I'm currently a player/co-dm for a 5e campaign. There is one player who is trying to power game and do his best to gain the upperhand in all situations. This has led to him abusing wording on certain abilities or feats to get more than the DM deems reasonable. Most recently the group has hit level 4 and feats were chosen. He has switched his feats 3 or 4 times now trying to decide on the "best" one. He finally settled on Alert and then the arguments started particularly about this line.
You can’t be surprised while you are conscious.
The DM wanted an NPC to pickpocket us. The NPC was successful and made off with some of our gold. The player immediately began to argue that he can't be pick pocketed because he can't be surprised and he always knows what is going on around him. The DM disagreed and said that applied to combat scenarios. It is also important to point out that the player's character was completely distracted while it happened.
So can a character with Alert be pick pocketed? Is a character with Alert always vigilant to their person and surroundings so nothing can happen to them without their notice? Even when completely and totally distracted/not paying attention?