Dissed By The Event Organizer

by admin on May 8, 2014

A co-worker of mine at a college (different departments) asked me for help with a speech she was to give for a campus luncheon. The luncheon was part of an all-day event taking place on campus, in which girls from local high schools were bussed in with chaperones and escorted around for tours and workshops. This event (I will just refer it as The Girls Event) was held to encourage the girls to go to college.

The next day the event occurred. I came in early to work the next day, and noticed that in our library parking lot was a school bus, a large group of girls, and two chaperones clogging up the parking lot. One of our security guards was getting perturbed, trying to get them to move and the two chaperones were getting upset and kept asking the guard where they should go. Because I had helped my coworker previously, I understood they were here for The Girls Event. I introduced myself, asked to see their paperwork for the event so I could direct them where to go. The paperwork did not have the schedule/locations on it. Realizing the difficulty to others trying to park and danger they were presenting in the parking lot, I marshaled them into the library with the reassurances that I would make phone calls and find out where they should go.

I took them in, got them started looking on some exhibits, made the calls and found out where they should go. I gathered them up and led them to the proper location. It turned out later that they had NOT RSVPed to the event, so subsequent event information was never mailed to them.

Later in the day I ran into an instructor I knew on campus. I was chatting with her about what happened. She was one of the organizers to the event and she invited me to the luncheon that was to be given that day for the girls. She said that she wanted me to come as a thank you and to tell the person spearheading the event exactly what had happened. I want to state right now she was perfectly in the right to invite me so it was not like she was over reaching her bounds and I was a party crasher.

We go to the luncheon a little early. The main person in charge of the event (along with others who had helped) shows up; I will call her Madame X. Madame X had met me previously at another event so I was not a stranger. The professor explained to her my presence at the luncheon and asks me to recount the story regarding the morning group again.

Then the keynote speaker (my co-worker I had helped earlier) shows up. She thanks me once again for helping her with her speech. As she sits down at our table she realizes she has left some important materials needed for the event back at her office. I offered to run and go get the materials for her since she was dressed up, had her baby with her (husband was on his way to pick the baby up) and also needed to get ready for her speech. I run to her office and come back with all her materials. Madame X sees and hears all this.

My co-worker then realized that the Tech Department has yet to set up a laptop so she could give her PowerPoint presentation during the speech. I had my laptop with me and offered to set my laptop up so she could give her talk. The girls are trickling in at this point so she is kind of getting anxious. Again, Madame X sees and hears all this.

We go up front to the podium and I start setting up my laptop. At the last minute, just as she is getting ready to open up her program, the Tech guys come literally running in with a computer. I unplugged mine to let them get to work and go and put my laptop up.

As I go back to my table I noticed that my chair is missing. I ask “What happened to my chair?”

Madame X looks up at me and says, completely nonchalant, “Oh, I gave it to one of the girls.”

That’s right, the person that helped her keynote speaker with her speech, helped pacify and corral a participating group, ran and got her keynote speakers materials, and was using her own laptop to help her keynote speaker actually give her speech, didn’t even rate a chair. And might I add there were plenty of chairs available, just further away. 0503-14

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

AD May 8, 2014 at 9:05 am

Poor OP. At least now you’re perfectly entitled to refuse Madame X any help whatsoever if she asks in future. Sad that you had to be educated about her in this way, but still.

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clairedelune May 8, 2014 at 9:07 am

Giving away your chair does seem like a weirdly passive-aggressive move on her part, but I suppose the other way to look at it is that this event was FOR the girls–they’re the honored guests at the event. The college is hosting the event, so even though you specifically weren’t a host, OP, you more or less represent the hosting side. So giving up a chair to make sure the guests are accommodated, especially because as you say there were plenty of other chairs available, does not seem like an unusual expectation for a host.

Madame X doesn’t sound like she’s particularly great at event coordination, though. Why wasn’t she on the horn right away, trying to get the IT department down there to set up a laptop?

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The Elf May 9, 2014 at 7:13 am

I would agree; that’s a good way to look at it. And I’d rather the chair had gone to one of the girls who the event was for rather than Random Coworker. But the whole thing, start to finish, reeks of both poor event coordination and ungratefulness to the OP for all her help. If Madame X and the other organizers had been more on the ball, this would not have been an issue.

BTW, the problem of the keynote speaker is why I travel with as much of my own IT gear as I can as well as a paper copy of the briefing. If necessary, I can give my briefing outdoors, during a power outage, or in any other circumstance. *I* don’t want to be the reason it has failed!

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Enna May 10, 2014 at 5:26 am

If there were other chairs why didn’t Madame X get another one for the OP or redirect the girl as the seat was alreayd taken? OP did help out.

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PM May 8, 2014 at 9:14 am

The problem with behaving as “support staff” at an event is that people end up seeing and treating you as an employee rather than a volunteer. I have run into this problem at weddings, where I have made the cake as a gift to the couple. Because I only do this as a gift to very close friends, I am also a guest at the wedding, but I arrive early to the reception venue to set the cake up and during the reception, help during the “cutting ceremony” to remove any decorative elements that might get in the way or help distribute cake slices.

I have done this for eight brides/friends and they have all been wonderful. It’s their darn families that have behaved so awfully. They see me setting up the cake, and then begin issuing orders for me to help hang decorations, move tables, sweep the floor, etc. Or during the reception, they see me help with the cake cutting, and start telling me what else I should be doing to help. One woman, an aunt of one of the grooms, walked up to me and handed me a big stack of dirty plates to carry to the kitchen. I asked what she was doing and she said, “You need to bus the tables, that’s what we’re paying you for!”

