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Whenever someone is handing out gifts to a group of people, one of them is going to be massively disappointed.
Typically, almost everyone gets a really spectacular gift that is exactly what they wanted. Except for this one guy who gets, say, a nickel.
The jilted character will feign delight, but as he watches the others enjoy their gifts, his annoyance will grow until he finally explodes at the gift-giver.
Typically, it will turn out that the gift has some great hidden value, and that their gift has really been the best gift of all, just not in any obvious way. Like the nickel is a rare coin worth millions.
Sometimes, the lame gift is just something of great sentimental value to the giver, in which case it reflects deep affection and is a very touching gift, though it's still a bit lame.
Sometimes, the universe just hates him.
- A recent bank commercial involves a man offering a pony to two girls. The first girl accepts and smiles as she gets her toy pony... until the second girl gets a live pony.
- Another one in the same series features a little boy being allowed to play with a toy truck...for about five minutes. Then the truck gets taken away and replaced with a piece of cardboard cut roughly in the shape of a truck, which, had he read the fine print he had no reason to believe was on the bottom of the first truck, he would recognize as the deal he agreed to when he started playing with the first truck.
- Subverted in one advert which had every member of the family left some vast, beautiful piece of real estate, except for one son who gets 10 acres of swamp. We think he's the Black Sheep, until he whoops in delight - cut to him driving his SUV at top speed through the mud and branches.
- In Narue no Sekai Narue reminds Kazuto that it's not what's given but who gives it that's important. They then exchange ... rocks.
- In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers the Movie, the Rangers gained new ninja powers. Where the others' animal totems were things like the falcon, the bear, or the wolf, Adam got the frog. He was disappointed until the alien Jungle Princess guiding them explained it by relating it to The Frog Prince. (Don't ask how an alien even knew about The Frog Prince...)
- Kenai from Disney's Brother Bear wasn't too happy about receiving The Bear of Love.
- In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, each member in the Fellowship receives cool personal gifts from Galadriel, including a magical lantern for Frodo, some daggers for Pippin and Merry, and a coveted lock of golden hair for Gimli. Sam, however, gets some rope. Whoopee. Visibly underwhelmed, he even has the balls to ask if he might have a "shiny dagger" as well, but Galadriel just smirks at his impudence and doesn't bother to reply. Of course, the rope magically unties itself when necessary, and comes in very useful. In the book, Sam is given a rare seed and fertile soil from Lothlorien due to his trade as a gardener. The rope is just part of the general equipment.
- In Star Wars Ewok Adventures, the boy is visibly unimpressed with the very plain rock he gets, while everyone else gets cool toys. After an unsuccessful attempt to trade it for something else, he throws it away. Unfortunately they kinda need it much later on... Fortunately one of the ewoks had more sense and took the rock with him when the kid ditched it.
- In Step Brothers, When they open Christmas gifts, Dale gets Hulk Hands. Brennan on the other hand, gets a wallet. He is not happy.
- Apparently, Jason in Mystery Team would much rather have a bike than a NEW CAR.
- A Christmas Story: Ralphie receives pink bunny pajamas from his aunt for Christmas.
- Used often in the Harry Potter series.
- Christmas gift-giving happens once a book. The Dursleys always give Harry some present, but intentionally something extremely lame, like old socks, or a coin. (Ron thinks that the 50p is totaly interesting, though, having never seen money with that shape). On the other hand, the Weasley kids are frequently making fun of the sweaters they always get from their mother, but when Harry gets some, it is very significant for him as it means acceptance as a family member.
- In the third book, Harry's Aunt Marge, when she came over for Christmas, would give Dudley a cool toy robot or a new computer game or something like that. She gave Harry...a box of dog biscuits. Just to really rub in how much she hated Harry, she then glared at Harry, daring him to ask why he had gotten dog biscuits instead of an actual present.
- In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore leaves items to the trio. Hermione gets a book, Ron gets a magical item that can manipulate light, and Harry gets... in Ron's words: "An old snitch". Harry knows there's a secret involved and eventually figures it out months later. Turned out there was a legendarily powerful magic stone inside it.
