Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tipping Etiquette at the Hair Salon

For years, I've been getting my hair cut by a woman who worked out of her own home salon. She isn't cheap, but she's only raised her prices twice, I think, in the almost 10 years I've been going there. Recently, she's had a lot going on in her life and she had to give up the space she'd been renting, and is now working out of a regular salon space owned by someone else.

So here's the thing: all those years, I've never tipped her. I had always heard that it was customary to tip only employees in a salon, not the salon owner. I sometimes wondered about it when I'd pay her, but she never said anything, and I think the friend who originally referred me to her had said she never tipped either, so I tried not to worry too much about it.

Today was my first visit to the new salon location. My hair stylist had said she was moving to this place to cut the overhead costs of her business and that everything else about how she operated would remain unchanged: she would book her own appointments, do her own shampooing, accept payments in exactly the way she'd always done. So part of me thought, ok, her costs are lower now so it should still be okay that I don't tip, right? But I felt weird about it.

After she cut my hair (which as always looks faaahbulous) there came the moment when I handed her the cash, and I had to do it: I leaned closer and said "Can I ask you an awkward question? Do people tip you?" She said that some did, so I immediately said "Ok then, keep the change. I don't want to be one of the people who don't." I told her that I'd not done it before because she worked on her own but that I had wanted to ask now that I knew she had some extra financial stresses in her life, etc., and she thanked me.

My haircut cost $90, and I told her to keep the change from $100, which seemed like the easiest thing to do, and I guess a 10% tip is okay under the circumstances. (Most people seem to think it's appropriate to tip 15-20% to the person who styles and colors your hair, and a few dollars to the person who shampoos you.) I do often think that I budget rather a lot to spend on my hair, so I'm not thrilled to be paying extra, but at least I won't feel so awkward about the tipping question any more! Paying $10 every 5 or 6 weeks to lessen social anxiety is probably worth it!

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you did the absolutely right thing by asking her...you never know until you ask! On a $55 hair cut (had once every 3 months) I tip $10 to the stylist and $2 to the person who shampoos me (if it isn't my stylist). During the holiday season me and my SO give the stylist $100 (we both go to the same person). Sometime when I tell people this, they seem shocked at the amount we give, but I think this is equitable, especially considering the price of a haircut (for me) hasn't gone up much at all in 3-4 years.

DogAteMyFinances said...

I tip my hair stylist a lot more than that because he then treats me better.

Easier to get appointments, spends more time with me. You get what you pay for, I think. I don't get my hair done very often, so I try to be a good customer when I do.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I think the logic expressed by my friend who runs her own shop should be explained...

She says she sets her haircut prices at what she thinks they are worth -- i.e. what she needs to get paid. Stylists who don't own their own business don't get to set their own prices, so tipping is more appropriate.

Personally, I tip her because I think the haircut is worth more than she does -- and because I'm a terrible customer -- I wait too long to get my hair cut, I call at the last minute to get an appointment and I often ask her to do additional things at the appointment (brow waxes etc.). So, I pay more because her services are worth more to me.

Simone S. said...

I think 10% is ok. I tip and extraordinary amount because i think people who work with their hands deserve it, she does an AWESOME job, and other than that, the price is fairly reasonable. I'm from LA and now in Houston so I'm used to haveing had paid almost twice as much...more than just housing is expensive in those cities!

If my hair dresser moved to a place where a separate person did ths shampooing, I'd drop her...as much as I love her. I HATE that practice!

Escape Brooklyn said...

I always tip at least 20%; I pay $55 for haircuts and $80 for highlights (the haircuts only recently went up from $50). And if I remember to bring cash and the shampoo woman is working, I'll throw in a couple of bucks for, too. At the holidays I gift $50.

I've been a long-time client and I've noticed that the prices my stylist charges me are less than what I've heard her charge other clients. I thought it was perhaps because of my loyalty and/or shorter hair, but now I'm thinking the "discount" is because of my tips!

And I must confess that when I saw one client pay only the exact amount (no tip), I blogged about what a cheap ass she was. Sorry... ;)

mapgirl said...

