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Duct Tape Finds A New Purpose In the Serial Seat Saver’s Arsenal

My daughter has been dancing at the same dance studio for 10 years. Every year there is a big recital at our convention center’s auditorium. The owner does want to fill up the auditorium so she has a contest for the most tickets sold. It’s low key with just a small prize. Usually the winner is someone with a large family but with grandparents, siblings, etc. it can end up being quite a few people. What resulted from this is rather an interesting example of entitlement. Several of the “big” ticket sellers’ moms, feeling that they were entitled to good seats because of all the tickets their child sold decided to hold these seats in an unusual way. This is how I found out what they were doing.

I like to arrive early to events in order to get good seats. The first year my daughter danced I brought along my 87 year old grandmother, my mom, and son. We were about 10th in line. The doors opened and I made a beeline for the seats I wanted for my family. And I watched 3-4 women taking MASKING TAPE and taping off ROWS of seats. Not two or three seats. These were several rows of 15-20 seats for people who were not at the auditorium and who we watched arrive over the course of the next half hour and sit down in these saved seats. We were relegated to seats much farther back than where we wanted to be. This was partly because as we had headed up towards the front we wasted time trying to figure out what was going on with all the taped seats and by that time we made our way back through the crowded aisle much of the auditorium was filled up. I was stunned. I felt so bad that my sweet little grandmother stood in line like a trooper and then was deprived of a seat close to the stage by people who had not earned the right to that seat by standing in line. I can understand saving one or two seats but entire rows? These women had taped off at least 60 seats in the best part of the auditorium. And just so it’s clear–these were not employees or volunteers marking off reserved seating for guests of the studio or dancers. These were just moms with tape. I am sure no one questioned the taped seats because they thought there was an “official” reason thee seats were being reserved. I figured it out because I had arrived so early and saw the taping actually happening. In response I did two things and I don’t think either of them will send my to etiquette hell but I will be interested in the response to this story.

One thing I should say is that at the time I was new to dance studio etiquette so I wasn’t sure if I had a right to be mad. Maybe this was something that was acceptable or that the owner allowed? So I didn’t complain but I did gather info and opinions. I found out that the owner had allowed it to happen for many years but it wasn’t encouraged. She just let them get away with it. So when recital time came around and the same thing happened I just took the tape off the seats and sat down with my family. Taking the tape off one end of the row resulted in much of it coming off so other people just moved on in to those seats too. The looks on the tape moms’ faces were priceless. I am sure they thought I was several bad names but how could they protest? Their families weren’t there and 50 other people were. After that, another mom and I mentioned to the owner how unfair this behavior was to her other dance families and she put a note in recital newsletter that taping seats was not allowed. It’s never happened since. I still can’t believe it happened at all! 0313-12



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Angela March 21, 2012, 6:41 am

    Good for you. And “bad” for the studio owner.

  • Agania March 21, 2012, 7:00 am

    Yay to you for standing up to the seat hogs. I agree, stand in line like everyone else or sit at the back. Saving a seat for hubby who might be parking the car is perfectly fine but hogging a whole row is a big no no.

  • Laurita March 21, 2012, 7:06 am

    I say good for you. Saving a seat for a spouse or other family member is one thing, but saving a row of seats? I certainly see how this happened though. Through my own kids’ activities I meet parents who have the idea that their child the the most precious and important. They don’t seem to get that everyone else there has a child who is just as important.

  • Enna March 21, 2012, 7:20 am

    OP, I understand your annoyance, but I think you should have spoken to the owner first, as you had asked for peoples opinons first. If the owner took the tape off then the other mums could not argure – the owner may not be encouraging it directly but by doing nothing she is encouraging it indirectly by doing nothing.

    However if the seating arrangment is first come first served it should be so. Seat saving should be kept to an apsolute minimum maybe one or two but not entire rows. If you are going to save a seat for somone it should be done in away that is considerate to other visitors. I like the way you were pro-active as you did not have a set too. If the offending mums called you names then they were being far more rude then you for removing the tap.

