Thursday, January 04, 2007

Question Time

I was at a social gathering the other day when I was introduced to someone. “Where do you live?” she asked me. After I gave her the general area, her next question was “So how much rent do you pay?” After I finished spluttering over the samosa, I was wolfing down; I diverted the topic to how spicy the samosas were. After a few minutes of general chit-chat she remembered her original question “You didn’t tell me – how much rent you pay?” Its not as if I didn’t remember her question, its just that I found it way too inquisitive. I mean after all we had just met – you don’t know me from Adams and yet how much rent we pay is of such paramount importance.

At this time – hubby materialized from somewhere – and told her “well all put together our monthly outgoings works out to $ X” Not to be left unanswered she insisted, “and how much of that would be your rent?”

How does one avoid such a pointed question?

And then I thought – is it me? Am I too stuck up? I mean all she wants to know is the rent. But when she sees how I am avoiding telling her – she ought to give up, right?

Its not just rent – I have been queried on many such topics which are best left for intimate chats between friends – defi not casual conversations between people who have just met. Hubby shrugs it off with her “maybe she just wants to know the rent rates in our area” or “maybe she just wants to be friendly”. O sure – what better way to strike up friendship than to make me thoroughly uncomfortable?

Why just a few days ago – someone asked me “How much tax do you guys pay in a year?” Err exactly who are you – the IRS?

My friend C tells me of a time when they had just met someone who asked her hubby “so how big is your sales target?” knowing well that hubby’s pay is linked to sales target figures. She didn’t know how to answer that one either. Neither did I know what to tell random uncle S (who I meet once in 6 months) who asked me “so what’s your salary?”

How does one explain to people that some things are best kept out of public domain. That some questions can make the interviewee (after all thats what it is) rather uncomfortable. One question that I just didn't know how to handle, was when people heard I was getting married, they'd ask "so much does he earn?"

How does one handle people like that?

Or the other sort - who will tell you exactly how much they earn, save, pay. The look in their eye tells you - they are waiting for you to cough up your figures. its almost like they have set up some sort of barter exchange of information. Your reluctance to share only fuels their desire to know.

And then I wonder, if I am the one who is putting importance upon money issues - for the questioners this information is open for public discussion and isint of much personal importance. I mean, there are sites up on the net where people tell you of the deals they have struck, of their own accord.

So I am unable to resolve this one - should I just grit my teeth and tell the next questioner exactly how much rent we pay or should I just smile and ask "why? why do you want to know?"


At 6:20 PM, Blogger Orchid said...

"I mean after all we had just met" a general rule, I say stay away frOm such questions even if you have known them forever PEOPLE!!! but on more thought..maybe I would be o.k with the rent question, but if they ask me about the house I own then I cannot say I will feel the same if soemone asked me how much mortgage I pay (even though it is still related to living expenses) I just think this is such a tricky to stay away..well if you were cornered, you could politely say I would rather not answer that and smile :)

At 7:17 PM, Blogger noon said...

I have come across these types. I didn't mind it as a student because we all pretty much know exactly how much financial aid a RA or TA gets and everyone is on the lookout for a good deal. But when you are living as a married couple or are working I think it is not nice to ask such questions...esp if you are meeting the person for the first time. And goodness it is really bad if they don't automatically get the hint and keep pressing on without any shame. Like it is their right to know. I really always think of saying "Why do you need to know?" But I just can't get it out of me at that moment. I find that even when people who are not close to you ask you your age or are obviously curious and along with these sort of questions ask you which year you finished high school! I do think people who are overly inquisitive need to be given a straight answer - why do you ask? or do you have to know?...but hard to be blunt really.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I'd respond to the rent question with a question, "Are you thinking of moving to the area?" If they genuinely are (watch the body language), then answering would probably be alright.

Whenever anyone asks how much we make, I tell them "Enough to live on." It's lighthearted, but it gets the message across to drop the subject.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous NZ said...

Happy New Year to you, STS :-)

Good post. I identify with Alan's comment on this one. I don't mind the rent/house price question for the same reasons as his. And have never been asked about my salary when I was in work force, it would have been tricky for me to answer it :-)
The only reason I don't like such curiosity is that even if you are being honest, the other person might think that you are trying to show-off, they forget that they asked the question, I didn't volunteer it.

At 2:21 AM, Blogger artnavy said...

I completely agree with alan's comment

But it is difficult when someone is very direct and intrusive to have that kind of patience

At 4:52 AM, Blogger That Armchair Philosopher said...

hmm, I agree on all the point above - such questions have made me rather uncomfortable in the past. and I've also observed the fact that a majority of the askers have been Indian. But the main reason I don't answer is .. I don't know what the main reason is.

Just to be completely naive once - why would you not want to tell another person how much you earn? I'm not saying you should to every random person on the street - but in general - why? Its not like they're going to judge you (would they?). Nor can they possibly cheat you out of something? Company confidentiality?

I understand privacy issues - but there has to be a reason behind it. As noon mentioned, if you're in an industry at a particular level - people have a rough idea anyway.

So why not tell?

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Tharini said...

I honestly don't see why it would have been hard to answer the question. It was an easy enuff q to asnwer (setting aside whether she 'needed' to know or not), and maybe that wud have been end of topic.

Now you discovered how annoying she cud be with her repeated attempts at it! :)

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Sanjay said...

