The art of giving is a gift that doesn't come naturally to all. While some gifts are merely cheap and thoughtless; some are too well thought-out and downright offensive. These disappointed receivers tell it all: the bad, the worse, and the downright insulting.
All posts have been edited for clarity.
A Gift That Got Her Attention
“My classically evil stepmother gave 12-year-old me pajama pants with the American Idol logo on them.
I wasn’t really into the show, but they were soft. I was happy with it until she said, ‘they say American Idol on them because you think you should always be the center of attention.’
I was a shy kid that tried to blend in with the group, rather than stand out, and this ‘gift’ made me even more reclusive.”
Does That Advice Come With A Gift Receipt?
“The summer before I started college, I had a poopy part time job answering the phone and doing general secretary-type stuff in a small spa in my hometown.
When my birthday rolled around, my boss pulled a skin care kit off the shelf of merchandise that was next to my desk (price tag still on it and everything), and gave it to me.
She said, ‘this is your birthday present because I noticed that you have a tendency to break out pretty frequently and you should take care of that.'”
Grandma Didn’t Forget
“My great grandmother thought she was buying gifts for her granddaughter (my mom), but, because of her dementia, she never really caught on to the fact that it was me, and I was most definitely a boy.
She eventually moved closer to us so we could take care of her. I was in her life more often and she knew my name and who I was. Next Christmas, there was a box with my name all wrapped up in a gift paper that was boyhood-centric (it was the ’90s, so it was skateboards and the word ‘rad’ with some squillies) and inside was a bra.
She was there when I opened it, and I said something along the lines of, ‘thanks, Great Grandma, but I am a boy.’
She replied, ‘oh I know, but you’re getting thick and I thought you could use it.’
Everyone had a laugh. I didn’t. I very much hated that Christmas.”
He’ll Just Have His Letdown To Go
“Someone once gave me a gift card that said it had 20 dollars, but when I went to use it, the cashier informed me that it only had 3 dollars and some change left on it.
I thought maybe there was a mistake when they were loading money on the card, but when I looked at the date on the back, I saw that the card had been purchased months before.
I just wanted my half soup and sandwich, man.”
He Put Their Marriage On The Chopping Block
“So my mom was married once before to this man who was a little insensitive; he used to get her gifts like a vacuum, a blender, and cleaning/cooking supplies as gifts for her birthday and Christmas – just things to ‘help her’ tidy up as he was a lazy sack of lasagna who didn’t do anything around the house.
Fast forward to a few Christmases ago, my dad (my mother’s second husband) decided to get my mother the diamond ring she always wanted, but he could never afford. This is where my dad is a brilliant evil man. He buys the diamond from a well known designer so she can brag, and he hides it in this really nice blender and puts it under the tree.
Now something you must know, my dad is known to give awful gifts. One year he bought her leather pants, another time he bought her a cape. So, when my mother opens the box and sees the blender, her face just goes stark white and she stares at the box. I will never forget her expression when she unwrapped the gift, only to see that blender, as if my parent’s 25 year marriage was just GONE.
My sister casually breaks the chilly silence by telling her to inspect the blender, you know, just to seem nice. My mother, through gritted teeth, opened that blender, and, the second she saw that little red box, burst into tears. I will never forget that Christmas and my dad howling with laughter as my mom is laughing, crying, and threatening to throw the blender at him with the biggest diamond on her ring finger.
Later she told me that one of her conditions on marrying him was that he never get her cooking/cleaning supplies as a gift.”
Who’s The Meanest Of Them All?
“Two girls at my high school had recently had a fallout. They weren’t speaking to each other and it meant that a lot of people had taken sides. One morning, it had been one of the girls’ birthdays, and she was waiting around the school with some of her friends before going inside. She gets a message that the girl she had had a fallout with wanted to reconcile. The girl even brought her a gift, since her birthday had passed in the time they weren’t speaking to each other.
So the girl comes with the apology gift up to the other one. They exchange pleasantries, and birthday girl opens the intricately wrapped gift. There was a thin, rectangular box inside, and she opened that too. Inside, there was a handheld mirror. Confused, she thanks her and looks up. She was still holding onto the mirror by the handle.
The other girl replies, ‘it’s so you can see how truly ugly you are!’ As she says this, she grabs the mirror from the other girl’s hand and smashes it into her face.
A huge fight broke out, there were some minor cuts and bruises, school officials got involved, there were suspensions for a couple of the people involved, etc.”
“It’s The Thought That Counts, Right?”
“For Christmas a few years ago my fiancée’s parents got me a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.
I’m a very polite and grateful gift receiver, it’s the thought that counts, right? A $10 gift card doesn’t seem so bad, after all. I hugged them and thanked them as profusely as I would have if they had handed me $100, which, incidentally, is what they did with my fiancée’s sibling’s significant others. Along with a $50 gift card to the same bookstore. So they gave her brother’s girlfriend and sister’s fiancé $100 cash and a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble.
