We love giving gifts, but we’re not so into receiving them. That’s not unusual; by one estimate, half of Americans admit to receiving at least one Christmas gift that they don’t want each year. That means we collectively waste about $16 billion per year—and that’s just on one holiday.
In a recent Reddit thread, users shared their stories of the worst gifts they’d ever received. We collected a few of the best, then edited them slightly for grammar and readability. Keep these in mind the next time you pick up that “perfect” gift for your favorite person; sometimes, “it’s the thought that counts” doesn’t quite cut it.
Most people don’t want to receive tinned meat as a gift.
“I lived in Korea, and Spam was highly regarded there and quite a bit more expensive than in the States, because, you know, it’s f*****g Spam,” wrote pineapplepantyparade.
Okay, that requires a bit of explanation. Spam—yes, that same canned meat that you probably consider to be one step above dog food—is a delicacy in South Korea. The country consumes more Spam than any other country (outside of the United States, of course), and it’s a popular holiday gift. That’s partially because U.S. military bases brought tons of the stuff over after World War II, per the BBC.
“Anyways, at Christmas time, they had Spam gift sets, if you’ll believe it. So I got like a five-pack of Spam as a gift set from my boss and his wife. I’m vegan. My boss knew this.”
Sometimes, bad gifts can be insulting.
“A family member of mine was gifted a horribly ugly red and brown purse,” wrote ghosttoast96. “She hated it and said it was ugly. She re-gifted it to me and said maybe it was more my style… It wasn’t. Also, rude.”
At least that gift didn’t require batteries. That’s not the case with this next story.
“One Christmas, my ex-wife’s grandmother gave me a little electronic slot machine game that she bought at a yard sale,” VictorBlimpmuscle wrote. “It still had the handwritten $1 price tag on it. When she handed it to me, her words were ‘Merry Christmas, Ken, you’ll need to buy your own batteries for this.’”
Aww, that’s…sort of sweet?
“My name is not Ken,” they continued. “And I never bought batteries for that game.”
FibonacciFanBoy also received a near-useless gift…from multiple people.
“[I received] a single guitar pick,” they wrote.
“It was the one thing I received from my collective cousins for Christmas. I understand that we hadn’t really spoken or been great friends for several years, but honestly, it was just a bit insulting. I would have rather gotten nothing but a ‘Merry Christmas’ and a hug. All this did was cement the notion that they didn’t really know (or care about) me.”
“To be fair, it was a nice, decorative pick,” they continued. “I just don’t use picks, so it was kind of useless.”
Before you give several people the same gift, make sure that it makes sense.
“My very first Christmas with my husband’s family after we got married, we were all passing around gifts,” wrote I_Like_Knitting_TBH. “Most of his family very graciously gave us the standard newlywed gifts—dishes, towels, picture frames, etc.”
“But this one uncle. He fancies himself a media producer. He gave me (and all of the other women in the family, to be fair) a DVD that he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in, about how to be a good mother.”
“I know what you’re thinking: No, I did not have children at the time, nor was I even pregnant. No, he does not have children. No, he is not in the childcare/child development field. No, he did not notice the bewildered looks on any of our faces.”
“My husband is polite to a fault and would not let me re-gift it back to the uncle the following Christmas, even though my mother-in-law thought it would be hilarious.
Sometimes, the smallest gifts are the most meaningful.
Sometimes, however, they’re just…small.
“One Christmas, my mum gave me a little pair of tongs to squeeze tea bags,” wrote gazm2k5. That’s possibly the most British sentence we’ve ever read.
“I must have been like 16 or so at the time. Just for reference, we weren’t a poor family. The reason for no effort on [the] gifts was because me and my brother kind of stopped caring about that sort of thing as we got older, and we didn’t ask for anything.”
“But still, we were like, ‘Why would you even wrap this? What a cruel joke.’”
“To top it off, they sucked. The tongs bent when you tried to squeeze a tea bag.”
The takeaway: Everyone says that they don’t care about gifts—until they get something terrible.
The timing of a gift can make a huge difference.
“I got a bag full of plastic Cowboys and Indians figurines from KMart as a college graduation present,” wrote Freddy_Phuchtard. “Grandma never seemed to understand that I wasn’t 8 anymore.”
Granted, he appreciated the gift, but that didn’t make it any less demeaning.
