*Some More Responses For Nosy People*
From: The Rubicon Message Board
Compiled by: ThePiedPiper

27 September 2005

AFarmer, Ahab, Arkit2, Eagle1, eXe, Hayseed, Kailyst, Kurnas56, Moriah, MsTrish, Murph, MVolk, Myndtryp, Peanut, Renegade, Rhino, Rustyknife, Shogun, ThePiedPiper, Uplandhillfarm, and Wylycoyte

Awhile ago, ThePiedPiper wrote an article called Ten Explanations for Nosy People. She shared some answers she has used in response to nosy people who have questioned her about things she has bought in stores. Why is this important? Because if people know you have supplies, they’ll beat a path to your door in an emergency. And if you aren’t forthcoming, they may very well take it from you.

Recently, in the membership side of the Rubicon, Hayseed started a new discussion on this topic and some new ideas emerged. Our guiding principle for the discussion was how to deflect a questioner rather than answer his or her questions directly. Our goal was to share some of the ‘untactics’ we have used to avoid answering the questions while making ourselves as unmemorable as possible.

Why be unmemorable? We believe it prudent to limit how much others know about our level of preparedness. The more they know, the more likely others will know. And in tough times, people will be showing up at our doors with their hands out…or worse.

In essence, we have accumulated here some misinformation that deflects the questions while leaving us as unmemorable as possible so as to reduce the risk later on. Some of our ploys are funny. Some are pitiful. Some are politically incorrect. We make no excuses because here, first and foremost, we strive to survive.

Wylycoyte used to try to avoid questions whenever possible, but that only made people more suspicious, so he started making up innocuous cover stories instead. Finding a "hook" and asking people questions in return is a great way to go about doing things as well. He says he has a friend who is a master of this who almost always manages to get people to spill far more about themselves than he shares about his own plans. If someone asks him about camping or whatever, he quickly has them talking about all the camping trips they've taken, or steers them onto some other topic and lets them chatter away.

How could we put this tactic into operation? Here’s a sample discussion one might have. Let’s assume you have 16 canisters of propane, 20 quarts of Parmalat, and 100 cans of vegetables in your cart.

Nosy Person (NP): Say, that’s a lot of stuff you have there.

Rubie: Yeah, we’re doing a big campout. I have to bring these things. Do you do much camping?

NP: I’ve camped occasionally. Do you really need that much propane?

Rubie: I can’t even imagine needing half of this, but they gave me the list so I’m faithfully buying what’s on it. You said you’ve camped. I’m looking for a good private camping area. Do you know of a good place that has a river or stream nearby? I’m looking for a good place to camp with just a few people rather than a whole group.

NP: Uh, well, I like camping down south along the South Fork. How many people will be in this group?

Rubie: I don’t know how many—I’m just one of the shoppers—but apparently it’s something like a couple hundred or something. I’ve only seen a couple of places along the South Fork, but there is this one nook where I saw people catching a lot of fish not far from where 340 crosses down there. Of course, I don’t want to camp where I can hear cars all the time. I really want to be able to fish at a campsite, so that’s really a key factor for me, but I want it really quiet, you know? Do you know anything about fishing that river? I need some help with what baits to use. I love to fish, but I have a lot to learn on the subject.

You can see how easy it might be to get people to start talking about themselves or about something they enjoy. Before you know it, you’ve spent a few minutes of pleasant chat. If you’re remembered at all a week later, it’s because you were a nice guy who loves to camp and fish but you’re a beginning angler at best.

Kailyst takes a similar approach, but actually deflects questioners to other shoppers, commenting on what the guy in the next aisle is buying. She gets these people wondering why that gentleman might need four gallons of milk. Kailyst and others have said they’ve acted like a ‘ditz’ also. It may set feminism back several years, but most of us agree that having a secure supply of food is more important than making a political statement while grocery shopping.

Ahab used his nephew to deflect questions. When the cashier stuck her nose in his business, asking why he was buying so many medical supplies, he answered: "I have a nephew that's really into rock climbing and he didn't have any first aid kit, it's a present." As Ahab pointed out, deflecting the usage to a third-party helps to remove you from being the point of interest. ThePiedPiper recently encountered this same issue while buying extensive medical supplies. She said she decided to take advantage of the post-Katrina events so that when, predictably, several asked about so many medical supplies, she told them her search and rescue group “down south” had decided they needed some fine tuning in light of Katrina’s aftermath and would be training the following week. She commented further that the cashier shouldn’t be surprised if she came back in a week or two to buy the same items, to replenish the stocks they were about to use in the training blitz.

Arkit2 takes a more sophisticated approach with a multi-level approach to shopping problem solving. He tells nosy people he is a buying agent for a reseller (he shops for small restaurants that do not have the time to do so). When shopping for ammunition, he comments on his three lazy brothers making him pick it up. When stores have a limit on something per customer, he deploys his entire family, each of whom picks up the maximum permitted amount of the item. He has even feigned deafness or inability to understand and speak English when nosy people have persisted. He travels to different stores and breaks up his purchases. eXe does this with ammunition as well, though he’s more inclined to buy online these days.

Peanut also deploys multiple members of her family to shop. But when she is buying something like sugar in bulk, she’ll blame it on her husband’s surprise purchase of several bushels of peaches which, of course, necessitates sugar for making jam. As MsTrish and Eagle1 have noted, however, for bulk purchases of sugar, flour and large cans, Costco, BJs and such stores are ideal. Everyone buys lots of things there, and no one bats an eyelash at a huge purchase. MsTrish also likes to use the self-checkout lanes so there are no nosy cashiers asking questions. Shogun has a warning, however, for those who live in small towns and buy sugar in bulk: most old time country people have spent a lifetime stocking up, but if it’s sugar, word will get around that you’re running a still. He tries to buy his bulk purchases away from his home area. Ahab has also mentioned that, if you buy very many of the large half-gallon Ball jars, people may assume you have a still.