- News Radio: Jimmy James gives everyone but Matthew a car. Instead, Matthew gets a set of Fibber McGee and Molly tapes. When he finally confronts Mr. James, he finds that the gift wasn't the tapes; Mr. James was actually giving him all rights to the entire Fibber McGee and Molly series.
- Just Shoot Me had a very similar episode, only while Finch pretended to like his gift outwardly, he secretly ruined all the other presents before finding out how much his was actually worth.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: Joel give s Gypsy an expensive doll, Tom a racecar, and Crow... Pants. Turns out that this was a Very Special acknowledgment of his greater maturity, qualifying him for an "adult" gift. (In a Continuity Nod, whenever Crow has cause to pack up his possessions, one crate is clearly marked "pants".)
- In the first Christmas Special, the Mads invent "The Wish Squisher," a machine designed to turn cool gifts into this trope. A box of NES games becomes a pair of Underoos, money becomes your sister's raisin collection, and slot cars become an ugly pair of socks. The socks are run through the machine a second time and become a gift certificate for a stationery store.
- Variation: Cheers: Rebecca's wealthy boyfriend promises her a wonderful gift and references a "ring". She gets a desk. Convinced that there's an engagement ring hidden inside, she literally tears the desk apart to find it. Then Sam finds the packing slip, explaining that it's the very valuable and historic desk at which Richard Wagner composed Der Ring Des Nibelungen.
- In The Facts of Life episode "Graduation," Mrs. Garrett gives Blair a nice sweater and Jo... a rock. She proceeds to show Jo that it's a geode and spins an elaborate metaphor in which the ordinary-looking stone with potential treasure hidden inside represents Jo. Blair then becomes annoyed that her gift doesn't come with a metaphor!
- One of Psych's early Christmas episodes showed this with Lassie. However, it was intentional as Shawn had been listening in on their psychiatric evaluations and told everyone to get Lassie snowglobes, just to torture him.
- In a Christmas episode of The Office, Michael was very disappointed to receive a hand-knitted ovenmitt from his Secret Santa (Phyllis) when he himself had gotten his person (Ryan) an iPod. Of course, this was stupid because he himself had imposed a $20 limit to the gifts to make the iPod look even better in comparison to everyone else's gifts.
- Happens just about any time anyone gives gifts, ever, in Friends. Usually followed by someone exchanging the sucky gifts. Or, more often than not, exchanging a decent gift they didn't like.
- Slightly subverted in one episode where Chandler unexpectedly arrives home at Christmas and gives everyone crap gifts - donations to the Royal Ballet Society.
Joey: Mine says "To Erin Lane".
- Old episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show: an elderly relative leaves Dick an old desk and a wacky piece of film. The film has hints that lead Dick to realize that the old, old picture of an ancestor is a really valuable piece of history: it's a picture that includes Abraham Lincoln.
- In one episode of Home Improvement Jill's mom is distributing presents to her daughters; Jill wants an old antique clock that was always special to her, but that goes to her sister while she gets an old tea set. It turns out that her mother actually thought this would be meaningful to her, though--apparently Jill and her used to play tea party with the old set when she was a child, though as an adult Jill sheepishly admits she can't remember that at all.
- In the children's series The Queens Nose, when the wise old uncle comes to visit, he gives the annoying and snobby older sister Melody some fancy clothes and a bundle of money. To the younger sister Harmony (who is his favourite niece) he gives....an old 50 pence piece, of the same year as her birth. She soon discovers that this particular 50p is magical and grants her ten wishes.
- Averted and then subverted in Safe Havens. When Samantha's grandma died, she got seemingly the worst inheritance: a ring. Relatives expected her to be disappointed, but she wasn't. That was before she found out it was actually the most awesome inheritance, magically allowing her to see and talk with her Heaven-bound grandma in reflective surfaces.
- In A Little Night Music, Madame Armfeldt recounts a story about her first lover, a Croatian count, giving her a wooden ring:
"It had been in his family for centuries, it seemed, but I said to myself: a wooden ring? What sort of man would give you a wooden ring, so I tossed him out right there and then. And now — who knows? He might have been the love of my life."
- Webcomic example: In one Achewood strip, Téodor brings a present home to Philippe, who imagines that it must be something fantastic (a grappling hook! a homemade Coke machine!) However, it's revealed to be... a 99-cent wallet pen. Which was marked down by about 85%. Philippe, understandably, is not happy.
