Anti-Bully question. What would you do?

True story: Frank had paid the extra 12 dollars to buy one of the first 15 positions on his Southwest flight from Chicago to Oakland. His boarding pass read A10, and consequently he was one of the first people on the plane. He selected an aisle seat six rows back, put his rollerbag in the overhead compartment, put his backpack on his seat, carefully placed his half-empty latte behind it on the seat and went to the back of the plane to use the bathroom.

When he got back, he couldn’t believe his eyes. A woman was sitting in his seat and his backpack and drink were in the middle seat next to it. This was especially surprising since there were still plenty of other isle seats available on the plane. Frank was shocked and furious at this transgression. “Bully!” he said to himself.

What should Frank do? What would you do?

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12 Responses to Anti-Bully question. What would you do?

  1. Rick says:

    John Berman writes:
    If other aisle seats are still available, I would put a smile on my face, and say something like, “Hi, I see you found my seat. I assume you want an aisle seat. Would you like to move to a different seat or would you like to hand me my things so I can?
    I figure it is best to call her on it, identify that a non-conflict resolution exists, and offer it. I think it is a mistake to allow such misconduct to go unaddressed in any manner. It reinforces such poor behavior, and therefore makes the world worse for others later, in my opinion. Also, I don’t “turn the other cheek” very easily (learned at Deerfield?)
    If there were no other aisle seats available, I would say,
    “Hi, I see you have saved my seat for me. Thank you. If you would hand me my things, you can move into your seat.”
    I have developed the approach of being clear and firm. If you let someone assume that they can take your first position and put you in a second position, you usually have to later dig out of a hole.
    My responses might indicate that I am aggressive in terms of what I want for myself. That is not correct. But I have strong views about how life should be lived, and whether poor behaviors should be enabled.

  2. Rick says:

    Allan says: “Excuse me, I think you’re in my seat!” for starters.

    Always assume good intentions, to give people a chance to save face, although in this case it’s hard to assume she was being anything else than a jerk. BUT maybe she’s got claustrophobia and needs to be on the aisle — in which case she should have paid her $12 just like Frank in order to get that coveted seat.

  3. Pam Swallow says:

    It seems odd that someone would move another passenger’s belongings in order to take that other person’s seat, given that there were plenty of other aisle seats. If I were in Frank’s position, I believe that I would ask if there was a reason why his particular seat, for which he’d paid an extra $12.00, was the very seat that the woman felt she ought to have. If she had a valid reason why that particular seat was needed by her, I imagine that I would have given it to her and looked for another aisle seat. It’s difficult to know whether the $12.00 should be brought up in the situation; the woman may have had a specific mental or physical problem and was perhaps both confused and without extra cash.

  4. We have joked about this, you and I and Frank, but John is on the right track. I’d lean toward asking the lady if she would like to keep my seat and requesting my gear. If there were fewer aisle seats available, it would be a different conversation. There are enough opportunities to be combative. My bias is to set a good example, while mildly embarrassing the “perp” so she wouldn’t be rewarded for her misbehavior. In real life, it should be noted that there was a spilled drink involved when the gear was finally moved – an opportunity for humor.

  5. Susie Lewis says:

    I always assume the best in people. Just like I would like to be treated. So, asking kindly if she did not realize that was your seat, she could then apologize and move. That would be my initial approach. If she was then belligerent and upset at me for asking, then this woman has a lot more issues than I would ever hope to have! So my ability to adapt and make a change is one of my strengths. I would wish her well and find another seat.

  6. Larry says:

    Comments so far very interesting. Jon, not surprised by your comment, you were always willing to stand up for yourself, which was costly at first, but once you’d established that, those looking to bully someone left you alone. My own feeling is that while I’m not a confrontational person, will try to avoid confrontations when I can, if somebody has done something clearly wrong, I prefer to say something. If I don’t, it just bothers me. Also as Pam suggests, there may be a reason why this person did this, and if your first comment is diplomatic, an offers her the chance to explain herself, it’s a better way to start.

  7. Noah says:

    “Excuse me, you’re in my seat.”

    Pretty simple. Decent chance it gets complicated from there, but like Allan said, start simple and direct, and see what the other person does. Offering to move to another seat, or any other resolution, isn’t really necessary until the other person responds.

  8. Doug Hazelrigg says:

    I am not defending the woman’s actions, but people should know better — placing a backpack and drink on a seat during the boarding of a plane may nor represent enough of a “deterrent” to some, perhaps many people in that situation. Frank should have gone to the bathroom BEFORE boarding. The Good Book says, “As much as it lies within you, strive to live peacefully with all men.” I would have just grabbed my stuff and moved to another seat. Regarding the $12 fee? It’s only $12; if it was that important to Frank, he should have been a bit more cautious

  9. Mary says:

    I think the word surprised is the perfect reaction; not angry nor irate just surprised. I would probably say excuse me and show the woman my ticket with the seat number clearly printed on it and ask if she needs assistance finding an open, unassigned seat. In that way it is the ticket doing the talking and removes the emotion from the situation.

  10. Rick says:

    Mark says: If I understand correctly, there were other seats available, so I would say “please enjoy my seat” lean across to get my stuff with a little armpit in the face, and find another seat. When exiting, I would ask if the seat was especially good.

    Paul Says:
    As to the question Rick asked:
    –I would say, “I believe that you are in my seat, madam.”
    —If she gave me a good reason why she needed to sit there, I would probably accede.
    —If she did not, or got huffy, I would find the flight attendant.

    Kristin says:
    This is an especially funny story! How rude!
    I probably would have said something clever along the lines of some sort of prank I did to the seat before she got there…
    Maybe it would have scared her off!
    Did you pick a new aisle seat?

  11. Rick says:

    Nicola says: Hi Rick, I would have politely said excuse me but I was sitting there, and that was my bag you moved, etc. It’s a boundary issue.

  12. Martha says:

    If I were Frank, and knew for sure that the lady moved my items and took my seat, I would still ask first, “Did you move the items I placed here on my seat?” I am curious to know what her answer would have been. Maybe someone else moved the items and then realized what they did and moved away or could she have felt like “Doug” suggests- that items left on seats do not indicate a claim during boarding..? Anyway, the question would open the situation to dialogue and understanding – and perhaps reclaiming my seat. However, if the lady looked deranged, I would most likely get my things and find another seat while feeling grateful that I avoided having to sit next to her on my plane ride. After all, it would have been worse for me if instead of taking the bathroom break, I would have remained in my seat until boarding was complete and by then she would have sat next to me!

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