I was in a meeting recently, where everyone relocated towards the front of the room to get a better view of the screen. I held back thinking I would be able to see. After a few minutes, I realized I needed to move forward too, so I spotted an open chair near the TV and walked to it.

Upon arrival, I noticed the chair had a purse in it. I assumed it belonged to the person next to it, so I lifted it and began to put it on the floor next to her.

Immediately, two (of many) women in the room gasped and exclaimed, interrupting the speaker, to not put the purse on the floor. I picked it up and put it on a table, but proceeded to endure a lecture on not putting women's purses on the floor. Their reasoning was, "Would you put a wallet on the floor?"

Is this a social custom I have never heard of? I'm married, so I would have guessed that I would have come across the situation before...and I haven't.

For context, most of us knew each other in the room, it was just a plain carpet floor, and the purse did not appear to have any kind of special contents or decorations that would have made the floor an unsuitable resting place.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because that is a cultural question, not a Workplace question. The real answer is don't move someone else's stuff without permission.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 0:24
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    We have a major bedbug infestation problem in NYC. Put your wife's purse on the floor of any the buildings of our city at your own risk. Why the hell did you have to move that purse and without asking the owner's permission, to boot? And because you didn't bother to ask, it was somebody else's purse that you moved. The purse was left on the chair as a marker. What if the owner of that purse was on a bathroom break? You need to work on your etiquette, pal. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 1:38
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    I had someone tell me once "purse on the floor, money out the door". It's nonsense in my opinion, but because she felt strongly about it I didn't put my purse on the floor, touch her purse, or move anything on her desk for fear of messing up her Feng Shui. In general, just ask before you move something personal. "Excuse me - is anyone using this chair?" The woman probably would have grabbed her purse herself and placed it appropriately.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 1:38
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    They were behaving extremely childishly, especially by interrupting the speaker. There's a lot of people telling you their behaviour was acceptable - it was not. Social etiquette would dictate she keep her purse on her lap, unless of course the purse is sentient, and desires the comfort of its own seat.
    – pay
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 14:27
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    "Would you put a wallet on the floor?" - Eh, no, I wouldn't put a wallet on a chair in the first place. Their behaviour is totally unacceptable. They should not be bringing unwanted items to the meeting rooms and placing them on chairs meant for participants. Nonetheless, the next time just ask them politely to move their stuff, you don't need to do free work for such self-centred entitled special snowflakes.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't touch someone else's purse without permission: I'd feel red-handed.

I think it would be politer to ask the owner to move it; or if you have to be silent, point to the chair or something in order to ask for permission to sit yourself down, prompting them to move their purse (if they assent) or shake their head (if they refuse).

Don't put it on the floor because e.g. someone behind you make take it. I presume the owner wants to keep their eye on it.


Yes, it's a social custom. Somebody who goes to the trouble of buying a nice purse and taking good care of it doesn't want potentially gross floor grit staining it. It's also rude to move other people's things without asking permission.

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