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Max: My innocence has been shattered by this blatant tourist trap. I want my money back!

Sam: We didn't pay anything.

Max: Well, somebody better give me some money.

They say that there's no such thing as a free lunch. No matter what, someone has got to pick up the tab.

However, sometimes a company or business decides to be a little generous with a promotional campaign and pay the costs to distribute samples or portions of their goods and services to the public at no cost to us consumers. Although such free samples are usually small, very minor things of cheap value to keep costs down for the party providing it, a free sample is still a tiny perk for the person receiving it and is always graciously accepted... or, at least, that's what the companies responsible for the campaigns would prefer, but that's usually not the case.

Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For is a trope about a person or character who acquires something at no monetary cost to him/her (usually through a promotional giveaway but can also cover things like outright thievery) and doesn't like it and will likely demand compensation for not liking it. This is commonly referred to with the saying "Looking a Gift Horse In The Mouth".

Presumably a common habit of pessimists and picky people; in a stark contrast of this behavior, people or characters who have no problems looking on the bright side of things may frequently make a remark along the lines of, "Who cares if it's a piece of crap? It's free!" (or, depending on the circumstances, "It's stolen!")

This is of course Truth in Television. Just because you got something for free doesn't mean you have to like it. If anything, someone who did not pay for a product is much more likely to realize it's crap and throw it away, as they don't have to justify to themselves having wasted money. Also, this doesn't apply when something free actually ends up causing harm through no fault of the receiver.

Compare You Get What You Pay For.

NOTE: Please don't include any Real Life examples or invocations of this trope in the examples section. In-universe only, please.

Examples of Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For include:


  • In one story from 2000 AD's Bec & Kawl, Bec does nothing but complain about the "tragic abortion of a night out" at the carnival Kawl takes her to, stating that it isn't even worth the 50p entrance fee, to which Kawl points out that they snuck in for free.


  • In La Cité de la Peur, a movie fails to start at a film festival, prompting the whole audience to complain, "Reimburse our invites!"
  • Trainspotting has a scene where Begbie has just robbed a jewelers at gunpoint and the jewelery he's stolen is not as valuable as he thought.

 Supposed to be fucking solid silver. It's fucking garbage! Those young couples investin' all their fucking hopes in that stuff and all...



  • A Stealth Insult from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: "He didn't charge nothing for his sermons; and it was worth it, too."
  • In Moving Pictures, the wizards sneak into the theater through a bathroom window, then gripe about the poor seating. Granted, they complain about everything anyway, and they did shell out a small fortune for popcorn banged grains and other snacks.

Live Action TV

  • In The Muppet Show episode where Steve Martin guest starred, Statler and Waldorf debate whether they should leave after the show is canceled to hold auditions. Waldorf insists that they stay as they've paid for the tickets. When Statler points out that the tickets were free, Waldorf replies, "And overpriced, at that!"
  • In what is seemingly a preemptive response to any criticism that may be levied, G4's Kevin Pereira closes all "Indie Games" segments on free, downloadable video games with some variant of, "...and what do you want for nothing?"
  • David Letterman sometimes jokingly tries to preempt complaints from the studio audience saying things like, "You didn't pay anything to get in here, you know."
    • Conan O'Brien used to lightheartedly do this too, typically if a joke bombed. "Hey! This is a free show! You can't boo a free show!"
  • Jon Stewart frequently reminds audiences of The Daily Show that the tickets were free, usually after the interview segment of a C List guest when the next day's A List guest is announced and the audience predictably responds.
    • He's also used it to apologize to guests if the audience is getting rude/hostile.
  • In the pilot episode of Corner Gas, Hank complains about a terrible cup of coffee, to which Brent says, "Oh, well, let me refund your money. What'd you pay for it, zero?"
  • One of Peggy Olson's more contentious assignments was a pro bono project designing a flyer for a Church dance. Word of God has stated that the point of that story was to show how the clients who get work for free are often the most demanding.

