Friday, May 18, 2012

MODERN TIPPING ETIQUETTE III, PLUS BONUS FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO:  We received a question from sknitting yesterday:
Haircuts! How much are you generally tipping?

For context, the place I go is independently owned by two people - one of those people I believe just does the running-of-the-business stuff, and the other cuts/dyes/etc hair, along with two other people (including the person I see) who I assume rent their chairs there.

I'm a woman with really short hair, so I'm generally in every 4-6 weeks to get it trimmed and have the back/sides buzzed, and my hairdresser is awesome and usually charges me the men's short hair price (since it's lower). I occasionally have random colours put in, which takes a long time, and involves a few different steps, so on those appointments I've been tipping 20% (generally $20). But what about the times I'm just getting a cut, it takes 20-30 minutes, and is (I think?) fairly simple? ... is there a general rule for haircut tipping? What is it? Is it some basic grown-up thing that everyone knows that I somehow missed out on along with learning to like coffee and wine?
I've always tipped 20% -- I'm getting someone's undivided, personal attention for a half hour, and also because my hair's not the easiest. Betty has been cutting my hair every 6-8 weeks for about 12, 13 years now, and I've followed her from her past salon to the new place, so in addition to the tips I also make sure to give her a Christmas bonus each year equal to one more visit. What I've never figured out are two things:
  1. How much to tip the woman who shampoos my hair, and, if it's Betty herself doing double duty, does she get an extra tip for that service?
  2. The language question: what do I call the profession of the woman who cuts my hair other than The Woman Who Cuts My Hair?  The term "barber," to me, denotes a burly, old-fashioned man with a mustache and a straight razor; "stylist," I dunno.  What term do you use?


  1. Paul Tabachneck9:48 AM

    This is Paul Tabachneck -- I'm having trouble logging in now from a regular PC.  I don't think the Google Friend Connect button is working!  Is it a Chrome problem?  (When I use it at home, my cookies do the work).

    Anyhow, I solved this problem for myself years ago, and haven't tipped for a haircut since.  :-)

  2. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Given my receeding hairline, my haircut now constitutes running a clipper with a #1 over my head until almost shiny.  This costs $19.  I give the guy $22 or $23.

  3. The Pathetic Earthling9:50 AM

    That was me.

  4. The Pathetic Earthling9:53 AM

    Paul -  I aspire to your approach, but I have to slowly get Mrs. Earthling used to the idea.  I've progressed down through the clipper sizes to a #1.

  5. Watts9:54 AM

    I tip 20%.

    There's an idea that if the person who cuts your hair owns the salon you don't need to tip them, but, frankly, I don't feel like trying to keep up with a salon's org chart, so I just tip regardless.  (The logic is the "rent the chair" business model, where a non-owner either literally rents the chair/space or rents it  by giving a cut of each customer's bill to the owner. In my one season of tax prep, I had to help a couple of clients figure out how to report the former arrangement on their return.)

    I don't think I've ever had my hair shampooed by anyone other than the stylist cutting my hair, so I've always assumed my tip is covering that as well.

    As far as nomenclature, I rather miss the word "beautician."

  6. Christy in Philly9:57 AM

    The same guy has been cutting my hair for 13 years. I followed him from place to place until he opened a salon himself a few years ago. Even though he's the proprieter, I tip 20%. I also give $5 to the shampoo guy, regardless of what I'm getting done-- cut, color, etc.

    I have long hair and until about 6 months ago, had a fairly low maintenance style, getting my hair cut 3-4 times a year. I started dying my hair recently so I'm going every 8-10 weeks. I think this will  be the year I start giving a Christmas bonus.

    On the positive side, when he did my hair for our Commitment Ceremony, 10 years ago, he didn't charge us-- that was his gift to us (he and his partner were invited to the ceremony). And, about a year ago, he didn't charge me at all for a cut and color as a thank you for being so loyal and for sending so many people to him over the years. There's something to be said for being a regular.

