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Movie Seat Hogs

Some years ago, my mother, grandmother, and I took my two younger brothers to see a movie at a large Omnitheater near my grandmother’s home. It was the film’s opening day, so the theater was not only huge, but packed with people. Now, both my siblings are autistic and one has cerebral palsy as well and wears a heavy leg brace as a result, and my grandmother is in her late seventies and has very painful arthritis. As such, an insane number of stairs is not a sight we greet with much pleasure. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we got: dozens of stairs extending the whole length of this enormous theater. What fun.

Still, there didn’t seem to be much point in complaining, so we just looked around for what few seats were open. Strangely, in the middle of this crowded theater, there was an entire row (I’m guessing around twenty to thirty seats) towards the top that was almost completely empty, save three ten year old girls and a meticulously dressed middle-aged lady (you know, the kind who’d never admit to being middle-aged). People seemed to be steering clear of this section, which should have been a warning sign, but, silly little naive teenager that I am, I led my family up. As soon as we get there, the lady bolts out her chair, runs over to us, and literally spreads out her arms Gandalf-style to keep us from sitting down. She puts on this simpering “be-nice-to-the-peons” smile and says this:

LADY: I’m sorry, but these seats are reserved.

ME: *checks for “RESERVED” sign like an idiot, finds none* Really? Did you get them reserved?

LADY: No, but we’re saving them.

MOM and GRANDMA: All of them?

LADY: *Nods*

MOM: *muttering* Christ, you’ve gotta be kidding me.

BROTHER 1: Mom, let’s sit down.

LADY: You can’t, these are saved.

BROTHER 1: But…*starts first stages of full scale panic attack, which he’s very prone to, and it’s not pretty* But there’s nowhere else to sit…w-we’ll miss the movie…*hyperventilates*

ME: *thinking, “Crap, panic time, DEFCON ONE!”* You can’t seriously need all these chairs.

LADY: Yes, I do. My daughter’s friends are coming, and they’ll need plenty of room.

ME: *thinking, “Who’s she friends with? China?”* Look, it’s just there’s nowhere else to sit, and my brother has a leg problem *cue brother scraping heavy metal brace across floor* and he has trouble with stairs, so I don’t want him to have to-

LADY: Yes, yes, I understand, but these seats are ours. You’re just going to have to live with that.

With that, she goes back to her seat, rolling her eyes. For a minute, I start to sit down anyway, thinking, “up your nose with a rubber hose,” but she spots me and tenses in her chair, her nails literally digging into her armrest. Deciding that this isn’t something I’m willing to die over (and judging from her expression, that’s exactly what would have happened in five seconds), I get up and we manage to find spots in the farthest back row of the theater. Oh, and the girl’s friends? There were ten of them. Maybe. They just used most of the chairs as freaking coat racks. I mean, really, lady? You deny seats to an old lady, a panicked child, and a cripple so your coat won’t get wrinkled? Classy. 0322-11

The lesson I would have walked away with was that I need to get to the theater much earlier than any seat hogs and stake out my seat claim first.   Seat Hogs will always exist but I’d rather they be someone else’s problem to deal with.   Shoot, if you time it right, you could sit watching the Seat Hog drama while munching on some buttery popcorn.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Typo Tat April 6, 2011, 5:54 am

    K’s comment is written in a rude tone, but the gist of it is right: “If YOU have special circumstances, YOU have to accommodate yourself.”

  • RMMuir April 6, 2011, 6:44 am

    For my 18th Birthday, a group of 10 of us went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 dressed as pirates, which was pretty banter. We’d reserved tickets before hand, but there was trouble with the automated machine and I had to wait for Dad to arrive so we could pick them up (it was his card, so they wouldn’t let me do it, which is only fair). So we were late getting in. An usher moved some people out of the row so we could all sit together, which was really nice of him. So perhaps the solution is to go in costume?

  • delislice April 6, 2011, 7:15 am

    I’m a big fan of getting the usher when appropriate. I even summoned an usher once because a teenage girl a few rows up was sending and receiving texts nonstop throughout the movie. It’s probably petty, but the movie was one with mostly intimate, dimly lit scenes, and the little light-up glare every few seconds was distracting the bejeezus out of me.

