Dear Mary Pat,
Last week, I attended a free community event and, knowing that this monthly event (with limited seating) regularly fills up, arrived 40 minutes early to secure a seat. Shortly after I settled in, I watched a group of four people find seats toward the front. After removing their coats and purses, they began draping their clothing items across another handful of seats, presumably to “save” them for their friends. Here’s my issue: As expected, the seats completely filled up and I watched groups of people walk in 15 minutes early and have to sit toward the back or separate their group among random seats. Meanwhile, the aforementioned group’s friends walked in just a few minutes before the event started and were able to secure second-row seating because their friends reserved those spots. It really bothered me. I understand guarding a seat if your friend has to use the restroom and they are actually in the building but to block off a whole section of seats for people who are probably still at home getting ready seemed ridiculous to me. It made me wonder: if I were someone who arrived early enough to find a good seat and saw someone doing the above, would etiquette allow me to say something? If so, what?
A Not-So-Easy Chair
A Not-So-Easy Chair,
It sounds as though the people who saved seats for their friends coordinated as a group and planned ahead. There really isn’t anything rude about this. The people who showed up 15 minutes early took just as much chance as you and the ones saving seats. In other words, it is a free event and can fill up quickly or not so quickly and it is a guess as to the best time to arrive in order to secure a place. Haven’t you ever been dropped off at a movie theater to get a better place in line while your friend parks a car? Or gotten to the beach first and secured a good place with multiple beach towels? It’s no different here.
If the event center doesn’t have a policy against holding seats, then it’s not an issue. Where it would have crossed the line is if the friends they were holding the seats for were no shows.