I told her, “Actually, you’re not paying me anything. I am a guest.” and walked away.

It’s great that you were so helpful for this event, OP, but you’ve learned how much Madame X appreciates that help.

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cdubz May 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Ha! That reminds me of when I was in high school shopping at Target. I just so happened to be wearing khakis and a red shirt, but it was obvious I wasn’t there working because of my huge wedge heels, wild hair, many accessories, and the fact that the shirt was actually a halter showing a little of my stomach. A woman came up to me and asked about some sort of sale, I don’t remember exactly (I was 16, so this was 14 years ago) and I, of course, look at her like a deer in headlights and point to an employee, saying “I don’t know, ask him.”

She went OFF. You would have thought she had just seen me kicking puppies or something. A whole lot of cursing and “I’m going to have words with your manager.” I told her good luck with that because I don’t work here ( I may have used more colorful language, because 16) and walked off to try on some clothes. I didn’t see her again throughout my shopping.

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Rebecca May 9, 2014 at 12:43 am

Ha. Getting off topic, but I had the same thing happen in Walmart. I wasn’t even wearing a blue shirt. But I was rifling through a pile of clothing trying to find something in a particular size, and unlike most other people (I guess) I was refolding items I had picked up to look at, before placing them back on the shelf. A woman came up to me and asked where the lipstick was. I just said I didn’t know, and kept on doing what I was doing. She looked aghast. Then I took pity on her and told her I didn’t work there. But I suggested it might be over by the huge sign that said ‘Costmetics.”

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Anonymouse May 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I had the same thing happen to me at Staples, but I was wearing my uniform from my fast food job (that looks nothing like the Staples uniform… I don’t know what was going through the guys head).

I actually stopped and helped the guy after he realized his mistake. I’m kind of a pushover that way.

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AD May 9, 2014 at 10:26 pm

That’s also happened to me. I was at Walmart, in a black Guiness shirt and jeans, with a shopping cart that had a screaming toddler and my groceries, and was perusing a list. Some lady came up to me and asked where she could find thus-and-such thing. It happens quite often. I guess I just have a helpful face?

Michelle C Young May 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

A few years ago, I went on a vacation to Disney World. Every single day of my trip, I was mistaken for an employee (they call them “cast members”). I didn’t mind, because I’m a helpful-type person, usually, and I was in a great mood, so giving directions was no big deal, if I knew the way, and if I didn’t, I consulted a map.

I just thought it was odd. Every single day! Usually several times in a day, too.

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Emmy May 13, 2014 at 6:40 am

I had one experience with this too at a friend’s wedding. It was being held in a church basement so myself and some of the bridesmaids came after the rehersal dinner to decorate. I met an aunt of the bride there and we wound up chatting. She seemed nice and even offered to let me have some of the decorations for my upcoming wedding…however the niceness was gone the next day. Crazy aunt would bark orders at me and the bridesmaids and after the wedding, she said in order to get the decorations I had to stay and clean up the entire place. I explained to her that DH and I had plans and she tried to argue with me. DF and I went home at that point. Evil Emmy kind of hopes she got stuck cleaning up everything herself.

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Lo May 8, 2014 at 9:23 am

I’m not exactly understanding what all the different things have to do with one another so forgive me if I’m missing something but is the chair thing not just a dumb she thing she happened to do?

I mean, if you are at an event and you leave your seat and the person knows you will be returning it doesn’t matter how crucial you are to the event it’s totally rude to give the chair away. It’s just rude and stupid and thoughtless to do that to anyone.

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Miss-E May 8, 2014 at 11:17 am

I think the OP was just making the point that something that was normally rude and stupid to do was particularly insulting because the OP was playing such a big role at the event. As in, it’s rude to give away someone’s chair at a wedding, it’s insanely rude to give away the bride’s chair at a wedding.

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EllenS May 8, 2014 at 9:32 am

That must have felt awful, I’m sorry.
However, I think it is understandable that Madame X may have thought you were “working” the event, rather than there as a guest. She may have easily misinterpreted the introduction as a commendation from your supervisor on what a great job you were doing.
Pitching in is great, but when you take on a role, people will expect you to continue in it.

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GEna May 8, 2014 at 9:33 am

It sounds to me like the event was rather chaotic, and perhaps Madame X was stressed. I certainly would be, if a busful of non-RSVP’s showed up, the keynote speaker left her materials in her office, the keynote speaker had a baby present, and the tech guy hadn’t shown up yet.

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Melissa May 9, 2014 at 8:52 am

Agreed. Seems like moving someone’s chair around was the least of the issues with this event. Seems like a mess….

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Deb May 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

So you helped out. What did you want? A medal? The proper response would be as follows: 1. Find another chair. 2. Sit in it. 3. Stop “keeping score” and forget about it.

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Politrix May 8, 2014 at 11:34 am

Agreed. To be honest, I thought this was going to go in a really bad direction — as in, you temporarily left the venue to contact the Tech dept. and Madame X refused to allow you re-entry to the luncheon, or point-blank asked you to leave the luncheon, or said there wasn’t enough room to accommodate a last-minute invitee or something. Or that she gave away the last remaining chair to one of the girls, leaving the OP with nowhere to sit during the luncheon. But really? All this fuss when the OP could simply get another chair and enjoy the luncheon? A tempest in a teapot. Sheesh!

