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Stock sitcom plot in which a character receives a present. The present is absolutely hideous. He is forced to pretend that he just loves it, so as not to hurt the presenter's feelings. Unfortunately, he is just so good an actor that the presenter insists that he wear it all the time, put it on display, paint the house to coordinate, etc. The receiver becomes increasingly miserable, and thus is comedy committed.

Very much Truth in Television, as every person with a very generous but senile/half-blind grandmother can attest.

Homemade Sweater From Hell is a Sub-Trope.

Compare My New Gift Is Lame. Also see Kids Prefer Boxes.

Examples of Unwanted Gift Plot include:

Anime and Manga

  • Seitokai Yakuindomo: Tsuda receives, in quick succession, three implied and unwanted vibrating (sex) toys during the Christmas Episode. The first time as a part of a present exchange roulette and he knew about the possibility of getting that one (and tried to avoid it); the second time was from Shino directly and seems awkward even by the show's standard; the third time is from Santa himself and manages to achieve Rule of Three funny. He utters not a complaint.

Live-Action TV

  • An episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show features Rob giving Laura a replica of "Empress Carlotta's Necklace." Laura hates it, but Cannot Spit It Out.
  • Friends:
    • In "The One with the Prom Video," Joey buys Chandler a gaudy bracelet, and Hilarity Ensues.
    • Rachel does this with nearly every gift she gets apparently, swapping it the day after and pretending a big dog ran off with it, or something similar.
    • There's also the episode where Rachel and Monica pretend to both want to keep a hideous work of art made by Phoebe, while they both try to get rid of it when she's away.
  • Finch tries to get rid of a handmade vase Jack gave him in an episode of Just Shoot Me.
  • An episode of Leave It to Beaver was about Beaver giving his mother a sweater that she really didn't like, but was too nice to tell him about it. And then he suggested that she should wear it to a parent/teacher meeting.
  • On the The King of Queens Doug and Carrie receive a hideous painting of them for their anniversary from their friends Deacon and Kelly. They pretend to love it but secretly try to get rid of it. It turns out Deacon and Kelly intentionally gave them a horrible present so they would be allowed to get rid of an unwanted gift Doug and Carrie had given them.
  • In an episode of That 70s Show Donna gave Eric a "man ring." Said ring was hideous and gaudy and was promptly given to Fez.
  • In Home Improvement the boys gave Jill a very large bottle of very cheap perfume.
  • Jake Donovan in Stark Raving Mad had this with a heavy beaded necklace his then girlfriend gave him.
  • In one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Marie gives Ray and Debra a sculpture that she made in a class. The sculpture is unintentionally very suggestive, leading the family to try various means of getting rid of it without telling her why.
  • An episode of Frasier had Martin buying him a horrible painting after he overheard Frasier praising it to the restarateur exhibiting it. Frasier spent the rest of the episode angsting about how to break the news.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Amy gives Penny a big, tacky painting of the two of them. Bernadette points out that Penny in the painting looks like a man. Amy does not take it well when she discovers Penny taking it down.


  • There's a short story published in The New Yorker that plays with this. A man gets his wife a fur coat for Christmas but, as a practical joke, buys a little square of grubby rabbit fur at the same time and has it wrapped as if it's the real present. He drops hints in the weeks leading to Christmas about how he didn't get a bonus this year and he's afraid it's looking pretty lean. When she unwraps it, she puts on a brave face and pretends it's gorgeous and just what she wanted, going to such lengths (calling up a friend like she couldn't wait to tell her about it, and so on) that she almost convinces herself, and he gets annoyed and finally calls her attention to the huge package he's hidden in the hall. When she sees the coat, all the reaction he gets is, "It's nice."

Western Animation

  • In Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked Dave is given a macaroni necklace by Theodore, who wants him to wear it everywhere he goes, including a formal dinner with the captain. Alvin's comment was particularly biting:

  Alvin: Oh yeah . . . that's a real chick magnet.


Real Life

  • The term "white elephant" (meaning a troublesome or unwanted gift) comes from a legend that when the King of Siam didn't like someone, he would give them a white elephant as a present. In this culture white elephants were sacred, so the recipient couldn't put it to work but still had to feed it, creating a drain on his resources.


  1. No, really, you shouldn't have.
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