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Some Game Shows have gag prizes of negligible value. The name of this trope comes from the term used on Let's Make a Deal, where they almost always involved animals. The producers did make a mistake on this once, which, if they had been caught, would have been expensive. One of the 'zonks' offered was an oil derrick. At that time, an oil derrick, even on the used equipment market, was worth about $6,000, and would have been worth more than the highest prize on that show. The contestant didn't know this, of course, and took the consolation prize.
Contrast Undesirable Prize; that prize is something the producers actually thought contestants would want. Also contrast Consolation Prize; it's unlikely anyone who lands on a Zonk will be actually consoled by it. And, of course, contrast Whammy, which leaves you with nothing, not even a Zonk.
- Let's Make a Deal: The trope namer, the show was famous for offering such booby prizes: animals, absurd amounts of food, old and broken motor vehicles, etc. If the Zonk was an animal, it was usually a goat (or goats) or a cow, although the 2009 revival has also offered other farm animals, and even an actual "Zonkey" (part zebra, part donkey). The practice was discontinued in the middle of the first season when PETA (naturally) complained about it.
- You can buy most of those food-type Zonks at Sam's Club nowadays.
- Winners of Zonks on Let's Make a Deal also have an option to sign a certificate of forfeiture after the show. If they did so, they would receive another prize of equal value to the Zonk; that's why some of the Zonks were risky for the producers.
- It looks like they tried to avoid this for a while on the Brady version, as almost anything given away as a Zonk during the first season, even the large amounts of food, was usually spray-painted, smashed, or otherwise defaced to render it worthless. This practice now seems to be abandoned for the most part, to the point where certain Zonks contain things like DJ mixers and old-style TV's that appear to be in perfect condition and often even shown to be working.
- During the days of Door Number 4 on "The All-New Let's Make a Deal", the "Zonk" space on the wheel was always awarded as a red T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "I was Zonked by Monty Hall!"
- Even the foreign versions played along. The German Geh aufs Ganze had Zonks known as "Zonks", grey-red, fox-like plush animals. On the Polish version Idź Na Całość, Zonk was a red plush cat in a black bag ("cat in a bag" being the Polish idiom equivalent to "pig in a poke").
- These gag prizes also appeared on Concentration, which was part of the reason for the "Forfeit One Gift" cards.
- One such gag prize was a brick wall. The contestant surely wouldn't want a brick wall, would he? Oh yes, he would, and the producers were forced to build a brick wall around the contestant's house for several thousand 1960s dollars. Since then, such gifts have been described more carefully (usually as something like "3 feet of brick wall").
- The Chuck Barris versions of Treasure Hunt hosted by Geoff Edwards called these prizes "Klunks", which Edwards named himself.
- This caused significant problems in an episode of The Simpsons, when Bart opted for the gag prize over the cash sum; not only did the radio station not actually have the gag prize available to give away, but when they did eventually get it, the beast caused untold carnage lasting for approximately the duration of the episode. ("Bart Gets an Elephant", of course.)
- The Price Is Right has a game called Any Number, where the contestant has to guess numbers from 0 to 9 to fill in the five-digit price of a car. The other numbers show up in a smaller three-digit prize, and the "piggy bank", a literal cash value of dollars and cents formed from the remaining digits (thus having a maximum possible value of $9.87), dubbed at golden-road.net as "That damned piggy bank".
- In the UK game show 3-2-1, the Zonk was a dustbin, tying in with the show's animatronic mascot, Dusty Bin. Host Ted Rogers would actually warn, "Remember, all you win is a brand-new dustbin!", so the contestants wouldn't think they were actually getting a state-of-the-art robot worth far more than any other prize on the show.
- Not strange, considered that 3-2-1 is a version of a previous Spanish game show, appropiately named 1,2,3. In the final Auction Round, the contestants "bought" up to three objects offered by the host. The objects were usually worthless, but they had a card attached with the real prize that could be either something big or a joke item, like the show's mascot. About 99% of the time, getting that meant that you just got a toy pumpkin. But sometimes the pumpkin had attached a card of its own...
- During the final round of Distraction, your legitimate prizes might be turned into Zonks if you get the questions wrong. Same goes with Downfall, except they tell you straight up that the prizes up for destruction are fake.
- If you were bad enough at the bonus round of Winning Lines to get only one question correct, you won a trip to a bed and breakfast overlooking "Spaghetti Junction" highway interchange in Birmingham. Oh what fun. Contrast the grand prize, a trip around the world.
- The Japanese game show Tokyo Friend Park 2 is fond of offering a tawashi (Japanese kitchen scrubbing brush) as its trademark zonk.
- Tawashi are common zonks on many Japanese game shows. One, Shinkon-san Irasshai! (a Concentration-type game between newlywed couples) often ends with a bonus round featuring either a honeymoon in Hawaii or a tawashi.
- Brazilian variety program Domingo no Parque had the "Foguete" ("rocket") game - throughly copied throughout the years by other TV shows - where kids entered a rocket-shaped booth with acoustic sealing. Without listening to anything, they had to deafly respond with "yes" or "no" if they wanted to trade a prize for another - leading to things such as "do you trade this new bicycle for a match box?"
- The host of While You Were Out typically asks the relative of the person whose house is secretly being remodeled a few questions in between the remodeling scenes to test just how well they know that person. Answering correctly nets them a nice-looking decorating item for the room; answering incorrectly nets them a gag prize instead (ex: a tiny toy chest instead of a mahogany chest, plastic scrambled eggs instead of an elegant breakfast tray, a bag of coffee beans instead of a new coffee machine...).
- Kid's show Dick and Dom in da Bungalow had a real first and second prize, but third prize would be something like a crumpled housing benefit form, or a half-used tube of verruca cream.
- Bidders on Storage Wars can end up being Zonked if they spend a lot of money on a locker that ends up containing nothing but worthless garbage.
- In at least once, the auctioneers were the ones who got Zonked. In the episode where the auctioneer's wife was filling in, she talked up a certain locker, only for it to contain nothing but useless trash (and not even very much, at that).
- Subverted in the Looney Tunes cartoon "The Million Hare". Daffy barely beats Bugs in a race to a radio station only to be told that his prize wasn't a million bucks, but "The Million Box": A crate containing a million little boxes. Daffy "graciously" gives the prize to Bugs, only to find out that each of the little boxes contained a $1 bill.
- The Banker on Deal or No Deal occasionally included items in the price he was willing to pay for a contestant's case. Some were worthwhile, but others were clearly meant to insult the player and prompt a "No Deal."