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AnaMaria May 8, 2014 at 7:59 pm

The issue is not that OP was doing all the work and Madame X took her chair away- it was that OP was INVITED TO THE LUNCHEON as a guest by someone who had full authority to invite her (and happened to end up helping out, too) and then someone else turned around and took her chair away, rather than grabbing an extra chair that no one was using. Completely unacceptable treatment of a guest! This was a sit-down luncheon, not a football game with pizza at a friend’s house- invited guests shouldn’t have to get their own chairs!

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SamiHami May 8, 2014 at 11:51 am

Wow, Deb! That’s a pretty nasty reply. I seriously doubt you would feel that way if you had been in OP’s position.

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Deb May 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

In the OP’s position, I would have taken an available chair, happy that I had contributed in some small way to the success of the event, and eager to hear my coworker’s speech. I’m no pushover, but I was taught to lend a hand, when needed, without expecting anyone to even notice. This was a one-time, everybody-on-stage situation. OP is miffed at Madame X. I get that. But we don’t know what caused her to seat a girl where she did. Is asserting one’s “right” to that particular seat worth adding to the day’s confusion? I’m sure the keynote speaker, the security guards, the chaperones, and the girls on the bus were grateful. Isn’t that enough?

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Kirst May 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I’m really not sure what the big deal is. It wasn’t the last chair in the hall. There were plenty of others, and the OP was entitled to A chair, not that particular chair. Get another chair and get on with your life.

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Cat May 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

That is rather like the airline passenger who refused to allow another passenger to sit in her seat. This lady was invited by someone who had the right to issue the invitation. To take away her chair was rude.
The proper response would be, “That chair was for me to sit in. Chairs have been provided for the girls. How would you like to handle this?” Put the ball back in her park. She created a problem; she needs to resolve it.

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EllenS May 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Really? You think it would be a good move for her to confront the organizer of the event (who from the tone of the post sounded like a senior person in the same job field) in front of 1) her professor and 2) a teenage girl who was invited to sit down?

The whole point of the event was to uplift the girls and encourage them to further their education. I don’t think embarassing the girl like that would further the message. It would also not make a good impression on OP’s professor.

I think it would be more mature and tactful to assume it was a misunderstanding. Yes it was OP’s chair but to say “that’s MY chair” just sounds like a petulant child.

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Abby May 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Problem is, by that time the presentation had probably already started. Does OP really want to stand up in the middle of the room and delay the presentation just on principal?

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Schnickelfritz May 10, 2014 at 10:37 am

“The proper response would be…”

Yes – bringing attention to an oversight by embarrassing the “girl (guest)” – and Madame – is so proper. The OP was running around, being very helpful – at an event for OUTSIDE guests. Why would putting Madame on the spot, calling her out on something that was not a big deal, be in any way proper? Some people just look for offense when none is intended. That poor Girl Guest would be confused at that rudeness.

Madame did nothing wrong. The OP was helping in many ways; even when not necessary (the laptop, for example, that was a bit overstepping, the planners / speaker obviously had it covered). The OP presented herself as an assistant, part of the organizing team, very nice. She should have stepped back and found another seat, furthering her reputation as a boon to the team. The event was for the GIRL GUESTS.

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GrizzMagoo May 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I second that.

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Rod May 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Nope. Keeping score is part of life. Otherwise how would you learn anything?

Is Madame X an evil, resentful hydra threatened by your competency? Unlikely.

Is she likely to be unappreciative of what you do, offer assistance, and be an asset rather than a hindrance? It seems to be so.

So 1. Find another chair. 2. Sit on it. 3. Remember what you learned so you can deal with people and situations better.

If “sucking it up” was the answer, we’d need no etiquette at all.

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nayberry May 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

so you’d be okay with having your seat given away at an event you’d helped with?

X was rude and trying to be the “big i am” and merely showed herself to be classless

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Kirst May 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

If it was the last seat, or the Magic Wishing Chair, then yes, I’d be irritated. But it was one chair of many and the OP was well able to get another one.

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RC May 8, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Agreed, Deb! Storm in a teacup! It was nice that OP was invited at all, and her gripe is having to sit further away because one of the guests of honour of the event was given her chair? The direction the story was taking I was expecting it to end, you know, badly.

Don’t let it put you off helping OP, it sounds like you were a good friend and did a good job and I think it’s a great thing to do (I run a lot of these events and volunteers are the backbone). But I would suggest not letting a tiny incident like having to move seats get to you to the point where you’re writing letters about it.

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Jazzgirl205 May 9, 2014 at 7:04 am

I have volunteered at so many charity balls, art openings, theatre parties, city celebrations and weddings to know that people are rushed and flustered. I’m not in a chair long enough for anyone to realize that it’s mine. It seriously would not have fazed me in the least.

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Mer May 9, 2014 at 7:33 am

I understood that the chair was taken away. Chairs were around the table, so probably OP was supposed to eat in said table with coworker and other organizers. Next is guessing, but I would think it’s probable that OP had set her stuff on that place, maybe handbag, might have even poured glass of water if there were glasses in the table (quite common around here to have the glasses and pitchers of water readily around). So when OP comes back to the place she finds out that chair from her place is missing. That is very weird if OP was supposed to sit in that table, invited by another organizer.