“Yes, it was sweet of her,” he continued. “I loved Grandma to death, and I even kind of played with them when she came to visit. At the time, I really could have used some cash instead, as I was dead broke.”
Remember, if you’re getting a gift for a college graduate or young adult, cash is always a safe bet.
When you’re giving clothes, be sure to ask for a gift receipt.
“One Christmas, I only got clothes as gifts,” wrote A_GuyThatDoesStuff. “I like getting clothes, and I remembered the designs on them being amazing. Problem was, every article of clothing was too small for me, and none of them came with a receipt, so we couldn’t return/exchange them.”
“All those clothes ended up going to my little brother, and he got double the amount of gifts—while I had literally nothing. [It] put me in a sour mood, and my dad got mad at me for whining about my gifts. He said I wasn’t grateful, and I got sent to my room for the rest of the day. They brought me a small plate of food for dinner.”
“They were happy when I opened the gifts, and saw how happy I was to see them until I noticed their sizes. My family was always more ‘it’s the thought that counts’ rather than the gift. As a 12-year-old, though, I was salty I didn’t get any cool clothes that I could wear. I don’t hold a grudge, but that Christmas stands out in my mind.
When you’re a kid, you’ve got high expectations for Christmas morning.
“The year the Nintendo 64 came out, it was all [that] me and my brothers wanted for Christmas,” wrote mr_panzer. “We rented a system from Blockbuster every chance we got, and it came in these black carrying cases.”
Yes, this story is heavy on the ’90s nostalgia.
“Fast forward to Christmas morning, and one of these boxes is under the tree. We thought maybe my parents has gotten a used one or something, and we were beyond excited to open that puppy up.”
“We saw the tag was from our grandparents, who were very anti-video games. Maybe they came around, we thought. Maybe it’s a Christmas miracle.”
“We pop open the lid and sitting inside is…A typewriter. An electric typewriter. My grandfather thought we could use it to work on our typing skills. All three of us were devastated.”
Teenagers aren’t great at giving.
RamsesThePigeon explained that he doesn’t have much luck with gifts—at least, not when it comes to stuff he’s received from girlfriends. When he was 16, he was in his first real romantic relationship, but she wasn’t great at coming up with thoughtful, meaningful gifts.
“For example, during our first Christmas together, my then-girlfriend gave me a pair of hand weights, of the sort that might be held by an ’80s-era jogger wearing leggings. They had clearly been purchased from the bargain bin at the local thrift store…but I told myself it was the thought that mattered (even if I wasn’t sure that any thought had gone into the gift at all). Besides, we had only been dating for about three months, and it was probably unfair of me to expect anything more impressive than a peppermint-flavored candy.”
“Unfortunately, that gift set the standard for every other one I’d ever receive from the girl.”
“I need to pause for a moment and explain something about this young woman. Although she was vocally ambitious, she had almost zero patience for practice or preparation. Her idea of putting on a poetry performance, for instance, was to get up on stage and improvise while using a tone of voice that made it sound like she was reciting something.”
“That would have been fine, except for the fact that she was really bad at improvisation, and she had a tendency to lie about how much work she’d done on something. Please keep that in mind when I tell you this.”
“For my eighteenth birthday, this young woman—who was also, I should mention, completely tone-deaf—forced me to sit in a plastic folding chair for as long as it took her to ‘sing’ her way through three love songs by Elvis Presley. I hated Elvis at the time, and watching this girl attempt (and fail) to mumble her way through ‘Love Me Tender’ was as close to torture as I’d [ever] been.”
“Worse still, I had to sit back and pretend that I enjoyed it because, as she’d told me, she’d worked really hard on it.”
At least that gift came from the heart. This next story is pretty perplexing, even if you’re a huge fan of video games.
“A dude who liked me spent three hour playing video games, then gave me a beautifully wrapped VHS of himself playing video games for three hours,” RapidRash wrote in a now-deleted comment.
“He thought I would appreciate something he made, and went on about how deep and artistic he was compared to ‘all the other guys.’ The next day, he was offended that I hadn’t watched the dang thing because, like, it was my birthday, and I went out.”
When your significant other gives a terrible gift, it’s time to reevaluate the relationship.
“For Christmas last year, the guy I was dating had been telling me for weeks that he had gotten me the perfect gift, and that he was so excited for me to open it,” laurakates wrote.