Here’s the kicker: while sitting around with the family, I happen to check my email. Barnes and Noble is running a special for Christmas. Buy $100 worth of gift cards and get an additional $10 gift card for free. For some reason I found it extremely funny.
I look at it this way: it saves me money come Christmas time because I don’t have to get them anything super special. Instead I can spend a little more on my family, namely my grandma and grandpa because they’re just about two of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. Her parents will never accept me as part of the family, and that’s okay. However, if they choose to extend this same gift giving courtesy to our children (who don’t currently exist, but will one day) I will not tolerate it. I will not watch my kids open garbage from their grandparents while their cousins (who will exist in April) open amazing gifts from the same people. They can try to make me feel less-than, but not our children.
Thankfully, though, I have a very supportive and awesome family. We don’t see these people very much, even though we live closer to them than my family. It’s a drain going over to their house most of the time so we just stay away when we have the option. Ain’t nobody got time for that. It has a lot to do with them being in denial about mine and their daughter’s relationship. They’re very religious and I just so happen to also be a female. They have some awesome denial skills.”
What’s Worse Than An Insulting Gift?
“I got nothing.
I’m a twin, so my birthday has always been a joint party with my twin when I was a kid. The rule was that if you came to the party, you brought something for both of us.
But, as we grew up, we ended up on the total opposite ends of the popularity spectrum. Mom still insisted on joint parties. So, I would watch as my sister got gift after gift from the people ‘we’ invited, and I got nothing. And then I’d watch them all eat cake. It really depressed me, just watching as my twin got present after present, playing party games with her friends, eating pizza and cake, and I was just to the side, invisible. After a while I just would go away because the friends made it clear I wasn’t wanted. Being a twin is definitely not all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when one is Regina George and one is Wednesday Addams, to use some pop culture comparison.
After about 3-4 years of the same thing happening over and over, my mom would just give me the monetary equivalent of whatever she got. But it still hurt my 12-16-year-old pride.”
She’s Probably Sick Of This Joke
“My mother’s mom was a piece of work. I never had a problem with her as a child, but when I grew up I was treated to the same treatment as the other adults… so I’m a bit conflicted on her. She is great with young kids, and overcame a lot of messed up mental problems (agoraphobia, depression, barbiturate addiction, a serious drinking problem and anxiety) which killed (her brother committed suicide) or incapacitated (her sister has not left her house in 35 years) the rest of her family to become almost fully functional… so I respect that. But she was, essentially, a less pleasant version of Roseanne’s mom on Roseanne, but I digress…
When my mother was a kid, she found and ate an entire bottle of St. Joseph’s Children’s Aspirin, thinking it was some sort of delicious candy. She got very sick, had to have her stomach pumped and spend a day or two in the hospital.
On my mother’s 40th birthday, her mom sent a gift. In the box were a few terrible polyester outfits (the sort my grandmother would love, but my mother would ever be caught dead in… which we were all used to receiving) purchased from Marshall’s or TJ Maxx (the only stored she’d ever go to, apparently), some other, useless, random things, and a nice big bottle of St. Joseph’s Children’s Aspirin.”
He Obviously Wasn’t Their Favorite
“I got foot soap. Specifically, it was in the tackiest lime green and neon pink bottle possible. I’m a guy. I’m not even the ‘I have a pedicure every week’ sort. My dad’s side of the family does this every year – fancy gifts for everyone else, and random beans, either regifted or with no thought as to who it’s for, for me.
They also wrapped up the insides of last year’s crackers and gave them to me. And that was it.
Meanwhile, they gave my brothers robots, $50 each, fancy, real leather iPad cases, and a truckload of other stuff (specifically the things 10-year-old me begged for, but was never allowed, that they didn’t even want).
Three guesses, which of us do you think is adopted?”
She Took His Gift For Granite
“I dated a guy in high school for about 2.5 years.
We broke up a few times, he cheated on me once (probably more), and, like a typical high school girl, I didn’t know any better at the time. A few days before I finally broke up with him for good, I turned 18. He was really low on money and I knew that. I wasn’t expecting much; a nice home cooked meal would have been great.
I show up to his house and he’s hiding my present behind his back. He dramatically makes me close my eyes and make a few guesses. I finally open my eyes, and he’s holding a rock. Not a fancy stone, or paperweight, or pet rock. An actual rock. He claims it was from the creek we ate by on our first picnic. I called bull, went outside and illustrated how it was exactly like the rest of his driveway rocks.”
Not A Very Handy Gift
“I was living with my aunt at the time and we didn’t have a lot of money. My cousin’s friend was having a birthday party, and my aunt managed to buy a cheap, handheld portable game of some sort. Think Tiger electronics.