  7. Jordan10:09 AM

    Depends on effort.  If we're talking old school barber style, operating almost exlusively with a pair of scissors and a straight razor, that gets a larger tip than someone at a chain place who spent three minutes with clippers.  Even if the haircuts cost roughly the same price.

  8. Joseph Finn10:25 AM

    25-30%, over my usual 20%, due to people having to touch and work with my hair, the thought of which my doing with someone elses hair gives me the willies.

  9. At least 20%.

  10. Fred App10:33 AM

    I've been tempted to adopt the Old People In Florida Standard of Tipping, which is $1 tip regardless of what kind of service or how much the total amount of the bill. Because, you know, at one point a dollar was a pretty good tip.

  11. Jim Bell10:48 AM

    My haircut costs $23 and involves mainly clippers, a straight razor and a tiny amount of scissoring.  I tip $5 religiously.

  12. I tip 20%.  My hairdresser washes my hair, so I don't tip extra for that, but when I went to places where there was a separate shampoo girl, I gave her a couple of bucks.

  13. I tip 20%, which is about $20.  I only go about twice a year - out of laziness and to save money - but after years of bouncing around hairdressers, I finally found a guy I like (his personality and his cuts), and he's worth every penny.  I also add $5 for the person who washes my hair. 

  14. Marsha11:08 AM

    I just did the math, and apparently I tip 28% on hair cuts. I've been going to the same guy for almost 14 years, and he's been very good to me. I give him a bonus at the holidays. I do not tip the shampoo people because at my salon we're not supposed to - they're apprentices and they get a share of the tip pool.

  15. That's FOLDING MONEY!

    (Worst "tip"? The religious tract that's printed to LOOK like money on one side. I didn't mind so much if they were left WITH money, but when they were left INSTEAD OF money, I had to suppress the urge to run into the parking lot shouting, "JESUS WOULD TIP!")

  16. Marsha11:11 AM

    Oh, and I call him "the guy who cuts my hair." My hair salon is also a tattoo parlor, wig maker, body piercer, etc. My hair is usually the most boring hair in the establishment when I'm there - the woman who had the station next to my guy for years has floor length neon blue and yellow braids. So "stylist" never seemed quite right to me (he may be styling some of these other people's hair, but he's pretty much just cutting mine), and he's certainly not a barber.

  17. 20% or more.  I have great hair.  I will pay people to keep it great.

    I had the same hairdresser for 12 years - he even moved to NYC around the same time I did. I still visited him in the DC salon, just because he hadn't set up a chair in NYC.  I always gave him at least 20%.

    My current hairdresser is four blocks from my house, which is the best part. 

  18. Now I feel really cheap! I was doing well on the other tipping questions, but I just did the math and realized that I only tip the woman who's been doing my hair for 14 years 7%! Oh no! My rationale used to be that she owned the salon, so anything above and beyond the total was good. Now, she's in a chair rental situation, but I can't get myself to tip more than $10 on the total. That being said, my total's pretty high with a cut and color every 8 weeks or so, and I have issues with exactly how much the total would be with a 20% tip. I will have to ponder this between now and early August.

  19. Adam C.11:28 AM

    Barber, but I don't have a regular guy - you take whichever chair opens up when it's your turn. Cost of haircut: $18. I tip $4.  I'd tip way more if any of them could give me the Jake Ryan 'do.

  20. Marsha11:44 AM

    Now, we appreciate the kind that jingles, but we’d rather get the kind that folds.

  21. Andrew11:47 AM

    For my awesome old-school barber, I pay him $20, which I think ends up as either a 25% or 33% tip, depending on what the cost of the haircut is. 

    (I've also spent the last 10 minutes staring at the photo from that article because whoever is getting there haircut looks an awful lot like me, but from that angle it's hard to tell and but I feel that I would've noticed a NY Times photographer following Rocco around.)