So if one of the girls’ tables lacked chair, why go to the trouble and take a chair from a place that was already reserved by other guest. If there were extra chairs available, maybe in emptier tables or maybe put beside the walls as extras/something else, why not take one of those, why actually go to the trouble and take a reserved one. Maybe I don’t understand the setting properly, because I don’t understand the need to give a chair away from one table, especially from the table that seems to hold the organizers when there were available seats for the girls to sit. I would have understood this better, if the girl was going to sit on OP’s place due to lack of seating in other tables. But they just moved the chair away.

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Girlie May 9, 2014 at 8:46 am

Yeah, I think the point here isn’t that there were plenty more chairs so, “oh just go get one”, it’s the symbolic point that OP had a seat there for her and Madame X just gave it away nonchalantly. Madame X was passive aggressive in this- probably feeling undermined that she hadn’t organized well enough and did this little thing to shove OP away, who was being the hero of the day at that point. I would be completely offended if I were you. But, nevertheless, for that moment in time, I would get another chair, smile HUGELY, and say thank you to her many times for including you in the event. Kill em with kindness.

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Girlie May 9, 2014 at 8:50 am

Yeah, I think the point here isn’t that there were plenty more chairs so, “oh just go get one”, it’s the symbolic point that OP had a seat there for her and Madame X just gave it away nonchalantly. Madame X was passive aggressive in this- probably feeling undermined that she hadn’t organized well enough and did this little thing to shove OP away, who was being the hero of the day at that point. I would be completely offended if I were you. But, nevertheless, for that moment in time, I would get another chair, smile HUGELY, and say thank you to her many times for including you in the event. Kill em with kindness. Plus, if Madame X “accidentally” gave the chair away, when OP returned I’m sure she would’ve apologized profusely and gone to find another chair since she would’ve felt bad, but, she didn’t- hence the rudeness.

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Enna May 10, 2014 at 5:34 am

I think it makde OP feel like she was underappericated – OP had done a lot of running around and was a bit peeved at having her chair given away – that can be irataing if you’re tired. The OP has ended up doing a lot of running around a lot more than she should she have had to do due to the lack of organisation by Madame X. Maybe OP feels taken for granted? If so put it down to a learning curve.

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JWH May 9, 2014 at 11:52 am

Disagree, Deb. If your seat at an event is given away, there’s only one solution. Assign your second to contact Madame X’s second so that the insult may be settled on the field of honor.

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Deb May 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Oh, I love it! I’ll buy tickets for both of us!

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crebj May 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I’ll be the one on the sidelines, in her own chair (brought for the occasion), sipping merlot.

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JWH May 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Actually, the Wikipedia article on the Code Duello was an interesting read. Under the Code, dueling was actually not the first resort. The seconds would actually negotiate with each other to find a non-dueling solution to the matter … and an actual physical duel was set to occur only if the gentlemen’s seconds failed to reach an accord.

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Jewel May 8, 2014 at 9:59 am

Madame X felt threatened by your competency and willingness to assist (and was probably annoyed at having to accommodate a group that didn’t RSVP that you had welcomed to the event anyway). So, she deliberately decided to “take you down a notch” and show you that she was in charge by removing your place at the table. Her behavior speaks poorly of her character and likely wasn’t the first (or the last) time she reacted like this.

I once had a similar experience after successfully organizing a major week-long event for several thousand visitors to our city. At the same time, one of the higher-ups in the organization had been side-lined for incompetency and was floundering about to find his place. I’m sure it was a major blow to his ego considering he was ivy league educated, had had a lucrative career up to that point, and was from a prominent family. At the celebration for everyone who played a role in the event, he got drunk and let me know that I was a “nothing” despite the success of the event. “Who are you?”, he said. “You’re just a nobody from no where.” Some thanks for months and months of hard work and sacrifice of time with my family, eh?

Although the memory still stings, I’ve long since forgiven him as he is clearly deficit in character. All the education, money, and status in the world didn’t help him overcome his tendency to be mean spirited and belittling instead of supportive, warm, and encouraging. He’s a small man in all the ways that count and must know it deep down inside, which would be a hellish thing to realize about yourself. So, these days, I just consider him with pity. I advise you to take the same approach regarding Madame X.

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PM May 8, 2014 at 10:21 am

Money and education do not equal class.

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MamaToreen May 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I would have said, “Be that as it may, I am a COMPETANT (sp?) nobody from nowhere.”

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kit May 9, 2014 at 9:31 am

Saying anything with a “(sp?)” is NOT a way to show oneself as someone competent, I’m afraid. :D

BTW, http://www.merriam-webster.com/ is my good friend – I can make myself seem competent in English over the internet to the point where people don’t guess it is my third foreign language!

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RC May 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm

*applause for Jewel* Great attitude you have!

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Nannerdoman May 8, 2014 at 10:24 am

As an administrative assistant, I found a few of the previous posts disturbing–”behave as though you’re a helper and you must expect to be treated as such”. Is it really an assistant’s role to give and give and give and simply yield even a place at the table? Besides which, Mme X knew that the OP was an invited guest and not support staff from the venue. I agree with the OP that Mme X was pretty rude here.