    If the big ticket mums want to reserve seats then they should suggest to the owner a seat allocation e.g. each chair is numbered and to reserve that seat you have to have the ticket with the matching number. That way it is easier for groups to sit together and is fairer to everyone. People who organise big groups to attend avents need to understand when it comes to first come first seated that ALL their party needs to be present at the right time e.g. arrive early to insure a space to be able to sit togehter.

  • DDP March 21, 2012, 7:55 am

    In the studio owner’s defense, they often don’t know what goes on in the audience. They are busy backstage worrying about a million things and last one of those things is that a group of adults can not manage to seat themselves in a civil manner. The problem is that the respectful parents hate to complain and make waves, so it may go on for years and the studio owner barely realizes that it’s an issue.

    When the studio owner does learn that there is a problem with seat saving, she is faced with an issue that can be tough to tackle. Often she does not have the staff to usher the audience. Her dance teachers are backstage tending to the million things that she is juggling. The administrative staff is often busy with things like selling/taking tickets or monitoring the doors to the backstage area (for the children’s safety). This leaves her family to volunteer (if she is lucky to have them), but if you are asked to confront entitled parents year after year, that gets old. Or she has to hire additional ushering staff, which the budget for even a small recital is often not cheap and she is barely breaking even. Many professional shows use volunteer ushers, but there isn’t the incentive of getting to see a professional show and is much more difficult to organize for a single annual show. And asking for parent volunteers can open a whole new can of worms as suddenly the ushers feel that they have the authority to save seats for their family or they must confront these seat savers, which can result negatively as entitled parents feel that they don’t have to listen to just another parent.

    Assigned seating can fix this, although that can be labor intensive (remember the show is barely breaking even and sometimes the staff isn’t even paid for their time!!!) It can also be more costly, as the tickets are more difficult to print. And still parents fight and whine about seats.

    I am glad that the poster’s story ends effectively, but this can be a huge headache for an already overworked studio owner. If only everyone would just play fairly!!!

  • Margo March 21, 2012, 8:25 am

    I can’t speak for anyone else but I don’t think you deserve a place in e-hell at all. You were polite, made enquiries to check that they didn’t have authority to behave as they had been doing, and then took firm but non- agressive action.

    I do think that the owner was wrong to let this go on, particularly once the issue had ben raised. (She could have offered people the option to buy those rows at at premium price, as an alternative, had she wanted to, or offered pairs of reserved seats in the front as prizes for selling the highest numbers of seats)

  • L.J. March 21, 2012, 8:28 am

    Saving ONE seat is ok. Saving any more than that is piggy.

  • David March 21, 2012, 8:47 am

    The mothers taping off the seats were the rude ones. There is a special tier of ehell reserved for them – where they are forever looking for a seat only to find them all officially reserved.

    It’s good that the owner finally made an announcement that the taping wasn’t allowed.

  • Kitty Lizard March 21, 2012, 8:55 am

    Chutzpa (spelling?) constantly amazes me. Once I found out that it wasn’t authorized, I would have done the same thing. If it isn’t reserved seating, and you stand in line, it’s first come first served. Period. Put that masking tape down, entitled lady. Your days of ruling the auditorium are over. We’re on to you.

  • Mary March 21, 2012, 8:58 am

    I completely agree with the OP and taping should not be allowed!

    Similar story. My daughters belong to a figure skating club at a local ice arena. They receive lessons every week for half the year. At the end of winter, there is a skating performance that takes place with 3 different shows over a weekend. My first year I walked into the ice arena for the first show only to find that most of the bleachers were covered with blankets saving the seats. They had been left by parents after the dress rehearsal. Fortunately, I only had to find two seats so I managed to find a spot.
    The next afternoon I walked in and the blankets were everywhere, but not laid out to save seats. Turns out that the several of the dads on cleanup duty the night before had taken all of the blankets and spelled out “no saving seats” with those blankets! Lots of upset parents, but didn’t stop them from doing it for the third show.
    I brought it up at a board meeting and was told, that was just the way it had always been. Since most of these parents attend all three shows, that leaves few seats open. Finally this year, I just gave in and laid out my blanket on a bleacher. One show I had 4 grandparents attending, so I really had no choice if I wanted seats for them!

