A Hairdresser’s Tips on Tipping

I’ve often been a frustrated customer dealing with the questions surrounding tipping. But as a hairdresser who has seen months in which tips make up 1/3 of my income, I also know the value of working in a position that can sometimes rely on the generosity of my clients. Recently, I’ve started really thinking about my tipping habits (after tipping $10 on a $20 nail polish change, I *had* to reevaluate my stance). Somewhere between “get yourself something nice, doll” and “the struggle is real,” there had to be a way for me to tip well without feeling guilty that I maybe should have tipped more. I just took it back to that great idea that you should do unto others as you would like done to you. Golden rule stuff, ya know? So here’s what I came up with:

Understand the system

I hear a lot of people complaining about how tipping is expected everywhere you go. I was really shocked to see a suggested tip of $3 on my latte at a coffee shop where I know my barista should already be making a fair, hourly wage. When I got my nails done in Canada for the first time, I was surprised to not even see a tip line because (as I later learned) tipping just isn’t as customary there. It truly is different everywhere you go, so understanding the system is crucial when it comes to tipping.

When clients ask me about how I view tipping, I always say it’s a nice treat to show appreciation and I’m always very grateful for them, but I never expect them. Other hairdressers feel like anyone who tips less than 20% is rude. And other stylists or salons don’t even accept tips! It’s important to know that if you are curious, you can just ask about a business’ tipping policy and have your problem solved right away. If you are too embarrassed to ask your technician, ask the front desk staff.

Always leave something

If you are visiting someone who has provided a service for you, and tipping in that industry is customary (salon, spa, valet, waiter), always leave something even if it’s a small tip. In beauty school, I had a client who visited me every few weeks regularly and was always a joy to be around. I really looked forward to seeing her in my chair and she was always patient with my process of learning. I valued her as a client, but I did notice every time she left that she would not leave a tip. During the fall, she came in to have her hair color darkened and when a client walked up to the hairdresser next to me and handed her a cash tip, my client asked me in disbelief if we could accept tips. I told her yes and she immediately began apologizing that she’d never left one. She explained that there was nowhere to add a tip on her credit card receipt, so she had assumed we weren’t able to accept tips. She left me a fifty dollar tip that day and I was completely shocked and thankful.

I honestly didn’t think much about the fact that I wasn’t making more money from tips. After all, I was in school and focused more on learning than making any money. But I did notice that she never left a tip for me and it made me question if I was making her happy. Everyone else was leaving me small tips every time they came in and the fact that she wasn’t leaving anything (though she seemed to be pleased each time) made me feel like I wasn’t meeting her expectations. I think it’s important, if your technician does accept tips, to leave at least 10%. That way, they know you’re pleased with their work.

Know that time is money

When it comes to most businesses (especially dressing hair), time is money. If you feel like you’ve received a great level of customer service and you know you’ve gotten what you paid for, an average tip is completely appropriate. Definitely don’t feel like you have to go above and beyond with that tip button. However, if you have a complicated service that seems to take five separate opinions and three hours to get to the bottom of, tip your stylist a higher amount. It’s likely the case that because she blocked out so much extra time to take care of your hair, she’s had to turn away other customers in your place. While that certainly isn’t anything that you can control or feel bad about, it is common courtesy in the tipping world to tip extra when your service person has gone above and beyond to make your experience great.

Read the fine print

Anytime you book a party of eight or more in most restaurants—or four or more in most salons or spas—you might be required to sign an event contract, leave a credit card on file to pay for any cancellation fees or just simply have a gratuity automatically added on to your total bill. It’s important to know all about the fine print on these bookings because you could potentially be throwing money away if you aren’t up to speed. Typically in a salon, you see this in bridal packages. Anything that says “wedding” is always more expensive and for good reason—gratuity, travel, extra time, and a trial run are usually included. Always double check what’s included because if not, you could end up paying a 30% tip without realizing it.

Check your guilt at the door

I constantly feel guilty about tipping—no matter how generous I am. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I don’t always need to be an over-tipper, to be considered kind, thoughtful person. As someone who relies on tips, I know how important a good tip can be.. But I also know that if I’m now spending $6 to get a latte every morning instead of $3, I’m not going to be able to justify those morning caffeine trips much longer. And if I was facing this question as a hairdresser knowing my client couldn’t afford to pay my haircut price *and* tip, I would always choose for them to come for the haircut and not tip (or not tip very much). If I knew they were skipping out on haircuts because they felt guilty about not wanting or being able to tip, I would never let that keep them out of my chair. I can only imagine my barista feels the same way when I’m debating whether that $1 tip will look cheap.

(Featured image via Kiss and Makeup TV)