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hakayama May 8, 2014 at 10:46 am

Heavens protect us and keep us out of the way of the “Madame Xs” of this world.
It seems like her actual non-power and non-importance have gone to her head like soda bubbles.
Yes, the OP survived the snub and found out WHAT Mme X was. However, those commenters who overreach to make excuses for Madame X, might benefit from some (or many) ;-) “educational” encounters in the near (and distant) future.
Yes, I may come across as mean, but it is quite tiring to constantly hear excuses for people’s bad behavior and ugly character. Past heavy tragedies and/or the day’s pressures and mishaps do not give anyone a pass to “pass it along”.

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Cora May 8, 2014 at 10:50 am

I agree with Jewel — pure jealousy on Madame X’s part. Why wasn’t she at the venue early, ready for anything? Why hadn’t she told security that buses from high schools were coming? Why didn’t she have a backup laptop? Any organizer worth anything is prepared for it all, knowing that mistakes are going to happen: people will arrive too early; people will show who did not RSVP; people will forget equipment, or it will break down. You weren’t even in charge of the event but handled it all with grace and poise, thereby showing her just how much better other people could be at the task (and it’s all about her, of course). She ought to have thanked you, but she’s petty and instead tried to “show you”. Uch. Learn from it and then let it roll; she’s the one who sucks, not you.

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lakey May 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

My take on this is colored by experiences I’ve had working with various supervisors. People who are incompetent know deep down that they are incompetent. This colors their behavior toward other employees, especially people under them. I wouldn’t take this personally. Madame X sounds like she is not on top of things. Just work around her.

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The Elf May 9, 2014 at 7:16 am

That sums it up beautifully and reflects my experience with the Madame Xs of the world too.

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Kristin May 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

I couldn’t have said it better than Deb! What’s the big deal? Madame X was rude, but not overly so. As Jewel said: she may have felt threatened by someone who was clearly more competent and conscientious than she.

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Cat May 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm

You are not alone. I once rented two stalls in a stable for my horses. The mother of the owner of the stable demanded that I pick up cigarette butts from the ground as one of the other women whose horses were stabled there smoked and threw the butts on the ground as no bins for the butts were provided. Hay everywhere and no sprinkler system-bad idea.
I explained that I did not work there, did not smoke, and was not cleaning up after one who did.
She then demanded that I pick up the leaves that were falling from the trees. There were over a dozen trees and thousands of leaves. She did not want them raked, but picked up one at a time.
I realized that her mind had gone and just ignored her.

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ohboy May 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Exactly, ignore, ignore, ignore. Roll your eye balls if you must, put on a smile (not for them, but for you) and walk away.

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Margaret May 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Would OP please clarify: did you lose your actual place setting at the table (i.e. someone else was sitting in your spot or the place setting or space for you was removed), or was just your chair removed, but your spot was still there and you just had to go and get another chair? The former would be pretty rude, but the latter strikes me as more thoughtless or inconsiderate than rude. E.g. if a girl were looking for a spot at a table with her group and Madam X said, “here, you can fit this chair in” because it was at hand and the quickest way to get the girl seated, knowing that you can grab another chair, then it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. An annoyance that Madam X couldn’t be bothered to go and get the replacement chair herself after you had been running around, but it isn’t clear if Madam X was also running around doing last minute things (like getting girls seated) or if she was sitting back and watching others do all the work. It is definitely rude if Madam X gave away your actual spot/seat at the table.

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PYES May 8, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Since you seem very capable I can see Madam X responding to a request for a vacant chair. She may not have even registered that it was vacant because you were planning to return to the luncheon. I’d have been put out to have to go get another chair after all I’d already volunteered to do. But I wouldn’t assume her mistake was malicious.

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Abby May 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I, like some of the other posters, thought this was going to end with Madame X barring the door and telling OP she was not welcome at the luncheon. While not that bad, giving her chair away was really rude. It does not matter even if Madame X thought the coworker did not have the right to invite OP- you don’t handle the situation by removing someone’s chair when they get up to help the speaker with something.

That said, just how disorganized is this whole operation anyways? The security staff couldn’t have made the calls the OP made? It seems like no matter how explicit instructions are, there’s always a few people who don’t follow directions and it would be prudent for security to be aware of that inevitability. Then, the technical help to set up the presentation is late, the keynote speaker both brings her baby and forgets important materials?

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm

You could also have used your Polite Spine and said- “I’m sorry. There’s been a misunderstanding. I was seated here. Let me show you (the young lady who had your chair) where the other seats are.” Sometimes you do have to speak up- bullies count on you not wanting to make a scene. As an insider- you would be hard to directly challenge in your own professional environment.

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Mer May 9, 2014 at 8:11 am

I understood that OP’s chair was moved away, as in taken from that table and moved to other table leaving chairless, empty place where the OP was sitting previously. If I understood that right from OP’s post, it would have been quite impossible and very rude to approach the girl who now had the chair, she does not deserve that kind of embarrassing, I think we all agree on this :D How horrible it would be if you were given chair and then somebody comes around and says “I must have that specific chair that is under you butt so I can go to sit at my place on the other table”.

What Madame X SHOULD have done if giving the chair away was necessary, was to give her own chair and then go to pick a new one/send somebody else pick a new one from the extra chairs. If it even was necessary to use one of the reserved chairs around her table.

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

You’re right. As Margaret mentioned, it would help to know if it’s just a chair or if the seat and table place had both been given away. I’ll admit to being a bit prickly about people touching stuff I’m using and OP states that she returned to the table to place her computer into its bag. Thus- wouldn’t her bag have been on, under or next to her chair? In any case- it’s a graceless act on the part of the “X” to give away an occupied seat. But I’ll certainly admit that my own “take” on the situation is subjective.

