20

Background

Sometimes I get asked what my belongings cost, be it an ordered food, PC, or other stuff. In the university I study, there is extreme contrast in how much students and their parents make annually between students. As a result, from time to time I get into awkward situation where the food is not expensive for me, but others try to claim the opposite. I might not call over anyone into my room, but since I live in a dormitory, I cannot pass by unnoticed by my familiars when ordering food, and deliverers cannot get right to the door of my room. I live with a person who doesn't care much about anything. The distance between fences where the deliverer waits for me (as they are not allowed to get in) is quite long, so meeting someone I know is guaranteed and ordering food considered quite expensive in the dorms.

I live in middle Asia. I'm concerned with their thoughts because they might start generating attention to me, which is of very big concern to me. I live a life between my room and university, spending time on research and other stuff. Getting more attention usually means spending time on dealing with others.

Question

How do I deflect or avoid questions like "How much does it cost"?

Example

I'm going to my room with a package of food.

Familiar: Hey!

Some entry talk

Familiar: That food smells delicious! How much does it cost?

I make up something depending on the person asking // *

Familiar: Oh, that's expensive! //I made incorrect guess

What should I tell on the line marked with '*'? I can keep making up numbers, but I'm sure one day they'll figure out I'm not being honest.

What I've tried

  • rucksack

    My best bet is carrying a rucksack with me. Unfortunately, sometimes I order a pizza, sometimes deliverer gets soup spilled all over package, so it is not always an option.

  • headphones

    I may pretend that I don't hear them, but pretending that I don't see them would be blunt lie.

  • 7
    I don't understand why you're bothering to lie-- the default assumption, per your post, is that ordering food is expensive. Everyone that sees you with it will then assume it was expensive, whether they ask you about it or not. Is there a reason you can't get a cheap laundry bag or something you don't mind having spilled soup on it? Is there something especially unattractive about people knowing that you have enough money to spend on luxuries? – Upper_Case Sep 15 '17 at 17:18
  • @Upper_Case, great question, which I don't have an answer for yet. – Incomputable Sep 15 '17 at 17:22
  • "I live in middle Asia" I have no idea what middle Asia means. Could you tell us what country you live in? The benefits of countries is that (1) they're reasonably specific, and (2) their boundaries are, in most cases, agreed upon and easy to look up. – user288 Sep 15 '17 at 23:45
  • 3
    @Hamlet it's not that difficult to work out, "middle Asia" means "Central Asia". It's a fairly restricted area, much smaller than the US. – user3114 Sep 16 '17 at 6:31
24

Tell them exactly how much it was, then make fun of yourself for it

In my experience, people's perception on you relies heavily on how they think you perceive yourself. If every day you spent $40 on every meal like it was nothing, then your fears would probably come true. But consider this interaction:

Familiar: That food smells delicious! How much does it cost?

LordFarquaad: It costs $40 (maybe add something like, "but I'm so hungry/it's so good")

Familiar: Oh, that's expensive!

LordFarquaad: I know, but food is such a weakness of mine.

You want to express that, yes, this is a lot of money to spend on food, but you personally think it's worth it anyway. It's not that you necessarily have more money than them, it's that you'd rather spend your money on tastier food than clothes/sports/whatever else they want to fill the dots in with.

To copy my comment on CrazyCucumber's answer:

I've found lying about regular things often leads to unforeseen problems. You lie that you use coupons for every meal, well now you're "coupon guy". That's fine, until your friend tries to ask you where you get your coupons (you are "coupon guy", after all) and you have no answer. Now you're "always has coupons but never helps others with them guy". That might make you look worse than "expensive food guy".

People interact to the world as they see it. If you give them an illusion, they'll interact with that illusion. It's almost always easier to share or obscure the truth, not make it up. You do spend more money on food than others. That's the truth. Just present in a way that shows others that's not necessarily a bad thing.

22

Don't bother.

There are almost certainly cultural factors of which I am totally ignorant, so please keep that in mind with the following.

The main issue seems to me to be that you are doing something your fellow students cannot. The food is expensive, they cannot (or feel that they cannot) afford that food, and so seeing you with it sets you apart from them and draws the attention you would rather avoid. Lies, or any other approach to deflection, will not fix this.

Another answer suggests pretending you have used coupons, which may or may not suit your needs. It would be very easy to falsify ("Hi, Pizza Delivery Chain, I heard about a coupon for a free large pizza but haven't been able to find one. Oh, you've never had a deal like that? How odd!") But if you consistently find amazing coupons that allow you to eat this luxurious food at "normal student" prices, and none of your fellow students ever come across such a coupon, you are still set apart whether your lie is ever uncovered or not. Even if they don't think you're rich in money, they will think you are rich in mystery coupons, and I don't see that that solves your problem of attracting attention.