  • Michelle P April 6, 2011, 8:23 am

    Sorry, but K’s comment was not right. Not only was it rude, but it was not true. Yes, people have to make their own arrangements, but this family did nothing wrong. (Except not sit in the “reserved” seats.) When there are children who have special needs and an elderly person, they come first, not phantom moviegoers. No one has the right to keep seats for many people, especially when that number of people weren’t going to be there.

    They had the right to go to any movie at any time they wanted, as long as they don’t disturb others.

  • Seat Savers suck April 6, 2011, 9:52 am

    There is a concert I attend once a year that is gen admin all around. People will save seats by putting pillow cases on them and then go off to get a drink or food, etc, leaving the seats open for long periods of time.

    I’ll move the pillow cases and sit down if the friend says they are “saved” I inform them that no one is sitting there at the moment and when the people saving them return, I will gladly get up. There have been times where I have sat for an hour before anyone returned, and there have been times I have left on my own with no one coming to reclaim the seats.

    It’s a big issue at the festival every year… but I just deal with it by sitting.

    Granted it’s a little different from a movie theater setting, but sometimes, you just have to take the hog by the horns.

  • Butterfly April 6, 2011, 10:51 am

    Ugh, as a former movie theater employee, here’s my solution: do not go to the theater! To me it is so not worth the high prices of tickets and snacks combined with the rudest people I have ever encountered. I am so glad to be out of that job, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back and deal with that. Not all movie-goers are rude, of course, but it seems like of all the places you encounter rude people, the worst of them are at the theater.

  • Enna April 6, 2011, 10:57 am

    OP: the lady was very rude – espeically since they were not all used. Next time talk to a manager or an usher. Seats are meant to be sat on not to store coats – either put coats over the back of the chair in front without distrubing the person in front or keep them on the lap. There are advntages to turning up early – you don’t have to deal with seathoggers. Now just because you have an eldery person, 2 autisic children and one with cerebal palsey does not mean you can’t go as suggested in one post: it just requires a bit more planning.

    Why not suggest to management they have resererved seats? “First come first served” on tickets and choosing location of seating there is the fairist system. Otherwise what happens is seathoggers get away with hogging seats and people have to split up as different parties never sit together – they will leave several seats inbetween on sit at the end not in the middle: then have people squeeze between them. Normally cinmas have “priority” seats for disabled or people with a disadvantage in their mobility.

    “First come first served” is a fair system in some respects but it does have flaws. It’s good on most trains and buses. However on some long distance journeys booking tickets espically on coaches and buses is a good idea as those who have booked tickets in advanced get seats first (in a sense they have arrived first). Trains are bigger – normally I don’t reseve a seat as if I miss that train at that time on that day I have to buy awhole new ticket and can’t use my young person’s card – an open ticket with no reseration gives me more flexibility and I’ve only had to stand on a long distance train twice in 6 years. Plus there are a set number of reserved seats and I try to travel off peak. If the train is crowded the driver always asks people to take stuff of the seats allowing other passagners to sit down.

    There are family seats which are two paris of seats facing each other round a table. It is selfish when one person sits there and hogs the whole table. One time a lady with a 2 children and her partner was really loosing it saying “there are no effing family seats together because one person is sitting there!” – Why not kindly ask someone to move? Instead of swearing her head off she could have done what the OP said – most people who are resonable are kind enough to move.

  • Bint April 6, 2011, 11:00 am

    Seat hogs on commuter trains get right on my nerves. It’s always satisfying to hear someone on a packed train say, “This seat’s saved” and the other person sit down in it saying, “No, it isn’t.”

    I would definitely sit down. And the poster who tried to save seats for 35 kids despite the cinema not reserving seats – school group or not, that was so wrong. The group should have arrived together or spoken to the management beforehand and asked for help to keep the group in one place. I’m very surprised a group that large didn’t bother – it was poor organisation that inconvenienced everyone else.

  • Bint April 6, 2011, 11:02 am

    PS @TypoTat and K, how is it relevant that they have special circumstances? They got there in plenty of time and there were spare seats. Should they come 45 minutes earlier just in case there are seat hogs? How ridiculous. They went to the cinema and bought tickets. There are no cirucmstances they need to accomodate here.