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 9, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Also, I will be laughing about this for a LONG time- “I must have that specific chair that is under you butt so I can go to sit at my place on the other table”. Truly epic!

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Saucygirl May 8, 2014 at 4:45 pm

While I do agree madam X was in wrong for giving away a taken chair, I am not sure why your colleague felt it was necessary for you to tell her in the midst of a busy luncheon about a group that had not rsvpd or parked properly. The information doesn’t impact the luncheon, which was Madame xs current priority. Couldn’t it have waited till later, during wrap up? This doesn’t excuse Madame x, but maybe she thought you were criticizing her event and how she was running it and this was her passive aggressive way to remove you from what was most likely a stressful time for her

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Pam May 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I don’t think the supervisor was wrong in giving the chair to one of the girls if that was more convenient for them to not have to wait to round one up, IF she had then gone and replaced it with another one. And OP, if I were you, I wouldn’t take it personally.

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Annastasia von Beaverhausen May 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I’m confused – was it assigned seating? If not, why didn’t you just pull up another chair? Did the previous one have your coat on it or something? How would she know it was yours?

Of all the faux pas I’ve ever read about on this site, this one seems like sort of a non-event. If you want to send Madame X to e-Hell, do it for failing to thank you profusely for your help (if she didn’t), or screaming at the waitrons because the cupcakes were limp (if she did). Grabbing a chair for a little girl at an event that sound like it was turning into a total shit-show seems pretty low on the list of offenses Madame X could have committed.

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AIP May 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Pretty innocuous; there were other seats available. If you attend or help out at events in the future, this will become practically pedestrian. It was either rude or lazy to give away the seat, but there were others there. To echo another post if you act like the help you will be treated like the help, regardless of who you are or what your job title is.

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JO May 8, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I think madame X was probably feeling embarrassed and annoyed. Annoyed because you may have seemed (at least to her) to be trying to take over her event. Embarrassed because your stepping in to help was showing everyone that she apparently couldn’t handle it on her own! She sounds like a glory-monger. The important thing, of course, is that the girls went away with a good impression and a desire to further their education. Of course it stings, but for now, rest easy in the knowledge that you did all you could to help provide the girls with a nice event. And when events are coming up in the future, remind her ahead of time that she should probably make sure to appoint more help, since you intend to actually enjoy the event this time. Sitting down :-)

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crebj May 9, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Good answer.

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psammead May 9, 2014 at 12:13 am

Wow, after reading that long and frankly rather braggy post, I’m coming down on the side of Deb, Politrix and Kristin. I was fully expecting to read that “Madame X” denied OP entrance to the event, or made her stand at the back of the room, or treated her in some other spectacularly humiliating way. To find that she had just given the OP’s chair to someone else, in a moment of garden-variety thoughtlessness, was pretty anticlimactic. Perhaps you had to have been there to see the “disrespect,” but going purely off the content of this post, I think the OP is making a mountain out of a molehill here. The chair thing is just, as Lo said, “a dumb thing she happened to do,” and it seems like a long reach to construe it as a deliberate slight or gesture of disrespect.

I think it’s also reaching to make broad assumptions about “Madame X’s” character or competence based on a moment of thoughtlessness that anyone might have. (Are the denizens of Ehell really so perfect that they’ve never done such a thing in all their days?)

Yes, the OP did a good deal to help, but nothing she did is a reflection on Madame X’s competence or lack of it. Yes, she helped the keynote speaker with her speech–but I can’t see how this has anything to do with Madame X at all.

She “helped pacify and corral a participating group”–but their need to be pacified and corralled, because they didn’t have the schedule and location for the event, had nothing to do with Madame X and everything to do with their own failure to RSVP. Yes, the organizer of an event has to be prepared for people showing up who didn’t RSVP, but how exactly was she supposed to get the schedule and location for the event, in advance, to a group she had no way of anticipating? Is telepathy now a requirement for an event organizer?

She got the keynote speaker’s materials from her office–well, perhaps Madame X should have had a gofer or two ready and waiting, in case the keynote speaker forgot something important, but since the OP was on hand and willing to do it, I’m sure she just breathed a sigh of relief that here was one less thing for her to do.

Finally, OP offered her laptop when it looked as if the Tech Department might not bring one in time, but the laptop was clearly on its way, so Madame X had that taken care of too.

I can see where OP feels that the event couldn’t have occurred without her, and perhaps that accounts for the impression that giving OP’s chair to someone else would be like “giving away the bride’s chair at a wedding,” or that it was petty revenge because the OP had salvaged the day from Madame X’s blunders and displayed her superior competence to all and sundry. But I can’t find any evidence that Madame X made any blunders except in thoughtlessly giving the first chair she could lay her hands on to the person who asked for it. Nor do we have reason to believe, just from OP’s account, that she was threatened by the OP’s competency, arrogant and full of herself, jealous of the OP’s grace and poise, mean-spirited, in the habit of slighting people for petty reasons, or a person of “ugly character.”

(Really, the OP does manage to convey that she was the most important person there. If she behaved that way at the event, I can understand how the person who had worked for months to organize it might be nettled.)

