You already have something in mind, don’t you? From the second you read that title, you flashed on a particular item from your past. Maybe it wasn’t Christmas. Maybe it was a birthday or anniversary or another festive occasion. But everyone has been there: opening a present in quiet disbelief at just how wrong the giver, no matter how well-intentioned, got it. Here’s a look at some historically bad gifts, along with input from some of our readers as to some of the unfortunate things that they’ve received. (Feel free to join in with yours in the comments below.) And now, on Dasher, on Dancer, on to the Return Counter . . .
10. Anything Scatalogical
In the study of bad gifts, it’s shocking how much gross-out gifts are mentioned, particularly things that are fashioned to look like litter boxes. Literally no one wants this. It’s never been funny. Just stop.
9. Useless Accessories
A phone charger might sound like a decent small gift in practice, but not an iPhone charger for an Android user. This runs in the valley of knowing the person for whom you’re shopping. What might seem convenient to you might not apply to the other person at all. This is related to another bad idea: buying someone a video game without knowing which system they have.
8. Scented Candles
From allergies to sensitivity to just plain taste, this just begs too many difficulties. Plus, it’s extremely generic. Just ask any teacher.
7. Just Any Book
Just because you know that someone likes to read, that doesn’t mean that you should just grab any book. It’s also a bad time to try to consciously change someone else’s taste. “Hey, I know that you said that you don’t read horror novels because you have anxiety and live alone, plus you hate camping, so I bought you Jack Ketchum’s Off Season.”
6. Insensitive Gifts
This falls in the category of “think before you buy.” Children’s items for people without kids? No. A scale? No. Gloves for a person with one hand? This has actually happened, and yes, it’s terrible.
5. Actual Health Hazards
It’s one thing to get a bunch of treats for the kids. It’s another thing to do it without a strong consideration of allergies or other issues. This category would also include things like that could be particularly dangerous, like chemistry sets, BB Guns, or actual samurai swords. It’s one thing for a parent to decide that’s cool, it’s another thing for someone else to buy something like that.
Yes, it’s a holiday tradition for some reason. But why? Is eating this some kind of Christmas gang initiation? “You had fruitcake, Tommy, so you can be one of Santa’s Elves now.”
Note well: fuzzy socks can be fine. Character socks for a fan of a thing can be fine. But a big bag of white socks? You should have gotten them the scale.
What someone else wears under their pants is not for you to decide.
Sometimes, it’s okay to not get something for a person. In fact, the default position should be that you shouldn’t get a gift for someone unless you mean it. However, it’s definitely not okay to buy gifts for all the kids but one at your family gathering. If you’ve done that, give yourself a lump of coal.
But don’t just take it from the Post. Here are some of the responses we received via social media for the question, “What’s the WORST Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten?” (Some responses have been edited for clarity.)
- MY grandma used to give us super ugly fluorescent tube socks. Every year.
- My grandma got me soap on a rope one year.
- A bright orange, leopard print, sequined shirt from my secret Santa.
- I had a relative who was business salesman who basically sold branded office supplies to other businesses. (Like pens, paperweights, etc.). All he ever gifted was pens, tape dispensers, and stuff as gifts.
- It was a beautiful necklace, but my mother explained it with: it’s a virginity necklace! I’m so proud you made it 18 years and still have your purity. This was in front of…a lot of people. Including a few of my friends. At the time I was MOR-TI-FIED, but over the years I just laugh about it .
- A vacuum cleaner and…a “Buns of Steel” video. Both unsolicited. Um…thanks?
- My wife got used underwear from her grandma. 100% true story.
- My parents legit put coal in my stocking on more than one year.
- My step-grandmother got me like 5 matching sweatsuits when I was 13 and nothing else. They weren’t even the right size. She hated me, so I’m guessing they were cheap.
- I asked for a Beatles record and received “The London Philharmonic Orchestra Plays the Beatles.” It might have been good — but it was most assuredly not what I wanted.
- I got an “As seen on TV” French fry crisping basket once from someone.
- I went to a new school in third grade, and our class did a secret Santa that year. I was SO excited about it and put so much effort into my gift. Then, this girl I didn’t really like much came up to me on the playground and said she drew my name, then demanded to know what I liked. First of all, I was disappointed that she’d spoiled the surprise, but then she also had the audacity to use the excuse that “my parents don’t have much money this year,” even though her mother was a LAWYER. Sure enough, I opened my present that year to find a Dr. Seuss book that was covered in pen marks. Rude.
- My grandma once gave me a Christmas card with nothing in it when all the other grandkids got money in theirs.
- A package of dental care stuff from my first mother-in-law. That family was so damned passive-aggressive that to this day I honestly don’t know if she just thought toothbrushes and flossers were a good gift, or if she was trying to make some kind of hint about my teeth.
- A vacuum…my first year of marriage…from my new hubs.
- A white mock-turtleneck dickie. I’m pretty sure I was 12 or 13. It came from an aunt-by-marriage.
- I got a used shoeshine kit from the 1970s one year. Most gifts from them came from random lots they bought at auctions, so I guess it could have been worse. That’s not the worst gift I’ve ever gotten–one of our wedding “gifts” takes the cake for that. My aunt and uncle got us a bible. On the front of it was embossed “The Phelp’s family”. Her maiden name was Phelps. She literally misspelled her own maiden name. I have a circle of friends who call me Phelp because of that stupid bible…including my wife.
- My cousin got a used “365 Hot Dog Recipes” cookbook from her sister-in-law one year.
- Meeting my girlfriend’s stepmom’s mom for the first time and their gift to me was tire cleaner. I didn’t even own a car.
- Beautifully handcrafted jewelry that I absolutely cannot wear because of my (to the maker AND gifter) well-known nickel allergy. They knew about it years ahead of time and still I got nickel-heavy stuff.
- A girlfriend in high school got me the abridged, paperback version of The Stand after I had just spent a month reading the hardcover, unabridged version of The Stand right in front of her.
- When I was a kid, my aunt gave me the same sweater she got me for Christmas the year before.
- I got a mini bike from my parents when I was 11. Sounds like a great gift right? They never let me ride it, “it’s too dangerous” was all I ever heard. What was the point of the gift? To teach me about disappointment?
- I told my step-grandmother that I liked art and painting and she knew what I meant because she’s seen my art. When Christmas comes around and I open my ONE present from her, it’s literally a box of crayons and a 200-piece puzzle. I acted thankful but it was a little humiliating.
- I loved Kraft macaroni and cheese when I was a kid. My grandmother got us a case of generic macaroni and cheese that was terrible.
- A wishbone. (Writer’s Note: I really wanted to know more, but it’s probably best to let that lie.)
- My in-laws got me a frying pan and a toilet seat.
- One of my parents gave [my girlfriend] an enormous book of bird calls, complete with a speaker filled with 200+ recorded bird calls. It was… certainly memorable!
- A paper doll. I was 15.
- I got a fishing knife (I don’t fish) from my ex who then exclaimed that he had always wanted that fishing knife.
- I received a bright yellow Mickey Mouse poncho when I was in high school. I was too embarrassed to wear it. A few months later at one of my soccer matches, I noticed my father wearing it along the sidelines, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
- A box of Stay-Free Maxi-Pads from my Grandma on my 13th Christmas. I opened it in front of people… I hadn’t got my period yet.
- (in response to above) I came here to say this, only my gift was a box of tampons. I was 12.)
Featured image: Shutterstock
Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now