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A gift giving occasion has arisen. A birthday, the annual Tropenalia festival, that winter holiday that may or may not be Christmas. Or maybe somebody just feels generous because things are going well and they love their friends.

When the gift is given it is one of the following:

  1. Something the giver likes and would love to have themselves, but the recipient will not really appreciate
  2. Something that is probably practical and useful, but likely insulting to the recipient .
    • The practical gift could also be a subtle dig if the giver is a bit of a Jerkass.
    • The practical gift could also be a cry for help from one partner or team member to another.

This trope is mainly used to illustrate clueless or thoughtless gift-giving, especially in the case of one who gives the gift that is more a gift to themselves than a gift to the recipient.

Compare with Convenience Store Gift Shopping, where the giver barely cares at all, and "Gift of the Magi" Plot where the giver cares a great deal. See also the Homemade Sweater From Hell, a gift almost guaranteed to cause a gaffe.

Sister Trope to Unwanted Gift Plot, wherein the giver is sincerely and with care aforethought trying to get a nice gift they believe the recipient will love, but they're unfortunately very mistaken; and with My New Gift Is Lame which is also a sincere gift given that the recipient does not love.

Examples of Gift Giving Gaffe include:

Comic Books

  • The Marvel Comics version of Hercules often bestows "the Gift" of personal combat with him (a great honor among the Greeks) to people who are less than thrilled with the present.


  • Played with by the company Husqvarna. They make macho, manly, outdoor power tools like chainsaws and riding mowers; but they also make feminine, ladylike devices like sewing machines. A series of holiday ads has the wife getting her husband the sewing machine, and the husband getting the wife the chainsaw as a gift.
  • Sears 2011 after Christmas sale had a guy calling a woman and saying that he heard her husband got her a snowblower. She replies with a game attempt at sincerity that "it's cute." He tells her she can get what she really wanted at the sale. Then the caller tells the woman to get her huband on the phone because he heard she got him a vacuum.


  • In "Many Happy Returns", a short story by Kathryn Cave, a girl's brother gives her a football as one of those 'really for myself' presents. Then she meets another girl with the same birthday, whose brother gave her a 'really for myself' Lego set. They end up trading presents, to their mutual satisfaction and the considerable annoyance of their respective brothers.

Live Action TV

  • There was an episode of Family Matters where Carl bought his wife a trampoline because she had complained that she needed a way to exercise more, but then she got upset that he must think she's fat. It blew over once Carl apologized, mentioned that he sometimes struggles with his weight too (throughout the entire show he's clearly much more overweight than she is), and suggested they both use it and just have fun with it instead of worrying about whether it produces weight loss or not.
  • Frasier has multiple examples:
    • On a Christmas Episode, Frasier spends the whole time trying to find awesome, intellectual gifts for his son, only to find out at the end that what his son wants is the trendy robot Frasier had derided for not being "stimulating" enough. Martin gives him An Aesop about how Frasier is always doing things like that - like giving Martin nice a smoking jacket that he's never going to use, because Frasier likes them.
    • Another episode later involves Martin trying to do something nice for Frasier and Niles by buying them artworks and wine-racks that Martin likes but that Frasier and Niles find hideous. (In the case of the artwork, Martin thought Frasier liked it because he claimed he did while buttering up the maitre d' at a restaurant where it was on display).
  • On Friends Joey brought matching heavy gold bracelets for himself and Chandler. Chandler found his completely distasteful and finally vented about it when Joey wasn't around. Or so he thought.
  • Alex's dad Monroe on Reed Between The Lines: "I brought her flowers on our anniversary, and I added to her Tupperware collection every birthday!" as he's protesting he's been a good husband after his wife has left him.

Real Life

  • Household appliances and kitchenware can often be this if given by a man to his wife/girlfriend, due to the Stay in the Kitchen subtext.
  • A 21st Century joke: We got our son an iPhone. He loved it. My wife gave me an iPad. We got our other son an iPod Touch. I got my wife an iRon [image indicating "girls can have their own computer" and denoting the ironing board as the mousepad, the iron face as the mouse, and the buttons on the iron as left and right mouse buttons]. The iRon can be integrated into the home network with the iWash, iCook and iClean. This inevitably activates the iNag reminder service. I should be out of the hospital next week.

Western Animation

  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
    • "The Secret of My Excess":
      • Rainbow Dash flies over Spike's head and drops her gift for him on top of the pile: a dumbbell tied with a bow -- there has been some fandom speculation that as an athlete, Rainbow just picked something out of her gym she doesn't use much and stuck a bow on it. Although then again, Spike has admitted in the past that he likes flexing in front of a mirror...
      • Twilight Sparkle is the clueless gift giver turned Up to Eleven. She likes books, so why in Equestria wouldn't anypony else like books?! She only realizes her mistake at Spike's birthday party.

 Spike: I usually only get one gift. From Twilight. A book.

[Twilight backs away with the present she had for Spike -- obviously another book, gift wrapped]

    • Although she is the spirit of generosity, Rarity still has occasional difficulty with this, tending towards type 1 version of this trope; when she's apologizing to Sweetie Belle for getting angry at her in "Sisterhooves Social", she suggests a trip to the spa, something Rarity herself would very much enjoy, but something that Sweetie Belle probably couldn't care less about. Naturally, all the other ponies start laughing their heads off at the suggestion.
  • The Simpsons, "Life on the Fast Lane": Homer was notorious for giving Marge gifts that she would never use and he would then 'borrow' for his own use. It was quite obvious that he was just buying these things for himself. Marge finally had enough when he bought her a customized bowling ball with the name "Homer" painted on it. To teach him a lesson, she decides to learn bowling and uses the ball herself.
  • On Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bitty Adventures: Blueberry gives Lemon a gift of a book that she'd like but Lemon would not. Blueberry liked this gift so much that she had to remind herself it was a gift for a friend rather than keeping it for herself. Lemon doesn't care for it and regifts the book which starts a pattern of regifting because nobody wants it, and Blueberry, realizing her mistake, goes back and gives Lemon a book she actually would like.
  • On SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick buys ice cream for himself and Spongebob.

 Patrick: I got your favorite. Dill pickle swirl with mustard and extra bacon bits.

Spongebob: That's not my favorite, Patrick. That's your favorite. My favorite is plain vanilla.

Patrick: Oh well, more for me.

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