  • Cat March 21, 2012, 9:00 am

    Like you, I would have thought that the seats were reserved for special guests or for a children’s group that needed to be able to see the stage.
    You did not make a scene; you just quietly rectified a situation from a couple of women who were taking far more than their far share of seats. Another pair of Gimme Pigs learned an important lesson.

  • Margaret March 21, 2012, 9:03 am

    You’re my hero!!!

  • JillyBean March 21, 2012, 9:23 am

    I honestly have no idea what else you could have done – considering that you had done the polite actions of gathering info, approaching the owner, and finding out what was reasonable, what was accepted and what was encouraged. I know that a suggestion of “why not just speak with the Mothers With Tape?” will be made – and knowing human behaviour, I don’t know if that would have been at all effective. Granted – I am making assumptions. I’d like to say, Good for you for having the guts!

  • Jenny March 21, 2012, 9:29 am

    I worked in a concert hall for a while. We actually banned a group because their group members would tape off whole rows. It’s definitely in poor taste but its up to the owner (or the house manager) to stop this kind of behavior. I would tape off whole rows, but for cases in which the conductor didn’t want anyone in the front row or we had arranged for a guest of honor group who would be busy right before or to reserve seats for a performer who was going to sit out. This is part of the stage manager’s job. But random people? I would have kicked them out for that.

  • Kovitlac March 21, 2012, 9:34 am

    Wow – yeah, that should never have happened at all. But good on you for finding out what exactly was going on, then stepping in and putting an end to all the crap.

  • Baku-chan March 21, 2012, 9:37 am

    Oh, how I love happy endings!

  • AS March 21, 2012, 9:45 am

    OP, I don’t think you’d go to etiquette hell for doing what you did. But you surely belong to the category of people with a polite spine. What you did was a perfect and non-confrontational (without falling into the passive-aggressive trap) way of doing the right thing.

  • Ashley 2 March 21, 2012, 9:58 am

    I wish I could high-five OP right now 🙂 I guess the owner figured that since no one was complaining it wasn’t really a big deal to him/her, but at least OP stepped up.

  • Library Diva March 21, 2012, 10:01 am

    I see nothing wrong with what you did, OP. In fact, you’re an etiquette hero of the dance studio as far as I’m concerned. What those moms were doing was rude and entitled, and since no one was willing to stand up to them, they got away with it. I hate it when people just bulldoze over others like these women were doing. Good for you for putting a stop to it.

  • ellesee March 21, 2012, 10:07 am

    Standing ovation for you!

  • badkitty March 21, 2012, 10:12 am

    OP is my new hero! You not only handled this exactly right (though maybe the talk with the studio owner could have come first) but you avoided what would have been an ugly and unproductive confrontation.

  • DGS March 21, 2012, 10:36 am

    Sounds like you did the right thing! Who cares what the entitled tape-monsters thought? While they were certainly creative in their newly found use for masking tape, their behavior was entirely inappropriate! They are certainly entitled to their hurt feelings and thinking you were every witch under the sun, but you are absolutely in the right for doing what you did.

    I do wish that the owner of the dance studio was more assertive about not allowing the tape-monsters get away with this kind of outrageous behavior for years and years! While she may enjoy the revenue she gathers from the tickets being sold to the tape-monsters’ families and associates, by allowing this kind of behavior, she does risk alienating a significant portion of her customers as well.

  • Leigh March 21, 2012, 10:41 am

    Good for you!

  • Jen a March 21, 2012, 10:57 am

    Woohoo! I felt like cheering when I read the end of this story. Good for you, OP! You handled the situation perfectly. I think you were wise in gettingore information before you did something. You never know!