Peanut shared another useful ploy with us that had several of the other women agreeing immediately. She can turn the conversation to men and how they do things that are sweet but they don’t realize their gestures necessitate more work. Similarly, men can turn the conversation to women and how they always seem to want lots of something or other. Moriah admits that this has been a useful ploy as well. ThePiedPiper even emphasized being female when she was picking up 600 rounds of 7 and 8 shot one day. Three people asked her why she needed so much and she truthfully told them she had just come face to face (she had the pictures to prove it was REALLY face to face) with a timber rattler and she was going to wipe out the entire rattler population on her mountain or die trying. Everyone laughed and just shook their heads, muttering ‘women.’

Moriah often tells nosy people she is doing her monthly shopping run for her in-home daycare group. She has found another creative story that really hits home, particularly in small towns and blue collar towns…she says her husband is in construction and some weeks are good while some aren't, so she stocks up a little when the good checks come in. She comments that the clerks always smile knowingly at this one and then the conversation shifts to a mutual acquaintance’s brother being out of work all of last month or a similar point of discussion

Uplandhillfarm takes the victim’s approach to answering nosy questions. Sometimes, his home has suffered a fire or leak, requiring wholesale replacement of pantry contents. Sometimes it was a nasty thief at fault, or a mother in law with a huge appetite. Sometimes it’s just his picky wife who wants all new things for their new home. And sometimes his father in law gets the blame for trying to fix something, only to make things worse. Note that it’s always the in-laws. Uplandhillfarm would no doubt tell you that these stories are far more plausible than telling the same stories using his own parents. He also notes that commenting on the huge quantities of food three teenage boys can consume in only two days is a highly plausible point of discussion. Of course, he has some fallback stories like cooking for the football team. But we had to give the guy extra points for creativity here.

Renegade and Kurnas56 had a great idea though some may find that this falls in the politically incorrect category. They suggested telling questioners that you are purchasing items requested by churches or other groups. Some of these organizations do want perishable food items. You wouldn’t want to identify anything local because some might inquire further with that very group if it’s local. So if you use this one, think “Shrek” -- think of a group far far away. Renegade also suggests you could say you are donating the items to a food pantry, or to the local humane society. Use your judgment here, as some people may be associated with those very groups, particularly in smaller towns. Renegade further suggested turning the focus of the conversation to the importance of giving and the importance of these organizations. This is a great idea. Not only does it deflect further curiosity—it may actually cause others to give! Kurnas56 also warns that some people are persistent, even in cities, so one must take care not to lose patience with these folks.

Rustyknife also uses charity as a reason, but has hit upon another interesting ploy: sometimes he says he is sending the items to a brother in Alaska because it is cheaper to buy the items in the lower 48 AND ship it than it is to buy the items up there. Sometimes he and his wife will take two shopping carts and split the shopping list, using different checkout stations. They have even gone so far as to have one sit in the car while the other shops, and then switch.

When MVolk gets questions about quantities he buys, all he has to do is mention 5 kids at home and that pretty much answers anyone’s curiosity. ThePiedPiper does the same thing with eleven cats when people question all the cat food she buys. AFarmer turns this on its side and simply says she only buys her dogs’ food twice a year so she stocks up when she does it. Sometimes, the truth is a great answer that doesn’t clue in others that you’re stockpiling. So even if you don’t have those five kids or eleven cats, think about using this idea. If you do have that many kids or pets, no one will know you’re buying extra. To most people, a lot is A LOT, and if you tell them you will use those seventeen bags of food in two weeks, they’ll likely believe you.

eXe and Myndtryp use truth with a twist. eXe lives 60 miles from a city, so if people get too nosy, he tells them that snow often blocks roads in the winter, so he has to keep supplies for those occasions. In his area, it’s plausible. In fact, many in areas like his likely prepare similarly but don’t even consider it preparedness. They just do it because they’ve learned the hard way or learned from others. Myndtryp uses a similar story—he tells people he lives out in the country and only comes in to shop once a month. Because he shops far enough from his home, no one there knows him.

As Rhino points out, the options are limited only by your imagination. He uses boyscout trips, block parties, and golf outings as some of his reasons for buying so much. In the article she wrote earlier here in the Rubicon, ThePiedPiper talked about fly-ins, campouts and family reunions. Rhino is absolutely right—use your imagination.

Rhino summed it up nicely: “The ones that worry me are the ones that will just notice and pay closer attention. If you give them a plausible story they can wrap their minds around, it keeps them from making up their own stories or remembering you.” People who think your 50 pounds of chicken is being cooked up that week for the family reunion won’t necessarily even think of that buyer three weeks later. The story is plausible and the chicken’s gone (at least in their minds). But the guy who resented the inquiry and told the questioner to shut up and mind her own business is very memorable…and no doubt featured prominently in a discussion with other folks.

These ideas are not limited to shopping. Murph, knowing that certain foods are shipped to restaurants in mylar bags, has collected many of these bags under the guise of helping out on a boyscout project. ThePiedPiper has similarly obtained dessicants from motorcycle shops this way.

It may not seem like a big deal right now, but people do notice and people talk. The less they talk about you, the better off you are, particularly on the subject of your stuff. So have some stories ready and consider just nicely deflecting the discussion. You may be remembered as that nice golfer, that guy with the big family or the cat lady. But that’s a lot better than being remembered as the one who has all those supplies.
The Rubicon Members

All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2005 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.