Maybe salons in CA are different, but I understood that most hairstylists book all their own clients and simply 'rent a chair' at the salon. The expectation being that when they come to a salon, they will bring their old clients with them.

My stylist in CA always gave me a discount because I knew him from someplace else (my skating coach). So I'd get an $80 cut for $30-35 with a tip. (He got enough of my money in coaching fees, with no tip. And the discounted haircut was for all of our friends from the rink.)

His only lament to me was that I wouldn't get my cuts frequently enough and that he'd have to recut everything rather than follow the lines already set from 5-6 wks before. (I'd wait like 6-12 months.)

unspending said...

My stylist is also the owner of the salon, but I've always tipped. I was told it's the right thing to do, so I guess I can't turn back now. As a general rule, I tip around 15%, maybe more if I get colour.

VHMPrincess said...

My mom is a stylist, though she doesn't work for herself.

She really appreciates it when people tip nicely. Really. She will come home and TELL me about the people that are super nice to her and the people that tip well. And when people give her extra because of Christmas, her birthday or vacation spending money, she really appreciates that as well. She is also feeling the crunch of the economy - the salon owner recently raised the price of the haircuts, which increase her money by $1 per haircut, but then people cut the tips to make up for it, so she makes less. And her grocery and gas bills are going up just like ours.

But when I see what a difference a couple extra dollars or remembering to give extra tip for holidays, etc. makes to her, it makes me do the same for people I encounter in my own life (when I get a pedicure, when the cleaning lady comes, etc.)

SandyVoice said...

The guy who cuts my hair decided a long time ago not to work out of a salon. He comes to his clients' apartments instead, so he doesn't have to worry about rent or business use of his apartment. As the business owner, of course, he takes the entire fee, so he isn't tipped. Before he went out on his own, he says, tips were a big part of his income.

Tipping is an interesting subject, and I wonder what X Fans think about it. It's nominally a reward for good work, but how common is it NOT to tip when the work isn't particularly good? Tipping is unusual in American life because it puts the tip-er and the tip-ee into a master/servant relationship, which makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps that's why people almost always tip the usual amount -- we want to avoid the un-American suggestion that anyone holds the upper hand.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I'm a guy who stubbled across your blog.

My haircut costs maybe $10-$15 and I always leave a 100% tip. I make out paying at most $20-$30.

It's good to be a man. $100 for a haircut is steap, but this is America! always tip generously, it comes back to you ten-fold.

Anonymous said...

I find that "tip the owner" question dicey.

Years ago, I heard that was proper etiquette not to tip. My stylist friend agreed it is proper not to tip also.

The salon owner where I go does my color and is much more expensive than her counterparts so I feel better about the not tipping. I tip everyone else though that is appropriate. I also tip the owner at xmas - at least $100.

In X's case, I would be tipping after the move to the new salon, since she isn't a real "owner" anymore (and assume she pays to rent the space).

Overall I don't mind tipping for an customary service the requires it.

Anonymous said...

I'm told that TIP is actually an acronym. It stands for "to insure promptness" and to be effective, should be given before the service is rendered. Not sure if this is true, but it does make sense. Thanks to my wife and a home hair cutting kit from costco, I haven't paid for a haircut in many years; mind you there isn't much to cut.

Little Miss Moneybags said...

A friend cuts my hair, and always does a great job. Sometimes I go to her place, sometimes she comes to mine. She charges $25 for haircuts, but I usually give her $30 or order takeout for us. She's not the owner of a salon or a "real" stylist (used to be licensed but no longer is), but she saves me so much money and worry about my hair that I hate to just give her the base rate she charges. She does an amazing job, and I have difficult hair to deal with (long, thick, very curly).

I would face a lot of social anxiety going to a salon and tipping a shampoo-er, stylist, etc for what I get from my friend.

Sam Handwich said...

To the sole guy who gets a haircut... 100% tip?? Really? $15 tip for a $15 cut? I hope she massages your earlobes or something.

Reading all of these comments makes me thrilled to be a guy with curly hair who can thus cut his own hair – as any little variances wouldn't be noticed. I've been doing this for about 4 years now. It's wonderful.

dollar incense said...