- Order of the Stick has Roy getting the Bag of Tricks. It does get more useful than he expected. Sometimes.
- In Survival of the Fittest, unlucky participants are given lame weapons such as a frisbee, plastic scissors... and a rock.
- In the video for "Shoes, Kelly's twin brother gets a computer AND a car for their joint birthday. Kelly gets...a stuffed dragon.
- In Metal Gear Meets Modern Warfare 2  Snake teams up with Ghost and fight Liquid and Makarov. When preparing for a major assault, Naomi gets Snake a customized sniper rifle, and then Otacon gets Ghost.... gloves that match his skull mask. Ghost wonders why he doesn't get a gun. No one cares.
- The Simpsons contains a subversion where Uncle Herb gives Lisa a set of great literature, Bart a membership in the NRA, Marge a new washer and dryer, and Homer... his forgiveness. When Homer's disappointment is obvious, he reveals that, yeah, he also got him the lounge chair he'd been eyeing.
- Angry Beavers: In the episode "Gift Hoarse", Norbert gets a huge train set for Arbor Day (which, on the show, is like Christmas for beavers), while Dagget just gets a cardboard pine-tree air freshener. Dag proceeds to wreck Norb's train set in a fit of jealousy, but then feels guilty and lets Norb have his gift instead. As if on cue, the delivery man shows up with Dagget's "real" gift, a monster truck (with which the air freshener was supposed to go), which is now Norbert's.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In the Valentine's Day episode, Spongebob plans to give Patrick a very special gift of a giant heart-shaped chocolate bubble, but Sandy takes forever getting it there for him. Patrick, growing impatient waiting for his gift, becomes annoyed when he sees that Spongebob has gotten great gifts for everyone else--even total strangers. Spongebob finally decides to just give him a "friendly handshake" instead, which makes Patrick mad--until Sandy shows up with the real thing. (And at which point, Patrick says to Spongebob, "You didn't have to give me anything.")
- And there's also that episode in which Spongebob picks up what he thinks is a piece of chewed gum off the ground. (Yes, this is a good thing.) Then it gets wet and reveals its true identity, to Spongebob's dismay: "This isn't gum at all! It's a lousy hundred-dollar bill."
- Kim Possible's nana gave the Tweebs some old discs that they were happy about, Kim got an ugly sweater.
- In the Fluppy Dogs pilot, a human boy is disappointed getting a small shaggy dog for a present instead of a more impressive breed. Of course, he instantly changes his mind when the dog reveals himself to be a sapient, talking humanoid alien who gets him involved in a wild adventure with his brethren.
- In It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, when the other kids get very good Halloween candies, Charlie Brown gets a rock, giving us the quote at the top of the page.
- Hilariously re-done on Robot Chicken:
- Linus: I love Geography Day! I got Italy!
- Lucy: I got Russia!
- Charlie: I got Iraq...
- Hilariously re-done on Robot Chicken:
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, both Aang and Katara get cool gifts from Master Pakku upon leaving the North Pole. Sokka doesn't get anything. Of course, Aang and Katara had studied waterbending under him for the duration of their stay; Sokka didn't really have anything to do with him.
- In Visionaries Ectar's reaction to learning the ability of his magical staff (make incredibly cryptic comments that eventually turn out to be significant to their situation) in comparison with the abilities the bad guys get, such as summoning a giant monster to do his bidding. After seeing a particularly impressive display one of his companions even comments that the wizard gave him a bad staff.
- Bully - Jimmy gets a lame sweater from his parents for Christmas and everyone laughs at him.
- It bears mentioning that this particular sequence is mandatory.
- In the ten year old birthday phase of the Player Character in Fallout 3, the vault's resident Cloudcuckoolander gives the present of... a poem.
- Sometimes truth in television. Every one will probably have gotten at least one present they didn't like at their birthday. And do you remember the vase from your great-grandaunt that passes through the entire family, because no one wants it? Or that lame gift on Christmas? And yes, Christmas isn't about the gifts...
- Why Did You Buy Me That is a compendium of these, sent in by readers.