  • Compelled to Comment April 6, 2011, 12:34 pm

    Saving seats when one hasn’t purchased tickets for the seats is rude. So is not sitting in the seat you purchased your ticket for when their is assigned seating. The OP did nothing wrong, should have contacted mgnt and gone ahead and set up family in the seats. On the other hand, I used to have season tickets to several venues and would usually purchase three seats, only needing 2 of them. The third seat was for my coat or other belongings. I paid full-price for this seat, had all the tickets in hand and felt that it was mine to do with as I wanted. I would get dirty looks when I would make people leave my assigned seats and then put my coat in the empty seat. Was this wrong?

  • Xtina April 6, 2011, 1:49 pm

    To those posters who feel that the OP and family shouldn’t have been out because the movie time was expected to be crowded and popular–no. They have every right to be there when they wanted to. Agree that a different time/date might be a better idea to cut down on hassles, but whatever their reasons were for choosing *that* day, so be it. It was not a closed event.

    The seat hog was rude. I think it’s OK to save a seat or two for a short time; my general rule is that IF I can touch the seat, it’s fair game for a little while if my cohorts are making a quick trip to the bathroom or whatever, but saving an entire section, at a busy and crowded event for people who aren’t there yet, is in very poor form. I think THOSE people should have been the ones that needed to plan better and show up earlier, since their group was so large. You’ve got no business saving that many seats at a busy and crowded event like that with no actual bodies in them.

  • Clair Seulement April 6, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Jay makes a good point–“Do you have twenty tickets?” A theater on opening night could easily sell out, so there was no guarantee of seats for anyone except those that had purchased tickets. The OP had the right to sit down, although I think I would have asked for the backing of an employee for good measure.

  • Elizabeth April 6, 2011, 2:34 pm

    I am very sorry you had to experience this. Your mother should have gotten a manger, because none of you deserved this. It may not be feasible, but I find week day movies mid day are nice. Not a big crowd then.

  • Miss Raven April 6, 2011, 2:59 pm

    Ughhhhh. How awful. In this situation, especially in a crowded theatre, I’m a fan of subtle public shaming. You don’t have to be yelling, just speaking loudly and clearly enough for the surrounding people to hear.

    “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but how many people are in your party? 10? Well, this row has 25 seats in it. You can’t possibly need them all. [Get a bit louder.] My elderly grandmother is not in great health, and my two younger brothers are autistic, as you can see, one also is disabled and wearing a leg brace. [Get a tad louder…] It would be really kind of you to spare a few seats you don’t need for an elderly woman and two disabled children.”

    Seriously, if even one other person heard that last sentence, and the seat-hogger’s face did not burn with shame, I would be shocked and saddened. And accept that such a monster is beyond help, and get an employee involved.

    I understand if you didn’t want to leave your family alone, but between you and your (apparently able-bodied?) Mom, one of you should have run to get an usher or a manager.

    I think that K and Typo Tat have completely missed the point. There was no way you could have anticipated this kind of situation. In the real world, you would have left yourself plenty of time and “accomodation” for your special circumstances, because in the real world, there would have been a full row of empty seats for you. K seems to be kowtowing to the seat-hogger’s view of the world, which is: this row of empty seats might as well have people in it, too bad you didn’t get here earlier than me.

  • Athena Carson April 6, 2011, 7:09 pm

    May I be so bold as to point out to K and Typo Tat –

    There was no “special circumstance,” per se, on the part of the OP until they encountered the outrageous seat-hog. Autistic individuals’ ability to function varies so widely that you cannot assume they required special accomodation. In fact, it appears that they were perfectly capable of handling a social outing where one stands in line, purchases tickets, waits in line again, goes in a dark theater, and sits down, i.e. nothing out of the ordinary for the rest of us. The “special circumstance” arose when the seat-hog decided to be disruptive, and (surprise!) autistic individuals don’t handle those situations as well as the rest of us, ordinarily. If one is expected to plan ahead for any possible “special circumstance” that may arise, then no one should ever leave the house.

    In sum, there was no “special circumstance” requiring accomodation until the outrageous seat-hog created one; to suggest that the OP should have “planned better” (to avoid any and all possible rudeness) is beyond ridiculous.

  • Alison April 6, 2011, 9:12 pm

    Honestly, if I could have moved into a different seat, I would have given up a seat I was already sitting in for a disabled child. What is wrong with those people?

