Q: When I go to parties where the host has hired help to mix drinks and serve, am I supposed to tip those people? A: The host, not the guest...

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Q: When I go to parties where the host has hired help to mix drinks and serve, am I supposed to tip those people?

A: The host, not the guest, tips the serving staff. Most hosts would be insulted if they saw you tipping a server. Gratuities always are handled by the host, including valet parking staff. The tip should be about 20 percent of the entire service fee, and should be given in cash.

Servers should be instructed to respectfully decline tips if they are offered by saying, “Thank you. Mrs. Hill already took care of that.”

Always compliment servers when they deserve it. While it’s not good manners to tip help in private homes, it is perfectly acceptable to ask servers for a business card. Most service providers are only too glad to be considered for another occasion. It’s also a compliment to the host’s good taste and judgment in hiring that particular person or company.

It’s a different story, however, when you spend more time in a person’s home and his staff does special things for you. For example, if you were a houseguest for a week, and the host’s cleaning service did your room or laundry, you could either leave a tip with a note of thanks for the person who provided the service, or give it to your host to pass along for you.

Mary Mitchell is a Seattle-based corporate trainer and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.” E-mail questions to Mary@themitchell.org. Sorry, no personal replies.