Who gets the breakfast table?

How should you handle it when fellow hotel guests take your table at breakfast? Reader J asks…..5-28-15-1

This morning I got my food and  juice from the breakfast buffet and put it down on a small table for two.  I went to get my coffee and when I came back, a man and his 2 little kids were at my table eating, my stuff pushed to the edge.  I put my coffee down and he stared at me.  I said, “um that’s my food here…” he replies, “oh that’s fine you can take it.” I said, “um no… I was sitting here… eating…”  He looked away from me and started talking to his kids.  I stood there a full 15 seconds glaring at him then realized I wasn’t gonna be ‘that crazy angry guy’ in front of his kids, and walked away. Unfortunately there were no tables left. Is there a better way I could have handled this?

Wow. That sounds so strange!

I would never sit down at a table that had food on it. I don’t even really like to sit down at a table that has empty plates or cups on it, for this exact reason. Alas, sometimes there aren’t other tables available. In that case I would have waited for a few minutes, maybe get some coffee, while I wait to see which tables are actually claimed. If they’re all full, there’s not a lot you can do except see if there is a tray available so you can take your food to the lobby or your room.

That being said, if I sat at a table that had food at it assuming no one was using it, and someone came up and said that they had been sitting there I would jump up, apologize, and move out of the way. I am really surprised by this guy’s behavior to be honest. From your perspective, though, it sounds like you handled it the only way possible. I mean, it’s not like you can challenge him to arm wrestle for the table, right?

 Readers, what would you have done in this situation?


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  1. […] Share the common areas. You’re not in your own living room. Spreading your stuff all over every available space is rude, but too common. Once, I came downstairs to the hotel lobby to get some work done, and found one person using three armchairs- one for him, one for his briefcase and one for his papers, with his laptop taking over the ottoman! It’s true that common areas are typically designed to be very comfortable but don’t forget to allow others to share the space with you. That being said, if you see a table that has stuff on it already, assume that it is taken and find yourself a different spot. […]


  1. I would have waited until one of his kids got up for a refill, them sit right back down in their seat. People continue to be jerks until somebody pushes back.

  2. Only a slight change, but I would have said. not “That’s my food” but “This is my table,” because I’m not claiming only the food but the table.

    But I don’t think that would have changed what followed. I *would* have followed with “You don’t understand. This is my table. You have to find your own.” I would have become, not the crazy angry guy, but the firm unrelenting guy.

  3. Wondering where this happened. In the USofA? I feel for Reader J; there’s usually not a happy ending when dealing with jerks. As Warriorette pointed out, a reasonable person would have jumped up, apologized, and moved on to make their own search for a spot.

  4. it is time for him to speak with the breakfast room manager. That is who would have had authority to find him a table or get his table back. Without dangerous confrontation.

  5. I think he did the only thing possible. The guy who took his table was obviously a flaming jerk and wasn’t going anywhere, and I very much doubt that a manager would have done anything to move him and his kids away from the table. So leave with dignity. Good for him! I probably wouldn’t have had his self-control and would have been mighty tempted to ‘accidentally’ dump my food on him as I picked it up off the table.

  6. If the table was big enough, I would have asked to sit with them. That’s considered socially awkward in the US, but I’ve noticed is common in other parts of the world. Actually, I might have asked to share even if it wasn’t big enough and struck up a conversation with his kid just to be annoying.

  7. I would have accidentally spilled a cup of coffee over his head. And said ” oh i am sorry”. Have a nice day.

  8. I have disabilities, and I would have sat down and shared MY table whether they liked it or not. What nice things this man is teaching his children. I may have pointed out that he is a bully. I also might have contacted the manager of the restaurant or hotel. Perhaps just spill my coffee while picking up my plate.

  9. I’ve been known to “accidentally” bump people when they’ve been jerks on public transport and I’m trying to get past them and they’ve made it hard. Splosh your coffee down on the table near him, kick his chair when he had his drink in his hand. Or just sit down at the table with him and see what he does next. Other than that, ask the restaurant manager to sort it out. (some) People think that having children makes them entitled to be jerks. They get away with it until people push back at them in the same manner.

  10. I like Jayne’s comment about what the man is teaching his children. After saying “This is where I was sitting,” with no response, I’d have been tempted to add, “So you want to teach your children that just taking what you want is appropriate?” before moving away.

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