NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — A gift is supposed to make someone smile, not cringe. But while no one wants to give a clunker of a present, it happens, especially when one person isn't thinking clearly.

"I don't think there's actually such a thing as a bad gift, but rather a bad match," says Kathryn Wagner, senior content manager for

While that may be true often, some gifts are bad no matter what way you look at it — for example, would you want to unwrap someone's unpaid bills? We interviewed seven people willing to share their bad gift stories and included some advice on how to avoid being that terrible gift giver.

A stepladder for a short person

Lauren Thom, owner of Fleurty Girl New Orleans, once received a stepladder from her boyfriend, apparently so every time she struggled to reach a high shelf she could think of her significant other.

"Being 4'11 is hard, but a step ladder?!" recalls Thom.

Short people know they're short; giving them something like a stepladder, claw grabber or platform shoes can be seen as insulting. Instead, think of the things this person likes. has a personality gift-finding tool you can use to narrow down what a particular person might want. Amazon also has a gift central page for recommendations.

A tight, leopard print mini dress

While grandma's socks might not be the most anticipated gift under the tree, at least they can hide underneath shoes if they're ugly. Buying clothes for someone is always a risk. Even if you get the sizes right, there's still the style to think of.

When Amanda Beck, a research chemist, unwrapped a gift from a relative one year, she was staring at something she knew she would never wear: "a short, tight mini dress that was black, red and leopard print," says Beck. "It was something Kelly Bundy would wear, not Scarlett Johansson."

Given that fashion is such a high-risk gift, it's probably better to just buy your loved one a gift card at their favorite retailer.

Your unpaid bills

Getting rid of some debt might be something you ask of your closest relative, not during a friendly gift exchange game. But it was during a session of White Elephant that this faux pas gifting occurred. For some reason, Wes Stubblefield's girlfriend at the time decided to wrap some debts.

"She wrapped her unpaid bills: her electric bill, her gas bill, etc," recalls Stubblefield, an IT professional. "So when [a person at the gift exchange] picked his gift it was her unpaid bills. Everyone in the room was like, 'WTF?'" Also, the game had a $10 limit on gifts, so the debts were the most expensive things on the table. "I think she was just broke as hell and thought it might be funny," he says.