Things vary by stylist, so though it was hard to ask - you did the right thing.

I am an overtipper in general, but I try to find people like stylists or massage therapists that are absolutely amazing...and I feel good tipping them 30-40%. During the holidays I usually tip 100%.

My stylist cut my hair for free when I got laid off 4 years ago, always does free fringe trim appts in between my 8-9 week appts, has never once given me anything other than the absolute perfect cut, etc. I truly value the relationship and I try to show that with the tip!

Re: shampoo or blowout girls at the salon. Ive been told by my stylist that they are assistants and though I can tip them if I like, its not at all necessary. They are there to learn at a worlds top salon, and know the big $$$ will come after they learn the skills.

pkzcass said...

My stylist has recently gone out on her own and is now the business owner. I had heard years ago that you didn't have to tip the owner, but I've been tipping her for 8 years and I didn't think I should stop now. Her prices are very reasonable and she's great and now I'm thinking I need to tip her more. I would only tip about 10% before. I'm going to up it the next time I go. She has another stylist who washed my hair this last time and did a WONDERFUL job so I gave her a nice tip. I always want her to rinse me out in the future.

Anyway, as always, great topic Madame X. I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica-I have been going to the same salon over a year! Being on a budget, I tip once a month. Everything come out between $24-75 and always tip often during the holidays.

modena604 said...

i usually tip when i get a hair cut at a salon. but i have question, is it customary to tip the maid at the hotel. you know people say you are suppose to leave a few bucks on the pillow for the maid.
do you do that?

Madame X said...

Modena, I always tip the maid a dollar or two a day in a hotel, and I thought this was just a given. But it's funny, I have a friend who is generally a very good and generous tipper, and she once said she had never tipped a hotel maid because she had never heard of anyone doing such a thing! I was shocked!

Anonymous said...

I used to work in a salon/spa where the owner not only accepts tips, but even expects and can be somewhat possessive about them! I was surprised because, before I started working there, I had always thought that you don't tip the owners either.

What's worse, when she gets service from the other providers there, she DOESN'T tip. This is a place where the service providers do NOT get to set their own prices.

Needless to say, I think she lacks a little class.

I think you did the right thing by asking.

1001 Petals said...

I've recently started going to a hair dresser who works out of her home, and seems to do quite well, and didn't even consider not tipping her! Yet I've heard that tipping the owner is unnecessary as well. My husband and I both go, and have tipped $20 on top of our combined $90 bill. She has never said anything.. . I wonder how many other people give her tips. . .

Anonymous said...

For the very first time, I'm disappointed in Madame X! If you're getting a great cut from this stylist every time, you need to be tipping her every time, and generously. I make about half of what you do every year and, unless the cut was TERRIBLE, I always tip 15%-20%. What's the point of making good money if you're going to be cheap chick when it counts?? And hair counts!

Sicilian said...

My dad had his own shop my entire life. . . . . most of the time he was by himself. . . . almost all his customers tipped him.
I go to a lady who works on her own out of her home. . . . I always tip her. . . .
Of course in Texas I pay 15.00 for a haircut and I give her $20.00.
Ciao

Doctor S said...

i been going to a barber shop for the last 5 years until i recently began cutting my own hair. However, when I did, I found it absurdly awkward those moments when paying and tipping at the end. It got to the point where I started thinking that they remember how I tipped them the previous haircut, so during the next haircut it seemed to me the quality in cut would decline. I know my own hair! Maybe it was all in my head. The best is when I would hand them a 20 and he would say "sorry I don't have any singles on me" I just gave him the 20 and smiled and left! Always an awkward situation! Great post!

Anonymous said...

I recently read an article that people, especially in New York will tip whether they recieve good service or bad service. In general tipping has become expected and not just because someone did a great job. Look at taking a cab in the city; they are crazy drivers and you risk your life each time you get in one, but yet we still tip them.

Anonymous said...

