Last week, I went to an event where patrons saved seats for their friends, resulting in another experience where I had the strong desire to stab people in their necks.

I hate the practice of saving seats and I hate seat-savers.

I make exceptions for those who are already seated but have some reason to leave, such as going to the restroom. However, people who save seats for others who have not arrived get my blood boiling.

In a room with n seats, if I’m qth in line, such that q < n, basic decency states I get a seat.

But if the kth person (k < q) wants to save w seats and w > (n – q), I don’t get one, even though q < n.
If that’s too mathematical for you, let me put it plainly (again): I hate seat saving.

We use waiting lines to apportion access to goods and services because time spent waiting approximates how valuable said good or service is.

Someone ahead of you put more time in, therefore he values it more, and he should get it before you do.
But saving seats pools the costs and allows a bunch of people to get seats who don’t value them as much as those who didn’t get seats.

Imagine five friends; one values the seat sufficiently to stand in line to make sure he gets one, while the other four don’t.

However, they all get seats. But it’s worse than just that.

As long as the seat-saver values the esteem gained from his friends, he doesn’t even need to value the seats themselves.

All five people end up with seats, none of whom values it enough to pay the full cost in terms of time spent waiting.
When n is non-binding, saving a seat just carries proximity value, like friends who want to sit together once they get inside an uncrowded theater. (Although then the binding constraint could be good seats.)

In that case I would say go ahead and save the seat. What do I care?

I’m not such a misanthrope that I’m going to keep friends needlessly apart.

It’s not just when I’m the one missing out on a seat that the practice bothers me.

At the event, I got a seat, but those around me saved seats.

Because the bathroom visitor is a legitimate possibility, you can’t just move the coat to the floor and take the seat (which is my preference).

You have to ask, “Is this seat taken?” And they say, “Yes,” although it’s taken by someone not there, and possibly not even coming.

There’s the biggest problem: You’re saving it for someone who self-identified as the least-interested party in contention for the seat.

He is possibly so uninterested he won’t bother to come at all.

When finally released back into the pool, the seat is then available for a different late-comer, who has also indicated how little the seat is worth to him.

One guy behind me told people, “I’m holding it for someone in the elevator.”

Like proximity matters. I heard, “My friend is just 10 places behind you, not 75, so you should let her cut.”
Please, your friend is not here, so give me that seat.

I won’t save seats, so don’t even ask me.

If you wanted a seat, you should have put in the time in line like everyone else.

And if I see you saving a seat, I’ll shank you right in the neck. Once for each wasted seat.


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are you kidding me? You should have stopped at ‘I hate saving seats.’ That says the same as the rest of your long-winded boring article.