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Library Diva May 9, 2014 at 9:03 am

I agree with you. I was surprised at the amount of sympathy OP received here. Should Madame X have given away her chair? No, of course not. But we don’t know the context of how the chair came to disappear. Maybe the girl was in the middle of carting it off with an aside of “you don’t mind if I take this, do you?” Maybe the girl who needed it was being disruptive over her inability to find a chair and Madame X just wanted her to sit down and stop freaking out that she wasn’t going to be able to sit with her friends. Maybe Madame X really thought that OP wasn’t going to be doing much sitting during the event. Who knows…really, who cares? This isn’t that big of a deal.

I put this in the same category as something that happened to me this morning. I was heading to my office and there was a knot of people blocking the hall. I said “Good morning, excuse me.” Everyone moved aside except the one woman who was directly blocking me. I know she knew something was going on because the woman standing behind her stepped aside, and also because she was in the middle of a high-traffic area and should not be surprised. That was 45 minutes ago. I’ve already brushed it off. I doubt it was anything personal on this woman’s part, and I doubt Madame X deliberately gave away OP’s chair as some sort of passive-aggressive move.

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JJ Fad May 9, 2014 at 10:17 am

I must disagree completely with your assessment of the post, psammead. The post I read came off more like a matter-of-fact description of the events leading up the snub… and it was a snub. Whether or not it was an *intentional* snub is something that is open for debate as far as I’m concerned.
True, giving her chair away was not the end of the world. And I know a lot of people who would make a huge deal out of it. But the tone of this post just seems to me that OP had done a lot to help at an event that clearly *was* missing a few important contingency plans (no one, at any point in the planning, ever, thought to have a procedure for non RSVPs, and convey the information to security? No one thought to double check with IT that they had the right time of the keynote address so they could be set up well in advance?) and Madame X either maliciously or thoughtlessly gave her seat away.
That would perturb me enough to at least want to vent about it.

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psammead May 9, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Nope. There’s a good reason why information about the location and schedule was given only to people who had RSVP’d: to ensure that anyone who planned to attend would need to reply, giving the organizer a good idea of how many guests to expect. It was not “Madame X’s” responsibility to send that information to all the people who couldn’t be bothered to RSVP, on the off-chance that they might show up at the last minute.

Nor was it her job to issue a campus-wide alert to security, to tell them that people who didn’t reply to her invite, yet wanted to attend her event anyway, might show up in random places on campus expecting to be taken in hand and directed to the venue.

The only people who clearly messed up were the OP’s friend (I notice the OP doesn’t fault her for forgetting the materials for her big speech) and the adults in charge of the group helped by the OP. It was their responsibility to RSVP; they either didn’t read the invite very carefully, or they forgot to reply, or it was one of those deals where everybody thinks someone else has taken care of it, or they thought it was okay to ignore the RSVP request. Then somehow they managed to get on the bus and get as far as the school before anyone realized that they didn’t actually know where the event was, and without ever thinking to call the main office of the department that was hosting it–they just expected to show up without notice and have other people sort out their problems. It’s hard to see how the organizer was to plan for that: no matter how well you plan, you cannot foresee everything that might go wrong through other people’s stupidity and entitlement, which this was.

And unexpected glitches, like the IT guys being slow to bring the laptop for the presentation, can happen in the best-organized events. There’s nothing here to suggest that the organizer had failed to tell the techs when the speech was to be given, and we have no reason to make assumptions about why the techs didn’t show up sooner.

As at least one other poster has pointed out, in the grand scheme of things, the OP’s contribution was really somewhat minor. Did she deserve more consideration than she received? Of course. Was “Madame X” thoughtless? Certainly. But I think OP’s “perturbation” is disproportionate to the tiny slight she received, from a person with a thousand and one more pressing things to think of than the OP’s very important and precious self.

This post apparently gave quite a few ehellions the impression that the OP salvaged the day from Madame X’s ineptitude, and that OP’s importance was on a par with that of the bride at a wedding! I doubt that would’ve happened if the OP’s post hadn’t been so braggy and self-important.

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crebj May 9, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I believe you’ve got it.

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Deb May 10, 2014 at 8:31 am

“… and it was a snub. Whether or not it was an *intentional* snub is something that is open for debate as far as I’m concerned.”

A snub, by definition, is intentional. I think it’s safe to say that there are far more “perceived snubs” in this world than actual ones.

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Ellex May 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Pretty much this.

We’re all the hero of our own stories and the main character of our own movies. It’s easy to forget that in someone else’s story you might be a bit part (or even the villain). I think there’s every chance that the OP was not as important to Madame X’s story as she thought she was.

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Schnickelfritz May 10, 2014 at 10:51 am

YES! This. Exactly this.

And, the “jealous” thing is really thrown around a bit much. Here and elsewhere. It cracks me up, if you don’t agree with or particularly like something, “you are just jealous” seriously? When someone throws that out, it is just a cop-out to justify. It seems the people with the most jealous bones in their bodies, are the ones that throw the word around the most. No, Madame is not jealous of OP. She probably didn’t give OP a second thought – she had an event going on, with many, many more details to keep track of, than the few the OP assisted with.

