Q: Is it bad etiquette to plug in your cellphone or laptop into an outlet if you are
a. waiting in a hotel lobby and are sitting next to an outlet?
b. sitting at a table against a wall in a restaurant and an outlet is right at your feet or nearby? (does it matter if it’s a coffee shop and not a formal restaurant?)
c. at somebody’s home for a social occasion but have no more juice in your cell or laptop which you might need on the way home?
A: This is a great question in that it addresses new questions of etiquette which emerge in a changing world. The answers to these new questions of etiquette can be based on the principles of honesty, consideration, and respect which underlie good behavior and social relations.
It would be fine to charge a phone or computer in a public place of business like a hotel lobby or airport terminal. It would also be permissible in a coffee shop where computers are often a part of the culture. One might want to be more discreet and wait for a better time when in a restaurant where people pay to participate in a certain dining environment.
When visiting someone’s home the circumstances may vary enough that a single guideline would be difficult to follow. Probably the best course of action would be to ask your host if there is anywhere that might be a good or out of the way place to plug in.