When I read that about not tipping the owner I realized I knew this at one point but have not been following it. I've been going to the owner of a small salon for more than a year now and tipping 15-20% which adds another $50 or so each time for a cut/highlight. But how can I back track now that I've made this standard practice for a year. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I have been getting my hair cut and colored by the same woman for over 20 years - she started out working for someone else, but has had her own salon for years. Even though I know about the "rule," I always tip her - I just wouldn't feel right about not tipping. She does a great job and her prices are extremely reasonable, especially for NYC.

Anonymous said...

I recently had a very expensive Brazilian Hair Straightening treatment done by the owner of the salon and tipped her 15%..i did remember that it is unnecessary to tip the owner but just felt uncomfortable doing so.I hope she shared some of the tip with the person that assisted her.Does anyone have any recommendations for an inexpensive stylist that comes to your home?

Anonymous said...

I have battled with this one also, and I used to work in a salon as the receptionist. The owner there would get tips occasionally, but not all the time. I don't think he minded either way. At another salon, my hairstylist bought the business. When I asked the receptionist there if it was proper to tip her, I got a rather nasty and awkward response which really bothered me. Right now I am going to a stylist that works for herself out of her home. Haircuts are $50. I will tip her b/c I feel she goes the extra mile, but I don't feel you have to tip extravagantly to get better service. I don't feel right about "buying" better service when I'm so broke myself.

Ishtar said...

Don't tip just because you feel guilted into it; do it because it makes you happy.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting to read this post. I own a salon so its interesting to see what you people as clients are saying. I guess im sort of laughing at you complaining about tipping. What i feel is that if your service is done great why wouldnt you tip? Would you go to a resturant and have a great waitress and not tip? Prolly not. Im not sure why its such a hard decision? If you feel you are being taken care of why not take care of them. Im in a small town so im not sure how everyone elses salons are, but some clients tip me and my other gal working with me, and some people dont. I dont think you are going to get better service if you do tip, but when it comes down to it and your in a bind with your hair or something, and your client takes care of you, your going to take care of them. Sometimes there are clients you will just bend over backwards and almost make your life miserable just to make them happy. But why not...like i said if they are taking care of you..what the hell!

Zavi Hair Design Studio said...

I have been a hair stylist for 19+ years. I have receiently opened my own salon. Where by choice, I am the only stylist and no employees. I can tell you I have more expenses now than I ever did as an employee in a salon. I actually make less than I did. With paying for the lease, utilities, more taxes than if I were just an employee, all products including chemicals and retail and cleaning, additional education, website etc. Plus advertising which is very expensive. Some advertising can be half of what I make for the month. As a stylist in a normal salon if they are good stylists and have alot of experience, make at least 50% of what they bring in and have no expenses not even products. Most salons will even pay for additional education.

But as an owner now and not having to deal with all the drama in a normal salon is well worth it. I can also give my clients the attention they deserve. I only work on one client at a time to ensure THEY get my full attention I do not even answer my phone when I am working with a client. It is all about them.

I must tell you I have a full clientel and I only have a handful of clients who DO NOT tip. I work very hard for those tips and I am very blessed to have such wonderful clients who appreciate me and show it by tipping. In return I give them great service and regular discounts.

If your stylist is taking great care of you wheather they own their own salon or not I believe you should tip. Especially if you know your getting discounts or free services, even if that services is only a brow wax. A bigger tip is only necessary if you require extra attention, in other words, you can be a pain. I mean this nicely because I have some of those clients and I love them just as much.

If you go to a resturant and the owner is your waiter would you not tip them either? I tip Everybody that provides a service to me or my family, wheather it be the mailman, garbage man or paper boy at Christmas I tip. Why not it makes me feel good and makes the other person smile. Well worth the few extra bucks. It does come back to you 10 fold. Besides that nice gesture may have made that persons day. It could be the only tip they get that day or you never know it could mean a meal for that person.

Remember the people who provide you services and they will remember you.

The Muse Garden said...

I never really thought much about tipping until I read this post. It is something I just did, usually 15-20%. i was a waitress years ago and only paid $2.15 an hour. Without tips, I would never have worked for this amount. My husband recently went to a bicycle institute, owns his own shop and now works on bikes, gives tips, fits people and so on, gives top-notch customer service. No one gives him a tip. My daughter is getting married in January and it seems from the guide I read that everyone from the preacher to the florist, wedding planner, everyone is supposed to get a tip. I eloped so this is all news to me.
Just thinking outloud...