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Angeldrac May 9, 2014 at 6:15 am

Considering Madam X was organising the whole thing, is it too much of a stretch to consider that OP’s contributions may have, indeed, been somewhat minor, in the scheme of things, and that she (Madam X) had more pressing things on her mind than ensuring a random volunteer’s seat?
To me, this situation seems like the old story of “should a person give up their bus seat for the pregnant person” – you’re abit of a jerk if you don’t offer your seat, but you’re a bit of a jerk if you’re the pregnant person expecting everyone to rise for you.
It was a bit of a jerky thing for Madam X to give away
OP’s seat, but it’s a bit jerky for OP to get to upset about it.

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BagLady May 9, 2014 at 8:54 am

Remember, there was a busload of girls — plus chaperons — who hadn’t RSVP’d. Also, OP was invited to the luncheon at the last minute. So there must have been a scramble to set up additional chairs and tables at the luncheon site. (I’m picturing a room where there are chairs and tables set for the event close to the head table/podium, with spare chairs in the back, either without tables or with unset tables.)

Doesn’t surprise me that a seat or two might have gotten lost in the shuffle. And given that the event was *for the girls,* I don’t think Madame X was thinking about dissing OP — she saw that one of the girls needed a seat, there was a (currently) empty one, and she directed the girl to it. I think there’s a lot of malicious intent being attributed to Madame X, when there’s no indication from the OP that she was irritated or resentful of OP’s presence, or her help.

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Anonymous May 9, 2014 at 11:15 am

If the OP never said she was upset over Madame X giving her seat away (except anonymously to us), I don’t think it’s really fair to label her feelings as “jerky.”

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JWH May 9, 2014 at 11:48 am

Yes, it’s offputting, but it’s just a chair. I say don’t sweat it and move on.

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Kendra May 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I’m a little confused about how the OP really helped Madam X at this event. Most of the post she seems to be helping coworker with her speech. The running and fetching materials from coworkers office, the laptop, etc would have been coworker’s responsibility as the speaker, not Madam X’s. The letter doesn’t really give us an idea of how organized or disorganized the event was, just that coworker Keynote Speaker seemed rather disorganized. As far as the bus of non-RSVPers, I don’t know how large this campus is, but if it is a large one and if the library was nowhere near where the event was taking place, it would make sense that the security guard wouldn’t know anything about it. It sounds like the chaparones basically picked a random area of the campus to go to hoping that would be a good place to start. We don’t know that Madam X wasn’t early to greet the guests, only that she wasn’t at the library. While I think it was nice of the OP to take control of the lost girls, I do think she overstepped. She wasn’t a part of the event, she just knew about it because she was helping coworker with her speech. I think it was correct of her to bring the girls/chaparones inside since they were blocking traffic in the parking lot, but I also think that she should have gotten one of the event organizers on the phone, put a chaparone on the phone with the organizer and let the organizer decide whether they should give the chaparone directions, send someone to escort them, or say “sorry, you didn’t RSVP”
As far as the seat thing goes, yeah, I think it was weird and rude and I can see how it would be upsetting. On the other hand, I don’t think it was likely a deliberate slight on Madam X’s part, just a momentary bit of thoughtless rudeness. I think Madam X does owe OP an apology for being rude, not because she helped a little bit, but because she was the invited guest of another of the organizers.

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kit May 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Good point about the overstepping! Maybe Madame X was a bit nonplussed at OP because she who had nothing to do with the event brought in a busload of non-RSVPers.
People who like the analogy with a wedding – imagine that someone who was not asked to wedding but was good friends with one of bridesmaids helps this very disorganized bridesmaid with finding her dress, and also leads to wedding party a busload of unexpected guests. And you are seriously saying that is makes her as important as the bride?

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Annastasia von Beaverhausen May 11, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Yes, this exactly!

This doesn’t even seem like an etiquette issue to me – it seems like a workplace issue with the OP trying to insert herself into someone else’s work where she wasn’t needed. It was nice enough to steer the bus the right way, and to help the friend with the speech, but if the OP really thinks that was all that was required to make the day a success, she’s obviously never planned an event before.

Honestly, I think the suggestions that Madame X was somehow trying to show the OP up, or was threatened by her competence (really?) is farcical. I would be shocked if Madame X had thought about the OP at all beyond being her one more annoyance during a busy event with lots going on already.

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Kendra May 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Yes, exactly. Not only that, but a person who really has nothing to do with the event (officially) trying to insert herself into the middle of it multiple times.

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Rosie B. May 9, 2014 at 6:16 pm

To be fair, the purpose of the luncheon wasn’t to honor all the people who helped make the event happen, it was for the girls. Furthermore, the entire event was to try to convince girls to go to college, so I’m sure they wanted to create a welcoming environment. They want prospective students to feel like they’re the top priority at the school, and that it will be like a “home away from home” for them. It was definitely rude to give your chair to someone else, but its better (for them, at least) to take a chair from a current faculty member than a prospective student.

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Karen T May 11, 2014 at 3:52 am

I’m not really sure that someone giving away your chair warrants such a feeling of outrage. As you said there were plenty of chairs, just further away. You could have just gotten yourself another chair and forgot about it? I feel that you wanted Madam X to recognise the work you put in helping your friend out and were put out when she didn’t.

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Abby May 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

I think you’re right. I do agree that it was rude to give away the chair (Madame X should have given away her own chair, and then grabbed another one), or, at the very least, been apologetic about it, but the OP seems to be taking this quite personally. The issue should be about the rudeness of giving away someone else’s chair when they are clearly still using it (rude in any circumstances), not the rudeness in giving away someone’s chair who had helped out with a lot of last minute kinks.

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