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Thoughts For Thursday: What People Divulge In Public

November 4, 2010 · 90 comments

in Life, Thoughts For Thursday

I am sitting in Starbucks right now, and it is truly a fascinating experience.  It is packed and loud, but I can very clearly hear the conversation next to me.

It appears one guy is trying to sell the other guy insurance.  I am hearing all about great insurance deals.  What I find so surprising is the amount of personal details they are both sharing in a public forum.  Sure, the basics of employment are being covered, but I am learning net worth, salary ranges, all kinds of things!  (A stalker would love to be eavesdropping right now!)

Why in the world would you discuss financial details in a public place???  Starbucks is hardly the place you go to for privacy.  It is like a giant echo chamber.  Maybe the insurance salesman works from home and has no office to meet clients at?  I don’t know, but it doesn’t make good business sense to me.  I know I would not do business with anyone that required me to discuss the private details of my financial life in a coffee shop.  I know that many companies are pushing more and more for people to work from home to save on overhead, but this is not a situation where I would recommend it.  Of course, I am reading a lot into this.  Maybe the salesman has a nice office, and it was the client that chose Starbucks.  (Dumb client if that is the case.)

Oh my, now the person sitting behind me just asked her friend if she can keep a secret…I had no idea that Starbucks could be so exciting! I could sit here all day and just keep updating this post!

Have you ever overheard conversations that you were shocked were taking place in public?  I am an admitted people-watcher, so I have seen all kinds of things.  For all I know, the person behind me is reading this post as I type it.  Good thing I never have anything scandalous to say!

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{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole November 4, 2010 at 8:27 am

Sometimes at restaurants the gossip at other tables is so interesting (really off the wall interesting… think divorces and affairs and family troubles etc.) that our conversation stops just so we can keep listening.

Of course, any time I go visit DH’s family in their small town I get the full soap opera update of that town’s happenings. (And I think… idle hands…)

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 11:28 am

Nicole, you are so right. You can almost always tell when someone is arguing and so on. I would like to say that I never try and listen, but I do… (don’t tell anyone… 🙂 )

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 4, 2010 at 10:28 am

This is very funny. I occasionally hear the drama of other people, but I try to deliberately tune it out. Sometimes I am not so successful. For example, in the scenario you describe above, I don’t know if I would have the will to block it out. I’m a pretty private person, so I’m also shocked at what people share publicly as well.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 11:29 am

Shawn, you are a better person than I am! If it seems interesting, I deliberately tune it in.

Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting such things??

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Invest It Wisely November 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

Haha. I sometimes do this too (though not as far as private financial details); I guess that people feel anonymous in a crowd full of strangers, but the truth is that they aren’t. 😉

Have you heard of the microphone that can pick a voice out of a stadium simply by “zooming in” on that voice? Pretty crazy stuff. Next time you think you’re enjoying anonymity in a large crowd… think again. Only a matter of time before some agency hooks that up to real time speech recognition software! :O

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 11:30 am

Kevin- I often wonder if someone is wearing the ‘Miracle Ear” contraption and can hear everything I say. I am sure if they had the technology you spoke of, they would definitely move on to the next person as they wouldn’t want to hear about my kids or whatever!

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etinca November 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

Not to mention what cell phone users will discuss in public.

And the level of personal detail included by some blog commenters & questioners. 🙂

One blogger posted today that along with a reader question he received an emailed attachment that was the reader’s credit report.

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Nicole November 4, 2010 at 11:30 am

I promise you that I am not currently commenting naked.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I am clothed too. I am even wearing a jacket!

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 11:31 am

Etinca- one of my biggest pet peeves is the cell phone in the bathroom, but that is a whole different story…

I try to keep my details somewhat quiet as a blogger, maybe because my details really aren’t that interesting. I definitely would not be sharing my credit report.

Anyone interested in my cholesterol numbers? 🙂

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beth November 4, 2010 at 11:34 am

Sounds like you had an entertaining morning!

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I heart Starbucks, surprisingly enough!

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Lola November 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I’m always amazed at what personal subjects people will talk about, even if they’ve just met you or are chatting fulll volume in a public place. I think it started from watching so many talk shows/reality shows on TV, and now with Facebook, Twitter, etc., a lot of people just roll out the information!

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Maybe everyone thinks they are on ‘Sex in the City’ or something? Actually, I don’t know if that even makes any sense since I have never once watched the show. Also, maybe you are right. With all the computer ability we have to share every tidbit of our exciting lives, people feel people want to hear it ‘real time’ in ‘real life’.

“Drinking my skinny latte”
“This banana bread is the BEST”
“Darn, a line for the bathroom”

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First Gen American November 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I mostly ran across this in airplanes, where people were discussing detailed customer information while prepping for a presentation on a plane.

