Dear Rain,

A lot of restaurants in this town, you order at the register then get a placard to take to your table. Those lines can be long though, and if it's that busy you might end up standing awkwardly holding your placard, waiting for a table to open up. This causes groups to send at least one member to claim an open table early. Then you get the people who didn't do that, forced to stand awkwardly holding their placard while you sit at your ill-gotten table, placardless.

Is it cool to do that or not?


To Hold, or Not to Hold


When I was a kid, we didn't have placards! (That should be read with an Abe Simpson voice in your head.) Back in junior high and high school, my friends and I would often hang out at the Just Desserts on Church Street after school, and we'd claim our space by marching in and dropping all our bags at a table, and then we'd go to the counter and order. We'd spend hours there, hanging out, eating one piece of cake, and buying cup after cup of coffee refills, which were a quarter. Obviously, we were real rebels. I have to say I am forever amazed by how tolerant the people who ran the place were. They never kicked us out! I can't imagine any San Francisco cafe these days being so kind to a large group of teenagers who would never leave.

But I'm a slightly more mature person now, and I won't claim a table at place like that — placard or no placard — unless the place is pretty empty. If I'm alone, and it's busy, I'll wait till I order and get that number before I claim a table. But I will admit that if I'm dining with a friend, the usual scenario is someone will save a seat while someone else does the ordering, the rationalization being we were technically there before the person behind us was, so that table's fair game.

That said, the whole placard thing isn't something I think is particularly unique to San Francisco, and unlike that parking space saving question, I doubt anyone sitting at a table with a number but no food has ever flat-out yelled at a fellow diner who HAS food that "This is how we do it in the 415!"

So, let's take a poll! Tell us what you and your placard-less self would do. And if you work in an establishment that uses this kind of system, tell us how it should be done!

Saving a Table Before You Get a Placard Is
Always fine
The behavior of a true asshole
Only OK if the place isn't crowded
What the hell's a placard?
Do Quizzes

Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.

In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!