  22. Jessica11:49 AM

    I get a haircut about once a year, up to twice, so no one ever gets a Christmas bonus (the most I've ever gone to a single hairdresser before I moved or they moved was three times) and I tip on pure emotion.

    If I am ok with my haircut - $4ish
    If I am happy - $5
    If I am elated - $6+

  23. I do 20% as well, with $5 to the shampoo person.  Where I sometimes get tripped up is when there's a third individual involved - when someone other than the stylist and/or shampoo person dries my hair.  Do I give them $5?  $10?  Does part of that come out of the stylist's tip (as they're delegating the blow dry), or am I looking at every person individually?  I generally do $5 to $10, not taking it from the stylist's 20%, but mainly it makes me want to get my hair cut at less complicated salons.

  24. I just want to comment that I think all salons should allow customers to pay the shampooing and stylist tips with a debit/credit card. As a person who *never* carries cash, I have been spoiled by such an establishment for several years. Then the person who cut my hair moved to a new salon and I followed her there. On my first visit I was mortified to find that they wouldn't put gratuities on my bill and I had no cash with which to leave anyone a tip.

    I understand this is a tactic used by salon owners to somehow avoid recording and reporting tips. I don't want to get in the middle of legal issues, but really, in this century, my idea of customer service demands that I be able to pay however is most convenient for me.

  25. Rebecca1:01 PM

    Janet, would having to tip in cash still annoy you if there was an ATM in your salon? Both of the salons I go to don't let you tip on the card, which isn't a problem for me, if you live in my neighborhood you get used to places that are cash only, but I appreciate that one has an ATM inside and the other gives you a $5 discount if you pay with cash.

    I have a weird fear of intimacy associated with getting my hair cut, so I only go around three times a year (thank you, Serena Van der Woodsen, for making the mess that is my hair look like a stylistic choice instead of the result of deep neurosis). I do not want to talk to my stylist at all and if that's what happens, I tip 20%. If I have to answer the question, "ohhhh, what kind of plays do you write?" or someone tries to talk me into highlights, I still tip 20% but wish I had just stayed home and cut off my split ends myself. If I have a genuinely cool conversation that I don't regret, it has generally come out that I'm also a tipped worker, and then I tip a quasi-ridiculous amount (I've been so happy I'll drop $40 on $60). But I don't do it often and if I like a stylist that much it's clearly done something to slow my transition into a crochety old man, so it's probably worth it. 

  26. Maret1:06 PM

    I only get my hair styled 3 times a year because when I do it's expensive -- I get a straightening treatment once a year and every time I get a cut I also get highlights. I go to a salon that is more expensive because I like the owner who does my hair, and I trust his recommendations on new styles and products, and they serve you wine as you're getting your hair done (which, when you're getting color treatments or straightening, is lengthy.) Since I don't go that often, I'd rather pay more and have it done right.

    And I tip 20% and refer to the man who does my hair as a stylist.

  27. Renee1:11 PM

    They changed the tipping situation at my salon too!  I had to give my girl a check for her tip because I don't really carry cash unless I know I will need it somewhere.

  28. The Pathetic Earthling1:22 PM

    I do want to note that my usual guy keeps me up to date on Lebanese politics, which is kind of awesome (not the politics, those are screwed up, but that I need to read up on it before I go).

  29. janet1:37 PM

    An ATM would be a great solution, but I actually don't even have to use them very often. In the very rare events I think I'm going to need cash, I can usually get what I need from the cash back option at grocery and other retail stores.

  30. tortoiseshelly2:03 PM

    Another 20% tipper, though I usually only get a haircut 3 to 4 times a year and don't generally color or highlight my hair. If I'm really happy with the cut, I tend to go overboard with buying the products used so I can make a pass at recreating what the stylist has done. My last cut (including tip) was about half of what I ended up spending on all the products. Then I went home and realized I would need to eat PB&J's for a week to compensate.

