The term “looky-loos” is used to refer both to a hankering to look around, and to people who indulge this hankering. In other words, one could say “that lady has a bad case of the looky-loos” in reference to a woman peering at a traffic accident, or “we should put up some curtains to discourage the looky-loos.” Other terms which mean much the same thing include “rubbernecking” and “gawking.”
People are naturally curious creatures, so it is perhaps not surprising that looky-loos can be found in almost every culture. The eye is naturally drawn to changes in the environment, especially when such changes are accompanied by a flurry of activity, as is the case in traffic accidents, and people are also often curious about foreign environments. Many adult shops, for example, have a lot of foot traffic from people with the looky-loos who are just curious about the products they carry.
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Depending on the situation, looky-loos can be harmless, obnoxious, or potentially dangerous. Curious bystanders, for example, can interfere with the control of a dangerous situation, like an accident which requires attention from first responders and emergency services personnel. People with the looky-loos may be less attentive about things like looking both ways before crossing the street, or keeping an eye on the road while driving, and they could potentially cause accidents or injure themselves while satisfying their curiosity.
For business-owners who manage establishments which attract looky-loos, visitors who are just there to look around can be irritating, and they can potentially put off legitimate customers. Some stores, in fact, specifically enforce a “no looky-loos” policy, asking people to only enter if they are serious customers, so that regular customers feel more comfortable shopping. These policies are especially common in establishments which stock unusual or potentially embarrassing items, to assure customers that their purchasing habits will not be exposed.
Some communities, such as the Amish and other traditional societies, may also struggle to cope with looky-loos. While curious visitors can sometimes support a community, they can also interfere with the daily business of residents. Citizens of Amish communities, for example, often express frustration with visitors who make demands which interrupt their work days or expressions of religious faith. In some regions, the community may accommodate looky-loos with guided tours which allow people to see what life is like in the community without causing disruption.