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Sometimes on a Game Show, a prize is just so stinkingly bad that the contestants actively try not to get it. It's not a Zonk, or a "prize" that signifies that you've lost — it's an honest-to-goodness real prize made by a legitimate company that the show's producers actually thought someone would want. You don't feel like you've won anything when you win it, and in some cases you wish you would've gotten the Zonk.
Sometimes the prize itself isn't bad, but the circumstances can render it this. For example, a lot of people might like a Jet-Ski or a boat, but if you live in Kansas or Arizona, that can be a little underwhelming. Similarly trips to places such as New York aren't quite as exciting if you actually live there.
- The former Trope Namer was the Flokati rug on Press Your Luck, which is probably second to the ceramic Dalmatian as the most recognizable example. It always showed up in the second round despite retailing for about $300 (making it the least-valuable space on the board).
- And 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, are sound dampeners, and are in no way comparable to winning a Jet-Ski.
- During the time when winners on Wheel of Fortune had to spend their winnings on prizes, one of the cheapest prizes was a nearly 3-foot-tall ceramic Dalmatian statue valued at $154. Most contestants were very careful not to be stuck with one, but the prize eventually became so ingrained in popular culture that a few contestants actually chose it deliberately; not a bad idea, since they eventually became valuable collector's items worth well into four figures.
- This was 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.
- 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 the most expensive item in the showcase, plus at the end he asks for his unused funds on a gift certificate.
- The ceramic dalmatian was recently named Sheldon by the people at Wheel of Fortune, and both Pat & Vanna own one.
- WoF now has the $1,000 gift tags, which fits this trope because only cash amounts are multiplied by the number of times the letter called occurs in the puzzle. Thus, if you call a letter that shows up even just twice, most of the time you would've been better off landing on a cash space. In addition, gift tags can't be used to buy vowels.
- 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.)
- Over the years, Bullseye UK has 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.
- 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.
- And due to the BBC not being allowed to waste licence-payer money on good prizes unless its on Going for Gold (they've relaxed the rules a bit nowadays), Blankety Blank (the British version of Match Game) was also known for having loads of questionable items as bonus round prizes. It quickly became a Running Gag for host Les Dawson to Lampshade this with Self-Deprecation.
Les Dawson: This is the only quiz show I know that gets fire-salvaged prizes.
- On an early-1970s episode of Concentration, during a period when home viewers would win prizes based on the first letter of their surname, a viewer in Oklahoma won a motorboat. Bob Clayton was less than impressed.
- 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. Cue visible This Is Gonna Suck looks from less-than-enthused contestants. (Several other contestants have been shown scowling at any showcase that did not contain a car, and at least one could be shown mouthing the words, "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.
- Trips to other locations in California, including one to Hollywood where the show tapes. (Worth noting that Price is not one of the game shows that flies in contestants, it pulls them onstage from an audience that got there on their own.)
- 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.
- A grand prize of Nick Arcade was a trip to Universal Studios, where the show was recorded. If you enjoyed the place, you got a couple of extra days to stay; otherwise, you might have been let down.
- Nick was notorious for this. All of their game shows usually had prizes which included a year supply of canned ravioli and moon boots.
- Subverted in Season 1 of Figure It Out. All of the prizes awarded for clearing round one were old props and set pieces from shows like All That and Legends of the Hidden Temple.
- 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.
- High Rollers: On the late 1970s 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," this was effectively 52 $10 gift certificates to the fast-food chicken chain) and a trip to the Kentucky Derby with $100 bets on each horse. And those were just a few of the examples.
- The 1969 show Letters To Laugh-In gave trips to Burbank to the viewer whose joke read on the show was the week's lowest scored joke.
- 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 a quarter of your required textbooks. No wonder so many of the kids weren't even trying.
- The Bozo Show. Not really a game show, although the "Grand Prize Game" (a skill-based throwing game, the objective being to throw a pingpong ball into six buckets, placed progressively further from the line) had an element fitting this trope ... a dinky consolation prize worth about $2 for anyone who failed to either -- depending on the year -- get the ball in the first bucket or complete the mission. An urban legend persists that one child was so upset with the consolation prize (tellings vary, the most common gift is a towel with Bozo's likeness on it) that he told Bozo to "Cram it, clown!"
- This would more likely fall under the Zonk category.
- The kids' game show Treasure Mall offered a sewing machine. A kids' show!!! Granted, the grand prize haul, if won, more than made up for it...
- 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 CDI Games and Hotel Mario.
- 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.
- This kind of thing has resulted in more than one lawsuit — radio stations offering "a hundred grand" (the candy bar named "100 Grand"), "a new toy Yoda" (virtually indistinguishable from "Toyota" when spoken aloud), and "a new Hummer" (a tiny, remote-controlled version) have faced legal challenges to their dickishness.
- One Manitoba radio station offered a contest wherein the prize was "a lovely winter getaway to MIAMI!" Not Miami, Florida, but a small rural town in southeastern Manitoba.
- 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.
- 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, and the prizes range from ostrich scrubbers to tomato squeezers and other junk. (Obviously, the cartoon short is a satire poking fun at the unusual and bizarre gifts sometimes offered on game shows.)
- Pretty much par-for-the-course with the prizes on the May I Have a Word? Show Within a Show interstitials on Word Girl.
- One episode of SpongeBob SquarePants had Mr. Krabs set Squidward and SpongeBob on a little contest to see who can offer the best customer service -- and to ensure it is a contest and not just SpongeBob making nice to the customers while Squidward exercises his normal disdain, he offers a prize while enticingly brandishing a brochure for a tropical vacation. After Squidward goes to such lengths to beat SpongeBob that he actually gets put in prison, Mr. Krabs declares that prison or not he's most certainly the winner, and hands him the brochure. It was taking up space in his drawer and he needed to get rid of it.
- There was an episode of Rocko's Modern Life that played with this. Rocko's kitchen gets destroyed (don't ask) and he goes on a game show to win a new one. He wins, but it turns out he only won a single spoon, and has to keep winning every day for the rest of the summer to get the whole kitchen.
- 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.
- Since the point is to have fun playing the games, 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.
- Many video games let you trade casino winnings for items. Sometimes, however, these items are usually rare. Sometimes, however, items you can get for cheaper in a store than you can buying coins to use on them. Pokémon lets you trade coins for an Abra; if you like Abra, fine, but you can catch one pretty easily too.
- Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat Deception include koffins with koins. Sometimes more koins, sometimes a different kolor. (They're not interchangeable.) Sometimes you get fewer koins of the same kolor. You get zonked by picking the same koffin twice; you get nothing.
- Toad's house in Super Mario Bros 3 offered the choice of three power-ups; mixed in with the cool stuff like a super leaf, hammer suit, or tanooki suit was often something relatively useless and common like a regular mushroom.
- The inclusion of a Frog Suit in the boxes after the water levels, where it would have been useful, may also qualify.
- 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.
- Late Night With Jimmy Fallon parodies this with "Wheel Of Carpet Samples", whose prizewinners get carpet samples while the losers' consolation prizes are $300 Apple Store gift cards.
- Conan does it as well - winners on "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".
- The Eurovision Song Contest winner has to host next years'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).
- ↑ Shortly afterwards, the show was flooded with brochures of Oklahoma lakes. In fact, most Okie lakes are man-made in response to the Dust Bowl.