Abby said...

Question for Everyone:
I had always gone to a salon with a tip envelope policy. So I got used to leaving my 20% in a nice little white envelope. BUT... recently, I moved to the East Village and the salon I found (that I LOVE)don't have tip envelopes. What the HECK am I suppose to do???? Handing the stylist 20 bucks in cash feels WEIRD and handing the owner (who sits at checkout) $20 to hand to my stylist feels weirder. Oh and since my coat is checked, i can't even hand her money after the cut, I had to hunt my stylist down after my cut last time after my appointment to give her the money. I'm due for another cut in a week... help?

Anonymous said...

I went to the salon yesterday, and I feel like I may have cheated my stylist. I had a partial highlight and cut for $200. I only tipped $25. Is this unreasonable? I feel like a $40 tip for a process that lasted less than an hour is a bit absurd.

Anonymous said...

I am a salon owner in California and I do accept tips and do appreciate them. I own a rent your chair salon, and all the stylists, take the full amount of their services, such as I do. They essentially own their own business. The old rule about not tipping the "salon owner" is just that, an old rule! When the salon owner took 50% of the service from each and every stylist, this would have made sense. Today, many salons are rental and all the stylists take home the same, including the owner. All the stylists set their own prices as well in rental salons. As one person stated, you get what you pay for. If someone treats me right, than they get better service: ie, prompt service when they need to get in etc.

Jac said...

Ok people, I am a owner of a small studio salon. I work by myself. I have worked in large salons previously. Here's what it comes down to, hairstylists have two ways of getting raises:
1. They're prices go up
2. They're commission goes up
3. They go out on their own
Ok make that three ways. The point is, just because any of these raises happen doesn't mean you should ever stop tipping! Salon owners are at the top of their game because they worked their asses off. That doesn't mean they never want to make anymore money. Yes, I get to keep 100% of my services now. Now my income last year for my shop was 73k, but my overhead was 22k and my taxes were 10k. That leaves me with a whopping 41k. The point is everyone wants to keep earning more and more every year and when people have the mentality that "o she makes enough as it is" it's rude and ignorant. People don't want their prices raised and yet I still have people I've done for 5+ years that tip nothing. Thankfully there's still generous people giving 20% + to make up for
The other aholes. If you want your hair treated the best possible way, treat your stylist that way!!

Anonymous said...

I am working as an assistant, and I am amazed at the generosity of people who remember to to tip the assistant a few bucks. It's very appreciated, as we are licensed professionals, continuing our education in a salon environment...but, for minimum wage. We do it so that we aren't HACKS. We want to be EXCEPTIONAL hair dressers, and we are getting salon experience to build confidence and speed.It is a BACK BREAKING, physical job. I am lucky that in our salon, I am treated as an equal and appreciated by the owners. The stylists aren't "obligated" to tip us (like waitresses tip bus staff, for example)but sometimes, after a particularly productive week, they hook us up. I don't EXPECT tips, but they are really appreciated, and I plan on making sure I take care of the assistants who help me keep things flowing smoothly when the coordinator over books me. Often. assistants give AWESOME scalp massages, too! If you hate that your stylist doesn't shampoo your hair, check out who gives you a better scalp massage and recommends the best conditioning treatments, etc...it's the assistants. I always use that time before the quiet massage, to build a rapore and assess the client's hair needs. It isn't long before we get through the program and are behind the chair full time. Often a New Talent price is more affordable, yet we learn the same cuts and color techniques as the other stylists in a commission salon. The way to know is to ask the owner how much education they offer their stylists, and get a feel for how current that education is. I could rent my own booth, because I already do great work, but I would shrivel up and get stagnant, as continuing education is a MUST in this industry, and I couldn't afford it on my own.

Anonymous said...

I tipped 22.00 on a 100.00 color and extension service that took 2.5 hours. is that a good tip?