Dear Miss Manners: I sometimes host cocktail hours at my home for people in my industry. The company that supplies the bartender prohibits a tip jar and adds a 21% service charge to their bill, of which the contract states 18% goes to the service staff.

This compensates the bartender at a living wage and then some. Still, some guests insist on sliding across dollar bills, which makes others reach into their wallets, too, which defeats part of my hospitality. Is there a way to tell people that staff in my home have already been fully tipped (a practice I find abhorrent anyway)?

Before the guests arrive, assemble the service staff, say how much you are looking forward to the party, thank them profusely — and remind them that, as a demonstration of that gratitude, they will be receiving 18% of the bill as tips so that guests may enjoy themselves.

After the party starts, intercept the first tip and return the money to your guest, asking that they please not worry themselves: You have already ensured that everyone is being fairly compensated.

Miss Manners notes that this will go better if you have used your pregame meeting to identify the server least likely to grimace behind you when you return your guest’s money. As a party game, everyone could then go looking for the unexplained 3% that has been added to your bill.

Dear Miss Manners: Along in years, I have moved to a new city. I was glad to find a weekly bridge game at the local community center, and I looked forward to enjoying the game and meeting some new people.

I am a low-to-average bridge player, but nobody has made me leave because of my playing — until this meeting. My partner was so critical that I was shocked.

What I was taught was that your first responsibility was to be sure your partner had a good time. I did not have a good time. I'm finding it hard to go back and try again. What good way could I have handled the situation?

There is a strategy that newcomers to multiplayer games can employ to head off such behavior. That is to ask the expected skill level before joining — and firmly protest your own shortcomings before the game begins.

While this warns would-be partners what to expect, Miss Manners recognizes that it runs the risk of your coming under suspicion later if you turn out to be the best player in the room.

Dear Miss Manners: At what age should a man say "no" if he is asked to be a groomsman by a 20-year-old?

Age can be used as a shield against many unpleasant tasks, but Miss Manners would have thought that being asked to be a groomsman is both flattering and enjoyable. As the bridegroom making the request is likely a friend or family member, any refusal is going to have to rely on something other than age — more “I’m so sorry, that’s when my surgery is planned” and less “I don’t like morning dress.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website,

2019, by Judith Martin