prizes" in arcades usually stink, especially those low-valued "use your last few tickets prizes" like pencils and Chinese finger traps. Even the expensive prizes aren't better when you realize that you've sank $30 in tickets for a $5 teddy bear. Subverted in some cases when game consoles are the top items.
  • "Goodie bags" at children's birthday parties tend to be full of cheap junk from the dollar store.
  • Gift exchanges where each participant after the first has the option of keeping the gift you opened or trading it for a previously-opened gift can become these, especially if one of the gifts is significantly more desirable than the rest.
  • Undesirable or anti-climactic gifts, like getting clothes for Christmas as a kid, also self improvement items (such as a bathroom scale) or appliances associated with housecleaning are generally considered bad anniversary gifts.
  • On The Beatles' 1967 Christmas record to their fan clubs, the boys do a bit of improv of a game show set up:
    John: And how old are you?
    George: Thirty-two. (canned applause)
    John: Well you've just won a trip to Denver and five others. And also...wait for have been elected as independent candidate to Paddington!
  • In the mahjong games featured in Saki, winning is typically a good thing, with the main question being whether you want to get a cheap hand before your opponents can, or a large hand once every few games (as noted when Fujita asks her commentator partner whether he'd want a 50% chance at 1,000 yen or a 33% chance at 2,000 yen if he had unlimited attempts). This isn't necessarily the case when Takami Shibuya is on the table, since every time her opponents win while they're the dealer, she gets to pick a tile, and late in the game, uses "Harvest Time" to score hands of her choosing, including yakumans if possible. This is especially problematic for Ako, who favors winning with cheap hands., and can't help but win as dealer.
  • In the pinball machine Junk Yard, getting the Hair Dryer will change the Video Mode from "Run from Spike" to "Shoot the Dog," which is worth half as many points, is arguably more difficult, and depletes your ammunition. It's particularly bad for players unfamiliar with the game, as one of the characters will suggest to the player to pick up the Hair Dryer right when the game begins. The Hair Dryer is necessary to complete the game, however, so it's in the best interest for a savvy player to hold off acquiring the Hair Dryer for as long as possible (even if said character repeatedly reminds the player to get that Hair Dryer).
  • The Wacky Adventures of Pedro has one strip in which Pedro wins an unidentifiable doodad in an undisclosed contest. He tries to pass it off to Skinny, but a few other trades result in it going back to Pedro.
  • A Hooters restaurant in Florida held a contest for its waitstaff, where the announced prize for the person selling the most beer in a given month was "a new Toyota". The winner was led, blindfolded, to the restaurant's parking lot, where she was presented with "a new toy Yoda". However, ultimately subverted, because she sued the restaurant over it, and the case was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount of money (one of the attorneys involved implied that it was sufficient to actually purchase a car, though).
  • More than a few mail-in contests in the '90s had the grand prize be a games console (like a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis)...with second prize being games for the system they were giving away as the grand prize. couldn't play without the system, which most of the kids wouldn't have if they were participating in the contest.

Alternative Title(s): Flokati Rug