Social Question

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

What should I do about the guy who hangs out in local establishments without purchasing anything?

Asked by Pied_Pfeffer (28034points) August 22nd, 2015
22 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

There is a male that is cropping up in the local establishments that is questionable. I’ve spotted him twice camped out in a McDonald’s acting antsy and being loud – talking to himself, drumming fingers, etc.. No purchase was made.

He must be in his late 20’s or early 30’s, casually dressed and always towing a tote bag on rollers. Today, I saw him coming out of a gas station and attempting to cross the 7-lane road (not at an intersection) towards the McDonalds. The gas station attendant said that he entered the building, used the restroom and left without making a purchase. She added that she had creepy vibes about him.

Should I ever see him again, should I approach him and make conversation? He might just be a harmless character that could possibly use some help. Should I alert the manager of the establishment and let them deal with it? Call the police to make a report? Just let it go?

I’d like to do the right thing.

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Judi's avatar

I would probably let the management know that you noticed it, but ultimately he is their problem and they are probably more than aware. Sounds like he might be mentally ill. That doesn’t make him dangerous, but then again, your gut instinct is there for a reason. DON’T confront HIM!

jca's avatar

I wouldn’t confront him. That’s for the business owners to do. I’m sure they’re aware he’s hanging around.

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (2points)
stanleybmanly's avatar

One guy? Count your blessings. It sounds as though there are mental issues with the guy. I don’t understand your responsibilities here. What’s the threat?

gorillapaws's avatar

I agree this could be a mental illness situation. I also agree not to confront him directly, because that could get very nasty/dangerous quickly.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The pathology of the down & out here is fascinating though depressing. I was wondering if it’s commonplace in other places to find most personal grooming items in retail outlets now kept in locked cases. I mean basic things like razor blades, soaps and deodorants, even athletes’ foot powders and shampoos are locked up with the cigarettes and booze. Weird. In the wee hours of the morning, you can walk into the restrooms of the Safeway stores and find guys trying to scrub themselves utilizing the bathroom sinks. One clerk told me that both men & women formerly stole the shaving necessities then headed straight to the restrooms to use them.

majorrich's avatar

Homelessness and mental illness are terrible when they happen to the same person. The person can’t get help and people are afraid of him/her and the person just gets worse. Sad really.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes and the frequency of that combination is truly alarming. Another fascinating aspect of the homeless situation since it erupted in the 80s is how quickly we got used to it.

ibstubro's avatar

I think it’s pretty clear by now that the consensus is that he’s likely mentally unstable and it’s unwise for you to confront him. Honestly, I would do nothing.

A lot of these people are lost to us. We had a man settle in under a freeway bridge over a small stream. He was offered free meals, work and a free place to stay. He preferred living under the bridge, year round in an area with 4–5 months of harsh winter. I thin khe was there 2–3 years, at least. And a good mile from town. I guess he moved on…I don’t know that anyone ever thought to look if he was perhaps dead under there.

Coloma's avatar

If he is talking to himself, most likely he is a Schizophrenic.
You could attempt to engage in a conversation but really, as long as he is not being overly disruptive I’d leave him alone. He could be paranoid and volatile as well but many of these types are passive as long as they don’t feel threatened.
Why not try to make friends, in the sense of offering him a drink or food etc.?

See what his response is and that will tell you volumes.

josie's avatar

This is standard stuff in New York or San Francisco

fluthernutter's avatar

@Coloma Auditory hallucinations can afflict people suffering from all kinds of conditions. Schizophrenia is just one example. Bipolar, depression with psychosis and PTSD are other possibilities.

Why make assumptions about their mental health? Is it helpful to create a narrative (whether or not it’s actually true) in order to engage them?
(That’s not rhetorical. I’m genuinely curious.)

