I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I have a hard time parting with that extra paper after already dishing out $100+ for a hair service, especially if I came in thinking it was going to be one price and then after adding separate shampoo, deep conditioning, and streaming services it ends up being $50 more.
Oh, the price of beauty.
But, for the most part, I always tip. Maybe it’s the former server in me that knows that when you give quality service you hope that it’ll be rewarded with an extra tip, because all servers know that if you rely on base pay alone you might as well pick a box to live in on the street. Or maybe as a freelancer, I know that what people think you make is just a fairytale and fallacy once you take out double taxes (the blessing of being your own boss), benefits, and any other expenses that sometimes make you second-guess why you chose an entrepreneurial route to begin with. (Then you remember that it does have its perks!)
In short, I’m compassionate towards my fellow boss chicks and chicos. If the service is of good quality and I don’t walk out with a burning scalp or missing edges, I’m all for telling them a job well done for fixing my locs into a fleeky style that will have me taking 100 selfies just to post one for the ‘Gram. Ya’ll know how it is!
But the truth is not everybody tips for talent, whether it’s due to a lack of knowledge of why they should or misunderstanding of what they’re paying for, or because they’re just too cheap to want to add extra dollars to their service.
Even I admit to wondering if stylists just pocket the extra profit and walk away with more than I make in a day, so to address those burning questions, I chatted with a few stylists—both in professional salons and those who work from home—to get the real deal on why, though not required, it’s common courtesy to tip.
You Get What You Pay For
I’ve been to a number of different salons, and I’ll be first to say that not every stylist is made equal! Not to mention that everyone uses different products that can make or break (literally) the health of your hair, so ideally you want a stylist who is going to use the best products for the lowest price right? One stylist says that’s exactly why they expect a tip.
“[Most times] you’re really not paying top dollar to get your hair done, but [some of us] are spending top dollar on our products. If you were to look online and look at other places you’ll see that you’re not really spending much for a salon who specializes in top dollar products—not just from a general “Asian” store. And also because you’re getting good service. When you’re out in any other setting and you’re getting good service, you’re willing to tip because you’re paying for the service.”
It Let’s Them Know You Value Them
They say what you spend your money on is a reflection of what you value, so when I tip it’s my way of giving a figurative pat on the back for a job well done. To a stylist it shows that you appreciate them and that you find their service to be of good quality.
“I don’t require a tip, but it is indeed greatly appreciated among stylists. It shows that the client is satisfied with the service and it really makes my day to know they care. Some can’t afford to tip, and that’s okay. If you can’t tip monetary wise you can definitely show a tip in return visits, referrals, and reviews.”
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Your Tip Isn’t Pocket Change, It’s Their Survival
Here’s where I was most confused, as I never thought of my stylist as an entrepreneur, especially if they worked out of a salon. Nor did I realize how much comes out of their own pockets just to keep their rent paid and the lights on. While you will have stylists who are charging an arm and a leg and probably are eating well off of their hustle, that’s not the story for the average hairdresser.
“As a booth renter you have to buy everything, nobody buys your products. You’re almost coming under all the time, it’s like you never equal out to what you are actually spending, but when I came into the hair care field only because I came from being paid hourly, I’m determined not to make less hourly than what I was making on a regular job. You do come into a salon, too, that has base prices as well. So you are following a base price and based on those prices they may charge more, but for the most part, to me, as long as I’ve been in the industry, if you are one who buys good products you’re never going to come out on top. Maybe some styles [like braiding] would probably get more.”
Oh, and let’s not forget that the cost of just, well, living.
“Stylists are commission-based; it’s just like being a waitress except we don’t have base pay to fall back on, so everything counts. Though our services are tax free, our income is literally based off of our hustle. How long are you willing to be at a shop without clients just to catch walk-ins? Or how many salons and beauty supply stores are you willing to go to giving out [promotional] cards. It’s not like a job where you can punch the clock and see coins, we have to “punch” our promotions, referrals, feet and mouths to see possible coins.”
“We pay our own healthcare because again we’re basically self-employed. As stylists our whole bodies are involved with our job, so half the time if you have good insurance you can take care of yourself, but if not you have to pay right out to go to a doctor.”
There May Be A Return On Your Investment
Sometimes your stylist will let you know in advance when they’re running a special or may even slip in a service that they would normally charge for just because they equally value you as a paying customer.
Building a good report with your stylist may lead to opportunities to receive your tip back through a discount or special promotion.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering most stylists consider 15% – 20% a good tip (but of course they won’t object if you decide to give more!)