This question is not about "officially" reserved seating in a restaurant or similar venue, but rather about the practice of some people to put a towel, jacket, or other "personal item," on a seat or sun lounger to hold their place.

I accept that leaving such a "reservation" is sensible if leaving to use the toilet, or to grab a quick drink from the bar, but what about those who do so with the intention of not returning for hours?

What is the best approach to addressing this in such cases as those who get up early to "mark their spot" at a hotel pool, then go to breakfast, and even shop, before actually using the seat? Do you confront them politely, move their towel (etc), or just search for an "available" seat?

  • What sort of situation is this? A restaurant or? Jul 3, 2017 at 13:11
  • 2
    I have limited the particular post to a hotel pool.
    – r m
    Jul 3, 2017 at 13:15
  • 1
    I have the same question for a crowded foodcourt (both stalls and tables crowded)... should I ask a separate question?
    – nic
    Jul 3, 2017 at 13:59
  • A separate question seems reasonable, as the time frames involved may produce different answers and approaches.
    – r m
    Jul 3, 2017 at 14:06
  • What country is this in? Please consider adding a country tag to this question and all future questions.
    – user288
    Aug 7, 2017 at 6:43

3 Answers 3


I would recommend that you first find another seat. Particularly around a pool, people often spend time in the pool and, if it's busy, you may not know who the items belong to and they may be nearby, just swimming. There's no reason to move someone's items if there are other seats available.

If there are no seats available, take stock of what the items are (without being too nosy) - are they personally owned items (a book, sunglasses, purse) or public items (beverage glasses or hotel towels)? If the items are public items, they may have been left behind intentionally and the people are not planning to return. Next, see if the people sitting nearby know who owns the items and how long they've been away. If it's been a long while, you're probably safe to use the seats. If it's only been a few minutes, I'd try to find another spot.

If there are personal items and you decide to take over the space, be respectful of them. Group them together on a nearby table or turn them in to staff for the lost and found. Keep the name of the person you turned them over to so that it's easier for the owners to reclaim their items.

You might also see if the venue has any policy on this. Some hotels may have rules about reserving seats without occupying them or they may be able to help you find out if the owner still plans to return.

If you start to take the spot and someone comes from the pool to let you know that it's their stuff, you might ask if they mind if you sit there while they're in the pool or you can move on to finding a new seat.

If you take the spot without someone stopping you and the owner returns a while later, I don't think you need to feel obliged to give up the spot. I would hope that they would realize that, without leaving a representative there to "save" the seats, they'd likely be taken by someone else, particularly during a busy time. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon that the very people who think this practice is OK are also the people who think they can throw a fit when you take "their" spot. It's a public seat and they weren't actively using it. It's perfectly acceptable for you to make use of it when they are not.

Be on the lookout for alternate seating and either point them in that direction or be willing to move yourself if they get too vocal. Please, if they're unreasonable, don't be afraid to talk to the staff. That's part of why they're there. They may be able to offer a solution.


If no other seat was available then I would address it with a member of staff. Tell them the situation and let them decide what the course of action is in this case. They are far more able to move and keep safe any items left unattended if it is their policy to do so.

Otherwise they have the opportunity to inform you that their policy is to allow it in their hotel and to offer you alternative seating or entertainment.

Within a managed environment like a hotel I think disputes between patrons should be dealt with via the staff or management rather than confronted head on between each other. It creates a barrier of propriety and gives the hotel staff opportunity to please all parties if they can.


Do you confront them politely, move their towel (etc), or just search for an "available" seat?

You should reverse it.

The first option is to search for an "available seat".

If it is not available, then you should try other ways.

in a restaurant

In India, people won't do so in restaurant. When they are about to eat, they get in to a restaurant and put a towel or bag in seat only for going to toilet / wash and they will come within 10 minutes.

I saw this behaviour mainly in Train.

If it is crowded, people sometimes throw a towel through the window to a seat before get in to "reserve" the seat. But anyone won't bargain with them because they will sit there. There is second type of people who put something on the seat and reserve it, go and stand near the door. They won't sit and never let anyone to sit.

In your case, you said that it is a restaurant or similar venue.

I won't think people take reserve seats, go for shops and took hours to come back.

If you found that they will take much time to come back and there is no available seat, just move their belonging to a corner of the table and use the seat.

Because there is no such official reservation policy exist in most of the venues(putting something in the seat and go for outing)

If it is a sun lounger and the person is in pool, you should wait for some time and if they didn't return still, politely ask them to move their belonging from there.

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