Coloma's avatar

@fluthernutter Just sayin’ that obviously they have some sort of mental health issue and could be volatile or flip out if approached. I have had this experience several times in my life in attempting to engage a disturbed person in public. It’s not an assumption, somebody that is talking to themselves in public obviously has some sort of condition.
Speculation of the nature of their issues yes, assumption, no.

cazzie's avatar

I’d worry about him trying to cross a highway like that. Not only dangerous for him, but for all the drivers and passengers on the road. If you see that again, you should call someone. I don’t know if your state has some sort of mental health helpline like we do here. If we see someone trying to commit suicide or if they are so drunk or high that they are putting themselves at risk, there is a number we can call. It isn’t the police. It is for trained medical and mental health people. We don’t exactly have the same homeless problem, so most of the ‘regular’ nutters are known.

Short side story: When I first moved here, we had a crazy neighbour. He was Schizophrenic and part of his psychopathology was that he believed that he was a soldier for Zion. They put him in protective custody when the Pope visited the city because his ‘manifesto’ was well know to health care workers and the police.

How odd that by increasing the number of the problem is what makes that thing invisible to people. We are a strange species.

I don’t think I could do nothing. I’d try to find out his name and if there was anyone I could call.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Thanks all. Not enough detail was given on my part, it seems. The first time I spotted him, he was alone until a woman showed up. He moved to a table next to mine where the two of them could sit side-by-side. He put his arm around her while they chatted (his voice being loud). Then they moved to a booth. They never purchased a thing from the establishment. They left together, but I didn’t see if he got in her car or not. The second time he was spotted, he was by himself the whole time.

When he is alone, he constantly clicks a pen while reading a notebook filled with writing or drums his fingers on the table or taps a foot on the floor.

The guy looks clean and healthy. There is just something “off” between his behavior, the fact that he doesn’t buy anything from these establishments, plus, there is the duffel bag. There is a bus stop in front of the McDonalds. Maybe he is just waiting for it.

“Confront” is a word with negative connotations. How about just a salutation with a smile? Or would it be better to give the manager a heads up?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Clean, healthy and hanging out. So the guy has someone looking out for him, or is competent with taking care of himself. He has a girlfriend with a car! So the negatives are that he clicks a pen, won’t spend money, talks too loud, and probably is unemployed. Yours must be a pristine environment indeed. This guy might have drawn attention in a small town in the 1950s, but these days there are just too many and much more dangerous “fish to fry”. I mean this man isn’t even disrupting or driving away business! You’ll get used to him, and probably miss him when he moves on.

cazzie's avatar

I keep thinking this could be you seeing an exchange between me and my step son. Or watching his odd behaviour. The guy could be autistic.

jca's avatar

It’s not clear to me why you think you need to alert management at all. They know, or they should know, who is frequenting their establishment. As long as he’s not bothering anybody, I’d not interfere.

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (2points)
AshlynM's avatar

Well if management knows about him they obviously don’t deem him as a threat. Or else they would have called police. If he shows up again, call the police and just tell them you’re concerned for his safety and he may not have anywhere to go. It’s nice you want to do the right thing. But under no circumstances should you confront him yourself, you have no idea what’s he’s capable of.

jca's avatar

It makes no sense to me to call the police on him. When they ask “what is he doing?” what are you going to say? “Clicking his pen and talking to himself?” “Drumming his fingers on the table?” “Not buying anything?”

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (4points)
Inspired_2write's avatar

One could give him a gift card for coffee’s for him and his girlfriend.
Or pay for it and have the mangement give it to him on behalf of you.
He probably needs money and food?
Maybe alert a charitable agency to approach him by giving him assistance/supports?

janbb's avatar

I, too, am perplexed at the need to do anything. We had a young man who walked the neighborhood when my kids were little talking to himself. He didn’t harm anyone nor seem in pain so we left him alone. As others have said, if it is a problem for a business, it is up to them to deal with it.

As for whether to say “hi” or not, if you would do that to any other stranger, do it to him. Or not.

This guy sounds like he would fit right in in Berkeley.

jca's avatar

Yeah, if you put this guy in NYC nobody would think twice about him.

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (2points)

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