  • Cady March 21, 2012, 11:00 am

    I think the OP did exactly the right thing. Sure, the taping moms were mad, but in GA seating, no one has the right to do what they did. You come early for the seat you want, or you take what’s left over. End of story.

  • sv March 21, 2012, 11:03 am

    You handled it perfectly!

  • Calli Arcale March 21, 2012, 11:25 am

    Good for you! By refusing to honor their presumption, you negated it, and stopped the cycle of presumption and assumption that had allowed this to continue for so long. I think you did the right thing. I’m not sure I would have had the courage; I’m a wimp. But you did, and it ended the problem quite neatly.

  • The Elf March 21, 2012, 11:28 am

    That’s crazy! I’ve heard of saving seats, but taping off multiple whole rows? Wow.

  • Surianne March 21, 2012, 11:29 am

    Good for you for removing the tape! It’s so easy to worry about causing a problem and as a result not stand up for yourself. I think you handled it very well. No fuss, just checked with the owner and determined you had a right to sit there. Hope you all enjoyed the recital 🙂

  • cece12 March 21, 2012, 11:41 am

    It’s a shame that the owner waited so long to address this., particularly since she has the non-confrontational, far-reaching way of doing so. Good for you for inspiring positive change!

  • NB March 21, 2012, 12:09 pm

    This happens so much at concerts and recitals for children. My youngest sibling is in his final year of elementary, so there are no more concerts – but every time there was one and we would attend, my sister and I would get there incredibly early to be first in line.

    And every year, as soon as we entered the auditorium, all of the good seats had sweaters and jackets tossed across them to be saved. I always thought about moving them off to the side but knowing how some people can be, I didn’t want to have to deal with the potential drama.

    The worst of it all were the faculty who allowed the children to go out in to the auditorium to do this. It wasn’t fair to those of us who got there early and waited in line.

  • Anonymous March 21, 2012, 12:10 pm

    That is rude–the “alpha moms” of the dance studio thinking they can reserve entire rows of seats, effectively making the theatre inaccessible to everyone who isn’t in “their” group. The worst thing is the simple fact that they’re mothers–so, their kids are learning that this is acceptable behaviour, and they’ll grow up and perpetuate the cycle. I’m glad the dance teacher put the kibosh on that in the following year’s recital program, but she was about a year too late. If she’d really been on top of things, then she would have come into the auditorium and stopped them in the act. Failing that, she should have instructed the tech crew or whoever was in the auditorium setting up before the performance (and there’s always someone) to stop the mothers from taping the seats.

  • HonorH March 21, 2012, 12:19 pm

    I think this belongs in the category of “A Polite Spine”. Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to not let people like the Tape Moms get away with it to change a situation nobody else likes. Kudos!

  • Another Laura March 21, 2012, 12:36 pm

    I’m surprised that the seat hogs didn’t hang around to ensure that their carefully “reserved” seats were protected. It’s bad enough to selfishly claim dozens of seats, but to not even at least sit in your seat while you wait for the rest of the party is crazy. And I would presume that if they were in the auditorium when people began to remove their tape and sit in “their” seats, they would have said something.

  • Lulu March 21, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I don’t think you were wrong at all. That kind of entitled mindset and the taping behavior is appalling. You did right by checking to make sure that the seats were not taped off by a staff member, owner of the establishment, or anyone with authority. Upon finding out it was just “moms with tape”, you didn’t accuse anyone or get in someone’s face, or act ugly. You merely brought it to the owner’s attention, untaped your desired (and available) seats, and thanks to you many folks who arrive early can get better seats.
    Happy ending, I’d say!

  • siobhan March 21, 2012, 12:44 pm

    I’m just surprised no one complained to the owner way before this. Just because someone has dozens of friends and family (like Facebook?) doesn’t give them the right to save dozens of seats. Small families have as much right to good seating as big ones. Especially if they come early and wait in line.
    I’m on the short side and often arrive earlier to get a good seat. I’m amazed at the number of seats that already have clothing strewn over them.
    That also encourages late arrivals, which I hate because they disrupt everyone in their fumbling around, tripping, and mumbling.