  31. Becca2:05 PM

    I had no idea anyone other than my father always tipped $1. It was the MOST embarrassing thing in the WORLD. When I finally explained that servers didn't even make minimum wage, he did seem bothered by that, and may have increased his tip to $2. I can't remember. And just to counter the Old People in Florida thing, my Very Precise mother will get out her calculator to precisely determine the exact 15% tip, and will leave that, down to the pennies, if she has them. 

  32. Adam C.2:13 PM

    I can't believe we've made it this far into this thread without a white man pulling Rocky Marciano out of his ass:" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="170" height="140

    Who's next?

  33. Becca2:17 PM

    I only get my hair cut a couple times a year, as recommended by my stylist. But I have exceptionally challenging curls, and finally had to start going to the dedicated curly-hair salon in order to get a reasonable haircut. Honestly, I'm so delighted with the results I'd pay an absurd amount, but it's actually fairly reasonable. I've gotten a LOT of bad haircuts over the years, and also gotten a LOT of haircuts I didn't want, because the stylist went crazy with the curls, and ignored my requests. As a result, I've begun to rely heavily on tipping as a demonstration of my pleasure or displeasure with the haircut. Also, I've noticed that when they offer to blow my hair out, it often means they don't want me to see the cut they gave me. They just want me to see what they can do with it, even though I stated at the beginning that I NEVER blow my own hair out.

    ANYWAY. I currently tip 20-30%, depending on how quickly the haircut goes. She usually puts me under the dryer, but hasn't once or twice, so she could take another client in between my cut and my style. I ended up being there, for just a cut, for over two hours. Not cool. I take cash with me, because they won't let me put the tip on the card. I admit that I don't tip the shampoo girl every time. I am a terrible person. It would be easier if this salon just had those little envelopes, so I could just divvy up the cash and drop it in the box, but they don't. 

  34. Jenn C2:39 PM

    I tip what seems like a high percentage (30-50%), but in the grand scheme doesn't seem like that much.  When I get my hair cut or colored, I really do feel aweome and amazing. Plus, it takes me a looong time to find a stylist that I like and can work with my hair (I'm Asian but do not have Stereotypically Stick Straight Asian Hair) so when i do, I hang on.

    I love, love, love my old stylist in Philly and he used to get closer to 50%.  I went to him for 3 years after I moved to DC. He often squeezed me in after hours and most importantly, listened to me and knew what I was capable of (I am not so good at replicating technicques or styles on my own, so wash and wear is my thing). 

    In a small independent salon, I tip the shampoo person $5 but in a bigger salon (like Red Door) I usually give closer to $2.  My rationale is client volume--the bigger salons tend to have more heads pass through. 

  35. I've finally gotten old enough (44) to tell the person cutting my hair I don't want it blow dried when they're finished cutting.  I have a very tender head and hate when they pull the hair with the brush and when the hair dryer is too hot from being held in one place too long. 

    I also hate that you can't just put the tip on the cc receipt.  I've learned to take cash with me, but it's a pain since I rarely carry cash.

  36. Squid4:22 PM

    Having read through the whole comment thread, I'm happy to say I'm in Paul's club.  I'll certainly start tipping myself a lot better in future!

    (Google Friend Connect was discontinued a few months ago.  I have no idea why Echo still uses it.  I had to go get an OpenID when my cookies failed.)

  37. Rebecca- I think you live in south Brooklyn, but it sounds like we have similar experiences (I'm in north BK).  If you want a good, mellow hipster salon, let me know.

  38. Chuck4:26 PM

    I go to a barber at a barber shop.  It takes about 18 minutes to cut my hair.  When they charged $17, it was simple -- you gave the guy a $20 bill and you were out of there.  They recently upped the price of a cut to $18.  I try to give $21, but if I don't have a dollar, I've been put in the awkward situation of asking for $19 back on the second twenty dollar bill.  i suspect many people are still giving $20, meaning the owner is now taking a dollar out of the old tips.