  • Anonymous April 6, 2011, 9:56 pm

    >>The “special circumstance” arose when the seat-hog decided to be disruptive.<<

    This, exactly. The OP’s brothers didn’t choose their circumstances–they didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be autistic, the one with cerebral palsy didn’t bring it upon himself, and I’m sure that arthritis is no picnic either, so if the grandmother could wish that away, I’m sure she would. However, the rude lady who reserved 30 seats for 10 (young, able-bodied) people, who hadn’t even arrived yet, was making a conscious decision to be rude. So, why should the family of polite, reasonable people have to accommodate the rude lady? I think the disabilities are sort of a “red herring” here–would people be saying that it was the OP’s fault if she’d just said, “I went to the movies with my mom, grandmother, and two brothers. We arrived in plenty of time, but the theatre was crowded, and there was a rude lady reserving a whole row of seats, and we got annoyed with her selfish and entitled behaviour?” Probably not.

  • Snowy April 7, 2011, 12:34 am

    @RMMuir You had already reserved your tickets. Your seats were paid for; I have no problem with you saving half the theater if you’ve paid for it. When someone is just hogging them because they feel specially entitled, there is a problem.

  • Cooler Becky April 7, 2011, 8:04 am

    Where I come from, seats are pre-assigned. This means no seat saving. You purchase tickets for the seat you’re on and that’s it. If the theatre is really empty, you might be able to put your coat or bags on the seat next to you, but you’ll have to move them if someone has bought that seat.

    I cannot say how glad I am that I don’t have to deal with Seat Hogs.

  • Alexis April 7, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Next time just ignore the jerk and sit down. When they tell you the seats are saved, smile pleasantly and say ‘thank you!’. And when they tell you no, the seats are saved for someone else, just smile pleasantly again and invite them to complain to the management. Problem solved. Seat Hog isn’t go to go and complain to management that she isn’t bullying other people successfully, and management isn’t going to allow anyone to ‘reserve’ seats they haven’t paid for. And it requires no extra effort from you.

  • acr April 7, 2011, 3:46 pm

    While I agree with the majority that the lady was rude – I have to say, if you have three special needs people in your group, why on earth would you go to a movie on opening day? That’s just asking for trouble. Had that row of seats been filled with polite movie goers, rather than being saved by one very rude woman, the OP’s situation would not have been substantially different – she still would have been trapped in a crowded theater with a brother having a meltdown and two people with mobility problems. Whoever planned this outing (not sure if it was the OP) bears as much responsibility for this situation as the rude lady.

  • Kat April 7, 2011, 4:38 pm

    @Bint – the situation you described happened to me once, but I was the seat-saver. My husband had gone to get us some drinks on the train, and a woman tried to take his seat. When I told her the seat was taken, she got all huffy and tried to sit down anyway. That struck me as pretty rude.

  • Maitri April 7, 2011, 4:57 pm

    DocCAC ~ it may be that no one should have spoken up because there were autistic children in the group, however in that case, there really isn’t anything to complain about, IMO. She said the OP couldn’t take the seats. The OP, for whatever reason, chose not to argue or find a manager/usher. At that point, it is on her.

  • karmabottle April 7, 2011, 5:18 pm

    I agree that saving 25 seats on her word alone is a bit much. If a person needs that many seats, I’d say that she needs a way to indicate that something special is going on in that section—say, streamers or signs indicating an occasion for a group.

    The times I’ve seen pre-printed signs, banners, table decorations, balloons, or roped-off seats, my brain said, “Oh. I get it. That entire section will soon be filled with a particular group.” That doesn’t offend my sensibilities.

    On the other hand, the times I’ve seen one person claiming an extreme number of seats with nothing to indicate I should “believe” them, I felt they were being unreasonable.

    Don’t ask why one way of saving seats makes sense to me, but the other doesn’t. I guess it has to do with my perception of planning ahead. If a section is roped off, the group really is coming and the host and theater each knows how many to expect. If a section is not roped off, it’s almost as if the host is guessing and hoping for arrivals who may or may not come. I take that less seriously….. 🙂

  • Nielsy April 7, 2011, 6:28 pm

    Oh dear God. They should have sat in the so called *reserved* seats. Someone tried to tell my dad he couldn’t sit on a picnic table in the park because their friends were coming and they needed BOTH the tables. She was also parked in the disabled park, clearly not disabled. We just all sat down and laughed while she furiously rang people on the phone and then stormed off and drove off.