  • Catrunning March 21, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I’ve seen this rudeness at many school or child-related events. The worst are graduations and school recitals, where one family member comes early and literally ropes off 20 or so seats for the rest of her family/friends. The schools are so non-confrontational that nobody does anything about it unless someone else puts up a bigger stink.

    I too have seen people just pull off the ropes and sit themselves in the “reserved” section. The mom in questions usually starts screaming like a banshee, but because there isn’t assigned seating like you would get in a concert hall, there’s absolutely nothing she can do about ejecting the “interlopers”. It’s first come, first serve.

    The OP did absolutely nothing wrong – it was the seat hogging moms that should be sent to e-hell. If you really need all your family to sit together in your preferred seating, then make sure all your family comes early enough to get their seats in the accepted manner.

  • Brenda March 21, 2012, 1:13 pm

    If the owner wouldn’t step in, then I think the OP took the simplest, most direct method, to handle the situation. OP asked around first, so that she understood the background, not just making a decision on the spur of the moment. While it might have been better if the OP has asked the other ladies to not tape the seats, I have a feeling that the entitlement attitude these women had would have resulted in a donnybrook, sometimes you need to use a stick instead of a carrot to get the result you need.

  • Steph March 21, 2012, 1:13 pm

    I think you did the right thing. Talking to the tape moms would have only ended in arguments, no matter how logical the reasoning.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith March 21, 2012, 1:16 pm

    There is always variety in the accounts of situations reported by those tasked with facing the entitled, the boorish and the obtuse. I like the poster’s approach of gathering some information and checking into the culture there of what is accepted before moving forward, but it is startling to think that “moms with tape” couldn’t be restrained by a quiet word from the event organizer the first time this happened.

  • Ashley March 21, 2012, 1:58 pm

    I would have moved the tape too, unless there was some sort of official sign from the studio on it. Frankly, unless my ticket has a specific seat number on it, I am under the impression it’s first come, first serve.

  • josie March 21, 2012, 2:02 pm

    Good for you! If I knew for sure that the seats weren’t being saved for another reason, I’d trump the duct tape too. I’ve seen this done too often at outdoor bleacher events…and sometimes the people never do show up!

  • Cat Whisperer March 21, 2012, 2:03 pm


    All I can say is that this dance recital must be an awfully big deal.

    It seems to me that as long as nobody was protesting the practice of taping off rows of seats, it was pretty hard for the owner to know that it disturbed anyone. Especially if this had been going on for some time and nobody had spoken up to protest. Which I guess brings up the question: if someone committs an etiquette faux pas and nobody objects, is it still an etiquette faux pas?

    You can’t depend on people to read your mind. The people who were taping off rows of seats might have thought that nobody objected, because apparently nobody did object. If that’s the case, can you really fault them for doing it? Apparently they yeilded to the crowd once someone did raise an objection. And the situation has now been remedied with no bones broken, so to speak.

    I think that when someone does something that you find objectionable or rude, you have to voice your objections if there is no prior history/convention of what’s proper and right; failure to object absolves the other party of the charge of rudeness. Since the owner of the dance school apparently gave countenance to the practice by allowing it for some time, the people who were doing it must have felt that it was an acceptable practice.

    FWIW, in my neck of the woods, people attending this sort of event would be more likely to want to sit towards the back where they could discreetly sneak out early, rather than sitting down front where their departure would get noticed.

  • --Lia March 21, 2012, 2:21 pm

    First, you did the right thing.

    Second, the studio owner is missing a great opportunity if she doesn’t start selling reserved seats. For only a $100 “sponsorship,” you get 4 seats in the special roped off area. (That’s in addition to the regular ticket price.) You have to come early to claim your seats, and everyone in your party must be there. The special fancy seat tickets would be a different color, and there should be (trained) volunteers working as ushers to enforce the rules. The “sponsors” get their name in the program. The rest of the auditorium is open for general seating– but the ushers are still there to make sure no one saves more than one seat (as is appropriate when one in a couple gets a seat while the other parks or is in the restroom).