“He gave me an electric shock collar for my dog—no, I had not asked for it—I had a Basset Hound puppy and no way in hell would I ever use it on him.”
The “him” in that sentence refers to the dog…we think. These types of stories make us wonder: What are these boyfriends thinking? Fortunately, we’ve got an answer.
“I have to admit to being a bad-gifting boyfriend a while back,” thescrounger wrote. “For Christmas one year, I got my girlfriend diamond earrings. She lost one of them down the sink drain.”
“By the time the next Christmas rolled around, there were a bunch of problems in our relationship, including that we were no longer living in the same state and I had nearly gone broke supporting her when she had been living with me. I had put off shopping literally until I was in the car heading to see her for Christmas.”
“I pulled into the outlet malls and started buying stuff. Ended up with an umbrella and a few other things. I have to say, she was gracious when she opened the gifts, but later on she said she knew it was over when I gave her an umbrella for Christmas after giving her diamonds the year before.”
Gift exchanges aren’t always a great idea.
“My family decided the adults would exchange names a few years ago so we could buy one person a nice gift,” meow_mom wrote. “My nephew and I got each other’s names. I bought him a hardback Stephen King novel, a shirt, and some other stuff. I got a $1 dish towel inside a $1 mug. [That was the] last time I exchanged names.”
“It wasn’t the cost of the gifts that bothered me, it was that there was zero thought put into it.”
But in some situations, awful “white elephant” gifts turn out to be pretty fantastic.
“During a white elephant exchange, a co-worker gave me a 50-lb. sack of rice,” glowcircuit wrote. “Everyone laughed hard, joked, and gave me tons of [trash] about carrying it home.”
“What they didn’t know (and the gifter did know) was that I was desperate financially and routinely went without any food. He fed me for four months. Thank you Skylar, I’ll never forget.”
This is the weirdest story involving footie pajamas that you’ll read today.
“My 21st birthday, I was having a really rocky relationship with my dad’s new wife,” wrote birdnerd1991. “She has a lot of great strengths as a person, but the fact is that dad married her and let her take over the house with no care as to how the kids felt—we literally cried at his wedding—so things are kinda tense always.”
“Anyway, half the time I don’t know if she’s well-meaning [but] coming off wrong or passively aggressively a jerk. She tends to tease about my career choice.”
In case you’re wondering, birdnerd1991 is an animator.
“For this birthday, she’s super excited and hands over a pair of footie pajamas. I hate footie pajamas. I don’t know where she would have gotten the idea that I would want them outside of her view of me as [having a childish career].”
“So, of course I think it’s a joke, right? A horrible joke, and I want to cry, but I go along with it even though I’m hurt. I start laughing [and saying] ‘Oh, wow, yeah, this really ties in to my wardrobe. Yes, now I can sit around eating candy and acting like a toddler!’”
“And my family is also laughing with me. Suddenly, the new wife bursts into tears and takes it away from me, saying that if I didn’t want it, I should have just said that.”
“Everyone, including me, is stunned. Me because I’m hurt, thinking it was a mean joke, my family because they thought it was a funny gift, and apparently she was ‘so sure’ this is what I wanted (she didn’t ask my dad, just assumed).”
“So she runs upstairs crying, and because I’m a wimpy baby, I’m crying too, and my dad has to sit there for a few awkward moments wondering who to comfort before he goes up to the new lady.”
Remember, kids: Open the box before you react.
“This was the worst gift I thought I received, and it has haunted me since,” wrote jmdavis333, “When I was around seven or so, I really wanted an Intellivision (yeah I’m old, by the way).”
For our younger readers, the Intellivision was an early home video game system released in 1979.
“That was the only thing I asked for Christmas from my dad—literally nothing else. He kept telling me he couldn’t afford it, and so I had to pick something else, but I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) come up with anything else.”
“Christmas morning rolls around, and there’s a huge box under the tree for me. I open it up, and lo and behold, it’s a diaper box. I swear I locked myself in my bedroom crying for an hour before he coaxed me out and forced me to open the box. Sure enough, there was the Intellivision. I still get a ration of [trash talk] from him over that.”
“Oh, my son keeps bugging me for a [Nintendo] Switch. I may hand down this torture—what do you think?”
In our opinion, it’s a good tradition to hand down. After all, childhood trauma is the gift that keeps on giving.