The hour for cocktails

Q  My wife and I have been invited for cocktails at a neighbor’s. We have no idea how long we should stay. It’s an invitation for 6 o’clock.

A  For a before-the-dinner-hour invitation, you would plan to stay about an hour. If the invitation is for after the traditional dinner hour, with a 7 o’clock or later start, the assumption is that everyone will have had dinner, will understand that the invitation is for drinks and perhaps appetizer type food, and that guests will stay for at least two hours.

Q  We are traveling this month and planning to stay at bed and breakfasts instead of hotels. Do we tip at a bed and breakfast?

A  You are never expected to leave a tip for the owner. If the owner has an assistant who makes your bed and/or tidies your room and the bathroom, you would leave a tip for him or her, at a rate of about $1 per person (therefore $2 for you and your husband) per day. Travel with envelopes, and leave the tip in an envelope in your room, with the helper’s name on it, when you depart.

Q  My mom says I can’t call my friends after nine at night. I’m 16, and my friends and I stay up a lot later than that so I think this is unreasonable. Who is right?

A  It depends on whether you are calling your friends on their cell phones, in which case it is presumed that you won’t be disturbing the entire household, or whether you are calling on a house phone. If the latter, 9 p.m. is pretty much the latest you should call. Standard calling hours, and hours legislated for telemarketers, are between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. If you call earlier or later, in general, you run the risk of waking up other members of the household. If you and your friends are talking on cell phones, explain this to your mom who may extend her calling rules, under the circumstances.

Q  Whether I am a host or guest of someone at a restaurant, I am uncomfortable asking the price when the waiter lists the specials. If I’m the host, it sounds like price is important and my guests should not order something expensive; if I’m the guest I make the host feel as though he or she has to say something about not worrying about the price. Shouldn’t the waiter state the price of each special, or am I just being too sensitive?

A  No, you aren’t being too sensitive. It is a mystery why the price is not stated when the specials are offered. It gives the impression that mentioning cost is somehow wrong or that cost is irrelevant. Price does matter to most diners, and this should be standard procedure. It is fine for you to ask, but this can be uncomfortable, and most people avoid ordering something they might like to have because this information is not provided.