Newspaper Comics

  • Dilbert once got free "therapy" from a psychiatrist who told him that his problem was that he's ugly and he should drink until he feels handsome. Walking out the door, he tells the receptionist, "You're overpriced."
  • Zits had a short storyline where Jeremy is upset because a website he likes hasn't been updated for a while. His father goes from saying he should demand a refund to mocking his sense of entitlement when he finds out the site is free.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:

 Calvin: You know what the problem is with the universe? There’s no toll-free customer service hot line for complaints! That’s why things don’t get fixed. If the Universe had any decent management, we’d get a full refund if we weren’t completely satisfied!

Hobbes: But the place is free.

Calvin: See, that’s another thing! They should have a cover charge and keep out all the riffraff.


Video Games

  • In the Disgaea spin-off Prinny, Etna asks the Hero Prinny to sell some games and the console she's playing them on, claiming they suck. The prinny points out that she pirated the games and hacked the console.
  • Sam and Max Hit The Road requires the heroes to eventually visit a tourist trap named "Frog Rock" to progress. Upon discovering that Frog Rock is in no way frog-like, Max demands his money back despite not having paid any to see it.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • One episode of The Simpsons sees Homer get excited about receiving a coupon book in the mail, including one coupon for "Two pizzas for the price of one at Doughy's!" When Lisa points out, "Doughy's has terrible pizza," Homer counters, "Yeah, but there's TWO!"

 Comic Book Guy: Last night's Itchy and Scratchy was the worst episode ever. As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.

Bart: For what? They've given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. If anything, you owe them.

Comic Book Guy: Worst. Episode. Ever.

    • Happens again in The Simpsons Movie when the crowd boos a free concert and ends up killing the musicians when they start talking about environmental issues. (They'd been enjoying the music before the band got political.)
  • The famous Fight Scene from Family Guy between Peter and the chicken began over a bad coupon.
  • In the "Big Top Rascals" episode of Hanna-Barbera's series of The Little Rascals, Butch complains about the makeshift circus and asks for a refund. When Spanky says, "But we let you in for free," Butch suggests that everyone's money be refunded.
  • In an episode of Daria Jake Morgendorffer laments the tragedy that was the Altamont Free Concert, ending with the comment that he demanded his money back and he got it. When told that it was a free concert, he replied, "That's what THEY said, too."
  • One episode of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius had Jimmy's dad pay 150 dollars for tickets to a free school talent show. After hearing that Jimmy's band (who have become extremely arrogant and demanding after thinking they're awesome despite Jimmy's instruments doing everything) won't be performing, he stands up and yells "I want my money back!". After it's pointed out by Jimmy's mom that the concert was free, he sits down and mutters that he didn't pay anything anyway in an embarrassed tone.
  • Inverted (if that's even possible) in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In "The Fortuneteller":

 Katara: Can you believe she won't let me in? And after all the business I've given her?

Aang: But, she doesn't even charge.

Katara: I know, but still.

  • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Suited for Success" is directly about this trope: Rarity decides to make fashionable dresses for all five of her friends for an upcoming event, the Grand Galloping Gala. She works hard and makes some lovely dresses, but her friends don't like them and insist on all sorts of changes. Rarity tires herself out trying to make the dresses come out to her friends' likings, but the dresses don't turn out well and it leads to embarrassment for Rarity at a fashion show showcasing the dresses. In the end, her friends learn the lesson that they shouldn't be picky when a friend is doing them a favor, or in other words, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • The American Dad episode "The Unbrave One":

 Roger: You won't be undersold? Try this same camcorder at Monty's for twenty dollars less!

Clerk: Do you have your receipt?

Roger: No, I don't have a receipt! I stole the floor model!

  • In the 2011 revival of Beavis and Butt-Head, the duo demand their money back for Twilight after getting kicked out. The usher reminds them that they snuck in.