Is it possible she wanted to know cos maybe she was thinking of renting there?
One way to deflect it would be to ask, if she was planning on looking for a place to live.
And then give her a general range?
Thats probably what I would do.
I have been asked how much I make and blah..blah.
My reply is simple.. That information is not in the public domain.
BTW is this a desi thing wanting to know info like this?

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Has to be me said...

Firstly happy new yr 2 u! Thanks 4 ur wishes in my blog!

Regd this post, I exactly now what u r talking of. Coincidentally, I was also wanting to blog abt this! The way ppl ? u abt things like this...esp ppl whom v just met! Absolutely crazy! I cant stand such ppl!

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Fuzzylogic said...

I have encountered such questions many times,the rent thing usually I don't mind answering but salary and tax returns wth?I don't think its anyone's business to be really getting so inquisitive and not even if they happen to know me well and least of all if they don't even know me.Usually I am not rude but I smile and avoid it by saying "My company certainly wouldn't like to let out their secrets" or something on those lines.But if they keep persisting then I usually put my foot down and directly say what I feel.Most of the times once you don't tell them people usually get the message and keep quiet.But I agree these people can be such pain!

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Something to Say said...

orchid: but where does one draw a line? I mean what kind of questions are ok and what are not? You're rite - maybe even she thot - after all - its only rent. May be I was being too uptight.

noon : and its really really hard for me to be blunt.

alan: After many such questions - thats the answer i finally honed on - "enough to keep me well-stocked with perfumes and lipsticks" for the income question.

At 12:26 AM, Blogger Something to Say said...

nz: You've been a lucky lady, nz if people havent prodded you such. Show-off. I dont know. I just think its inappropriate.

art: patience - yes probably that the key - and keeping such answers ready :)

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Something to Say said...

TAP: The reason i wouldnt tell - is because the next thing I know - my back is turned and there is a bunch of women discussing how much I earn. trust me - its happened. behind another woman's back i got to know the exact length of her C-Section scar - info i wasnt looking for - but was given.
Besides my whole point - I dont feel comfortable telling people such stuff - and that should be reason enuff.

tharini: I guess the trick lies in having a few of these general oneliners to either throw off the questions of grit your teeth and answer.

Sanjay: I believe it is a desi thing. coz invariably its desis wanting to know...then again why generalise against our own fraternity?

has to be me: thanks and to you too. great minds thinking alike or fellow sufferers? ;)

fuzzy: oo pain is the right word

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Coffee said...

I can truely relate to what you have written !!!!!!! And Have been wanting to post about it too!!!!! But yes, I am not too comfortable parting out with personal info as these. And how do I handle it??? Try giving blur ans as mentioned by some of the people over here and then when it goes beyond the limit, just be blunt!!!!! Check my post when I write about it :)

At 3:33 PM, Blogger @ said...

Each of us has our acceptable as Orchid said, rent is ok, but mortgage is not...for me, any of these money related qs are out of bounds. Unless I volunteer that information.

Some responses (depending on the person) I would give to the rent q are:
*"Too much!! How much do you pay?"
If you get a direct answer, then, "yea, I pay somewhere around that"

*"This apartment complex charges in the range of $x-$y..are you going to move" and if yes, then "you should call the rental office, they have some good deals at certain times"

*"I got a good deal/I got screwed - so my answer won't give you a fair estimate - why do you want to know anyway?"

If the person is insistent and if you are persistent on dodging, I would finally end it with "you know what, I am not too comfortable discussing money matters..." and change the topic.
I don't have a problem shutting the door when I have to.

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous OrangeJammies said...

i couldn't even wait to read through the entire post before screaming "Yes!!!! I so totally know this feeling!!!" I've blogged about it in "Space"... and continue to face a barrage. The last wedding I was at had an "auntie" I don't ever recall meeting describe her daughter's gynaecological disorder to me in gory detail and I listened in horror as she cheerily told me about the buckets of blood her body threw a WEDDING, for Christ's sake! Aaaargh!

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Usha said...

I am surprised that people do that where you live. It is not done so obviously in big cities even here!hm..
May be you could make up a joke about people who do this (russel peters style) so that they get the point?

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Twisted DNA said...

Ah, the omnipresent Curious Georges! I completely understand your frustration. I have been in many situations like this...very frustrating. I don't mind sharing the information.. I hate the follow up questions.
"How much mortgage do you pay"
"What!? what is your interest rate?"
"You didn't refinance last year? We got the best rate when we did it in March."
And so on...

Anyway, what I found works is humor :) I keep answering the questions with annoying jokes until they get the hint.

"How much mortgage do you pay?"
"Who knows, I take my pay check and give it to them"
"How much would that be?"
"After tax deduction it comes to about $12."

I know the jokes are not funny but the idea is to diver the question.

May be I should stop writing whole posts in comments section ;)

At 1:35 PM, Blogger the mad momma said...

well we have that Q all the time because we have a lovely home that we got at a throwaway rent and most ppl cant believe that we can afford it so young... we honestly give the right rent because it would be snooty to let them think its what the rest of the area pays!

but i completely agree with you that it is an inappropriate question and the only reason i answer honestly is because i cant muster up the courage to tell them to buzz off.

finally, i think ppl often want to know because they like to speculate on your income depending on your rent.. i think its a cheap thing to do.

At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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