  39. I need some women who have to spend the whole day at the salon to comment!!

  40. Chuck4:27 PM

    Oh, and on the other question about what to call that person, I looked at the choices, and I'm still going with whoop-ass.

  41. Paul Tabachneck4:28 PM

    Ah, see, that's the secret — I was single when I started.  

    I'm not endorsing divorce, I'm just saying.

  42. Christy in Philly4:39 PM

    My salon will charge me .01 and gives me cash back on debit if I'm paying by credit card. It makes me insane but I refuse to let anyone else cut my hair. Sometimes I do it b/c .01 is much cheaper than if I have to take money out of mac at a bank that isn't mine. I generally don't carry cash.

    Sidenote: how much are people willing to pay to not have to go out of their way to get money? I know people who won't take cash out of any machine where they have to pay. Am I the only one lazy enough to pay for convenience?

  43. Christy in Philly4:47 PM

    Jenn, who did you go to in Philly? I love my guy-- Markus Aman at the Lion's Mane on Pine Street.

  44. spacewoman7:14 PM

    "The lady who cuts my hair" gets 50-60%.  It turns out that haircuts at nice salons are WAY cheaper in Oakland than they were in LA, so a cut + big tip is still less than the cut before any tip at my old salon.  I'm also in the 3-4 times a year camp, and I also have the hard-to-cut curly hair (query: is it really hard to cut, or just hard to cut according to the customer's request to not layer the crap out of it?).

    Related problem that I would have put to this forum but seem to have solved myself: I really loved my stylist (I hate that word too), but then once when he was out sick, they had me see Kelly instead, and Kelly turned out to be some kind of curly-hair-whispering genius.  So what do you do?  What I did: Continue to see Kelly and just act like it's totally normal when I see my old stylist.  Big smile, big friendly hello, small chat, like it's not weird and horrible that I dumped him for the lady at the next chair.

  45. Shani7:56 PM

    I tip a minimum of 20%.  My current salon has very reasonable prices, so I often tip more, depending on the type/number of services I'm getting.  Since getting my hair shampooed is one of my favorite things, I tip the shampooer $5 (after mentioning how much I love it, and subsequently getting lots of extra massaging of the ol' scalp).

  46. I am, apparently, cheap. I love my hairdresser (that's what I call her, to answer that question), but the rest of the salon is just fine. I followed her to this salon (she used to work down the street at a place I loved), and I pay way more than I should to get my hair cut. I have curly hair, and I get it cut every 7 weeks or so. It's a quick trim (since I do it regularly), no blow dry - probably 20 minutes total, including the shampoo. $70. I usually tip about 10%, though sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less - depends on what cash I have. And I never tip the shampoo girl. Like I said - I'm cheap.

    I wish salons/spas/most places would go to a system where they eliminate tipping. Charge me $80 and be done with it.

  47. Becca9:09 PM

    Based on cheaper haircuts I've gotten, I'd say the curls take at least a moderate level of skill to deal with. You can't just wet it down, comb it out, and trim an inch off the bottom. That's a surefire path to the dreaded Triangle Head. Also, as I understand it, it does take a minor amount of layering to prevent Full Triangle, but the cut can be done so the layering isn't apparent and poufy. But yes, I have also gotten stylists with some skill who just want to make my hair as curly and poufy as possible, without any consideration as to what I might have requested. Which is why I prefer to go to stylists with similar hair. They know my pain. 

  48. Maddy9:13 PM

    I also cut my own hair.  I used to go to a place near my house, but I usually find myself wanting a haircut at school and it's just easier to do it myself there. I'm happy that I'm not the only one who experiences tipping anxiety, although this was one of those things I was hoping I'd outgrow...

  49. Emily W9:36 PM

    I used to be willing to pay up to $2 to use an ATM, but I would always make sure to get enough cash to make it worth it (i.e., at least $100). But, now MY bank charges me if I use any ATMs other than theirs, even if I am 3000 miles away from the nearest one, so I only use their ATMs or get cash back at CVS, Trader Joes, etc.

