Dear Scott: I am a single mom with a limited budget to spend on myself. There has been some controversy on the news lately where a woman signed, “Sorry, single mom” in place of the tip at a restaurant. It takes me two months to save up for my hair and I wanted to know your thoughts on tipping a stylist. How much are you supposed to give as a tip? I have not been tipping the girl that does my hair and I am afraid I have possibly offended her. I have been going to her a long time. I like her and what she does with my hair. I don’t think I would be able to go to her anymore if a tip should be included.
Answer: This is a very hard topic for me to address. I have clients that save all month just to scrape up enough money to pay for their hair as it is. It would be a terrible thing for anyone to feel that they haven’t been paying enough money.
There are guidelines to go by for this that I don’t particularly agree with. The specified amount is 15 to 20 percent of the total bill. Keep in mind that this figure was determined by an unknown person at an unknown period of time. I personally feel that this outdated book of etiquette could use an update.
Many years ago, when this amount was determined, hairdressers saw clients once a week for a shampoo and set that cost at $2. Hairdressers were paid less than minimum wage or worked for very small commissions plus tips. The salon owner made most of the money.
The cosmetologist of today’s salon is usually paid a percentage of the money they bring in, or they rent a chair. The commission for a stylist is significant for the work.
The booth renter is actually a self-employed individual that pays a minimal amount to the salon owner every week in exchange for their chair and amenities of the salon. It’s not very much money.
In some states apprenticeship is permitted. An aspiring stylist may work under the supervision of a licensed practitioner to accumulate the hours needed for licensure. These people are usually paid a very small amount or nothing at all. But, at the end of their tenure, acquire a license that would normally cost thousands of dollars.
Tipping a server at a restaurant is an entirely different article than tipping a hairdresser. A server in a restaurant is usually paid less than minimum wage. These people truly need the extra income.
A gratuity is always nice. It is appreciated by anyone in the service industry. A client that comes back on a regular basis is more important. I assure you that your stylist feels the same way. If you would like to demonstrate your appreciation, bring her some cookies or pie.
Scott Terwilliger, an Aiken salon owner, can be reached at email@example.com.