29 Feb
Can I Bogart a Booth For The Price of a Venti Latte?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I am a freelance writer and like to work in coffee shops. Usually I get there around 8am and find a booth to sit in while I drink my coffee and use my laptop. Since it’s not crowded, I feel okay taking up space meant for four people.

The problem is that around lunchtime, the place gets crowded and people start to glare at me for taking up a big table or booth. The staff has never said anything, but I still feel like I should either get up and leave or move to a smaller table.

My boyfriend says I have every right to my spot and I should just stay there.

What do you think?


Am I a Double Frappucino Freeloader ?


Dear Half-Caff, Skim, Shot of Butterscotch, Extra Hot, Double Cupped Frappucino,

As a practitioner of this writing method myself I can say that there are a few ways NOT to handle this situation:

Don’t pretend being in the booth is the same as being in your house and write shirtless. They will kick you out and call the cops, mostly because they don’t think you look anything like Heidi Klum, no matter how insistent you are on the subject. Also, when the cops are taking you away, don’t tell them they owe you beads for the boob show. They do not find that funny. And they won’t deliver on the beads.

Don’t try and use the booth for a side business. It seems restaurant owners don’t want homeless tweekers like Scabby Tim or naked bongo players that go by Swingin’ Sam coming in and out of their establishment at all hours looking to score. No matter how many refills of coffee and water you order!

Don’t try and Feng Shui the restaurant. Apparently, the owners paid a lot of money to some fancy-shmancy interior designer and the last thing they care about is how their qi may be affected by the misplacement of a moosehead mirror. Plebians!

Don’t expect just because you’ve peed on something it is now yours. The Nature Channel is wrong. Simply urinating on the booth in question does not make it your property. The shop will send you a cleaning bill and a restraining order.

It is perfectly acceptable to take up a booth, though, if you are ordering from the establishment, it’s not busy and your are a loyal, respectful patron.

I would suggest, however, that when the restaurant is really crowded you move to a smaller table. It’s just good karma.

If you have already been there for a few hours, then it makes sense to downsize to a one-person or two-person table once lunchtime is in full swing. This way your favorite coffee shop can serve as many customers as possible, thus keeping itself in business. And groups of folks will be able to find a place to sit and eat/drink together. Then once lunchtime is on its downward slide, you can move back to the booth…provided you still have your shirt on.

Good Luck!

Tonya, TMH

14 Responses to “Can I Bogart a Booth For The Price of a Venti Latte?”


Comment by rojopaul.

Ooh, first comment, yeah! Second, I’m with Tonya. (Sorry!) But the fact that you are asking shows me you do feel bad so you should follow your gut and downsize.

A few co-workers and I like to frequent a restaurant at lunch that gets packed and there are limited tables for 4 people to sit, so when we see 1 person taking up a 4-seater with their laptop, it’s a bummer. I would never give the evil eye, but I do think it’s just courteous to be one person at a small table for 1-2. After all, it’s not your office. If you want more space, you can go to the library and spread out. They have big tables there. (Plus you can write about the sickos surfing the porn sites. I’ve seen it. But that’s a topic for another day!)

Desperate Dietwives Reply:

I totally agree with you! 🙂

Akamomma Reply:

Agreed. 8am past lunchtime = not cool.


Comment by Avprobeauty.

Is this a legitimate question? This is clearly a case of commonsense and use your noggin move duh !


Comment by cary.

Get up and move! You do not have the right to take up a table for four that should generate tabs for at least three parties in the length of time you are taking it just because you got there first and/or bought a coffee. Trust me, you are not well-liked by either the customers or shopworkers, no matter how nice they may act. By all means, move back when there are several booths open again after lunch. (How about taking a nice break and taking a walk for an hour during lunch time…good for you and them!)

Ace Reply:

totally agree. There are hundreds of blogs written by shop-workers about people who take up booths for hours and hours on end. If you’re leaving a tip based on at least $5 an hour or something, maybe they’ll get over it. But basically, what cary said. Move on.


Comment by sisterfunkhaus.

I don’t think that spending 5 bucks on a latte in the morning gives you the right to take up a table all day long if other people need the table. I think a couple of hours is okay, but beyond that, I think you should buy something every couple of hours and move when it gets crowded. It’s very self-centered to do otherwise.

I can also assure you that no matter how nice the barristas are to you, they do not appreciate campers at all. Again, it’s one thing to sit around for a couple of hours, but pretty much all day? Then go to the library. That is what I do when I have a project to work on all day.

Kate Reply:

You go, Sister Funk! Exactly right. The shop owner & staff will be polite to you I’m sure. But they pay rent on that building for THEIR business, not so you can use it as your own personal office space (rent free) all day.

Big ol' B with a capital B Reply:

Agreed, agreed, agreed!!! One cup of coffee does not mean you should sit there for 8 hours. Unless you buy something every couple hours I would say you’re just mooching off the place. And of course, move to a smaller table. It’s only polite.


Comment by Meredith L..

As a New Yorker, while I am totally sympathetic to your need for personal space, I do think that, as a PP said, if you’re writing in about this then you know deep down inside what you are doing is wrong. You feel guilty because you know you shouldn’t be hogging a big ol’ booth when the restaurant is crowded. As mentioned, why don’t you use this time to take a walk or something? Or, as the lunch crowd starts trickling in, move to a smaller table – or the bar/counter? You can always move back to your booth later.

Also, sympathetic as I am, as an aforementioned New Yorker, if I walked into my favorite lunchtime haunt with my friends and saw you and your laptop taking up an entire booth, I would totally give you the stink-eye. And probably the waiters would kick you out. We’re hardcore like that here.


Comment by Ken.

I am writing this from a booth for 8. I bought two coffees. mmmmm…..this is some good coffee made better by all this extra room I have. Suck it!

rojopaul Reply:

*like* (ha ha)


Comment by Wendi.

So you’re saying it’s bad manners to be typing this at the banquet table in the back room of Pizza Hut?


Comment by Mary.

I frequent a cafe that has limited seating. It’s a new place and I love it. When I see one person taking up a four top I mostly think of the poor struggling owner who needs the revenue of four people at lunch more than my single latte and hours of sitting. So, yah, it makes sense to move for everyone who is there. And like someone else posted, you already feel bad about it.

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