I think that your only real choices are to eat cheaper food, and therefore not be apart from the other students in this matter, or to hide your food (in, say, a mesh laundry bag, maybe with some clothes or something).

Hiding the food seems tricky, because it would be an odd behavior (where I live) to go all the way to the door with a bag, pick something up from someone, and then go back to your room with that same bag. The intent to deceive will be pretty obvious-- how many activities can you do in a few seconds that would require you to bring a bag to the delivery entrance? Can you be so certain that no one will ever see you pay for and receive the food? Even one observer would be enough to destroy your entire scheme.

So, if your goal is just to avoid attention, my advice is to avoid the conspicuous display of wealth from buying obviously expensive food buy eating differently, or to try to obscure the fact that you are getting expensive food. If you choose the latter, your plan had better be pretty good.

  • I never pay with cash, online payment is the only way to not lose sanity with the change problem. They consider me weird in a bad way anyway, so maybe being even more weird and off-putting would make things better. – Incomputable Sep 15 '17 at 17:47
  • 1
    @Incomputable Well, maybe... but my point is more that there's no way to conspicuously do something that obviously requires more money than most other students have and not have them think that you have a lot more money than they do. There's little chance you can pretend you have average wealth when everyone knows you own and drive a Ferrari. Seeing you with the expensive food is what will draw the attention, hence my advice to not be seen with it or to only be seen with less expensive food. – Upper_Case Sep 15 '17 at 17:49
12

I wouldn't be too concerned with it most the time, but more interested in what they are really asking.

I have some expensive toys, for example. I am often approached when out with my camera gear or a drone and asked about them.

The conversation will often lead to cost (especially with the drone), the conversations tend to go something like:

stranger: I'd love to get something like that! How much did it cost.

Me: This one wasn't cheap, but you can find one's from $50 - $20,000 depending on what you need it for. What are you going to use it for?

In my mind, I've done a few things here: Hinted I don't want to give a value, 2) given the asker some information he can use, and 3) moved the conversation to something still within our mutual interest.

With something like food, which is vital but also potentially a guilty pleasure there is no reason to lie about the cost IMO.

I just ordered a hamburger for example, if someone asks how much it costs what they might really want to know is what the damage to their own wallet would be.

dorm-mate: How much was that amazing smelling burger!

Me: About $8

dorm-mate: Wow, that's more than I want to spend for a burger, that's pricey!

Me: Yeah, I had a bit of a craving and sometimes you just have to splurge a little. But you could always try another place's name. They also have really good burgers and are a good margin cheaper.

This approach works probably 99% of the time AND builds a little rapport.

11

The magic answer:

COUPONS

Wherever it is, whatever item it is, COUPONS!

Familiar person: Hey that smells delicious, how much did it cost?
You: Oh this place is expensive! I never buy anything from here unless I have a coupon.

Familiar person: Oooh fancy headphones! How much was it?
You: I don't remember exactly, it was on sale and I found a bunch of coupons to use, so it was pretty cheap.

Whatever be the question, whoever be the person, whatever be the item in hand, "coupons" is the magic word. Use that word for everything.

If it is something OBVIOUS that coupons would not work for, I don't know, like a pet hamster? I don't even know what coupons don't apply for. Maybe alcohol? Then there is a different answer.

Familiar person: That bottle of liquor looks expensive, how much was it?
You: [Tell them the price and then..] I had to save up for a month to be able to afford it.

Familiar person: That pet looks expensive(?). How much did it cost you?
You: I have no idea, it was a gift! Isn't it awesome?

I don't know what your motive is to not tell your acquaintances the real price, but many people have done this to me and even though I could see right through their lie, I appreciated this better than "Oh it is too expensive" or "Oh it was cheap, it is just a buck[or a blatantly obvious lie]". The reason for that is, they spared my feelings. They noticed that I might not be able to afford it and didn't want to make me feel bad.

Granted, I spent a few hours looking for coupons on things people lied to me about. But you get to escape from the situation easily.

But wait, what if they ask for a link to the coupon? Variety of options for this:

I don't know, I was just Googling and found a link, try Google.
I received a mail coupon for this.
My friend gave me a gift card.

Pro tip:
The biggest part of having a good, functional social circle is being able to lie on the spot! I know this sounds like horrible advise, but you just need to give the listener what they want to hear. In a situation such as yours, sparing the feelings of others is what is going to let you have friends.