    Whenever I get around to moving, I'm switching banks. 

  50. Emily W9:38 PM

    When I started going to my guy (about 6 years ago), I told him flat out that I don't own a hair dryer and would never ever be drying my own hair. He says "why should I style your hair in a way that you'll never be able to do yourself?" so, he doesn't blow dry except in the dead of winter when he doesn't want me walking around with wet hair, and even then it's just the bare minimum, no brushing. 

  51. Hannah Lee9:45 PM

    My salon does that too, and it's annoying, because it means an extra stop for cash if I'm not cashed up that day.

    Unrelated to tipping, they also went to this weird system where they give you receipts no matter how you pay, on an extra long strip of paper with your next appointment printed in tiny print on the bottom. And if you pay by check, you get that receipt, your cancelled check, and a document that you've signed saying you agree to give them your house if your check bounces (or something like that).   I used to love walking out of the salon, feeling pampered and sophisticated with my new hairstyle.  But now, with my fistfull of unwieldy receipts, I feel like I'm heading to an audition for Extreme Couponing.

    Oh, and 20%

  52. Heather K10:56 PM


    I too am a curly girl.  Since I have lived in Chicago I have doen the following: cut my own hair for three years-cutting it dry in front of a mirror, caved and gone to a salon-tipping about 30% because I have so much hair it took like a regular appointment and a half to do it and I don't get color or anything, stopped going to that stylist because she moved to a salon it was impossible to get to without a car-I don't have one and wasn't adding a zipcar to the whole shebang, tried a crazy expensive ouidad cut which had fantastic results but was way too crazy expensive to justify-instead I just bought the products which are AMAZING, solved all of the tip and expense dilemma by now going to the Vidal Sassoon Academy in the loop--all the stylists are established and licensed and getting extra training and at most it costs $20 and THEY DO NOT ALLOW YOU TO TIP!  I've never gotten a less than good haircut there and often a fabulous haircut, but they warn everyone that you should leave 3.5 hours for the cut and it ALWAYS takes that long for mine (really super thick hair that is often worn fairly long--right not longest bits are middle of the back).  So I traded time for money, and it is awesome.

    For the other curly girls out there, I would reccomend Sassoon cuts, I have hair with lots of layers but they kind of cuts it so all the hair gets progressively longer from the shortest point.  In every direction, so there is no start or stop in any layer, it just eases down to long.   It has great movement and is super easy to wash and wear.

  53. We have discussed the "stylist swap" question before, but I believe it was in the pre-blog era (in fact, it was when I switched to Betty.)  The answer was "they're professionals; just be pleasant about it, but you have the right to have your hair done by the person of your choice."<span> </span>

  54. Stevie8:19 AM

    I tip 20 percent to my stylist (we have been together since 2006) and 5 percent to the shampoo girl if Brad doesn't do it himself. I have thick, wavy hair, so it can be difficult to cut as well. I get my hair cut about 5-6 times a year, and I usually give him a nice gift at Christmas. I try to do something equivalent to one visit (and some years have just done cash), but this year, my budget didn't allow for that (my cut + tip is expensive) so I gave him a bottle of fancy artisinal vodka from Wisconsin.

  55. Jenn C4:09 PM

    Hee! It's Markus! I started going to him when he was at the Marriott on Market St.! 

  56. Jessica1:49 PM

    Mine's around 10-15% I think, with an extra couple bucks if my colorist or stylist is too busy to blow-dry my hair themselves (which they'd typically do)...and that still really adds up.  My cut is $50 (for a very basic shoulder-length straight style) and my partial-highlights are $120 and keep going up as my colorist keeps getting promoted (he was $68 when I started seeing him 6 years ago).  On my salary, those tips really make the overall total hurt even more, so having to think about trying a new salon in the near future.