I am guilty of doing this this week. I met with a customer in a coffee shop and we were talking strategy and stuff. The old couple in their 80s were sitting next to us was listening to the whole time and it didn’t even occur to us that they were listening or cared. Then the guy said he retired from one of the customers were were both talking about and was dying to tell his pre-retirement war stories.

I guess I’m more surprised that people care about what I have to say. Usually, I can tune it out.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:28 pm

You just inspired me Sandy for a post for next Thursday! (focusing on eavesdropping!)

By the way, I care what you say! 🙂

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First Gen American November 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

OOH, I’m intrigued.

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Lindy Mint November 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm

There’s a Starbucks in my town where “business gets done.” It’s always packed with people having important meetings. I go there twice a week to get my blogging done because it makes me feel like I’m important too.

I’ve overheard staff meetings where the members fight the whole time. I’ve listened people talking to their mom’s on the phone, divulging really personal things. I eavesdropped on the weirdest sales meeting for an hour and still had no idea what they were selling.

It’s one of my favorite things about this Starbucks – like walking into a real life soap opera.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:47 pm

It really can be fun, and I did get a lot done when I was there. Maybe I will go more often- I can be important too!

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Crystal @ BFS November 4, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I pretty much talk about anything almost anywhere, but even I know to talk quietly if I don’t want everybody to hear it. I would not take a business meeting at Starbucks though…I don’t mind talking salary in public, but I’d think less of the person who asked me to without thinking.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm

BFS – I am somewhat an open book, and there really isn’t ever much going on that I would need to whisper about that I can think of. Then again, I don’t talk super personal in public though. Maybe people will overhear how much I saved at the grocery store this week.

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Money Reasons November 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I use to people-watch a lot more, but lately I don’t quite as much.

However, if I were sitting where you were sitting, I would be listening too 🙂

I love stats and information like the scenario you were in…

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Maybe I will just ask all my Christmas presents be Starbucks gift cards and I can have free entertainment while hanging at Starbucks.

I admit, I am a listener…

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics November 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I have never shared private details about me in public, not even in the cell phone.

Yes, starbucks can be pretty exciting. All the starbucks I have frequented so far have been near a college, so most of the stuff I have overheard either made me smile or shake my head in disbelief hoping the kids will grow up soon. But I try to tune it out.

Friday evening restaurant conversations on the other hand are a whole another story. Somehow people get too loud after a few drinks on Friday evenings and the stories get wilder and wilder. Not always, but we have been unfortunate enough to hear about some “very” intimate details about a few middle aged women a couple of months ago. I have not mastered tuning that out yet.

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Oh goodness, I am probably to jaded to overhear a college conversation! It would take a lot of lip biting for me to keep my mouth shut.

It has been about 15 years since I have been at a Happy Hour, so I am missing out on a lot of interesting conversations.

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Squirrelers November 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm

I was at a restaurant late last year/early this year where a young woman in the booth next to me was talking with a friend, sharing details about two guys she was apparently “kind of” dating. This was very much along the lines of the Duke powerpoint story that was in the press recently, except this woman was just talking to her friends about similar details.

At first I was shocked, then I listened a bit because it was kind of funny at first, then was grossed about and felt bad for one of the guys being talked about.

I did my best to tune her out, though I also heard her complaining about a credit card company bothering her about her bill….which made it odd that she was going out to eat with that going on.

Clearly, she wasn’t the kind of girl one would bring home to meet the parents!

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Kris November 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Sounds like you were hanging out near a real prize Squirreler! Perhaps this gal was sharing too much information. Maybe she will get a book deal detailing her interludes and she will be able to pay off those credit cards.

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Financial Samurai November 6, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Cell phone people on buses and public places is the WORST!

What I do is repeat verbatim whatever they are saying and pretend like i’m taking notes! That shuts them up.

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Kris November 6, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Sam- I don’t know why people feel like they have to scream into their cell phone either.

The worst place for cell phones in my opinion though- the bathroom. Drives me insane.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial November 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Wow, you need to post more often from Starbucks! I hate when people do things like that – it’s almost as if they want to put you in an uncomfortable position!

I think the people yelling into cell phones are so rude. I wonder if they realize that they come equipped with microphones!

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Kris November 10, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I have been so tempted to go back to Starbucks and type some more, it was so fun!

I was on a conference call yesterday for work and the woman I was talking to was on a bluetooth. The guy in the cube next to her was talking so loud that I could barely hear the person I was talking to. I can’t imagine how loud this guy sounded to the person he was actually talking to. I wonder if people talk loud to seem important or because they are clueless.

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