  • Bint April 8, 2011, 10:29 am

    Kat – if your husband’s stuff is already there and on the seat then that’s rude. If it’s a totally empty seat I can see why she sat down. This is why on trains long enough to have drinks, you turn up, stake your seat, wait until the train gets moving and *then* go to the buffet leaving eg your jacket behind.

  • karmabottle April 8, 2011, 10:47 am

    Although I can see why K’s comment bothered some, I think she/he is essentially right about expecting the world to understand your needs when you have special cirumstances. ESPECIALLY when the circumstances may not have a visible indicator or cue.
    However, what I hear K saying is that if you know you cannot sit just anywhere due to physical restrictions, and you know that you need to climb as few steps as possible, and you know you need to be near an exit in case a person in your party needs a time out……..get there ridiculously early so you can have your choice of seats. Otherwise you’ll face a hundred more situations like this one over time.

  • Rei April 8, 2011, 10:52 pm

    I think the fact that that woman ‘saving’ those seats couldn’t do basic math and say “Okay, here’s how many we have, so these seats over here we’ll take, and these over here are free” just shows how unbelievably self-absorbed she must be. I can only imagine what sort of person her daughter will grow up to be unless she somehow sees her mother for what she is and rebels against it.

    I do agree that people who need specific seats need to plan to get to places like this early to avoid that sort of drama because of the way people are, but frankly, it shouldn’t be that way. It just shouldn’t. Maybe my mom and friends and I were just different when I was the age these girls were, but my mom would have fixed it so everyone was happy if possible. If not, all of us young, able-bodied people would have had to suck it up and make it work, and I wouldn’t have complained. Any of my friends, had they complained in that case, would have had to find someplace to sit away from me because I would have been infuriated by their attitude.

    Also, I have to say that had I been the OP, I would have let that woman have it with both barrels. I had a nasty habit of saying exactly what I was thinking using the harshest words possible when I was in my teens. Her restraint is admirable, because I sure as hell couldn’t have managed it at that age.

  • colleen April 11, 2011, 1:28 am

    I absolutely agree that those who are differently-abled have the same rights to be at the movie as anyone else. However, I too got a sour taste in my mouth about the way the OP described the situation. Perhaps if she hadn’t been so snarky about the woman’s appearance right off the bat, especially since it wasn’t relevant.

    And I’m still wondering where on earth the mother was in all of this. It was HER mother and HER children in this situation and it fell upon the teenager in the group to stand up to the seat hog. Surely she had encountered difficult situations such as this before and would have known a better way to handle it than to respond with “Christ, you’ve gotta be kidding me.”

    I think there was a whole lot of badly handled in this situation of vary degrees.

  • Anonymous April 24, 2011, 5:05 am

    @Colleen–Descriptions make stories more interesting. The OP’s description of the “middle-aged lady who looked like she’d never ADMIT she was middle-aged” was hilarious, and made me want to keep reading. If the stories on here had no “irrelevant” descriptions, they’d all read like, “I went to Place X. Nondescript Person did Rude Action Y. I did Z. The End.” Who wants to read that? I sure wouldn’t, because it’d be boring.

  • katie April 25, 2011, 6:08 am

    Actually, people can’t “reserve” seats in a movie theater, only the staff can do that. Next time alert an usher or manager… I used to deal with this all of the time I worked at a movie theater.

  • Razor April 25, 2011, 11:16 am

    The easiest, and most embarrassing thing the poster could have done was to go straight to the theatre manager and tell them that she needed help finding a seat for the members of her party. Once they were both in the room, she should have said: “we would like to sit HERE, but apparently this woman has reserved ALL of THESE SEATS. I didn’t realize your theatre policy was to ALLOW THIS SORT OF SEAT-SAVING, which doesn’t SEEM TO BE FAIR.” And she should have said it LOUDLY and RIGHT IN FRONT of the woman.

    I think she would have been seated immediately.

  • MOL (meow out loud) June 21, 2011, 2:59 am

    I would’ve called the manager because you shouldn’t deny chairs to someone handicapped and or elderly who is actually there. The ‘friends’ and coats should’ve arrived with the rest of them.

  • justme June 23, 2012, 12:17 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saving a few seats, but the generally accepted guideline is that you can save seats for people who arrived with you in the same car (or at the very least, no more people than would have fit in the car with you).