Anyway, it was my job to take my cousin to the party because she had to take a nap before work. We get there, and of course there’s a bunch of kids and their parents.
The kid was born with no arms. My cousin did not think to bring this up before hand.”
This Present Did Not Blow Her Away
“One year, during my tomboy phase, my mother got me a hair dryer for Christmas. Being a little brat, I asked her, ‘is Santa trying to say something about my hair?’
With what I could only describe as glee, my mother replied, ‘yes.’
No follow up. No clarification. Just the word ‘yes’. It was baffling. Insulted, I refused to use or even open the hair dryer and stuffed it under my bed.
The following Christmas, I saw a familiar shaped box sitting under the Christmas tree. I refused to believe that my mother had gotten me a hair dryer a second year in a row until I opened the gift.
Same make, model, color…no. There was no way. I ran to my bed room and looked under my bed. Sure enough, the hair dryer was gone.
My mother re-gifted the same hair dryer to me.”
“He Had This Hurt Look On His Face”
“I was the giver in this situation.
When I was military, there was a guy who was getting out. For a going away gift, some other people and I all pitched in for an engraved flask with his name, rank, and all the other typical stuff that goes on plaques. We gave it to him, and he had this hurt look on his face. We were all kind of confused.
As it turns out, he was being administratively separated for failing rehab for his drinking problem.
We had no idea and we all felt awful afterwards.”
Maybe Shower Her With Compliments Instead?
“My mother pretty consistently gives terrible gifts, but her worst one wasn’t actually to me.
My sister’s best friend growing up came from kind of a weird family, and my mother noticed that my sister’s friend was starting to go through puberty and didn’t have the best personal hygiene. So, for the friend’s birthday, my mother collected a basket of fancy soaps and hygiene products, and then made my sister give it to her friend.
My mother still sometimes brings it up as a clever and thoughtful gift, while my sister still occasionally cringes at giving her friend what amounted to a basket saying ‘happy birthday, you smell.'”
Not What They Mean By White Elephant Gift
“When I was age 12, my (very rich) uncle was visiting from overseas with his wife, nanny and three boys aged 2, 7 and 5. They all traveled first class for this one. Apparently, the youngest wouldn’t stop crying on the plane, in first class, on Singapore Airlines (one of the best and most expensive airlines out there), so the stewardess gave him a stuffed elephant toy.
We decided to have them over at our place for dinner because they were close family, and this was their first time visiting the country. We didn’t have to arrange their transportation to our place, because the hotel gave them complimentary exclusive use of their stretched Mercedes Benz limo and they were staying in the hotel’s most expensive room, the Presidential Suite.
When they arrived at our place, everyone got lavish gifts. When they reached me, they handed me a stuffed toy elephant with food on it and a Singapore Airlines logo.”
He Was Bowled Over With Laughter
“My mother would always give bad, tacky, or just useless ravioli as gifts when I was a kid.
After I got married, she decided to gift me and my husband something for don’t-remember-what-occasion-if-any. It was a pair of bowls – nice big bowls, great for cereal, which was fine and nice. But, it was what was ON the bowls that ticked me off into a near frothing rage.
All over it were the worst stereotypes of Mexicans you would’ve ever seen: fat, wearing a sombrero, sleeping at the base of a cactus, Mexican flags. Do you know what was even worse? My husband is Hispanic, not Mexican, and neither is his family. He is just brown and has lived his whole life in the States.
I wanted to beat her with the bowls while screaming, ‘what were you thinking?!’ but he just laughed at it and found it amusing, mostly because he saw it as her being so painfully oblivious to appropriateness that it crossed some line into the laughably absurd.
I kept the bowls because he laughed so hard at them, and he stills eats out of them to this day. Because of his amusement at it, I’ve chilled out over them, but still.”
“I Broke Down Crying”
“I stutter. Someone got me this cheap plastic ‘phone’. It was supposedly able to help with all speech impediments. It was a curved pipe you held to your face so the sound from your mouth went directly to your ear. They were so enthusiastic that they figured out a way to help ‘people stop hating me’.
I was 10. I broke down crying.”
Her Random Gifts Cleaned Up A Messy Situation
“The first Christmas I was divorced, my kids were little and still believed in Santa. I was sort of broke, sad, and trying hard to create new Christmas traditions.
On Christmas Eve, the kids wanted me to hang a stocking. I didn’t have any ‘gifts’ for myself, so I wrapped up random items from around the house. Not exactly feeling beloved, I gifted myself really random junk – wasp spray, Windex, a partly used lipstick, etc. – wrapped it all up, and hung the stocking off the stairs.
When we opened our gifts, the kids made impressive ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’: ‘Mommy! Look what Santa brought you! Windex – you really like that.’ They were totally serious.
