Column: Everything you never wanted for Christmas


At some point, we’ve all received a gift that hasn’t exactly jingled our bells. And, let’s admit it, most of us have given those disappointing gifts as well on occasion — usually unintentionally. We figured it would be more fun to run a column about bad gifts than good ones. So in the spirit of the holidays — and in the hope it will make readers feel a little better about the gifts they give and receive this year — we’ve compiled a brief list from staff members of gifts they didn’t want but got anyway and presents they gave that were, well, less than welcome.

Grant Parpan
executive editor

It was Christmas Day 1987 and all my 8-year-old heart desired was Michael Jackson’s “Bad.”

My parents didn’t wrap gifts back then, so when my brother and I walked into the living room around 6 a.m. — we had no patience. My eyes immediately scanned the room for a cassette tape.

I remember seeing some boxes of baseball cards and other sports-related gifts. First, we had to open our stockings — one pack of gum at a time, so my mother could document every moment with her camera.

As I reached into the stocking, I felt a tape. I lifted my arm as quickly as I could, only to learn it wasn’t “Bad” they had bought me. It was Rick Astley.

“Who the heck is Rick Astley?” I asked.

Months later, after I had cast the casette aside for a while, I noticed it in my dad’s car.
Turns out, he really bought it for himself — and I became the first person ever “Rick Rolled.”

Mike White

I pulled my worst-ever Christmas gift out of a garbage bag in 1988.

Of course, among adults, terrible grab-bag gifts can be hilarious. For a child, however, they’re disastrous.

For what felt like hours, I sat among my fellow Cub Scouts, watching wide-eyed as the other boys pulled big, wrapped presents from the bag. When it was finally my turn, just two gifts remained.

I grabbed the wrong one.

My eyes welled when I saw it: A tiny flag with a pen Scotch-taped to it. What’s worse, it was the same flag given out to us at the Veterans Day parade the month before. So it was used!

My parents tried to reason with me as I cried and the others played with their toys. They said I’d make whoever put that gift in the bag feel bad.

But I kept crying. I wanted people to see what they had done to me.

Joseph Pinciaro
managing editor

Christmas 2009 was the year of the robe, the worst gift I’ve ever given.

For reasons that are partly reasonable but mostly selfish, getting Christmas presents was the last thing on my list that year.

I thought my dad would like a robe. And surprisingly, Target was sold out of pretty much all of them except those sized XXL. I guess I said to myself, “They’re supposed to be loose, right?”

Needless to say, my dad — who, in case you were wondering, is not an adult film star — was perplexed when he opened it. He thought it was a joke, but luckily was good-hearted enough to laugh when he realized it actually was a real gift.

He gave it back to me as a present the following year. Now, each year, someone in my family gets the robe as a gag.

I guess I bought the gift that keeps on giving.

Tim Gannon
staff writer

I regularly try to get a bad gift each year for the “give a gift, take a gift” portion of our company’s annual holiday party.

My bad gifts — which have included things like beef jerky, a Betty White calendar and a do-rag — are accompanied by a note indicating the recipient has selected the “joke gift” and should pick a second gift, since I also buy a regular gift each year.

The joke gift should be something that will make the recipient mutter, “What the [bleep] is this crap?” when they open it.

This year, there was no joke gift, because nothing met my criteria. But I did buy two boxes of candy.

However, nobody selected them. So I took them back, ate all the good ones and put the rest by the office water cooler, where Times-Review staffers devoured them immediately.<z$>

Cyndi Murray
staff writer

Last year, my mother got me a maternity shirt for Christmas.

I wasn’t pregnant.

Aside from my initial thought that I might have had one too many helpings of stuffing at Thanksgiving and this was my mom’s way of suggesting Weight Watchers as a New Year’s resolution, there was something else that made the moment more cringe-worthy for me.

Or someone, I should say.

It was also was the first time my boyfriend celebrated Christmas with my parents. As you might imagine, he took the maternity shirt as a different sort of hint — my mother suggesting we have children after six months of dating.

My mom maintains the gift was an accident and that I am neither fat nor under pressure to get pregnant any time soon.

In fact, I still wear the shirt today and have received quite a few compliments on it.

In the words of “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn: “Make it work.”