YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: Is it rude to save seats? I went to my child’s band concert last night and there were rows and rows of parents saving seats for friends and family members. I noticed that some of the people came 30 minutes later or did not show up at all. Would it have been impolite of me to move over coats and purses and just sit down? I have noticed this at coffee shops too. People are saving seats for their friends who arrive 30 minutes later and no one else can find a seat? It makes me mad!
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Seems like you need to go early and save seats! I save seats at concerts, church and lunch. I will say it is impolite to save seats for someone who doesn’t show. But it happens and things come up.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Every time I go to a school event like this, people are saving seats. Sometimes I’m one of them, although I’m usually not early enough for the first row and I’m generally not saving that many — just for immediate family members. It is rude to save seats for people who never show up to an event, and, instead of moving their items over yourself, I think it’s fine to ask if the seat is still taken if it doesn’t appear that they are coming. A co-worker said that his personal philosophy is that you need a certain percentage of people present per number of seats saved — if you are saving nine seats, at least three people need to be there to save them. We came up with an algebraic formula to express this philosophy, but I don’t think you need it to get the idea.
It depends on the situation, really. I think it’s probably rude to save entire rows for people who may or may not come, but it’s not a good idea to move people’s personal items out of the way. “Two rudes don’t make a polite,” as another co-worker, Heather Warlick, said in discussing this question. Keep in mind that other people are there for the same reason you are, and do the best you can to accommodate your late family members while not preventing other people from seeing the show.
HELEN’S ANSWER: If someone lets you out to go to park the car, you should be able to save that person a seat by you. To save several rows of seats for family and friends to sit together seems rude.
If you happen to save seats anyway and if you hear via cellphone the people are not coming, then remove the coats and purses immediately to release seats. Some restaurants and theaters have policies about seat saving, but I doubt the school has those rules. Just don’t be the person who thinks that people who come late are entitled to the best seats in the house because you saved them.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker who has taught etiquette classes at Oklahoma Christian University: Every situation is different. Even if it is rude to save seats, you cannot control others around you. There is just no way to win this situation. It is rude to save seats and then people show up late to claim them, but it is just as rude to move other people’s property.
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org