It was then I thought that single parenting might be sort of fun. There might not be someone there to laugh with me, but I had plenty of inside jokes all to myself. (Today, the kids love those stories, and so does their stepdad. Santa still gives plungers and toilet bowl cleaner to all.)”
He Should’ve Been Toast
“I had a female friend a few years back, and on her 16th birthday, this total prick she fancied gave her 2 pieces of bread and told her to get into the kitchen and make him a sandwich.
Most of the other guests just sat in stunned silence for a few moments as the party girl’s eyes widened with suppressed rage. Her mom was filming the event, and luckily didn’t quite understand the implications of what just happened, simply believing it to be an inside joke.
Somehow they still started dating later that night, though it didn’t last.”
A Gift Worth Wining About
“My mom was gifted a book from my aunt.
It looked like a book full of inspirational stories from different women. It took a few stories in for my mom to realize all the stories were about the rock bottom times of people with a drinking problem. At the time, my aunt recently decided to stop drinking and obviously thought her sister should too.
My mom just laughed it off and said she’s not giving up her Kendall-Jackson.”
All Dolled Up And Nowhere To Go
“One year, when I was like 7, my grandparents gave my sister a bunch of really cool toys – like these full sets of play horses and books and stuff. They got me a collector’s porcelain doll.
I’m sure it was super expensive, but as soon as I unwrapped it, they were like, ‘make sure you never take this out of the box.’ So I had to sit there for the rest of the day watching my sister play with all her toys, while I got to look at my pretty doll through the plastic viewing window on the box.
It’s okay, though, because a few years later, our uncle sent us gifts. He sent me a portable DVD player. My sister got a coffee mug.
Turns out the DVD player was about as good at playing DVDs as the coffee mug, so I never used it. And, I can’t drink coffee out of my doll, so in the long run she won.
But in that moment of present opening bliss, I won. So suck it.”
Big And Black And Disappointing
“Many years ago, my (former, for many reasons) best friend kept talking up my birthday present the entire month before my birthday. She would bring it up completely on her own and tell me how much I was going to love my present. It was ‘big and black and expensive.’ I really don’t care about the price tag of a gift, but she talked it up so much that I got pretty excited for my amazing birthday present.
My birthday comes, she hands me a dollar store cardboard popcorn tub with a handful of kids pencils (the kind with colorful designs on them) and a few sheets of dinosaur stickers, which is the kind of stuff she liked, not the kind of stuff I like.
I said, ‘ohhh, uhhh, I thought you said it was big and black?’
She said, ‘oh, yeah, haha, I just wanted to get you really excited.'”
“It Was A Nothing Gift”
“I was dating a girl who I was pretty into, but it was still pretty new and not serious. I like giving good gifts though, so whatever.
Her initials were C.C., so I bought her a vintage Chanel ring (sixties, plastic, not crazy expensive but kind of cool from a flea market) with the double C logo. Good gift, right? Thoughtful as heck. She seemed to love it.
She got me a crazy ugly scarf that I swear she just pulled out of a bag or got from a street vendor on the way to meet me. It was a nothing gift. It said, ‘I do not care about you at all.’ I wasn’t really sad because, as I said, our relationship was pretty new and not that serious, but still it was insulting. I know it’s not a gift competition, but the disparity between the consideration did make it more hurtful.”
We Wish You An Awkward Christmas
“When I was 16, I went through a growth spurt and suddenly none of my clothes fit. Being a teenage girl, that’s pretty much the worst fate imaginable. I was obsessed with this great store in the mall, but didn’t have a job, so I never purchased anything from there. When it came time for Christmas, I asked my mom for clothes, adding, ‘I don’t even care, just something from that store and I know I’ll love it. I really need clothes.’
She got me black lace lingerie. It wasn’t even wearable stuff, but the kind you buy for the sole reason of taking it off. Granted, it was indeed from that store, but who gets lingerie for their 16-year-old daughter? I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to tell me: ‘get a boyfriend and nail him’? ‘Time to start earning your keep’? ‘Be more promiscuous?’ It was baffling.
And, of course, she got horribly offended when I asked for the receipt. And then when I tried to take it back to the store without a receipt, they said that lingerie is the most frequently stolen thing from the store (because it’s so small and easy to conceal), so they wouldn’t even take an exchange.”
“I was visiting my wife’s family in Japan this summer past. Naturally, we had to visit the brother-in-law and his wife’s family.
Now, in Japan, gift giving is an art! We usually take suitcases full of gifts and return with more than we took. For my niece, we took a Disney princess dress and a couple of cute American outfits.
So the wife’s brother’s in-laws brought gifts too. They gave my boys t-shirts. And me? A four-pack of toilet paper.
No, we didn’t take it back to the States.”