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Author Topic: Overhearing a conversation  (Read 7128 times)

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Overhearing a conversation
« on: March 02, 2013, 06:39:58 PM »
If you are in a public place, and overhear someone saying that they're looking for something but can't find it, is it rude or polite to tell them where it is?
Today I was in the grocery store, and an older gentleman was commenting to his son that he wanted to get some sauerkraut.  He started looking for it, but was looking in the wrong places. I could tell, because I happened to be standing in front of the sauerkraut, which was on the lowest shelf, and not too easy to see. I know that it is normally polite to pretend as if you cannot hear the conversations of others in the aisle...but what about a situation like that, or one in which a person is looking at a map but saying they can't find a particular location? Is it impolite to offer the information they need?


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2013, 06:45:12 PM »
I don't think it's rude.  I've done it for others, and also appreciated it when someone helps me out by saying "Excuse me, the sauerkraut is here on the bottom shelf".


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2013, 06:47:52 PM »
I think this has come up in another thread, and there the general consensus was that if you're telling them something fact-based, it's not rude. If you're offering personal advice on what they should/shouldn't do (beyond product or service information), then it can come across as rude or nosy.


  • Grammando and Cupcake Lady
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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2013, 06:59:06 PM »
Nothing rude about that at all.

In the situation you described, I might add a "sorry, I'm blocking it." In the map situation, I might ask them if they need help.
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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2013, 07:05:01 PM »
I do it, I consider it being a good neighbor. Someone who gets offended by you overhearing them say "were are the Ritz Crackers" is going to be offended by anything you say or do.
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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2013, 07:11:05 PM »
Not rude at all.  I've done this, pointed out where something is located.  This actually happened a few weeks ago where the salesperson didn't even know what a certain item was, let alone where it was located.  I knew and told the person where to go.  This topic was actually brought up in the "Coffee Break" board.  You might want to see if you can find it.  You would probably be interested in people's experiences around this. 

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2013, 07:15:00 PM »
I hope it isn't rude.  I do the same thing all the time.  I grew up in a small town so more than likely, the person I was talking to at least knew my parents if they didn't know me.  I also chat while waiting in line at the checkouts, even now that I live in the city.  I've had quite a few strange looks from people who wonder why I'm talking to them.  But I've never had anything but a 'Thank you!' when I've directed someone to the product they were looking for.
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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2013, 07:20:40 PM »
I don't think it's rude and I've always appreciated when someone has done that for me.

I used to work in a grocery store and one time I was in "my" store doing a little shopping on my day off. I overheard someone mention they couldn't find an item and without even thinking I said "It's on aisle 7, about halfway down on the right, 2nd shelf from the top." They looked at me like  :o and I had to laugh and explain that I actually worked there and whipped out my "customer service" out of habit.  ;D


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2013, 07:27:22 PM »
I have appreciated receiving assistance from people who know better or might have different ideas.  I remember trying to find a specific ingredient.  I had never worked with it before and didn't even really know what it was.  I can't remember what it was called, but it was actually Cream of Wheat.  Who knew??  It's great to help each other out. 

JenJay, I'm laughing a the details you offered.  Last time I helped a person out, I just said it's in the area where they have the cooking utensils, somewhere near the coffee...or something to that effect. 


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2013, 07:38:18 PM »
I wouldn't think it's rude at all.  Personally, I like to get in to conversations with people at the grocery, etc.  It makes me feel connected to my community.

Need to Change

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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2013, 02:10:23 AM »
I've done it, and (thus far) have always been thanked for the info ... even if folks were startled at first.  What I don't do, is to go on and on about the item.  But if they want to continue the conversation (and if I'm in a good position to participate), that's great.


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2013, 09:57:09 AM »
When you overhear a factual question and know the proper answer, I think the polite thing to do is to provide it. 

We have a hospital in the neighborhood and often have bewildered people coming out of the Subway with bouquets of flowers.  The hospital is only about two blocks away but you can't see it when you emerge from the station.  At least once a week someone will need directions to the place.  Just about everyone chimes in when directions are asked. 


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2013, 10:29:44 AM »
POD the others, it's not really a private conversation and most people would appreciate the help.

rose red

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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2013, 11:50:52 AM »
I've done this several times.  Nobody seems to have a problem and always thank me.

One of those times, a woman was on the phone with someone who wanted a book.  She was scanning the shelves and I happend to know where the book was.  Since she was on the phone, I didn't want to interrupt so I simply handed it to her.  She started laughing and told the person on the other end what happened.  She seemed to get a kick out of some random stranger appearing out of nowhere and handing her what she wanted.


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Re: Overhearing a conversation
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2013, 12:51:22 PM »
My DH just did this the other day after over-hearing a guy comment to his son that it was impossible to know where anything was because of how the aisles were marked.  DH went up to them and said that he's there almost every day (true) and asked what they needed.  They were grateful. :)

I would be grateful if someone offered me help in that same situation too.