Your ability to afford expensive things should not be a factor for how many people like you, but unfortunately, it is. This is the only bypass system for that.

P.S.: Expecting a LOT of criticism for this answer! I am sorry to anyone I offend. "That's just the way she goes". :(

EDIT 1:
I just saw your edit mentioning you live in Asia. I don't know if this would work there. Coupons are not a common thing in India. So I am assuming it may not work elsewhere in Asia. I am sorry.

But a quick and easy fix for that: GROUPONS!

Groupon is definitely a thing in India. See if it is in your country and use that!

If that even does not work, use the following lines:

Bought a gift card for a discount price
Got it as a gift from parents/girlfriend(s)/childhood friends
Got it during an amazing sale(for objects)
They had an special offer for a limited time(for food)

Something like that.

  • 2
    Coupons are very common in the US, much less so in Europe. Non-existant in Italy. No idea if coupons are used outside the occidental world, maybe you should check. – user3114 Sep 15 '17 at 17:31
  • @Mari-LouA, they actually used to be quite commonplace in the company I order food from. So, this is pretty much spot on! – Incomputable Sep 15 '17 at 17:32
  • 15
    I've found lying about regular things often leads to unforeseen problems. You lie that you use coupons for every meal, well now you're "coupon guy". That's fine, until your friend tries to ask you where you get your coupons (you are "coupon guy", after all) and you have no answer. Now you're "always has coupons but never helps others with them guy". That might make you look worse than "expensive food guy". People interact to the world as they see it. If you give them an illusion, they'll interact with that illusion. It's almost always easier to share or obscure the truth, not make it up. – Lord Farquaad Sep 15 '17 at 21:12
  • @LordFarquaad true. There's always a level of moderation required when it comes to this and you need to be clever to sense when something is getting too repetitive. But generally, this strategy might end up failing if not used wisely. I've had friends say that to me maybe twice or thrice, but never really more than that. – Crazy Cucumber Sep 15 '17 at 22:27
3

I find lying despicable. I also prefer people who don't make their wealth a part of who they are. If they are a nice person it doesn't matter to me how much money they make or have.

Someone once asked my cousin how much his truck cost and he deflected. I was curious too so I just went online and found out. Deflecting, to me, is disingenuous. If someone asks then they actually want to know or they want to use it against you. If they want to use it against you they'll find something else because that's who they are.

So your choice is pretty simple, tell the truth, lie, or deflect. Personally, the choice is a simple one - tell the truth.

All you have to do is ask yourself what you want people to say about you - he is honest, sincere, and nice - or something else.

2

I would joke about it. Tell a more obvious lie than you do now.

"Thirty eight cents, can you believe that? The prices people get away with."

"I kind of stole it, so I don't know."

"I just found this on the shelf in the restroom, and it's still hot!"

"Fifty dollars. It seems high but I asked the clerk, she was busy on her phone and she told me it was fifty dollars. So I just put that on the counter and left."

"Okay, I wasn't planning on selling it, but if you want it I'll take twenty."

0

If you don't want to answer, don't. Deflect the question or ignore it; it'll be obvious soon enough that you're not going to tell them and they'll stop asking.

For example, answer "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you". Or to take the example you gave, answer the statement before the question -- they say "That food smells delicious! How much does it cost?", you answer "It does smell good, doesn't it?". That's also a good time to either offer to share or apologise for not having enough to share. If they're rude enough to ask again, I think you can be blunt enough to tell them outright that you consider them rude for asking: again deflecting from the question you don't want to answer.

Lying about it seems like a good way to get caught out one day: if you always tell the truth (or stay silent) then you only have one story to keep consistent, and that's reality. With respect to some of the other suggestions: if you start talking about coupons or groupons then what will you do when a friend asks you to share your source, or get them a similar deal?

-2

I am getting the sense that you feel very uncomfortable with social interactions. Are you concerned about people thinking you are weird? Skulking around trying to lie or hide things won't help.

And on the other hand, if you really don't like other people, then I'm not sure why you care what they think. I'm with the person who says say the truth, laugh it off, and go on with your merry way.

If this is a huge problem for you, I assume that your wealth is much much greater than everyone else's and you feel guilty about it (or people are saying mean things, but you haven't said that). Are you concerned about people being jealous? They probably wouldn't be if you were more friendly or generous with what you have.

Have you ever thought about bringing in some food once in a while and sharing it with your friends? Or how about throwing a party? If you really do have that much more wealth then it wouldn't hurt to spread the wealth a little. Not because you have to, but because generous and kind people are much happier and have more friends.

Most important thing, smile.

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