    In no time, the hoggy mothers would have to realize that they’re best off leaving the masking tape at home, and the studio gets a little more cash. Mind you, they won’t get a lot more cash because very few will be willing to pay the prices, but the problem would be solved either way.

  • Beth Erickson March 21, 2012, 2:38 pm

    You go girlfriend!!

    Now if there was a way to deal with this-there are multiple small live performance theaters in my city. The problem happens when the tickets go on sale, I call/log in as soon as I hear about them, and am told that the show is already sold out because once the box office staff/backstage workers/lighting techs, etc., get their tickets, plus tickets for their spouses, boy/girlfriends, hairdressers, gardeners, nannies, etc., they are all gone. It is unbelievably irritating, plus I feel it works against the idea of getting the public in, since they are all connected to the show already.

  • Lilac March 21, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Hello everyone! I’m the OP. I have to say I am so relieved by the responses! Even though I thought what I did was okay, it’s nice to hear that the experts agree. I would hate to think I had behaved badly! I’d like to add just a couple things about the story. I totally agree with DDP. The studio owner had a million other things to worry about that night and I don’t blame her for not trying to tackle this type of situation. This is a family run studio in a city with many dance studios. I can understand if she doesn’t want to rock the boat with her customers. She does a very nice job with this recital and this was just one relatively minor issue. My feeling is that in the past it was ignored by other audience members because they didn’t realize that taping was not “official” or it wasn’t quite so obvious.
    I should also mention that the “tape moms” did stand hovering over the ends of the rows to make sure no one would try to take the seats, verbally turning people away too. Unfortunately for them they tried to reserve so many that there weren’t enough moms to man each end. That’s why I was able to remove the tape and seat my family. There was some pointing and nasty looks towards me but luckily they had enough manners to not start a confrontation. I never would have done it if I had thought it would cause a scene of any kind. I figure the scene probably happened after the recital when the moms ripped me up and down to all their poor relatives who came in 5 minutes before the dancing started and wondered why they had to sit at the back of the balcony 🙂

  • German Shepherd March 21, 2012, 3:02 pm

    Yea, OP! I wish I could’ve seen the moms’ faces too.

    Why on earth did they need rows of seats or, more importantly, why did they invite that many people?

  • kingsrings March 21, 2012, 3:09 pm

    If large groups of family members/friends of the students want to attend and sit together, then those large groups need to arrive together at the same time to reserve such seats. If they can’t, then too bad. It’s first come, first served, period. I never heard of this happening until recently, both reading it here and seeing it with my own eyes at a graduation. I worked for 2 years at a college. We handled this issue by limiting how many family/friends students were allowed to bring with them.

  • AlanaM March 21, 2012, 3:35 pm

    This happened at my dance studio recital as a child. My mom, Nana, and I would come early (I had to go backstage) and when the doors opened, they would go in and save 2 more seats for my brother and dad. (A 1 to 1 save ratio is acceptable, I think).

    Except there were moms who would sneak BACKSTAGE and bring preprinted “saved” signs with tape! and save 15-20 seats each. It was crazy and nothing was ever done about it. Fortunately since there were only 4 in my family and my Nana liked to sit halfway back, we never had a confrontation with them. Apparently my mom would watch others arguing with these crazy entitled moms.

    Fortunately when I sent my daughter to the same studio many years later they had switched to a pre-reserved seating system that was a lottery.

  • anon1 March 21, 2012, 5:31 pm

    We avoid this with a very simple system. When your child is on stage, you and all the other parents whose children are in that group get to move to the front rows or the aisles for a good view. Then, while the next group sets up, you vacate those seats for the parents of the kids in the next group. (The elderly or disabled are exempt from having to leave the front row.)

    There’s a bit of shuffling but that time is built into the show. Everyone gets to watch/photograph their own child from the front row and everyone leaves happy.