Social Question

NerdyKeith's avatar

Is it offensive to say "sorry" when you don't have any cash on you when approached by the homeless?

Asked by NerdyKeith (5479points) August 7th, 2017

Had an experience with a disgruntled homeless person who asked me for spare change. I politely responded
“No sorry I’ve no money on me.”

Which most homeless people tend to understand to mean that I’m sorry I can’t help them. But this individual responds by saying.
“You don’t need to be sorry. What are you sorry for? What’s wrong with people?”

Honestly I just walked off, because I got the impression he may have been looking for a confrontation. But have things become so pc that the homeless are getting offended by the word sorry? Because I feel that by simply saying “No” kind of comes off as uncaring.

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24 Answers

janbb's avatar

No – I think it’s a human thing to do.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Although I’m an atheist, I usually say “I can’t give you any money, but you can have all of my prayers. ”

Gets them every time….

Smashley's avatar

Beggars must hear “sorry” about a million times a day. It’s a placeholder for a million other forms of “no” that often wouldn’t sound as polite. I’m sure this person has had lots of opportunities to grapple with the word, and on this occasion, it just pissed them off for whatever reason. You don’t need to bother yourself with what a person looking for a confrontation said, and it means nothing.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Street beggars use all kinds of creative tactics to make you feel bad about not giving them anything. About five years ago a guy approached us in a hotel parking lot on Thanksgiving morning. After I gave him my standard, “Sorry, can’t help you today”, he kind of sarcastically said,

“And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too….”

This ploy is designed to make my wife say, “Aww, hon….can’t we give him something today ?” (Which she did…..but I still didn’t).

It’s a shame that so many of these legitimately needy people get such a high ratio of refusals (polite, or not), but as we all know, some of them have more (tax-free) money in the bank than we do…..

CWOTUS's avatar

No. That turns the concept of “sorry” on its head.

It’s one thing to ask for money, either passively by sitting on the sidewalk with a sign and a tin cup,or actively by walking up and asking for it, but it’s quite another thing to expect it to be given, and to make you feel bad in any way for not acceding to the request.

You’ve not done anything to be sorry for. It’s not rude in the least to say, “No.”

flutherother's avatar

The usual procedure when approached by the ‘homeless’ is to ignore them and walk rapidly on staring fixedly ahead. The ‘homeless’ individual then responds by saying ‘have a nice day’ just loud enough for you to hear, a passive aggressive phrase designed to make you feel guilty. To deviate from this tried and tested script is to invite embarrassment and disaster. To actually give money is of course unthinkable, unless that is you happen to be a visiting tourist.

Sneki2's avatar

Of course not. I think he wasn’t insulted. He may as well thought that there’s no need for you to apologise and feel sorry you couldn’t help him.
It depends on his tone and reaction.

NerdyKeith's avatar

I should mention he said this in a sarcastic and aggressive tone.

janbb's avatar

Well, you can’t win them all.

Sneki2's avatar

Oh, then he’s being an ass.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Yeah. Fuck that guy then…

jca's avatar

Maybe he’s angry and entitled.

Pachy's avatar

Homeless people are people, just like us. They deserve the same courtesy as our next door neighbors.

filmfann's avatar

It’s better than ignoring them.

Zaku's avatar

No, you saying sorry is entirely polite. Sounds like he was just in a disagreeable mood.

If anything, overly polite, which may be what he was getting at. I have heard that sort of complaint in that circumstance myself before, but I think it’s a mistake. That is, you mean to say you regret that your situation is not such that it works for you to help them. I have got the impression that instead some people take the use of “sorry” to mean you are apologizing as if you are doing something wrong, when you don’t have an obligation to hand out money so that can be taken as an odd boundary thing. Similarly, some people asking for handouts do try acting as if people should give them money, and if there’s something negative about not doing so, and perhaps this leads to others resenting it when they think others are acting as if that’s what they are trying… or something.

It can be a tense and unpleasant situation, and so while “sorry” is a polite reply, it seems to sometimes be taken in a negative way.

Was this in Dublin?

ucme's avatar

Maybe the fucker got out of the wrong side of the box that morning.

NerdyKeith's avatar

@Zaku yes it was in Dublin

Patty_Melt's avatar

Some people have an issue with the word sorry.
I have heard people say lots of times, “Sorry? You didn’t do anything, why should you be sorry.”
People say it who have been robbed, had a death in the family, got divorced, all sorts of issues.
I think some people only want sorry to be an apology for something done to them directly, and not used as a general reference to empathy.
Perhaps your fellow would have preferred, “I’m afraid I am without cash at the moment.”

CWOTUS's avatar

My only objection to your suggestion, @Patty_Melt, is that you’re still phrasing this as “reasons why” the panhandler’s desire can’t be met. My point is that it’s not at all impolite, rude, dishonest or in any way unethical to say, “No. I refuse your request.”

Patty_Melt's avatar

Oh, but I was responding to OP, which questioned specifically the usage of sorry.
Of course it is permissable to refuse a panhandler, but that was not the issue in question.
Of course, you are welcome to object to anything I say, but I was simply sharing what I’ve observed in some people’s reaction to the use, or overuse, of the word sorry.

NerdyKeith's avatar

I think this whole experience to be honest has made me more cynical towards the homeless. From now on I’m just giving them a flat out “No” and walking away.

I sympathise for their situation, but its come to my attention that a lot of them are very aggressive. They probably have a right to be. But as harsh as this may sound, that is not my problem. I didn’t make them homeless and it sure as hell is not my responsibility to be dealing with their aggression. I’ve even had a homeless person try to intimidate me by fake punching me. I’ll just let the government handle it, it’s their fault anyway.

Patty_Melt's avatar

You say, “the homeless” as though it were a group of like minded persons out there with some plan of attack.
That is dangerous thinking. Not all homeless panhandle, and not all panhandlers are homeless.
Some people panhandle as a last resort, some for sport.
Give, or don’t, but do not lump them together as a faction.

janbb's avatar

GA Patty Melt.

CWOTUS's avatar

That IS a great response, @Patty_Melt. Now if we could only extrapolate that kind of attitude and rational, questioning categorization to “white people” and “black people” and “Democrats” and “Republicans” and “the poor” and “the rich” and so forth across all of the broad distinctions that we make among the people we know and hear of, we might actually achieve – I dunno, dare I say it? – some kind of civilization one of these days.

It’s a dream, anyway.

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